Writers fear rejection. Unless you are writing on commission, you have probably put tens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of hours into your work in progress. The thought of being turned away by every publisher you submit to is daunting. But being rejected doesn’t have to be a catastrophe. Below we explore how to turn creative writing rejection into a win.

It is hard to publish your writing because publishers get far more submissions than they are interested in publishing. If you are a first time writer, publishers can’t be sure that your work will sell as you have no track record. Writing rejection can be a good thing: read on.

Why is it so Hard to Publish my Story?

Getting a story published can be hard because there are lots of stories out there, and not many spots for publication! It doesn’t take very long to write a story or a poem (although it can take years to write a good one), so there’s a lot of them out there.

Journals often only have a few spots per issue to publish stories, and they may receive thousands of submissions for those few spots. So numerically the chance of any story being published in one of those spots is low. Don’t be discouraged however, refine and resubmit!

Why is it so Hard to Publish your Book Through a Publisher?

Publishers don’t have the resources to properly read every submission they get, leading to a ‘slush pile’ or build up of unsolicited material that they just can’t wade through. Sometimes publishers will hire an intern or reader to assess this material for them, but sometimes they just throw it out.

What Would Prevent a Publisher from Rejecting?

Write the best work you can, rewrite based on feedback, make sure to include a wonderful CV and query letter, always submit your best work, make sure the publisher is the right one for your work, submit widely to increase your odds, get an agent, and get to know the publisher personally.

How Often do Writers get their Novels Rejected?

There’s no escaping it, the vast majority of writers get their novels rejected from the majority of publishers. If a publisher publishes ten novels a year (which is a lot of work, right?), they might get thousands of novel submissions. If you submit to many publishers, your chances increase.

How Often do Writers Get Rejected?

Rejection is a part of being published via a traditional route, because most writers who are starting out will be rejected most of the time. This is not a reflection on the work. Harry Potter was rejected, Lord of the Rings, and many others. You have to find the right publisher at the right time!

Why is it so Hard to get Poems Published?

It’s hard to get a poem published because there are so many more poets seeking publication than there are spots for publication. Poems can be written in a matter of minutes, so there are lots of them about. Poems also traditionally don’t make much money, so publishers are reluctant to take the risk.

Why do Most Writers Fail?

Most writers fail because they cannot find a publisher. This article contains lots of advice below about what to do if you are being rejected by publishers. You have to turn rejection into a positive, take what you can from the experience, and make your next submission stronger.

Why do Most Authors Fail?

Publishing a novel is a big commitment, and most authors fail because the publisher doesn’t want to take the risk on a first time writer with no track record of success. Editing a novel can take years, and printing and promoting a novel is a huge expense, so there is a lot of risk!

Does Rejection of Writing get Easier?

Rejection of writing does get easier as long as you feel that your submissions are improving each time. The trick is to try to get detailed feedback from each person you are rejected by to ensure your next submission is closer to what they are seeking.

Coping Methods for Writing Rejection

The rest of this article discusses coping methods for writing rejection, how to improve your chances of getting published, and what steps to take next time you are rejected. Rejection can be a hugely rewarding and valuable experience, if you know how to extract that value.

What to do if my Writing is Rejected?

First up, always do your best! Sounds simple, right? You can use any submission opportunity as an excuse to get the project to the very best stage that you can at that time. So if your submission is unsuccessful, who cares? You’ve got a shiny new project to drive around town.

If this deadline has helped you to bring your work up the best standard possible, then you’ve already won. 

Should I ask a Publisher for Feedback?

Every time you are rejected follow up with a ‘Thank you so much for your consideration. Is there any feedback you are able to pass along?’ This means that every submission is a potential learning opportunity.

Very often they’ll give you feedback you would otherwise have to pay a lot of money to access! Free learnings.

How can I Cope with Writing Rejection?

Show grit. Every writer faces rejection (except Cormac McCarthy) and don’t let them tell you otherwise (unless it’s Cormac McCarthy). Grit sounds negative but is positive. Look it up. It’s seen as the quality that allows people to persist in the face of adversity to achieve their objectives.

Write GRIT on the wall and keep going. Until you’ve had enough and then stop and do something else. Life is short and you should try to enjoy it. 

Is Creative Writing Rejection Personal?

Creative writing rejection usually isn’t personal. Well, sometimes it is. If it’s personal all the time, then you need to take a look at your professionalism. Always be as courteous. But when it isn’t personal, don’t take it personally.

One way to get over the hurt of rejection, and the feeling of personal rejection, is to get as many applications going as possible. Some people aim for a hundred rejections a year. I don’t think aiming for rejections is good – but 100 submissions a year sounds good to me.

Remember you don’t have anything to lose when you submit. That’s a great position to be in. 

Should I Follow up on my Writing Submissions?

You should follow up with publishers after rejection. After someone rejects you they might feel a bit bad about that, and want to try to help you out in other ways. This is a good moment to attempt to build a relationship, potentially a relationship that is as strong as if you had been accepted.

Ask about other opportunities they have on offer, and whether you might submit your work in another way.

Say you lose a competition, perhaps you might be able to submit your work directly to the editor to consider?

Perhaps you might be able to let them know you are seeking work.

Use a rejection letter as a chance to get to know your rejecter and that may lead on to a career!

Check out how to write a query letter here.


Oliver Adams

Letter Review was founded by Oliver Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Oliver Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. He has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.

2 Comments

How to Write Perfect Obstacles in a Story | Writing Journal · 19/04/2021 at 9:26 am

[…] Take a look at how to turn rejection into a win every time here! […]

Which are the Very Best Literary Journals? - Letter Review · 22/06/2021 at 5:55 am

[…] So while it’s a great idea to submit to the New Yorker, it’s also a good idea to have a list other journals to submit to in case you get rejected. (see our article on turning rejections into wins here) […]

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