The 5 Stages of Rejection

The 5 Stages of Rejection | Sarah Biren Writes

That’s a great motivational quote. Except it’s a lot easier to share it on social media than to internalize its meaning.

Rejection is a horrible experience, especially in the publishing business. To authors, their books are practically their children. For years, they brainstormed, wrote, revised, worried, cried, nearly chucked the drafts into the trash, and finally—finally!—felt confident to send it off to the world. Yet the world sends it back. It stings, especially for new writers entering the publishing game with big dreams and thin skin.

Frankly, after a rejection of my own, I’m not the mood to preach why rejection is a good thing and why writers should embrace it as a way of life. This post exists to validate the emotions of a publisher’s rejection. Like therapy, except free and more entertaining.

Like the actual five stages of grief, you may have experienced these feelings out of order, missed some stages, or felt entirely different about the process. No two writers are the same, just like human beings! Let me know which stage you relate to in the comments below.

The Five Stages of Publishing Rejection


I’m gonna check my emails before my writing session today. Oh, one new message. It’s from that publisher! Oh help, I hope they accepted my manuscript! Okay, one, two, three… read!

“Dear Author,

Thank you for submitting your work to us. However, we have chosen not to accept it for publication. It is not right for us at this time.

We wish you the best of luck submitting it elsewhere.

Thank you,

The Editor

Rejecting? They are rejecting my submission? That’s impossible! I spent so much time polishing that script! It was a perfect piece of literature. I must’ve misread this.

Hmm… I’ve reread this fifteen times and it still makes no sense. They must’ve sent me the wrong email. This letter must have been intended for some other submission, not mine. There is no possible way they could have rejected it!


How dare they reject me? Do these people understand what they are saying no to? They don’t deserve to be in the publishing industry if they can’t recognize a good story when it lands right in their inbox!

I should have done another round of edits. I knew that Crystal Shanda Lear was a stupid name. I should have changed it. Okay, the first line was pretty weak. I should have rewritten it another few hundred times. Ugh, I’m so stupid! Why did I rush to send it?

Those dumb editors probably didn’t even read past the front page! If they had read the scene with the rhinoceros clown gladiator fight, they would have been hooked. They didn’t give it a chance!


Dear Editor,

I am afraid you have made a big mistake by rejecting my manuscript. I am open to improving my work (for example, I will change the protagonist’s name from Crystal Shanda Lear to Ashley—Ash for short—Tray.)

I implore you to give my work a fair chance. I understand you have limited time, but I assure you, if you read from page four to twelve about the rhinoceros clown gladiator fight, you will reconsider your decision.

Awaiting an acceptance letter,

The Most Brilliant Writer in the World”


I am the worst writer in the world.

My story is absolute garbage. I don’t know how I had ever thought it was worth publishing. The editors haven’t responded to my follow-up letter in weeks and probably won’t ever. I can’t even blame them.

This is the worst story that has ever been written. The characters are stupid, the plot is stupid, the world is stupid, and I’m stupid. My niece could have created a better story, and she can’t even read yet!

I am never writing again. There’s nothing but rejection and failure down this path. I’ll go become an accountant or a mailman or anything that doesn’t involve constant rejection or my awful prose.

This letter has proved my worst fears. I am a terrible writer.


I am not a terrible writer. The story I sent does have some flaws, but I can revise it. There are hundreds of other publishers I can email and one of them is waiting for a story with a rhinoceros clown gladiator fight. I just have to be patient and keep writing.

Even if this story is never published, I’m improving as a writer every day I practice. If not today, the future will hold a beautiful acceptance letter for me.

So many famous writers faced rejection. Harry Potter was rejected twelve times. A Wrinkle in Time, 25 times. Gone with the Wind, 40. This was only one rejection, but now my story has something in common with these great works of literature.

I am one rejection closer to publication.

It’s important to note that every writer—besides the anomalies—faced rejection at some point during their career. Although we wish to be those anomalies, we could find solace in the fact we are not alone in this.

Start writing and keep writing.


2 Replies to “The 5 Stages of Rejection”

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