Rejection letters can start your career

I recently had the honor of being a panelist at Oakville Public Library’s Paths to Publishing event, here in southern Ontario. The library hosted several authors and experts in the publishing industry and we shared our journeys to publication. It was a great event, well attended, and I enjoyed speaking with the audience members.

The focus of my talk was how a rejection letter kick-started my writing career. Hard to imagine? Sure. After all, does anyone enjoy being rejected? No. And to be rejected in writing, for your writing, is an indignity every author dreads.

However, I would argue it’s a very important step on our career path.

As it happens, my first rejection letter came back in 2008 for a manuscript I sent to Harlequin. I had visions of grandeur. I had dreams of fame and fortune. And, sadly, I also had a terrible manuscript.

I’ll share what Harlequin said to me in that letter:

  • “Ensure your story and conflict are character-driven.”
  • “Focus on the internal emotional conflict of your characters.”
  • “Use secondary characters to add richness/depth to your central romance, but don’t let them take over.”
  • “Target your work to a particular series/publisher. Understand what they sell.”

All great points, and I will admit, they were spot on as far as my book went.

Now, it hurt. It hurt like a bandage being ripped off a still-open wound. But it was accurate. And what I told the audience in Oakville was that it’s crucial to absorb expert feedback, use it, and then put the letter away. You don’t want to dwell on negativity, but I would advise any new writer to glean every possible bit of info from a rejection letter in order to make their book shine. After all, these people know what they’re talking about.

And in my case, I used that info. I’m now happy to say the mistakes I made then were obliterated, or at least I can identify them easily in my own writing now. Feedback is a gift. Use it to improve your writing and be thankful someone took the time to share their thoughts with you. My rejection letter changed my life and started me on the path to publication.

As an aside, I will also share a hot freebie with you today! My paranormal romance Predator’s Kiss, Gemini Island Shifters 1, is now available FREE of charge at iTunes as part of a special promotion there. It’s for a limited time only. Catch the start of this hot series and let my bear shifter Ryland Snow keep you warm on these chilly nights!

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6 thoughts on “Rejection letters can start your career

    • For sure, Sasha! In my experience, if they take the time to offer advice, it means you did something right. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting.


  1. Great post, Rosanna. My husband keeps a box full of 20 years of rejections for his applications within his industry. It has made him the strong and hardworking man he is today. Congrats on never giving up.


    • Thank you, Rosemary. Your husband and I have that in common. My rejections sit in a broken hatbox in the basement. If used properly, they do help us move forward. And to be able to store them away tells the universe we are ready for something more, something better- this, I believe. Thanks for commenting and reading today!


  2. I have all my rejection letters. The one that resonates with me was one from an editor at a major NY publishing house (which still exists today in one form or another) who told me not to mix genres –EVER. She had no complaints on my writing style, voice or anything else — just the cross-genres. Said she wouldn’t know how to sell the book.

    My book Fatal Vision was paranormal (psychic heroine) and romantic suspense.

    An e-publisher picked it up and the same month I first released Fatal Vision (to a 4-star review in Romantic Times magazine), Kay Hooper started her Bishop/SCU series with Stealing Shadows (psychic heroine and romantic suspense), then followed it over the next two months with Hiding in the Shadows and Out of the Shadows (the first time for marketing three books back-to-back in a debut series).

    Now, Kay Hooper was breaking out of her category books at that time. She also had enough clout or a good enough sales record to write what she wanted to write. Truth be told, Linda Howard had already done some cross-genre with psychics and romantic suspense (Dream Man in 1994 — really good book) – so Kay had a precedent. And then there were all the Gothic books from the 60s and 70s that were precursors of a mix of romance, suspense, thriller, and supernatural.

    After Stealing Shadows and its brethren made it big, all kinds of cross-genre started coming out of the woodwork (e-books helped that a bunch).

    Why did I keep slogging away after that rejection? I had taken several workshops with a multi-published career author who had written for all the big publishers under at least 15 or more different pen names. This was a man who made a living writing genre fiction. He had read some of my WIPs during a writing retreat — and he is the reason I did not trash Fatal Vision and Death Benefits — he told me I was a storyteller and not to let anybody tell me different. Good story-telling is good story-telling. He told me I wrote with muscle. I was highly complimented because he was a tough former soldier (Korean War) and crusty as hell and shot straight from the hip. If I wrote garbage, he would’ve told me and showed me how to fix it – I saw him do such with other authors at the retreats. Me? I got to write and watch and listen to him educate.

    I owe my career to him.

    I’m glad I didn’t listen to the NY editor. 🙂


    • Thanks for this, Moni! You are right- not everyone’s advice is valid for us. In my case, it happened to be, but I’m so glad you didn’t pay heed to this editor’s critique either. Look at what you’ve accomplished!


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