Rejection: Why it Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Means


The book I’ve been writing with Catherine Ryan HydeHOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE—and keep your E-sanity! will be published by Mark Williams international  in June of 2012. The book will be available as an ebook that will include free six-month updates. AND it will also be available in paper in both a US and UK edition.

We’ve had some interest from more traditional publishers, but decided to go with the innovative people at MWiDP because we need a nimble publisher who can keep up with industry changes and offer timely updates. Also, Catherine has a large international fan base, which made “Mr. International’s” offer especially attractive.

This is not another how-to book for writers. It’s a how-to-survive book. It’s something we think a lot of writers might need right about now. 

If we’d known the challenges writers would face in the 21st century, we’d have gone into a more stable profession…like maybe running an all-ayatollah drag show in downtown Tehran.

Let’s face it. Aspiring writers need help. Writers today need to learn to ride the roller-coaster of a rapidly changing publishing business and deal with an overload of conflicting information.
We can find thousands of blog posts every day on the subject of writing and publishing, and we can’t read them all. Which ones do you trust?  Who do you believe? So much of it is negative, snarky, or either/or.

Making a living as a writer gets more difficult by the day—does that mean fledgling writers should give up their dreams?

Our answer is a resounding no. The life of a creative writer can be the most rewarding in the world. A writer lives a life of the mind—an examined life. Whether you hope to become the next Stephanie Meyer, a self-publishing writer-preneur, a crafter of literary short stories, or just want to write for family and friends, life is infinitely enhanced by the process of creating worlds out of words.

Our book is about helping newer writers learn how to navigate the publishing business as it zooms into the future, to learn to be the best writer you can be—and keep on writing, no matter what.

WIN PRIZES!! If you leave your e-address in the comments thread (or send it to me at annerallen.allen (at) gmail (dot) com) we will send you the formal announcement of the launch of HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE. This will also make you eligible for a drawing to be held next Sunday for a signed, first edition hardback copy of Catherine’s novel, WALTER’S PURPLE HEART, which she discusses in this post.

The Denver Post said, "Walter's Purple Heart" serves up 315 distinctive pages of reconciliation and hope...Hyde subtly captures the most powerful elements of sentiment—qualities we all recognize and understand—and adds a dash of metaphysical hope. She suggests that when it comes to love, nothing is ever truly lost, but rather redirected."

Signing up for our announcements will also make you eligible for the REALLY BIG drawing to be held on launch day in June. The REALLY BIG, launch-day prize in June will be a signed first edition of Catherine’s iconic inspirational novel, PAY IT FORWARD. 

My Ultimate Rejection Story (Chosen out of Literally Thousands)
by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I have a number of rejection stories. I’ll bet it’s a larger number than the best guess in your head right now. I’ve written a sort of “best of” series of my rejection stories into Anne’s and my new book HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE—and Keep your E-Sanity

Each of the stories is meant to illuminate rejection, to show that it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

At first you think it means the work is no good, you’re not a good writer. But then how can you reconcile the fact that my short stories were rejected an average of 17 ½ times each before going on to find a good home without further revision? (You’ll read that story in our book.) Okay, so then you figure the work may be good, but you’re trying to place it with the wrong publisher. But if that were true, I wouldn’t have placed my first short story with the same magazine that issued my most vicious rejection. (You’ll also read that one.)

Now, hopefully, you’re almost where you need to be, thinking rejection really only means that this particular editor won’t publish this particular work. Hold onto your socks for what comes next: It doesn’t even mean that much.

This is the one I consider to be my ultimate rejection story.

I’d had an agent who marketed Walter’s Purple Heart to no avail (25 rejections!) and wouldn’t even take on Pay It Forward. Hated it, hated it, hated it. (Told that one in the book, too.) I told her to send both home to me, and then gave them to a newer, hungrier agent.

The new agent sold Pay It Forward to Chuck Adams at Simon & Schuster, who then immediately asked what else I might have. Out of the drawer came Walter’s Purple Heart.

He bought it in a six-figure deal right before Christmas.

Why is that my best rejection story? Because one of Walter’s Purple Heart’s 25 previous rejections was from…wait for it…Chuck Adams at Simon & Schuster.
And he knew it.

His statement on why: He said Simon & Schuster had changed. They didn’t used to let him take on the smaller, more literary works. Now they did.

My statement on why: My career had changed. A book he might not have successfully marketed as a debut could be much more saleable as a follow-up to Pay It Forward.

So there you go. The true story of rejection. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that any one particular editor won’t buy that work of fiction. It just means he (or she) chose not to buy it on that day. Later, things can change. Reader tastes, the book industry, or your name recognition.

Here’s a final question before I move on from the subject of rejection.

I once received a plain, printed rejection from a small literary journal on my short story Nicky Be Thy Name. But they accepted the next story I sent. In a phone conversation with the editor, he remembered “Nicky,” and referred to it, saying he’d come within “a hair’s breadth” of taking it.

Now, I hadn’t known that. He hadn’t said. I just figured he didn’t like it.

When we get a rejection back in the mail, we usually don’t know the process the work has gone through. We don’t know if one paragraph was read by an editorial assistant (translation=first reader, probably straight out of college) or if our work made the rounds of all editors and survived everything but the final cut.

Here’s the question:

Why do we always assume the editor(s) hated it, that we have been branded as hacks? Why don’t we ever assume that it came within “a hair’s breadth” of acceptance, and is being returned with deep regret?

Catherine’s Workshop Announcement:

On the first weekend in February (and possibly the second weekend as well if I get enough takers) I'm going to be doing a weekend workshop at my studio in Cambria. This will be a read-and-critique workshop with a heavy focus on self-editing. In other words, the stuff your read-and-critique group will miss if they are only listening to the work, not reading it on the page (students will be encouraged to bring enough copies for everyone). Self-editing is a must for any author considering the indie, rather than traditional, publishing model. Class size is limited to eight. Hours on Saturday and Sunday will depend on class size, so please email for more information, and to reserve a space:

Traditionally I have charged $175 for workshops of this length (14 hours of instruction if maxed at 8 students). I'm doing the workshops, quite frankly, because I need the money, yet I am more than aware that most of my students are not exactly rolling in it these days, either. So I am conducting this workshop as a "recession special," which is another way of saying "pay what you can." Make me the best offer you can afford to make, and I won't turn anyone away over financial considerations. 

What about you, Scriveners? Do you have any good rejection stories? We'd love to hear them. Yes, it's OK to vent! (And don't forget to leave your email address--or send it--to enter the contest.)

Labels: , , , , , ,