Rejection: An Author’s Perspective

Another post on rejection, I hear you cry? While we of course love focusing on the many positives and celebrating all publications and book launches, we’re acutely aware of the painful process every author goes through to reach that goal. So, following on from our last post giving our agents’ perspectives on rejection, we thought it would be useful to get our authors’ take on it. They know better than anyone how it feels to experience the set-backs and disappointments of  the submission process, but they are also proof that with perseverance and a whole lot of grit, it is possible to break through and make it to the other side.

Rejection is always hard to stomach, but it’s helpful to remember that every great author out there suffered rejection (who hasn’t heard of the multiple rejections J.K. Rowling faced when she first wrote Harry Potter?). So without further ado, here are a few of our authors’ stories and words of encouragement which we hope will provide all prospective authors with a dose of inspiration.

Beth O’Leary, bestselling author of The Flatshare and The Switch

I first sent a query to an agent when I was about 17. Between that moment and the moment when Tanera signed me up to Darley Anderson Agency, I completed four novels, started countless others, and received more rejections from agents than I can count. Even The Flatshare – which went on to be a Top 5 Sunday Times bestseller, sold in 33 languages – was sent out to five agents and only one requested the full manuscript. People say ‘it only takes one yes’ and it really is true. Rejection is so painful, but it’s all worth it when you get that yes.

Nicola Gill, author of The Neighbours

I have a quote on the wall next to my computer which reads: A winner is just a loser who tried one more time. I think that gives you a clue that I may have experienced a few rejections! I didn’t think it was going to be that way. When I first starting writing fiction fourteen long years ago, I actually got an agent very quickly. And at a really stellar agency too. I was utterly smug and insufferable. But then, despite coming tantalisingly close, my book got rejected by publishers. This was something I hadn’t been prepared for and it hurt like hell.

I then wrote another book and the same thing happened again. By this time my agent had decided to retire (not entirely because of me, I hope!). I was sad but hoped it wouldn’t be too hard to get a new agent. Then I started to get rejections! I became obsessed with tales of successful authors who had experienced rejection. Katherine Stockett who wrote The Help had been turned down by sixty agents – yes, sixty! I made myself keep going.

After what seemed like forever, I suddenly had three agents who were interested in representing me. I chose the fabulous Tanera Simons which was honestly one of the best decisions of my whole life.

But the rejection wasn’t over! Despite getting lots of really lovely comments from editors, we didn’t get an offer, and eventually Tanera and I made the painful decision to set aside the book she’d signed me on. I set about writing a new book and one day I was at work when I got a call from Tanera to say that Katie Loughnane at Avon Books had made an offer. I honestly can barely remember much after that but I know I lost the ability to form a coherent sentence.

Kerry Fisher, author of The Silent Wife, After the Lie and The Mother I Could Have Been

I had one agent who was interested in taking on my second book but after several rewrites, she told me that I’d better shelve it and write something else. I really believed in that book though and carried on submitting to agents. At one point, I’d probably been rejected by just about every agent in the business and it was disheartening but I held onto the fact that giving up felt worse than carrying on (sometimes only marginally…) That book has now sold over 100,000 copies, been translated into several different languages and got to number two in the UK Kindle charts. My advice is, push on every door and keep pushing, especially if you get a chink of success – winning a competition, being shortlisted for an award, interest from an editor. Persistence is nearly as important as talent.

Caroline Crowe, author of Tiny Tantrum, Pirates in Pyjamas and Santa’s New Beard

Rejection is rubbish.  REALLY RUBBISH. And like all writers I know this from (plenty of) personal experience. For all the books I’ve had published, there are loads more that never made it. It’s super easy to tell yourself that those rejections mean you aren’t good enough. Logically I know everything is subjective (one editor will love a book that another one might dismiss immediately) and that this business is HUGELY competitive, but logic rarely takes the sting out of a ‘no’. Unfortunately writing is a full on rollercoaster when it comes to emotions – annoyingly you can’t have the highs without the lows. BUT the thing is, the highs are totally and definitely worth the lows. So my advice would be to keep riding the roller coaster and taking the plunge, because if you get off you’ll never know if next time it will be a ‘yes’.

Phaedra Patrick, author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, The Library of Lost and Found and The Secrets of Sunshine

I had lots of rejections and tried to see them as hurdles rather than roadblocks. If agents gave me advice, no matter how small, I listened and strengthened my submission accordingly. Then I kept on going. I wrote six or seven books, all rejected, before I signed with Clare Wallace at Darley Anderson. The agency even turned me down twice, but I didn’t take it personally. I joke that ‘I wore them down eventually’ but, really, I worked hard and wrote the story I wanted to tell. Often the difference between an unpublished writer and a published one isn’t the quality of writing, it’s determination and not giving up.

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