My Author Rejection Story

A place I used to write.  

A place I used to write.  

Every author has one, it seems—Harry Potter was rejected many times, and JK Rowling has even had work rejected since then (though not under her real name). Rather ominously, the day my manuscript first went to an acquisitions board for consideration, I was waiting to hear how it went and came across an article about a now-successful and bestselling author who endured over 800 rejections in a row before being published. I couldn't imagine that I could be just at the start of a process like that. 

I haven't told my story though—not to more than a couple of people privately. This is it:

I never planned to be a writer. It was always painter, photographer, scientist, or musician. Maybe some strange combination of those—but I hated writing.

After I started blogging (which I didn't really think of as writing) I kept getting comments from readers saying "You should write a book!" But I wasn't convinced. I was still a photographer at the time, and thought maybe I'd put out an art book sometime, so when Chronicle Books approached me about using some of my photography I jumped at the chance just to be introduced to an art editor who could give me some advice. That is how I met the amazing Bridget Watson Payne.

Around this period was when I was so sick that I couldn't really work. I often spent weeks in bed just to recover enough to do a few "normal" things like go out to a restaurant or for a walk in the park. But I could still blog, if I did it laying down using my iPhone, and I could still give advice to people who asked. 

This was what I did to stay excited about life, even though I was tired and in pain all the time. I started to realize that mentoring artists was something I was really great at and could pursue more seriously. I didn't want to just wing it though—I decided that I needed to develop a system. I wanted a way to address individual needs that was thorough but efficient. That is how I came up with the four phase multiple choice format of Create Now

Once I had the idea, I immediately outlined it in a notebook, and quickly wrote out the first draft by hand, simultaneously using the system and crystallizing it into its final form. It was difficult creating the various pathways at the same time, but also probably the most fun mental challenge I'd had in a decade. In a very short time I went from no idea to having a completed draft.

Since I didn't plan to even write a book (just a guide for my mentoring) and it was such a weird format, I wasn't sure exactly what to do next—but I knew I had created something exciting.

I typed it up, giving it an edit at the same time, and let it sit for a few days.

It was time to ask an expert. I sent an email to Bridget, asking for her advice: Is this something that could be a book? Or an app? It's weird! How should I proceed with this thing? Don't read it if you don't want to.

After a week or two, Bridget sent back her advice. Well, she sent me a message saying she knew that I was looking for advice, but could she bring it to acquisitions and perhaps publish it instead?

That was quite a moment. Happy doesn't describe it. Excited gets a bit closer. But it was more than that. It was a turning point. An opening of doors. A catharsis. 

Then the day of the acquisitions meeting came. I waited, read that thing about the famous author's 800+ rejections, and checked my email every 15 seconds. Every author gets rejected at first, right? I was prepared. Maybe. 

I heard back. It passed! I was getting an official offer. From a publisher. For a book. 


Internet advice-givers said that now was the time to seek other offers, perhaps creating a bidding war and a bigger advance. Someone said they could introduce me to some people at Penguin. But I didn't do any of that. I loved Chronicle and my editor too much, and I'm not sure another publisher would have made my book as beautifully as they did. I went with my gut. 

So the short version is: I sent my first manuscript to one publisher, and had an offer from them soon after that. I went from not seriously planning to write a book to book deal all in one summer. There were no rejections. I was unbelievably lucky. So lucky, in fact, that it seemed like it had to be more than just luck.  

The next time around, I sent several project ideas and samples to Bridget, and she picked one. Then it went to acquisitions and passed. That will be book number two, set for Spring 2018 publication. Lucky again?

When I think about the luck thing, here's what I know: 

Both of my books were written to help people, based on questions like "What do I wish I'd had when I was struggling?" and "What do I wish I had now?" Both books were written because I had a strong desire to write them—I felt compelled to write them, and loved doing it! There was balance between enjoyment and purpose, and a deep need in myself to go through the experience.  

I focused on what I was best at, and the resources I had to work with at the time—not what I used to do or wish I had.

I didn't write to find fame or fortune. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. It was a way to make sense of my life, the struggles and lessons, and a way to pull myself up while offering the same chance to others.

Our greatest gifts are often hidden in our greatest struggles, and are revealed when we overcome.

If you want to read this magical book, and maybe even use it to write your own magical book, you can find more info at