Rejection Letters are Opportunities

I’ve been rejected from every type of writing professional possible. Agents, beta-readers, publishers, contests, magazines, blogs, awards, fellowships, graduate programs, friends, mentors, and readers. Do not give up!

Writing is creative and artistic. But as soon as you package something with a cover letter and send it out for someone to review, you are now marketing. That is a very important distinction to make. Always remember when you step back and fourth over this line.

The worst possible rejection you can get is a non-response. You don’t know how or why the rejection happened, it was just a “no”. But if you can get something in writing, then you are gaining. You can use these rejection letters to help shape and sharpen your novel or story vision. And get it in front of the right reader.


When you get rejected, listen to the advice or reason for the rejection. I know it is frustrating, but it helps to read a response a few times. I have misunderstood comments when I first read them because I was frustrated or angry. Read them over and take stock in what they are saying. Good comments are not a stamp, but something that will give you insight. For example, “This story seems original, but it doesn’t fit our audience.” That is actually a tell that your writing was fine, but it wasn’t a good fit for the magazine. That is research and marketing. I’ve gotten feedback like, “While the book is mysterious and has a Hawthorne like tone, in the end, I didn’t feel we could represent this book.” This is worth keeping in the file. This is helpful feedback that can be used to rewrite your cover letter.

No Immediate Reactions

It is important for me to temper any immediate response. I get frustrated and have a knee-jerk reaction. But after a few hours, I always come back to it and think about my writing. If an editor says something like, “This didn’t fit our magazine, but please send more of your work.” It doesn’t mean immediately, it means we like the writing style, but we don’t like this particular piece. I’ve worked on the other end of that response and received more work from a writer in a few minutes. Part of the job, in terms of the writer as a seller — is to be professional and continue to play the percentages. Don’t respond with a nasty-gram. It is a small world and you may connect with them again at a different journal or at a different event. Assume and prepare for rejection. Not because you deserve it. Not because it will always happen. But don’t take a rejection personally. They don’t know you. And the decision to cut your story might be simply not enough space or time to get your story in. Accept that you will be rejected.

Use Terrible Gifts

After you have stewed on your rejection, licked your wounds and feel like you can reread it – it is important to look for a specific take away. For example, above they said, “mysterious” and “Hawthorne like tone” now you are ready to start pulling some of those ideas out of your rejections and craft them into your new query letters. Publishers, writers, and agents know the value of a good blurb for their book covers, and these are like blurbs for your query letters. Perhaps someone caught the essence of your book or story — and now you have the words to craft something you may have missed or didn’t think about. Now you have tools. Use these ideas to help you shape your market and your plan. Agents and publishers want something they can sell without too much work, and know specifically how they are going to market it. So, if you can frame and shape your query accurately and with some polish, they might want more.


We edit and revise our creative work all the time. It makes sense that you will continue to rewrite and edit your query material. If you are writing in a genre, there are specific guidelines to follow. If you write literary work, then it is a little more nuanced.

Use those arrows that have been flung at you and sharpen then and add them back into your quiver, add them in your rewrites and queries. It isn’t all the time we get an agent to discuss your book or writing, so use their words to shape your vision and direction. Eventually, you will get in front of someone who gets it and will publish it.

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