To be a writer is to be rejected. Many article and book ideas of mine have been rejected. If you’re not being rejected, you’re not trying hard enough.

Irma S. Rombauer, author of Joy of Cooking, rejected by publishers.

The question is, How should writers react when they receive those inevitable rejections? Well, don’t give up. That’s the first and most important thing. Know that you are not alone, and that the very best who have ever practiced this craft have all been rejected, often when they were unknown and just starting out.

Back in the days when publishers and editors issued rejection notices on paper, William Saroyan would write “I reject your rejection!” across the face of the rejection letter and send it back to the person who rejected him.

Perhaps a better approach would be to recognize a rejection for what it is. The agent or editor or publisher is simply saying that in his or her view, your work is not viable commercially. It will not sell. They cannot sell it. It’s not right for the market. It has no market. The book will not work in a business sense, in their opinion.

In other words, to quote The Godfather, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

William Saroyan. Rejecting his rejections!

Now, your novel may indeed need creative help. It may not be ready in an artistic sense. The characters or plot may be lacking in some critical way. It may have a fatal flaw that, irrespective of business considerations, dooms it. You may need to toss the manuscript metaphorically in a drawer, learn from what you did, and move on to your next big idea.

But then again, the experts who supposedly know better than you may be wrong. The history of publishing is replete with books rejected by publishers that have gone to become huge successes. Here’s one such book that jumps to mind: Joy of Cooking. Publishers rejected Irma S. Rombauer until finally she self-published it in 1931. Five years later, after sales success, a publisher saw the light and her “little collection of homemade recipes” (as editors derided it) became the most influential cookbook of all time.

Which brings me back to my first point. Don’t give up.

Photos courtesy of TheJoyKitchen.com and WilliamSaroyanSociety.org.