Behind just about every author’s success story is a much longer, less glamorous story of rejection.

The rejection story is not always offered up to the public, and I suppose we can’t blame those authors who bury the past and bask in their success. After all, rejection is hard to take, and nobody wants to keep chewing on a bitter taste when they’ve tasted the likes of delectable acceptance.

But I always admire those authors who do choose to tell the world just how long and hard their road to that first book deal has been. They have something to offer the rest of us – an honest portrayal of the gruelling hard work, tough-as-nails perseverance  and positive attitude we budding authors have to acquire if we’re going to make it in this publication world.

I think of a recent talk I had the pleasure of hearing by Abi Elphinstone. Abi is a fast rising star and leader among Children’s authors in the UK, and her third MG novel is due to come out this March. But Abi shared with a room full of kids/future writers that getting that first publishing deal only came after 7 years, multiple manuscripts and 96 rejections! Ouch!

How did she press on until the dam broke? Brilliant really. Abi says that in every rejection letter she received, she looked for the positive feedback – the one-line of hope from an agent telling her she had potential, it just wasn’t quite fully-grown yet. She’d cut those bit  of encouragement out and keep them in a box to revisit when she felt like giving up. That, she says, along with encouragement from her relentlessly positive mother, kept her trucking until the right manuscript at last met the right agent and WHAM! Magic. Abi went hang gliding to celebrate her publishing deal, and you can see why!

I’ve learned a lot from authors who dare to share their rejection stories. Mainly this:

  • Not every agent is going to click with your novel – most authors submit to 80+ agents before they find the right fit!
  • The publishing world is busy & works to a different clock – agents receive hundreds of submissions per week. Don’t take it personally if they don’t get back to you for months, or even at all. And don’t expect feedback, but if you do get it, look for constructive comments & take away the positives! Remember, the agent didn’t have to offer compliments.
  • Keep honing your craft & growing as a writer all the time. We can all get better. If you’ve sent your novel out to at least 80 agents & got nothing but “this isn’t quite it” responses, maybe this isn’t going to be your break-through novel… or maybe not at this time. The market changes. And many authors still have their first novel tucked away unpublished in a draw somewhere. Keep working.
Whatever you do, do NOT give up.

In the words of Jo Fox from You’ve Got Mail:


Here’s one of many sources highlighting best-sellers that received LOTS of rejections (sometimes brutal ones) before hitting the A list. Read, be encouraged & persevere!