4 Lessons I Learned from Being Rejected by a Publisher

From Jeff: This is a guest post by Sundi Jo. Sundi is a writer, speaker, and social media consultant, making her home in Branson, Missouri. You can find her on her blog, Twitter (@sundijo), and Facebook.

It’s that terribly-famous word we all hate to hear, especially when it comes to getting published:


Everyone likes to get her way. But what happens when you don’t?

No Trespassing Sign
Photo credit: Dru Bloomfield (Creative Commons)

Ten months ago, I submitted my book proposal to a publisher. While I waited to hear back from them, I kept writing.

Then, I received word they wanted the completed manuscript. So I sent them the nine out of eleven finished chapters I had.

And then, I waited again — with excitement and anxiety — to hear back. While I waited, I kept writing.

Of course, I was ecstatic. As a writer, I had made it to the next phase of my career. A publisher was actually interested in my work. What more could I ask for?

Then I heard those awful words…

The manuscript does not match our mission.

I sat in silence. Shed a few tears. Processed my emotions. Then, I moved on.

What choice did I have? At that moment, I could do one of two things:

  1. Be discouraged.
  2. Be determined.

I chose the latter. In fact, I’m still choosing it. Since I started putting my work out there, I told myself that whatever answer I received, I would be okay with it. I would keep writing.

I hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst. And here’s what I learned from getting rejected by a publisher:

1. Never put all your eggs in one basket

I stopped with one publisher. Bad idea.

After seven months of waiting, I realized this wasn’t my smartest thing to do. So I started submitting my proposal to agents, as well.

Because I only chose to focus on that one shot, I lost a lot of other opportunities and time.

I can’t take back my mistake, but I can learn from it.

2. Count it an honor

Not everyone has the opportunity to hit the second round of publishing — going from freelance writer to published author.

The fact that a publisher was interested in my manuscript was a huge compliment.

It meant my proposal was written well enough to catch their interest, that I had something to show them.

It just wasn’t the right match.

If your writing is being considered for publication — a guest post, a book, a magazine article — count it an honor. Even if you don’t get it published, rejoice. Because it means you’re not sitting on the sidelines. You’re in the game.

3. Make the “ask” count

Before I started putting my book proposal together, I used Michael Hyatt’s eBook, Writing a Winning Non-Fiction Book Proposal. If you haven’t read it yet, go get it now!

This book gave me step-by-step directions on putting together the perfect proposal. Although I had to do a bit of tweaking to meet the publisher’s requirements, it was a huge help.

Your proposal or pitch is your first impression. If it stinks, that tells publishers your manuscript might smell worse. Spend some time (and money) to make your proposal the best you can.

This goes for any “ask” you will ever make, concerning your writing. Don’t waste a chance to impress. You may not get another.

4. Keep going

Being turned down by a publisher doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. If you start thinking that way, you might as well quit writing and start collecting Beanie Babies. (Do people still do that?)

The fact is this: we writers are going to hear the word “no.” A lot. Get used to it.

Rejection is part of the creative life. Anyone who creates will experience it. But it’s not altogether bad. It’s what pushes us forward, if we let it.

Hearing “no” can keep you discouraged about your work, or it can keep you determined to succeed. The choice is yours.

What lessons have you learned from hearing the word “no?” Share in the comments.

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*Photo credit: Dru Bloomfield (Creative Commons)