Rejection. . .

peggy~ By Peggy Jaeger

What’s a 9 letter word for: refusal, dismissal, forsaking?

Here’s a hint: the answer starts with an r, can make you cry your eyes out, and eat an entire package of Milano cookies in one sitting. Make that 2 packages.

Got it yet? Yup. REJECTION.

As a writer I’ve experienced my fair share of rejection from everyone from editors to literary agents, to publishers. I‘ve had synopses discarded, proposals denounced, queries snubbed, and outlines slighted.

I’ve been rejected in person, in print, in emails, in snail-mail, via phone and even once in a text.

The first time I’d ever been rejected by an editor I was 25. I’d already had over a dozen fictional short stories published in literary magazines, and had been writing non-fiction articles concerning health care and nursing issues for a few years. I’d sent an article proposal based on my master’s thesis to a well-known nursing journal I’d already been published in twice. I thought my topic was timely and felt it would make a great addition to their monthly publication. I waited three months for a reply. Just as I was about to call them – this was eons before email was available and we were ALLOWED to call editors, I received a form rejection letter. I was told the topic for the article was not relevant to the present nursing environment.

Was I crushed? You betcha. Was I pissed off? To say the least. Did I want literary revenge? Hell, yeah! Did I do anything about it? Of course I did. When I finished the gallon of Cherry Garcia that I kept hidden in my freezer for emotional emergencies, I queried another nursing journal. In a week I received a phone call from the Editor-in-Chief who wanted the article  – which she referred to as UBER-RELEVANT  – for their July issue.

The takeaway I got from this experience? Not everyone is going to like what you write. But someone will.

Flash forward several years to when I started writing book length fiction. When I was done with my first novel, I began the literary agent query route. I sent over 75 queries to agents who specialized in representing what I wrote: medical thrillers. Over 95 % of the responses I got back were form rejection letters. Three agents actually addressed me by name and told my why the weren’t choosing to represent my work, and two asked me to change the book completely around to what they thought might sell, and then they would consider – maybe –representing me.

When the box of Dunkin’ Donuts was gone, I picked up one of the responses I received which had been positive. I still have this rejection letter. The part that stuck out so plainly to me, read: “While I do not feel I can devote the time and attention to representing this work that it needs, please be assured, you are a very good writer, and it only takes one person to say “yes” for you to be published. Unfortunately, I’m not that person, but I believe she or he is out there and you will connect with them. Good luck, and I know I will see your name on a book jacket some day.”

 This was without doubt the nicest rejection I’d ever received and still is. If all rejection letters could be written this way I believe we would have a great deal less depressed authors milling about.

Now, the takeaway I got from this letter? You got it; same as before: not everyone is gong to like what your write. But someone will.

It only takes that one someone – be it an agent, editor, or publisher, and all those rejections lining your file cabinet drawers will seem inconsequential and irrelevant. Or they will seem like what they really are: the dues you’ve paid for persistence and perseverance.

As a writer, rejection of your work is part of the road you will travel on the way to publication. Yes, it hurts for someone to tell you they don’t like or want your work. Yes, it blows big time to have someone in a position of literary power tell you what you’ve written is not pertinent or that they don’t know how they could market it effectively. And yes, it destroys your soul when you’re rejected flat out, with no reason why, in a dry worded form letter.


It only takes one “YES.”

Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance author who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.  You can read all about her writing journey at

16 thoughts on “Rejection. . .”

  1. Loved your article about rejection. It’s important to develop thick skin in this business. The positive about rejection is that it makes us better writers even if we’re not given any feedback. If we’re willing to put in more time and effort to make it better before sending it out again I think we all benefit.

    1. Maria – that’s a valid point. WHile a form letter never tells us why something was rejected, when I’ve rec’d letter citing specifics,it makes the process less frustrating because it gives me something to work on and toward.

  2. Oh, boy! How true this is. I was fortunate to have some short stories published early on in literary and regular magazines and anthologies, but I have a folder full of rejection letters. I learned that fiction is so very, very subjective. However, putting it in perspective: If you and I were to go to a jewelry store to choose a diamond ring, I’ll bet we wouldn’t choose the same one. Life is very subjective to every individual so, as writers, we just…write on!

  3. I have to admit, I’ve been pretty lucky when it comes to submitting books. BUT, I’ve never had a magazine story or article accepted. NEVER.

    1. Sandra – magazine stories for me where literary ones in college, my 20’s and 30’s. No pay – just recognition. Magazine articles were another story – lots of pay and all on non-ficiton topics. So, I guess it just depends on where a person submits and what they are willing to take as far as payment. I couldn’t have supported myself with the article fees, but I got a lot of air time over it which at the time was a good thing.

  4. Love this post. It’s hard sometimes to keep rejection in perspective. I still have a hard time getting back to the optimistic side of it sometimes, but this is the kick in the pants I need to keep trying in the face of possible rejection.

    1. Erica – at the recent RWA conference I took a workshop by Christie Craig. If you don’t know who she is you should look her up.( She brought with her a rolling suitcase filled with every written rejection she’d ever received. The suitcase was packed to bursting. Some of the rejections were scathing, others form letter. But there were hundreds and I’m not kidding. And she is still the most positive person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. It truly is a testament to us all as writers that we keep barreling on even in the face of rejection.

  5. You’ve certainly got one up on me; I’ve never been rejected by text message. There’s no doubt rejection hurts, badly. It can kill your creativity if you let it. I like your positive message – not everybody is going to like your work. As a reader, I don’t like every book I read, so I need to understand that editors and agents feel exactly the same way.

    1. Jana- the text one HURT!! let me tell you, and it was just a few words, nothing in depth I guess because it was a text. I’ve heard people say how horrible it is to breakup with someone over a text,but this rejection was crazy painful. Oh, well…I lived.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *