The general non-writing public (as well as a few novice writers) often share a common belief: that J.K. Rowling receiving twelve rejections for the Harry Potter series should be an immediate source of comfort for struggling writers.
Um, not to burst anyone’s bubble, but no.
Now don’t get me wrong–I love J.K. Rowling AND Harry Potter, but twelve rejections is not the norm by any means. Twelve is NOTHING. I laugh at the number twelve!!!!!
Seriously, I would have been thrilled if I’d only received twelve rejections before landing an agent for my first book.
Instead, I received 156.
Yes, you read that right. Many people say you’re not really trying if you don’t query at least 100 agents. What can I say, I’m an overachiever! Well, I was on the first book at least.
This was followed by 73 rejections on my second book and 50 on my third. (Yes, I lost some stamina. It happens. . .) I’ve only queried 20 agents with my fourth book, but so far I’m holding steady at 8 rejections on that one. Two of those rejections were on full requests (ouch!), and one, on a partial request. (Some agents never respond, so those ultimately go down as rejections, too.)
I’ll let you do that math on all that, but it basically adds up to a whole lotta no.
Now before you start feeling sorry for me or thinking I’m definitely in the wrong business, I should tell you that this is completely normal. In fact, I recently tweeted about my rejection stats and got quite a response. Here are a few of them:
I believe it was somewhere around 275 or a bit higher for me. And book #3 was the one for me.
Like you said, friend, you just gotta stick with it if you feel in your gut that this is what you truly want in a next step! ?? Everyone’s path is different like this thread shows!— Cassie Miller-is-Revising ⚾️ (@Cmiller61408) February 9, 2019
490 rejections before I signed with my agent (for ms #4), another four books on sub before I sold ? It’s a long road for most of us— Sonia Hartl ?? (@SoniaHartl1) February 9, 2019
I got 292 before signing with my first agent, on my fifth book. Steady on!— Joy McCullough (@JMCwrites) February 8, 2019
I think I had 200ish rejections on 2 books before I got an agent. After that I’ve had 20+ rejections on sub. Writing the next book now so I can go through the grueling process all over again. Yay! But persistence really is an important trait for a writer. pic.twitter.com/oceT1DUyX5— Jennifer Austin ? She-Dragon of Fire & Rage (@JLAustin13) February 9, 2019
I was at who knows how many but probably 300 or more & googling “when should a writer give up,” when I finally got my yes.— Emily Roberson (@RobersonEmily) February 9, 2019
Of course, some people responded, saying they’d received fewer “no’s” before landing an agent–like maybe a mere 75 or 100. And there was one gentleman who inquired why on earth I haven’t self-published by now. I politely told him self-publishing wasn’t my goal, that I’ve always had my heart set on going the traditional route.
So, again, I share this information not to get sympathy, but because I want to be completely transparent about my path to publication. We’re not doing anyone any favors if we make it look easy. It’s not. But as this writer so nicely tweeted:
I want to send you a heartfelt wish of good luck! You are brave, you are strong. I just found my agent match after a decade in the trenches. YOU CAN DO IT. I see you write YA heroines. We need heroines written by tenacious women who understand how to fall and rise again.— Cory Webb (@corylynnwrites) February 8, 2019
I would like to send this same message to anyone who’s also received a whole lotta no: Keep going and your time will have no choice but to come.