How Rejection Letters From Literary Agents Helped Me Believe In Myself

Nobody likes rejection letters. Rejection is not what sets apart the successful writer from the unsuccessful one. It’s what you do with the rejection letters that counts.

Looking for a literary agent is a roller coaster ride of uphill struggle and downhill mood slumps. I spent six months honing my message, crafting my pitch, researching the market, finding competing titles and succinctly summarising every chapter. With each submission, I’m effectively putting my heart and soul into words which I then offer up to a perfect stranger and ask them to believe in me.

The process has highlighted the part of me that still doesn’t believe in myself.

Before I started writing the book, I heard that non-fiction proposals could be submitted without having written the book yet. It was tempting to dream about getting a book deal before writing it. But then I thought about how I would feel if it didn’t get picked up. What if everybody rejected it? Would I still write it? I decided to get on and write and THEN find a publisher. Anything else was procrastination.

With the writing now finished, looking for an agent has made me seriously doubt my story and question whether any mainstream publisher will ever want it. 

Out of 34 proposals, 18 received rejection letters and 16 I never heard back from.

rejection letters

After six months sending out proposals and receiving rejection letters, or worse still, no response at all, led me to despair.

I sent a total of 34 proposals out: 18 of which received rejections and 16 I never heard back from. The standard response went something like this:

“Thank you for sending us this material, but I’m afraid it isn’t suitable for us. I’m sorry to disappoint, and wish you luck with your future writing.”

Only one agent gave me feedback as to why they didn’t go for it:

“Thanks so much for contacting us. I’ve read the sample material with interest. While I liked the chapters I wasn’t sufficiently swept along by the narrative to know that I’d be the best advocate for the book.  Sorry!  Best of luck elsewhere.”

The email I cherished the most, which I devoured like a drop of rain in the desert, came from Cara at the HHB Agency:

“Dear Emma, Thank you for your submission to HHB. I enjoyed reading your work, you write well, with intensity and style. However, as a small agency we are only ever able to take on a limited number of authors and I am afraid in this instance, we were not able to take you work further. I wish you all the best.   All best, Cara”

Finding a publisher is an entirely different process from writing the book itself and requires a different skillset. But what they both require is tenacity and determination. Rejections have made me question my talent and motivation. But ultimately they have force me to believe in myself or quit.

I set out to write a book that would get published. So I’ve chosen to pick myself up, brush myself off, and carry one regardless.

My Beautiful Psychosis was eventually published by Aeon Books on World Mental Health Day 2020 and is now available as an AUDIOBOOK.



FREE AUDIO SAMPLE when you sign up to my website:


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