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12 Famous Writers on Literary Rejection

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” – Barbara Kingsolver
David Mitchell Quote
“I got a rejection letter from an editor at HarperCollins, who included a report from his professional reader. This report shredded my first-born novel, laughed at my phrasing, twirled my lacy pretensions around and gobbed into the seething mosh pit of my stolen clichés. As I read the report, the world became very quiet and stopped rotating. What poisoned me was the fact that the report’s criticisms were all absolutely true. The sound of my landlady digging in the garden got the world moving again. I slipped the letter into the trash…knowing I’d remember every word.” – David Mitchell
“Rejections slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” – Isaac Asimov
“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” – Sylvia Plath
“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” – Ray Bradbury
“Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.” – Kurt Vonnegut
“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.” – James Lee Burke
“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”  – Neil Gaiman 


“I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’“ – Saul Bellow
Anita Sheve Quote
“To ward off a feeling of failure, she joked that she could wallpaper her bathroom with rejection slips, which she chose not to see as messages to stop, but rather as tickets to the game.” – Anita Shreve 
JK Rowling Quote“Often, you have to fail as a writer before you write that bestselling novel or ground-breaking memoir. If you’re failing as a writer – which it definitely feels like when you’re struggling to write regularly or can’t seem to earn a living as a freelance writer – maybe you need to take a long-term perspective.” – J.K. Rowling  
Chuck Wendig Quote
“Rejection has value. It teaches us when our work or our skillset is not good enough and must be made better. This is a powerful revelation, like the burning UFO wheel seen by the prophet Ezekiel, or like the McRib sandwich shaped like the Virgin Mary seen by the prophet Steve Jenkins. Rejection refines us. Those who fall prey to its enervating soul-sucking tentacles are doomed. Those who persist past it are survivors. Best ask yourself the question: what kind of writer are you? The kind who survives? Or the kind who gets asphyxiated by the tentacles of woe?” – Chuck Wendig



  1. TS
    16 June 2013 / 12:01 am

    Absolutely LOVE this. Thank you!! 🙂

  2. 17 June 2013 / 11:58 am

    “tentacles of woe” is a phrase I imagine my English Lit/Comp teacher never thought of.

  3. 17 June 2013 / 11:56 pm

    Great article! After years of trying the traditional publishing route, I decided to publish with Kindle Direct Publishing and haven’t looked back. My goal is to eventually have enough money put aside to publish in hard copy through Create Space…in the meantime, my old rejection letters sit in a folder that is labeled, “Not Yet!”

    • Lynn Kordus
      20 June 2013 / 11:04 pm

      Kudos to you! How have you marketed your Kindle book?

    • Amanda L. Knauss
      21 June 2013 / 3:38 am

      Create Space is an awesome company as I have found out. It actually isn’t expensive at all; the most I had to pay to publish my book was $25.00 and that was only for wider distribution, which is optional, although I wouldn’t pass that up if I were you.

    • 26 June 2013 / 9:52 am

      I am changing my “Unsuccessful” folder to “Not Yet” immediately!

  4. 18 June 2013 / 10:53 pm

    I suppose I have to submit something before I can get a rejection slip of my own.

    • Danna Halpin
      23 June 2013 / 6:43 am

      Yes, Collin, you do. I just made my first submission and am bracing myself for the rejection which I tell myself will attest to my having at least a modicum of courage.

    • 13 June 2014 / 5:04 am

      Collin, you and I are in the same boat. I do not think it is the rejection that concerns me as much as building a work or my confidence to expose. That being said, I am preparing works this week to submit to contests and to an agent that heard me read, and has seen some of my work and asked for the whole manuscript. Even if the piece was ready, I wasn’t. But now I am. Let me encourage you to join me as I begin my collection of rejection slips. For my writer friends upon getting the rejections, my words of comfort are: “Good for you; it means you are now one step closer to having a piece accepted.”

  5. 20 June 2013 / 11:34 am

    My first rejection letter is safely tucked away. Although i was a little crushed, I was even prouder of myself for getting out there 🙂

  6. 21 June 2013 / 7:04 am

    I figure half my problem is not knowing where I should be sending the manuscript to. marilynfriesen.blogspot

  7. 21 June 2013 / 8:40 am

    Hahaha. I needed these tidbits of perception today. I feel much better and tomorrow IS another day! All bright and cheerful.

  8. 25 June 2013 / 12:33 pm

    I just LOVED this post and everything they say is dead on.

  9. 14 September 2013 / 2:04 am

    Love it, love it and love it. Am I discouraged by rejection absolutely not. One day the slip will be a different colour,

  10. 30 June 2014 / 3:12 am

    As a literary agent, I am compelled to admonish the zealots: the sub-text of each of these rejection letters is the same: LEVERAGE worthy rejections/criticisms and improve your material. Fools sit around and pout. Wise writers modify what’s valid and improve their craft.

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