Dear Author: Rejection Letters to a Best-Selling Author

Joshua Fields Millburn
Posted on July 17, 2015

Dear Author,

Thank you for your inquiry, however, we are not the right agency for your work. Because of the volume of mail we receive, it is not possible to offer comments. We wish you the best in your publishing efforts.

Good luck,

The above text is from an actual letter (verbatim) that I received from one of many agents with whom I’ve corresponded over the years. I must have received a hundred or more letters like this one in my late 20s (not that long ago). But for a reason I can’t seem to remember (dumb, blind hope, perhaps?), I kept sending my queries to agents and publishers, keeping my fingers crossed and praying to the ceiling and the gods beyond it, wishing that one—just one!—would accept and publish my work.

It hurts to not be accepted.

To their credit, quite a few agents asked for sample chapters and complete manuscripts, but at the end of the day, none of them came through.

But what if they had? What if one of them would have obtained that publishing deal for which I so lusted? Then what? Well, statistically there was about a 97% chance that my well-written book, complete with inadequate marketing and subpar promotion, would have fallen stillborn from the presses. And then I would have given up, stayed in the corporate world, indulged in social drinking, over-indulged in anti-social drinking, stayed in the corporate world for a few more decades, looking forward to retirement so I could “give it one more shot,” and then I could have started the entire broken cycle all over again. Hip hip hooray!

Instead, I finally decided to do it myself, to go at it on my own, as it were. I knew that if I wrote and published a book myself, then I had a 100% chance of success, because I got to define what success was. And now, after the smoke has cleared, I’ve published three bestselling books (all #1 on Amazon), of which I own 100% of and keep 70% of their revenues. Any of the big six publishers would have pacified me with 17.5%. And last time I checked, 17.5% of stillborn is, by my back-of-the-napkin calculations, not very good.

It didn’t happen overnight, and I had to work my ass off to “make it,” but I knew I could succeed, especially once I got the old guard out of the way.

But please don’t mistake my words; I’m not necessarily a “self-publishing evangelist.” I am a writing evangelist. I self-publish because it’s currently the best option for me and for my readers. I wouldn’t sign with a publisher just for the sake of being “a published author,” which by itself is an empty endeavor that reeks of pretense.

That said, I’m not allergic to money either. There is nothing wrong with signing with a publisher, and I’d be happy to ink a book deal IFit made good financial sense. A publisher can be a great partner for an author, they can help authors in several ways, especially in terms of distribution and editing. I’m not, however, going to lose any sleep if the publishers don’t come knocking my door down with bags of cash. As long as I continue to add value, my audience will support my work with or without a publisher.

Feel free to comment or share your own rejection letters below.