Posted On August 4, 2014 by Print This Post

Anna Sugden presents: No Pain, No Gain – Or Looking on the Bright Side of Rejection!

Harlequin Superromance author Anna Sugden shares her insight on rejection, persistence, and the ultimate payoff. 

Welcome back, Anna! 

No eye-rolling, please. No huffing of pffting, either. As a veteran of gazillions of rejections – by pretty much every method but sky-writing – I know what I’m talking about. I’m not saying that each and every ‘no’ hasn’t hurt – it has. I’m also a veteran of the indulge in weeping/wailing/whining to friends/chocolate-binging/swearing/have several drinks brigade. But as anyone who’s been in this writing and publishing game for more than five minutes will tell you, that really isn’t constructive. The rule is 24 hours, then to quote the song ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again’.

But why, I hear you ask? The answer is simple – as with most things in life, nothing worth achieving is ever easy. Hence the borrowed title from sports and Anna Sugdenfitness. Ask any professional athlete and they will tell you that to achieve the ultimate prize – be it a gold medal or the Stanley Cup <g> – you’ll have to sacrifice and suffer, both physically and mentally. More importantly, it’s only through losing, being traded, being sent down or dropped, being left off the team – in other words rejection – that you learn. Yes, it can be demoralising, but it can also be a huge motivator.

One of my favourite quotes is from Thomas Edison, in response to questions about his failures, when developing the light-bulb: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” So it is with rejections. Each one takes you a step closer to your goal. Each one teaches you something – yes, even those horridly impersonal form rejections! (See earlier comment about eye-rolling and pffting!)

The truth is none of us – not even the greats like Nora – write perfectly first time. Not even after publishing many books. Certainly the first thing we wrote isn’t perfect – far from it! Most of us will readily admit that our first effort (and often second effort too) will never see the light of day. Yet, at the time, we thought those carefully scribed words were fantastic. And so did our cheerleaders (husband/partner/parent/BFF). So, those early rejections tell us we need help – from professionals. They also enable us to open ourselves up for constructive criticism.

As we develop and become more skilled as writers, rejections become part of the learning process. They become ‘better’ rejections, highlighting specific areas of weakness; plotting, characterisation, story flow etc. They also give us insights into what publishers – and hopefully readers – are looking for, as well as what does and doesn’t work.

When rejections change from ‘no’, to ‘no, but I’d like to see something else’ and then ‘no, but revise and resubmit’, they become invaluable. Not just for honing your writing craft, but also for building a relationship with the editors or agents you’re targeting. They open the door for dialogue and enable you to show them how great you are to work with.

They also teach you how to handle the writing process, because once you’ve sold, you’ll have to revise and resubmit and even rewrite!

The biggest frustration is often when you’re extremely close to making that final leap to ‘sold’. It was for me. At that point, rejections – no matter how ‘nice’ or constructive or flattering – can often seem whimsical. Factors outside of writing skills and beyond your control – often outside of editor and agent control too – can mean the difference between The Call and another rejection.

That is the point at which many would-be authors gave up. It is also the point at which many published authors gritted their teeth and gave it one last shot. That ‘last shot’ could be anything from simply reworking the book to writing something completely different – a book of the heart, a change of genre. It could also be turning your back on traditional publishing and going small press or indie.

For those of you who think that rejection stops once you’re published, think again! Proposals get rejected. Readers write crappy reviews. Publishers close lines or fold altogether. Editors and agents move on. Book buyers stop stocking. Advertisers don’t like certain genres. The list goes on. Does it still hurt? Of course. But thanks to all the experience you’ve had, you learn to roll with the punches. You also learn that you can not only survive ‘no’, but thrive and prosper!

So, next time you get a rejection – after you’ve had your 24 hour grace period <g> – think about what you can learn from it. Use it to drive you forward, not drag you down. Take that step closer to your goal and let it help you turn that ‘no’ into a ‘yes’.

What’s your method of dealing with rejection? Have you had any strange, funny or head-shaking rejections? Do you need a hug and sympathy after a rejection? Please share!

On Wednesday, August 6th – In Praise of Slower Writing with author Maggie Bolitho 


 A_Perfect_Trade_finalA PERFECT TRADE

A win-win negotiation?

Truman “Tru” Jelinek’s life is pretty much off the rails. With his professional hockey career on thin ice, and his personal life falling apart, he’s ready to implement some serious changes. Helping Jenny Martin—the only girl he’s ever loved—make her dreams a reality is a good place to start. There’s just one problem: Jenny doesn’t want his help. She barely wants to speak to him. But Tru is prepared to negotiate a deal that even Jenny can’t refuse. As trading favors turns into sharing passion, he has to face the truth that when it comes to Jenny, the game is far from over.


Bio: Harlequin SuperRomance author, Anna Sugden, loves reading and writing happy endings as much as hockey! When not reading or watching hockey, she loves football, good food & wine, making simple cross-stitch projects, and collecting memorabilia, penguins and fab shoes! A former marketing executive and primary teacher, Anna lives in Cambridge, England, with her husband and two bossy black cats.

To learn more about Anna, her heart-warming romances, and her shoes, visit her website. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and on the Romance Bandits blog.



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11 Responses to “Anna Sugden presents: No Pain, No Gain – Or Looking on the Bright Side of Rejection!”

  1. Morning Anna!

    Ah rejection. Hate it, hate it, hate it. =) I’m afraid I’m one of those “give me a pitcher of margaritas and a bucketful of chocolate” type of whiners. And yeah, I do give up after awhile. I am however, planning on diving back in, it’s been too long of a pity party.

    Thanks for the uplift Anna! =)


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 4, 2014, 9:26 am
    • Hugs on the rejections, Carrie. My pitcher would be full of mojitos, but otherwise I’m with you!

      All I can tell you is that the highs you get from being published and having readers love your books is worth the pain you went through before. And it will happen. As my wise hubby says ‘the only way to guarantee that you won’t be published is to give up!’.

      So, get back to it! 🙂

      Posted by Anna Sugden | August 4, 2014, 11:46 am
  2. Usually when I get a rejection there is no feedback with it. My last rejection letter just says, ” It’s not my taste.” That was it. It’s hard and not hard to take rejections personally. I find out if I make quarterfinals of a contest tomorrow and if I am not on the list, it will sting, but at least I tried. Thanks for the advice!

    Posted by Krystol Diggs | August 4, 2014, 1:16 pm
    • Hugs Krystol. The hardest thing is not to take rejections personally. We all do, but you mustn’t. “It’s not my taste” is simply that – one professional’s opinion. Just like you will love a book that I won’t, and vice versa, so those in the industry are the same.

      Perhaps it’s telling you to be more selective in who you submit to. Or perhaps it’s telling you to avoid that professional if they don’t like your writing or story. Either way, it’s not telling you to try something else!

      It probably doesn’t help, but my first couple of years were spent getting those rejections and failing to get close to finalling in contests. I won a critique from an author I admired in an auction – Susan Mallery – and she gave me invaluable advice, which turned those flat nos into ‘no + feedback’. Sometimes, it’s fresh eyes or advice that can help you make a big step forward.
      Good luck with the contest and with your writing!

      Posted by Anna Sugden | August 4, 2014, 3:10 pm
  3. Hi Anna,

    You’ve made some great points. Rejections do get better. When an agent/editor takes the time to point out issues with a manuscript, that means they took the time to read through it as opposed to issuing a rubber stamp rejection after the first page. That’s progress! Success is built on failure.

    Writing is full of highs and lows. A contest win or a request for a full is negated by a pass from an editor a month later. I think timing plays a role, too.

    Love your husband’s quote. Thanks so much for blogging with us today.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | August 4, 2014, 2:03 pm
    • It’s my pleasure, Jennifer. You know how much I love Romance Universtity.

      I think the problem with writing is there is so much negative and then one little bit of positive. Then lots more negative. Then a little bit of positive. That’s why communities like this and RWA and eHarlequin (to name a few)are invaluable. It puts us together with fellow ‘sufferers’, so we get the understanding and support we need, but also the kick in the bum when we need it too. Our pals won’t let us give up or be miserable for too long! And each success inspires us as well!

      Posted by Anna Sugden | August 4, 2014, 3:15 pm
  4. Anna – It’s wonderful to see you here! I tried to comment before but my computer has been acting up all day. Fingers crossed that it can hang on a little longer – I’ve had it quite awhile but can’t afford a new one.

    Now to get back on track – thanks so much for a great post! The first few rejections I received were devastating, but I quickly realized they weren’t the end of the world.

    One day I hope to make the jump from rejections to acceptance, but I’m still learning my craft. Thanks to some wonderful author friends (nudge nudge wink wink), I’m making some progress.

    Perseverance is my code word!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | August 4, 2014, 7:56 pm
  5. Great post, Anna. At first, those rejections sting. But after awhile, they hurt less and less. Truly. I think your advice about picking yourself up and getting back to work is spot on!

    Posted by Terri L. Austin | August 5, 2014, 3:58 pm


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