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« Guess What? I HAVE AN AGENT!!!!!!! | Main | Do You Call Yourself a Writer? »

The Evolution of Rejection


Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at

As we all know, rejection is a big part of this business.  Like Nora Roberts said, if it were easy to get published and stay published, then it wouldn't be special.  However, that doesn't make rejection any easier to take.


I attended a panel at RWA called It's For Your Own Good: What You Can Learn From Rejection.  The panel was led by Brenda Chin, senior editor at Harlequin Blaze and two authors who she had rejected in the past (but had since found success.)

Bravely, the two authors shared their own rejection letters from their past and deciphered the language of the letters to show what the author should take from it.  Really, there are positives in rejection.  No, seriously, there are.

Okay, so here's what they had to say about the different types of "no"...


Type one:  The dreaded form rejection

What we hear: You suck
What it can mean:  Pretty much anything...
Story type not right for the agency/publisher
They already have clients that have projects too similar to yours
It just didn't fit that person's tastes
Your writing isn't strong enough yet
They don't think they can sell it
You didn't follow guidelines
You may actually suck or you may be brilliant--you just don't know.



Type two: The no but here's a positive nugget.

What we hear:  They like me!  But not enough. This is the "really enjoyed your (insert attribute), BUT (insert reason)--usually it's I just didn't fall in love with it.
What it means: You're making progress!  You've done something well!  But it's still a no.



Type three: The I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure there's a market for it.

What we hear: No one is going to want to buy your book.
What it means: For whatever reason, this agent doesn't feel like they can sell it. However, it doesn't mean that someone else won't want to.  AND, someone actually liked your story!



Type four: The this project isn't right but would be open to see something else from you in the future.

What we hear: NO
What it means:  THIS project isn't a right fit, but I liked your writing enough to ask to be subjected to  it in the future.  So, you've got skills, baby!



Type five: The no, these things are an issue, but good luck somewhere else.

What we hear: No, go inflict yourself on someone else.
What it means: They thought you had enough potential to take the time to give you personalized input--don't underestimate how big a deal that is for people who are so darn busy.  And now, you've got usable feedback!  Celebrate!  Take the things they suggested and make your manuscript better.



Type six: The revise and resubmit

What we hear: Houston, we've got interest!!!
What it means:  They liked your story and you don't suck!  So much so that they want you to fix things and read it again.  *throws confetti*  So get your butt in the chair and get to work.  And remember, resubmit to that agent, don't just fix and move on to another agent.  Give the person who gave you the feedback the chance to see it again


Each of these different types (outside of the form rejection, which doesn't tell us much) should be seen as a small victory and a step in the right direction.  Like I talked about earlier this week, persistence is the name of the game.  At each stage of these rejections, people give up and stop writing.  Don't be one of those people.  The only way to guarantee 100% that you'll never get a "yes" is to bow out of the race.

So, what do you think?  Have you experienced these different types of rejections?  What types am I missing?

Also, don't forget to stop by next week.  I'll be talking about my own experience so far in the query wars.  :)


**Today's Theme Song**
"Don't Go Away Mad, Just Go Away" -  Motley Crue
(player in sidebar, take a listen)


*picture credit:

Reader Comments (22)

That sounds like such an interesting panel. Thanks for sharing all this. I'm not in the query trenches yet but I know I will be someday. I'm going to mark this for future reference.

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie McGee

This is a really good rundown for rejections. I have gotten two of the last one you posted and several of the others. :) but mainly the first one LOL andyway good post!

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSummer Ross

I've had many of all those types of rejections. The last one just last year--agent requested revisions didn't get me that particular agent, but it did steer me in the right direction that I was able to get my manuscript to the place where the next agent I submitted it to offered representation. Each step leads to the next.

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElle Strauss

Awesome break down of the different kinds of rejections and what they can mean! Great post, Roni!

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJody Hedlund

I'm one of those people who like reading query experiences. Good or bad. Thanks for another awesome post as usual. I will be referring to this in the near future.

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTracey J

Great post. I've experienced every one of these rejections and I read something into each and every one.

The revise and resubmit is something I'm dealing with right now, but from an editor, not an agent.

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeannie

Roni, I've experienced every one of these comments. If you get them in the progression you've listed, you're making progress. If they go the other way, it's time to take a hard look at the subject matter you've chosen, the way you've written about it, the needs and tastes of the agent/publishing house to whom you've submitted it, etc.
Thanks for a very helpful post.

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Mabry

Okay, this is weird but you've got me pumped up to get those blasted re-writes done and get back to - as Stephanie put it - the query trenches. Even getting some new rejection letters is a step forward.

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Leszczuk

It is so hard to get those rejections, but the amount of clients an agent takes on is so small and sometimes they just have to pass on great things.

But if you are somewhere on the right track, and query a large group of agents you'll get a request.

I'm still getting rejections from queries sent in October/November

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Great post, Roni!

I'm getting ready to jump back into the query fray and will be referring back to this post for sure!

Thanks again.

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterroh morgon

Simply wonderful reminders about the journey. I've collected a variety of your examples here and I remain optimistic. A particular type I received is in the "What?!" category - that is, the agent requested the full ms. after the initial 100 pages, wrote back glowing comments, requested a copy of my first pubbed book and then....silence. One possible reason is alien abduction. Yeah, that must be it. :) (Still, I was pumped about all of this and added it to my "you don't completely suck" category.)

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterK. Harrington

I know this is going to sound nuts, but I wouldn't mind getting rejected if they weren't forms. It's amazing not to be rejected outright. Yeah...

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTina Lynn

You totally nailed it on the head with the "what we're thinking" part. LoL

Who knew though? I'll have to remember all this!

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOddyoddyo13


When I started out in writing (subbing) I could have wall-papered a room with no 1s.

Then I had a no 4 with mainstream romantic thriller.

Thereafter a positive Yes from same publisher (differet sub)and a few minor alterations: it was published.

I tried erotica: wham bam thank you mam came back from publisher in New York: it was GO Go Go on several books.

Then I dropped out of writing due to riding accident.

NOW: since submitting to Harlequin Mills & Boon and Embrace: I'm getting no 1s again.

Am thinking of setting up second blog to post rejections plus the subbed material! What do you think?
Might make a lot of other writers feel less down at heart when giggling their socks off over my misfortunes!

August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrancine

Another month or so and I'll be back in the query tenches (unless I can find another way to delay it *winks*). I'll be referring to this post often. :D

August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStina Lindenblatt

Fabulous post. I'm going to go reread my rejections and hopefully I'll take more away from them this time. Maybe there is hope. :-)

August 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLois D. Brown

Great post! I'm still a newbie, but reading that gives me an idea of what to expect, and how to "try" to understand it, without wanting to burn their house down for rejecting me.

August 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterYou can call me Ant.

Sadly, I've gotten every single one of these before! I suppose this is why when I got a letter of acceptance from a publisher, I saw their name in the 'from' area, and assumed it would be another rejection and just said, 'Well, crap. Might as well see what they didn't like about it.' It took me a few minutes to register that it was an offer!

August 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIndia Drummond

I can't wait for my first rejection letter! I'm going to frame it. :D

August 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPalindrome

Thick skin (think armadillo) and resilience are two characteristics writers just can't do without.

Come enter my snarky editor contest if ya get a chance!

August 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngie Ledbetter

You nailed it. :) And even forms are still something to feel good about--it means that you're in the game and had the courage to submit. :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Ackerman

And then, of course, there's the fun of taking 3 rejections from publishers, which all give different reasons. When I talked about this with an agent at a conference lunch, he was encouraging. He said, don't look at the reasons they didn't like it. Look at what they did like. It's a matter of finding someone who likes all the parts.

Terry" rel="nofollow">Terry's Place" rel="nofollow">Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Odell

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