How to handle discouragement, rejection, and bad reviews

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Image by Binu Kumar

Image by Binu Kumar

You write something brilliant at three in the morning, but by the next afternoon you want to burn it. You query a dozen agents and no one asks for pages. Your agent has submitted to 50 publishers and no one is interested. Your novel is getting awful reviews left and right.

At every stage of your writing career, no matter how successful you are, you are going to get discouraged. There will always be better writers, who got published earlier, made more money, and got better reviews. So take a second and wallow in your self-pity. Go ahead and get a Kleenex. I’ll wait.

You all done? Ready for my next piece of advice? Here it is.

Suck it up and keep writing.

J.K. Rowling was rejected by 12 publishing houses before getting published. Now? If you don’t know who she is, you must be from Mars.

John Grisham was rejected by 28 publishers before being picked up by a relative unknown for a measly 5,000-copy first printing. Now he has over 250 million books in print, in 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been made into major motion pictures.

Agatha Christie waited four years for her first book to be published. She went on to become one of the best-selling authors of all time; And Then There Were None alone has sold more than 100 million copies.

A Wrinkle in Time, Peter RabbitThe Wizard of Oz, and even The Diary of Anne Frank were all rejected multiple times before some publisher took a chance on them and they became unforgettable classics. The list goes on. Don’t believe me? Google it!

Or try searching for a favorite book on Amazon and reading the one-star reviews. No matter how awesome the book is, somebody hated it. Here are things people said about The Book Thief, one of my absolute favorites:

“This book is all hype.”

“From its overwrought beginning to its sloppily tragic ending, this book trots out just about every hackneyed trick imaginable.”

“Most books have a least some redeeming value but the only one I can find for this book is the credit I will get at the used book store.”

See? It doesn’t matter what one person thinks, or what a dozen people think, or even what 90% of the people think. We all know that “most popular” rarely equals “best.” Now, we could take the other extreme and say it only matters that you think your work is good, but that kind of relativism is a sissy way to look at things.

But you wouldn’t be reading this post if you didn’t already care about being a better writer. So today, I’m not going to lecture you about studying more. I’m not going to preach that you need to work harder.

I’m just going to slap you upside the head and tell you to believe in yourself.

Don’t let failure be your excuse for giving up. Everybody fails. The only difference between people who succeed and people who keep failing is that the successful people don’t give up, no matter what anybody says.

So the next time you’re feeling discouraged, rejected, beaten down, remember: you’re in good company.






About Stephanie Orges

Stephanie is an award-winning copywriter, aspiring novelist, and barely passable ukulele player. Here, she offers writing prompts, tips, and moderate-to-deep philosophical discussions. You can also find her on and Pinterest.
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  1. Still at the “query a dozen agents” stage, although some have asked for pages–and passed. Excellent post. Dune, one of my alk-time favorites, was also a multiple rejectee, finally published by Chilton (yes, the publisher famous for auto repair manuals) and went on to be a huge success in the SF world, still spawning stories written by Frank Herbert’s (the author’s) son. So, back to working on the synopsis for the second half of my WIP

  2. Great post, BeKind! 🙂 I love the fact that we’re all in good company … and here is where we can talk about it too! 🙂

  3. Thanks for this post. I needed it. 🙂 And it’s true – you can’t please everybody and even if everyone seems to like your work, there’s always at least one person out there who thinks the opposite.

    • Yeah, what gets me is, the reviewers above sound pretty intelligent. So they can’t be idiots (although that is my first reaction to someone not liking Book Thief). There’s simply no accounting for tastes, I guess.

  4. Good company indeed! And gosh, I love the one star Amazon reviews. Every time I finish a book, whether I loved it or hated it, I always read the one star reviews.

    It is my goal someday to be a published author with many awesome one star reviews. Wooo!!

  5. Lavender Water: A Writing Blog by Christy Farmer

    With all due respect, the internet information on Gone With The Wind is false. It was never rejected. Margaret Mitchell had never submitted it to anyone prior to Macmillan. She was sought out by Harold Lathan who was touring the south looking for new manuscripts and writers. He was given a tip to see Margaret Mitchell by a contact at Macmillan who was a friend of Margaret Mitchell’s.

    • Lavender Water: A Writing Blog by Christy Farmer

      That said…I would agree that writer’s should let a rejection/negative review deter them 😉

    • Thanks so much for pointing that out! Several sites stated GWTW was rejected 38 times or more. I have updated the post. : )

      • Lavender Water: A Writing Blog by Christy Farmer

        You’re welcome! It was a great post. I always have the mindset that I write to make me happy. If others enjoy it too…then they are most welcome to come along. No one should ever be deterred from writing;-)

  6. A pep talk and slap upside the head wake us up from time to time, and re-energize us. Thanks, Stephanie.

  7. Pingback: Holiday Archives: How to handle rejection | bekindrewrite

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