Our question today is aimed especially at aspiring writers out there: “How many times does an author typically get their book turned down before getting it published for the first time?”
To get the answer to this question, I decided to poll a number of Bethany House authors and see if their stats matched. Here are some quick facts.
Clearly, everyone’s path to publication is different, but take note, aspiring writers: by this statistic, only about 25% of our authors published the first novel they ever wrote. That may seem discouraging at first, but it’s a great reason to keep writing and keep improving.
I tried to get a count on how many rejections from editors and agents these authors faced for their novel that eventually did get published, but so many of them said “countless” that it was hard to tally up.
Besides just those numbers, I wanted to pull out a few snippets that tell part of the publication story of these authors. Below are stories from authors of many different genres: fantasy, historical, romance, contemporary, and just about everything in between. Enjoy!
Patrick Carr, author of The Wounded Shadow: I wrote three full-length novels before A Cast of Stones was picked up by Bethany House. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Before those three novels there was a veritable parade of unfinished novels extending back in time.
Mary Connealy, author of The Accidental Guardian: I was rejected too many times to count by agents and editors. One year alone I counted 40 rejections.
Connilyn Cossette, author of A Light on the Hill: Counted with the Stars received a number of rejections by agents (one devastating response made me nearly give up permanently because I was told that it was absolutely unsellable) but there was mostly just a lot of silence and not much feedback other than judges in contests that either loved it or thought it was the worst clap-trap ever written.
Leslie Gould, author of A Plain Leaving: In my early years, I sent three novel proposals, one by one, to the same editor. The first two times, she responded with: We like your writing but don’t want this story. The third time, she offered me a contract. I learned so much between writing that first novel and writing the third one!
Beverly Lewis, author of The Road Home: Since I was writing magazine articles and stories for several years prior to ever writing a novel, there were no unpublished book manuscripts in my drawer. My first published novel was actually for pre-teen girls, which turned into a 14-book series (HOLLY’S HEART). My first book manuscript for adults, however, was rejected. So, I went back to the drawing board and wrote The Shunning, which launched my adult writing career.
Nancy Mehl, author of Blind Betrayal: The first novel I ever wrote was never sent to anyone. It’s my “novel still in the drawer.” Thanks to some great writers I encountered through various online groups, I discovered early on that I had no idea what I was doing.
Tracie Peterson, author of In Places Hidden: Before I was published, I also had a file drawer full of stories that I had sketched out – probably over fifty. I always encourage new authors to keep putting together story ideas even if they are published because this made it so easy for me when the contracts started coming in. I didn’t have to worry about coming up with story ideas, because I had files full of them.
Michael Phillips, author of The Legacy: My first series was rejected over 30 times over a five year period before I took it to Bethany after they started publishing fiction. After those thirty rejections, the letter from a Bethany House editor expressing “cautious” interest was the turning point in my writing career.
Debra White Smith, author of Reason and Romance: The company I published my first novel with decided to cancel their line of fiction not long after my book was released. Then, the struggle was on. I got many, many rejections for five more years. Then, finally, I started selling all books that I had written during the five year wait. When the door opened, it was a floodgate that also involved non-fiction titles and a speaking ministry.
Karen Witemeyer, author of More Than Meets the Eye: When my first completed novel was requested by an editor, I received a rejection letter. They liked the writing, but the storyline was too similar to something they had recently published. However, there was one element they really liked: the dress shop. Could I write a story about a dress shop? Umm . . . the dress shop burned to the ground on page four. Ouch. No tweaking could fix this. I’d have to start over from scratch. Should I just try to pitch the original story to someone else, or should I write a new book? I decided to keep my foot in the door that God had cracked open for me and wrote a new story that centered around a dress shop, A Tailor-Made Bride.
In addition to sharing their numbers of rejections, authors also flooded my inbox with encouragement and advice for writers out there who may have had a bad pitch session with an editor or received disappointing news after a conference. Here they are…bookmark this post and come back to it whenever you need a pick-me-up from authors who have been there. Continue reading