7 strategies to handle disappointment as a writer

In a highly competitive publishing industry, unavoidably, authors must learn how to handle disappointment and rejection, so they do not affect their creativity and success. Read this post to learn 7 strategies for writers to handle disappointment.

The cover of "Carrie,"  Stephen King’s first novel, was rejected by around 30 publishers before it was finally published by Doubleday. It illustrates that for writers, handling disappointment must be an essential skill.

How to handle disappointment in a highly competitive industry such as publishing? It affects everyone, even the most successful authors. For instance, Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie rejected by around 30 publishers before finally being accepted by Doubleday. Today, it has sold over 350 million copies.

So the chances are you will likely experience disappointment after a publisher rejects your manuscript. To handle disappointment, you can learn how to process your feelings, capitalise on rejection, improve your manuscript, seek support from the writing community and research the market. You can also consider self-publishing the manuscript to retain maximum control over the publishing process. This post discusses 7 strategies to handle disappointment and continue working on your text. 

  1. Prepare for disappointment
  2. Process your feelings
  3. Lean on the community
  4. Seek feedback
  5. Review the manuscript
  6. Do your research
  7. Consider self publishing

#1 Prepare for disappointment

Disappointment and rejection are part of life, but when you are a writer, you must anticipate hearing ‘no’ more often. The sad reality of the publishing industry is that only 1–2% of submitted manuscripts ever get accepted and published. It is even more crushing given that the total number of new book titles released annually is around 4 million, but only 15–20 titles make it to the New York Times bestsellers list.

So next time you press ‘send’ on your submission email, remember that the chances of disappointment are high. Consider that rejection might not reflect on the quality of your work. Instead, the manuscript might not fit in with the commissioning editors’ portfolio or the publishers’ catalogue goals. In other words, removing the personal (and emotional) attachment can help accept the reality of this cut-throat industry.

#2 Process your feelings

Although publishing is competitive, and writers get their manuscripts rejected all the time. Still, your feelings of disappointment are valid, and you should take time to process them. To handle disappointment, allow yourself to feel sad, angry, and sorry and take time for yourself. Start a new book, spend time gardening or go for a walk to avoid getting stuck and rebuild your energy. For instance, in Over­com­ing Life’s Disappointments, Harold Kush­n­er reminds us that we should not allow our faith to dimin­ish or our dreams to die when difficulties arise. According to Kushner, the wisdom growing from disappointment is about accept­ing life as it is, and mak­ing the most of our dreams, even if they do not turn out exact­ly as we desire.

#3 Lean on the community

Writers set up groups and communities on Twitter, Mastodon, Facebook, Reddit and other social media channels. There are also offline groups for writers that meet in local libraries, community centres or via Meetup.com.

Take time to find your tribe of individuals who will share your experiences, write the same genre or want to work with the same publishers. They will be receptive to hearing your story and supporting you in handling disappointment, processing it and continuing to strive and get your work published.

#4 Seek feedback

Becoming a part of a writing community is also a chance to seek feedback on your manuscript. External input will improve your chances of getting published. So try to reach out to writing buddies, friends and family for comments and rewrites suggestions. Narrow down your goal in asking for feedback, and keep it in mind when reaching out. Do not simply ask if they like it; be specific. 

You could also contact the publisher who rejected your manuscript and ask for suggestions for improvement. They might not reply, but if they do, as publishing professionals and industry decision-makers, they might have valuable advice.

Alternatively, consider working with a writing buddy (accountability partner). Accountabuddy Exchange, Critique Circle or Scribophile can be a good place to start your search. A writing buddy can provide feedback on your writing and a fresh perspective.

#5 Review the manuscript

Although the manuscript rejection might not reflect on the quality of your text, more often than not, it does. Reasons may vary, but over 95% of the rejected manuscripts do not meet the publishing standards. This may entail messy language (lack of copyediting) or an incoherent plot/argument (need for developmental editing). Editing can significantly improve the quality and clarity of a text. This is supported by research results. For instance, in this study, 96% of authors who made of over $100,000 on their books chose professional editing services.

Thus, to handle disappointment, take a critical look at your manuscript and consider bringing on board an editor. Here is a quick breakdown of editing services and current pricing according to the Editorial Freelancers Association:

Developmental editing

Developmental editing plays a pivotal role in refining a non-fiction manuscript’s overall structure, organisation and content. This service focuses on strengthening the main ideas, ensuring a logical flow and addressing gaps or inconsistencies. Its primary goal is to enhance clarity and effectiveness, ensuring the manuscript effectively communicates its intended purpose. Developmental editing costs $46–$60 per hour.

Line editing

Line editing takes a closer look at sentence-level improvements, including style, tone and language use. This service addresses awkward phrasing and ensures an engaging tone throughout the manuscript. By enhancing the readability of the language, line editing contributes to a more dynamic and compelling overall narrative. Line editing costs $46–$50 per hour.


Copyediting, on the other hand, concentrates on grammar, punctuation, spelling and overall consistency. By correcting language errors, ensuring proper syntax and maintaining a consistent writing style, it enhances clarity. Moreover, it provides a polished final product by eliminating language-related issues, offering an error-free manuscript. Copyediting costs $36–$50 per hour.


Proofreading focuses on identifying and correcting minor typos and formatting issues that may have been overlooked during earlier editing stages. This service is essential for presenting a professional and error-free manuscript, leaving a positive impression on readers. Proofreading costs $31–$45 per hour.

#6 Do your research

Reaching out to publishers specialising in your topic or genre is another way to handle disappointment or avoid it altogether. (Fingers crossed!) Contact fellow writers and read online to find publishers that might be the right choice for your manuscript. Here are two steps to identify your target publishers:

  • Compile a list of similar, recently published books and list the publishers and presses with the highest number of books.
  • Evaluate the target publishers. For instance, consider these questions:
    • Is it easy to find information online about the publisher’s books, such as synopses, endorsements, and tables of contents?
    • Does the publisher have a good reputation among the writers’ communities?
    • Do the publisher’s books have a reasonable price point?
    • Does the press seem to actively promote its books and authors?
    • Would it be fulfilling for you to be associated with this publisher if they were to publish your book?
    • Does the publisher show commitment to publishing and promoting authors from historically underrepresented groups?
    • Does the publisher have a public code of conduct or mission statement on their website committing to treating authors respectfully?

Now, you have a list of eligible candidates for your manuscript who are more likely to accept it for publishing. 

#7 Consider self-publishing

If the disappointment experienced when trying to break through in the publishing market is wearing you down, try self-publishing. Self-publishing is growing in popularity with the rise of print-on-demand platforms like Ingram Sparks, Draft2Digital or Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. They provide book and cover templates and only print a copy and charge the author when a book is sold.

Self-publishing has many advantages. Unlike indie and traditional publishing houses, it offers the highest royalties, the fastest route to market and complete control.

Self-publishing is brilliant, but, on the other hand, like everything else, it also has disadvantages. It requires time and/or money investment from the author. Moreover, it may be a financial risk to them, depending on the sales success. Furthermore, some consider self-published books of lesser quality because of the lack of review and editing offered by the publishing houses. Finally, self-published books rarely reach physical bookshops, which limits their visibility and availability on the market.

Still, this route is worth considering to handle disappointment or rejection of your manuscript by a publishing house.


Ultimately, you turned to writing because it brings you fulfilment, joy and happiness. With each title you write or with each manuscript rewrite, you become better at what you enjoy doing. Even though the process of getting published is arduous, especially if you are a first-time author, keep it from crushing your spirit and spoiling your writing passion. Remember this to handle disappointment better next time. 

If you need help navigating the publishing world, follow me on MastodonTwitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or join my newsletter for more from me, including editing, publishing and writing tips. You can also ask me for a free sample edit (and remember to use my early bird discount) to prepare your manuscript for publication.

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I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors.