How to get your writing rejected

Anatomy of a slush pile - how to fail fantastically

How to get your writing rejected by Ken Williams

For everyone who’s had their writing rejected, and anyone who is about to, this post is for you. How to get your writing rejected is an absolute must read for all aspiring writers.

Hey fellow writers (you poor gluttons for punishment), I’m Ken, the host of Reading with a chance of Tacos. You might also remember me from such books as How to Fail Fantastically or The Sound of Crickets – my life as a comedian.

And, you might be wondering why I have written a guide about rejection. Well, someone once said to me, “Write what you know.”

But, the main reason I’ve written a guide about rejection is because, like it or not, rejection is a part of the writing business. And, a skill you must learn to master.

Why you must be a master of rejection

Rejection helps us to regroup, refocus and re-evaluate. It opens new paths, finds the right track and helps gain resilience. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying, you can’t be successful in this business until you’ve mastered rejection.

One thing you’ll need to think about before we go on is a coping mechanism. I drink. But, you’ll need to find what works for you. Seriously, as much as rejection hurts, and it does, if writing is in your blood, you’ll be back at the keyboard in no time, ready to rewrite, refine, reassess and go again. But first, let’s get you rejected.

To help you along, I’ve written my 4-part guide to rejection. Gaze over each step, give it what little attention you have and if you don’t think it helps I won’t be offended. Hey, look who you’re talking to.


How to Get Your Writing Rejected

This guide won’t teach you how to write or what to write. But it will teach you what not to write. And, that can save you a WHOLE lot of time!

Fun Tip #1: Think outside the square, or cubical.

How to get your book rejected

Before we get too into things, here’s a totally fun and awesome way to get your work rejected.

If you ever happen to get dragged along to a conference (more on conferences later), and you’re having trouble getting hold of publishers because other, let’s say, more talented brown-noses are hogging them, here’s what to do:

Follow publisher into the bathroom and slide your manuscript under the cubical door. This will ensure the publisher gets it, and gives them a good 3 to 4 minutes alone time with your masterpiece. It’s a win, win. 

Guide Contents:

Part 1: Write what’s popular now.

Write for kids, it’s easy as.

Choose any publisher.

Part 2: On Writing.

First draft is King.

Don’t read so much.

Use clichés like the plague.

Procrastinate now!

Avoid writing groups, conferences and events.

Part 3:  You’ve sent off your manuscript, now what?

Never take criticism.

Part 4: Never, ever, ever be honest with yourself.

Types of rejections.  

What people are saying about this guide:

“Ken really knows how aspiring authors feel. I think I’ve lived every step.” _ Joanna – Emerging Author.

“Are you kidding me?! This guide has even more errors and spelling mistakes than your last one. This is sure to be rejected. Good work Ken.” _ Raff Lagatta – Editor.

“More absolute drivel!” _ Ken’s Mum.

 “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.” _Rebecca – Emerging Author.

She probably laughed and cried, I reckon. And, if you’ve ever known the frustrations of being an aspiring author, you will too. Anyway, let’s get crackin’.


Write what’s popular now

Staring at a blank page wondering what to write can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. Forget writing on topics you’re an expert in. No-one cares! Always follow the latest trends.

It’s the best, quickest and easiest way to ensure your story is relevant. You see, the great trends never go out of style – Fingerless gloves, roller disco, finger spinners, men’s baggy jeans and barbed wire tattoos are just a few topics that will keep you in touch with the readers forever.

Write for kids, it’s easy as

Another great way to get started is to write for kids. Whether you plan on a career in kids books or not, this is often the best place to start. Why? Because it’s easy. Think about it. You get to write less words so there’s less effort involved, and kids will read any old thing! They’re kids. Half of them can’t read anyway.

Fun Tip #2: What to tell editors

How to fail fantastically image

Once you’ve written your kids book, always tell editors that your own kids, your sister’s kids, the kids up the street and anyone else’s kids loved it. And, for goodness sakes don’t forget to tell them that it’s sure to be the next Harry Potter. Publishers love that stuff! I mean, some publishers missed out big-time on the whole Harry Potter thing, they won’t want to miss out again.

Choose any publishers

Well, this is pretty straightforward really. They’re publishers. They all do the same thing – publish books.

Here’s a good one, always forget to put contact details on your manuscript. Make it as difficult as possible for them to find you. Oh, and don’t forget to draw a smiley face at the bottom of your submission and anywhere you think a smile is warranted. (Hand-written works best, don’t cheat and use emojis – it looks tacky).


On Writing

The writing. This is where the magic happens. Where the rubber hits the road. Where … I don’t know. Anyway, there is a lot to consider. How much do I need to write? How do I structure my writing? Should I do a course?

You don’t need to spend money or waste time on these things. I’ve got your back. Trust me, you’ll learn more in the next few pages than you will from a year of expensive courses.

What do you call a fashion designer who rejects everything?

Calvin Deklein

First draft is King

Okay, here’s the thing, the very words you wrote when that amazing idea came into your head are the right words. And, never, ever, under any circumstances are you to put your story away for any period of time. The worst thing you can do is to look at it with fresh eyes in a week or two. You won’t be in the same headspace. It will look different, it might even look like a pile of absolute rubbish. You’ll wind up saying to yourself, “Who wrote this rubbish?” Well, you did, and it was an absolute masterpiece when you wrote it, so waste no time and get it off to a publisher or an agent ASAP! (How do you think I wrote this guide?)

Some people write loads and loads of drafts. Idiots! Honestly, even if there’s a few spilling or grammar erors or perhaps a piece of plot missing in your haste to masterpiece on paper, they’ll get gist of it. Editing is an editor’s job anyway. It’s not responsibility. You’re a writer. Just write. Like I said, get off it to a publisher ASAP!

Don’t read so much

It takes away from your own creativity and takes up valuable writing time (except if you’re reading this).

Fun Tip #3: Self-editing

Once you’ve completed your manuscript and you’re unsure whether it has any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, all you need to do is email it off to a publisher. Seriously, the very moment you hit send on that masterpiece, you’ll notice 27 spelling mistakes, 14 errors in grammar and one massive hole in your plot. Works every time.

rejected stamp

Use clichés, colloquialisms and slang like the plague

This shows the publisher that you don’t have anything new and original to add. There’s safety and certainty in the tried and tested vernacular. Your readers will know up front what they’re getting from you. Same old. Same old. It’s shows consistency. You can’t ask for more than that.

But don’t put all your eggs in the one basket. Get it straight from the horse’s mouth and grab that bull by the horns and give it the full monty. Insert the voice of the people here there and everywhere. I put ‘em in by the bucket load until the cows come home. And, you should too!

*This next tip is one of my absolute favs. If you’re like me and love to procrastinate, then read this next tip right away. Or tomorrow.

Always put off ‘til tomorrow what you don’t want to do today – except if you’re planning to take tomorrow off. Do that today!

For everything else, there’s always tomorrow.

  • Don’t want to get out of that cozy bed and start writing? Hit the snooze button. Get up early tomorrow.
  • Don’t want to stare at a blank page? Don’t. Stare at it tomorrow. It aint goin’ anywhere.
  • Don’t want to do that research? Go to that party instead. Research tomorrow.

You can see how this is a favourite. It enables you to cruise through life without a care in the world. Until it all comes crashing down. Which it will. But, you know the best thing? You’ll worry about it tomorrow. Deal with it then. Gold!

Remember, anything worth doing can surely wait until tomorrow! Otherwise, you just have to ask yourself, is it really worth doing at all?

Avoid writing groups, conferences and events

The only reason to join a writers group is to show off how good your writing is – making everyone else look inferior to you. However, be careful with sharing at writers groups. Never show your really good stuff to the group. There are two clear reasons here. They will either steel your idea or, mostly through jealousy, they’ll try and talk you out of it. And, even if they are trustworthy enough, they simply won’t have your vision. Therefore, they’ll tell you to change this or try that. Don’t ever listen.


You’ve sent off your manuscript, you’ve followed the above steps, what to do next?

Waiting to hear back from publishers can be a real pain. But, there are a few things you can do to pass the time.

If, after you’ve hit send on that manuscript, you still feel confident it’s a masterpiece, then you have no choice. The first thing you must do is call your current employer and quit your job. You might want to give a couple of weeks’ notice so you don’t leave them completely in the lurch. After all, you will be difficult to replace.

Then call your partner, kids, friends, etc, and let them know that you won’t be able to spend as much time with them for a while as you will be setting up your new life as an author. Your time will be evenly divided between writing your next masterpiece, being schmoozed in the finest restaurants by your editors, and time with your fans.

If, on the other hand, you’re having trouble believing anything will come of your manuscript, then do what I do:

I go to my favourite alone space – my office. Paint a giant red circle on the floor and stand inside the circle. Take two fish and slap them together while loudly chanting, “Humm, Humm Humm!” All the while sending good vibes out into the publishing world. Works every time.

Fun Tip #4: Constantly ring editors

Publishing staff are inherently lazy. So, if you haven’t heard back within 48 minutes, feel free to call. In fact, calling is a must. And, give off a slightly indignant tone, as if to say, pick up your game, people, there’s a masterpiece on your desk. 

woman on phone

Never take criticism

There is a clear reason to never take criticism and it’s this: you’ve just created more than just another manuscript or piece of art; you’ve created something that only your genius can fathom. Others simply won’t have your vision for the piece. How could they?

So, sure ask for criticism, but only as a way of gathering well-deserved praise instead. I mean who are they to criticise you? Be steadfast in the knowledge that you’re always right.

As soon as anyone gives a so-called constructive critique, slam them down. Argue staunchly and ridicule them for even suggesting such changes. Seriously, this will ensure you’re always right. And, it will ensure those rejections keep piling in.

This leads us nicely in to the most important factor in all rejection – YOU!

Essentially it all comes down to attitude. I can’t stipulate this enough. You must be in the right headspace.


Never, ever, ever be honest with yourself

Okay, this is the big Kahoona!  This is one step that if you fail to heed, will set yourself upon a totally different mindset and ultimately a different path in life. Scary!

Allow me to bore you with a story:

Like a lot of people, when I started writing I had that horrible feeling I was going to be churning out best sellers by the bucket load, not to mention all the stupid Award Ceremonies I was going to have to attend. But, then it happened, the rejections started. First, a nicely worded paragraph telling me to hang in there. Then they got vaguer and some downright impolite. But, I had made it. I had been rejected.

Then I did something crazy, something uncharacteristically me, some may even say profound, some may say stupid. I asked myself two questions. Could I learn from these rejections (If you’re reading this you’ll wonder?) and could I become a better writer? Whoa! Hang on. Hold the phone! What was I thinking?

My answer came back and it was honest, it was a big YES to both. But, you know something, if I had my time over I wouldn’t change a thing. I might not have met the people I’ve met, faced the challenges I’ve faced or be the resilient person I’ve grown to be. I was learning from these rejections whether I liked it or not. And, if it’s true for me, it’s likely true for you too.

I went on to be published in various magazines and newspapers, some actually paying me real money to write these articles. I had a book published, and I began writing for the corporate sector.

But would this mean I would no longer be rejected?

After everything rejection and I have been through, was it about to let me down? Was this the true nature of rejection? I started questioning everything I thought I knew. It was at that moment that my phone went BING with an email advising me my latest manuscript (a brilliant first draft that was sure to sell millions) had been rejected. And, there it was, rejection hadn’t left me. It will never leave. It will always be with me, it’s just the variance that changes. Failure and rejection are a part of life. Well, certainly the writing life. 

However, there will come a time when you won’t be rejected as often. I know, sad times. You see, despite what anyone says, there is an art to rejection. Seriously. Everybody fails. Yes, everybody gets rejected! But, when you continue to hone your skills, stay strong and push on, you push rejection too far. And, when pushed too far, rejection, by its very nature, can’t cope, and varying levels of success will emanate (whoa, that’s deep!).

How to fail fantastically image
How to get your writing rejected – pic by Anna McGregor

Types of Rejections

If you want to know the types of rejections you’re likely to receive, then I have listed them below. However, if you’d prefer to get a pleasant surprise with each rejection, ignore these and go in fresh.

The Silent Treatment:

This one is becoming increasingly more common in our society. If you’ve been writing a while, you will know this one. You’ve followed all the steps, but still haven’t heard back from anyone at the publishing house. This is the classic No news is Good news. It’s a rejection.

The Fob off:

There are two types of Fob offs. The first is a standard letter from the publishing house usually stating something like, “Thank you for your submission blah-blah-blah. Unfortunately it does not fit our list at this time.” Classic. Straight to the point, no feedback, no effort involved, just no.

The second Fob off is actually fobbing you off to another publisher saying something like, “Thank you, bla-bla-bla, it doesn’t fit our list bla-bla-bla but I wish you luck with another publisher.” Again to the point, but with a subtle don’t bother us again.

The Close but no Cigar rejection:

It’s a rejection, but they have enjoyed your manuscript enough to read and comment on it. Perhaps giving you some areas that you can improve on, or encouraging you to keep going with your writing as they see some potential. This is nice, but it’s still no *#@% publishing deal is it?!!


There you go, all that information as a freebie. You got an absolute bargain. Whether you read the complete guide or just skimmed the headings, you’re no doubt saying to yourself, “That was a total waste of my time!” You’re welcome. Now if you’ll just spread the word to others that would be much appreciated. Of course, rejection is just the beginning, if you want to go on to greater failure, you must read my book How to Fail Fantastically – It’s a complete 11-step guide to failure by someone who really knows his stuff. I know what you’re thinking, at last, a self-help guide that’s actually achievable. In stores now. Well, all the shabby ones anyway.

About Ken

Ken Williams writer

Ken is a sagittarius, 6ft 4, mesmerising blue eyes, striking complexion and unfortunately a compulsive liar (5ft 5 and as ugly as a bucket full of nails). No seriously, he is devilishly handsome, though you’d never know it to look at him – it’s an inner beauty. It’s all in there somewhere!

Ken has worked in sales and marketing for over 20 years – from direct selling to writing ad copy for Australia’s leading newspapers. His own stories have appeared in popular magazines, daily newspapers, online publications, children’s books and the corporate sector.

Ken runs a rollicking podcast, Reading with a chance of Tacos, in which he chats with a prominent member of the children’s book industry – from authors and illustrators, to publishers and booksellers – with tips and information on writing books for children. Check it out here:

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