Episode 012 | Rejection Rates
“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” – Sylvia Plath
If you want to be a writer, you want to be rejected. That’s all there is to it. To say that you don’t want rejection is like someone saying that they want to play football without ever being tackled. Or someone saying they want to play baseball, but only if they hit every pitch, every time (and preferably over the fence).
So that’s not gonna happen.
In baseball, the absolute best hitters of all time miss it about twice as much as they hit it. Ty Cobb still holds the top spot, and he failed to hit the ball about 63 times for every 100 he went to bat. (Bear in mind, every other major league baseball player who has ever played has failed even more than that.)
But, remember, sometimes they hit it. And it’s spectacular!
In the September 2016 issue of The Writer magazine, Keysha Whitaker took a look at acceptance and rejection rates in an article entitled, “The Science of Submission.” In addition to tracking her own submissions over the course of several years, she interviewed prolific writers and checked in with Duotrope. The lowest acceptance rate she encountered was 2% and the highest was 22.5%. Duotrope reported that the writers who tracked submissions through them averaged around 5% acceptance rates in a given year.
Those Ty Cobb numbers are looking pretty good right about now, amIright? Only failing two-thirds of the time looks pretty good when you’re looking at getting a “no” 95 times out of 100 on average.
But don’t get demoralized quite yet. For starters. bear in mind that these are averages. Focus instead on the wisdom offered by the Duotrope spokesman quoted in Whitaker’s article:
“We’ve seen time and time again that dedication pays off. From what we see, the authors who are most successful are the ones who just keep submitting no matter what and keep track of all those submissions.”
Resilience generates its own magic. There’s an old saying that a professional writer is just an amateur who never quit. Hang in there. And when you get a little glum about it all, spend some time on some of the links below and remind yourself that everyone gets tackled. Everyone swings and misses. Even the greats.
Since it was published almost six decades ago, To Kill a Mockingbird has consistently polled as the most beloved book in the English language (occasionally edged out only by The Bible). While you keep that in mind, read this and remember that it wasn’t snapped up by the first publisher who saw it. Or the second. Or the third…or the ninth, for that matter. Furthermore, once it was accepted for publication, what followed, according to Harper Lee, was “a long and hopeless period of writing the book over and over again.”
J.K. Rowling is the first person to ever become a billionaire because of their writing. And yet the incredibly inspiring story of her path to becoming one of the most influential people in the world includes twelve rejections from publishers for the first Harry Potter book and another two for her series written under the pen name Robert Galbraith.
“20 Brilliant Authors Whose Work Was Initially Rejected” by Buzzfeed
“Best-Sellers That Were Initially Rejected” by LitRejections
You’re going to get a lot of no’s. Sometimes they’ll come at you fast, sometimes you’ll have to wait a while for them, leaving time to get your hopes up. It’s all just part of the deal. You want the yesses, you gotta take the no’s, too. The only guarantee you’re going to get in this field is akin to the one Wayne Gretzky famously said (and Michael Scott from The Office loves to quote), “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So take more shots. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence out there that suggests that shooting for a hundred or more rejections a year is a good way to go. Think of it this way. If you collect a hundred or more rejections in the coming year, you’ll also likely get around half a dozen yesses to things you submitted. A year from now, how would that feel? How could that change things for you?
YOU are the only one who can ultimately keep you from writing and publishing. Agents and editors only have the power to say yes or no to one project, one submission at a time. You have the power to say yes or no to your entire body of work by putting in the work or taking your ball and going home. Say yes. Stay in the game. It’s so worth it.
Happy writing, people!
“6 Lessons Learned from a Year of 101 Rejections” by Natalie D-Napoleon
“10 Hidden Gifts of Rejection Letters” by Chuck Sambuchino
“25 Things Writers Should Know About Rejection” by Chuck Wendig
“Getting Rejected? Feeling Dejected?” by Gloria T. Delamar
“How to Overcome Rejection by 200 Literary Agents (& Still Land a Book Deal)” by Loretta Ellsworth
“If You’re Feeling Down and Out About a Rejection Letter” by Zachary Petit
“One Year, One Hundred Rejections: Brett Elizabeth Jenkins” by Robert Lee Brewer
“Tips for Dealing with Inevitable Rejection” by NY Book Editors
“Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year” by Kim Liao