Wednesday, February 25, 2015

4 Things You Can Do When Your Story Is Rejected. Again.

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Many of you have heard me talk about RoboTales, the children's chapter book series I wrote with my son. (I wrote a blog post on chapter books here.)

Since I would be pitching this to New York publishing houses in a genre I wasn't published in, my agent told me I needed to complete the first three books in the series.

So, Luke and I worked hard. We wrote the first three books, we wrote a book proposal, and we sent it off to my agent.

And it got rejected by everyone. Some of the rejections were random, like one editor who no longer worked at the publishing house. Some were downright lovely, like one woman who loved the idea but her house had moved away from publishing children's chapter books. For us, the reasons didn't matter. Not really. All that mattered was that the answer was no.

These things happen. Rejection was not new to me. It was new to Luke, and he was discouraged. I was too, but I had a lot of perspective to measure it against. Still, this was a pet project for me. It still is! It's more than just another book. All my books mean something to me, but this was something special I'd done with my boy. And we weren't finished yet.

Luke and I talked it over, and we decided to self-publish the first three books. We talked about what we wanted them to look like, and we researched until we found an artist we both thought was perfect.

She was too expensive, though.

Back to the drawing board. We decided to try a Kickstarter campaign. Now, let me just warn you, rejection is common to writers in many forms. Kickstarter can easily be just another form of rejection. And that is how I felt a few days ago. And, knowing me, I'll likely feel that way again before the whole thing is over. But Luke and I are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to pay our artist in advance. We look at it as a way readers can pre-order the books. You can see our Kickstarter project page here:

But here's the thing. We might not raise the money we need to pay our artist. We could fail. This would be, yet again, another form of rejection. What do we do then?

Well, we're thinking and planning and praying. If this door closes, that doesn't mean we can't publish these books. It just means that we need to go about it another way. So we will go back to the drawing board and make a new plan. Because we love our project. We love the story. We believe in it. And we're not giving up. Therefore, we've got to stay positive.

So today I'm giving you 4 things you can do when your story is rejected... again.

1. Consider the rejection(s).
What do they say? Many are simply form letters or words that give no clues as to why. But if there are some clues, it would be wise to consider what they are. If the editor or agent gives you any feedback, that is precious. Don't cast it off as nothing. Take time to think over that advice and how it might alter your story.

2. Submit elsewhere.
If you truly believe your story is ready to be published and the rejections offer no valuable clues as to problems with the writing, perhaps you simply haven't found the right publishing house yet. Take some time to research more publishers or agents and see who else is out there to submit to.

3. Take a break and let it sit.
Maybe you've realized that there are problems with your story. But maybe it's too overwhelming to think about editing it again right now. If you can't see anything wrong with it, setting it aside for a while can still be beneficial. Start a new story. Create from scratch again. By the time you come back to this rejected story, you will see everything with fresh eyes. And you might know exactly what needs tweaked.

Also, sometimes writers need periods of complete rest. Months where you don't write. Maybe you read a lot, just for fun. Or maybe you simply reflect on life, taking a break from the grind of striving so much. These periods of refreshing can be so helpful. And they can also give perspective when you come back to look at that story again.

4. Publish it yourself.
Maybe you've sent the story everywhere you could think to send it. Maybe you've taken time off, came back to it, and still felt it was the best it could be. If that's the case, and you still ache to get this story out to readers, it could be time to investigate self-publishing. I say "investigate" because it's so easy to rush into self-publishing these days, but the more time you take preparing and planning, the better you'll do. If you decide to self-publish, do your research and put out the very best product you can.

That's what my son and I are trying to do with RoboTales right now. And like I said before, we might not succeed in raising the funds to pay our artist. We're hoping we will, but we're already making a back-up plan should this door close. That's business, after all. And like it or not, publishing books is business.

Have you ever been rejected? Did you learn something? What did you do next? Share something positive that came about as a result of one of your stories being rejected.


  1. I've been writing for seven years, so I know a lot about rejection. Back in my early days (years), I'd get the urge to give up. However, the happiest day of my writing life was the day I received a hand-written rejection note from a big-time agency, telling me I had talent and to keep writing. I've started looking forward to submitting again. :)

    1. That's awesome, Linea! I'm so glad that agent took the extra time to encourage you.

  2. I commented earlier but not sure it went through. I did indie publish my Viking novel after submitting everywhere (almost) and it got those "sorry, can't market this time period" rejections. I'm so thankful God pushed me that direction because now I have readers and can keep pursuing writing what I love. There are many cover artists out there nowadays, some are more affordable than others and still do great work, so I would encourage you to check around! Also, I'd encourage you to get involved with an active indie group or follow indie blogs if you go that route, to keep plugged in with the latest developments (Amazon is constantly changing). I am working on a YA right now that won't fit the boxes due to length, so I'll probably indie publish it too. All the best to you, Jill, and let me know if I can ever help!

    1. Hi, Heather. Yes, I love that indie publishing is an option for books that don't quite fit in the box. Best of luck to you on your YA book! :-)

  3. I really hope that Robotales works out for you and your son! Those are the kinds of passionate projects the world needs more of!
    I've never been rejected for a novel, but I have had short stories that recieved no response or were dismissed. Rejection to me (and it may just be because the time investment is not as great as 80,000+ words) means a bit of relief. I can improve the writing, and always try again. I have a reason to keep moving forward.

    1. Thanks, Kelsey! *hugs* And what a positive way to look at rejection! I love that. It does give us a reason to keep moving forward.

  4. Rejection is definitely one of the most difficult and disheartening things about writing because it's so hard for someone to reject a piece you've been working on for so long. I've faced rejection, and I think taking breaks has been the best thing for me to do after a rejection because it gives me time to relax and lets me come back with fresh eyes. Actually breaks work for any problem in writing for me. I sense a pattern here...

    1. Yes! We get so caught up in things, we forget that our brain needs a rest. I'm glad you've figured that out, Ana.

  5. I've received so many rejections, though it seems they are all worth it for the occasional accepted ones :) I've had a poem accepted, and a couple articles and stories through magazines and blogs.

    1. Rejections do make the acceptances so much sweeter. That's so true, Keturah!

  6. I have decided to do self-publishing once I finish my novella compilation. I have never actually finished a manuscript before, though I hope I will this year. I'm not going to not submit it to any agent and publisher not because I'm afraid of rejection, but because I really don't want to publish traditionally. I want to experience publishing a book myself.

    Best of luck to you and your son! I hope you guys make it far with your books.

    P.S. Do you have any thoughts on writing a novel longhand? My parents are taking away my laptop for some reasons this summer and I need to know if I'll be doing it correctly if I write my second novella longhand.

    1. Good luck with your publishing plans, Andrea. No, I don't have any tips on writing longhand. I think that would be tricky for me. I'm spoiled with moving chunks of the story around. If I needed to write by hand, I'd probably need to use loose-leaf paper and keep it in a three-ring binder. That way I could still shuffle scenes around if I needed too.

  7. I've definitely done 2 and 3 with my project, though I've never had the chance to do 1 because all of my rejections have been form ones. :p Right now, I'm editing, and I've got a couple more places in mind to send it to. If they all reject it, then I'll probably look into self-publishing.
    Good luck with your kickstarter!

    Alexa S. Winters