The Most Painful Rejection Letter I Have Ever Received

Jul 06, 2024 by S. R. Watts

Have you ever woken up at night crying as you feel your whole world fall apart around you? Well, I have, and it was one of the most difficult nights of my life. I can remember sitting up in bed with tears running down my cheeks as I sobbed uncontrollably amid the darkness of my room. As I sat there with my head cradled in my hands, I thought back on the moment just a little under eight hours earlier when I received an email that had apparently affected me more than I was ready to admit.

I remember the letter as if I had read it just moments ago. The editor of Shadow Mountain, the Fiction Imprint of Deseret Book, had just messaged me saying that they had finished reviewing my submission for my epic fantasy novel “Relics of the Divine: The Celestial Flame.” She went on to say it was nice to see new ideas for stories and that it was obvious from my writing that I had spent a lot of time and energy creating the novel. Then, she goes into the reasons why the publishing house had decided to pass on my book. There were no concrete reasons. Nothing to say that they didn’t like the story or felt it wouldn’t perform well in the literary market. Just that “[their] publishing schedule is quite competitive…and as [they] look carefully at all the issues involved in the publication, [they] are forced to be very selective in [their] publishing decisions” and that they were “sorry to infor [me] that [they were] not in a position to pursue this project with [me]. The editor closes her letter by saying her workload prevents her from giving specific reasons for passing on the book and thanking me for the opportunity to review my work. 

After finishing the letter, the only thing I could remember feeling was numb. Perhaps I was just too stunned to feel anything at the moment, so I just put my phone back in my pocket and went upstairs to tell my family about the rejection letter. My parents and brothers were audibly shocked by the news, and my mom reached out to give me a hug as she offered me to express her regret for not having landed this publishing deal. I told her I was fine, that it wasn’t the first rejection letter I had received, and that dozens of other publishers and agents had passed on it in the years preceding this letter had arrived. This only led my youngest brother to point out that this was the longest time between a submission and a response that I had ever seen, which led him to believe that Shadow Mountain was seriously Considering my book. I just brushed off his response, not wanting to think about what he had said, as I only wanted to focus on going out and picking up the pizza we had planned to purchase for dinner that night.

The rest of the Evening was a blur to me as I went through the motions. I remember having dinner, watching the evening news with my mom, and saying my prayers before getting into bed that night and drifting off to sleep. Little did I realize that I had spent the whole evening in a state of denial, and once I had let my mental defenses down for the night, the trauma of the experience came rushing over my subconscious like a reservoir through a broken dam wall onto a flood plain. When I finally woke up crying, I felt it all come over me as I wondered why this was happening to me. Why did Shadow Mountain, the one Publishing house I felt could see the potential of my faith-centered fantasy story, pass on it? 

Was it because I didn’t have a platform? Did I have too many typos in the manuscript I sent them? Was the story weak in any of the spots I had somehow overlooked the last time I edited the piece? It would have been so much easier to process my emotions if I had known the reasons why they passed on it, but they didn’t, and I was left whirling from the chaos raging in my mind. It brought up many other painful emotions from my past. Feelings of inadequacy and defectiveness that I had worked so hard to overcome for so many years. It made me wonder if I had wasted my time writing a book that was too different from the ones that have been written in the past. Maybe its message of divine worth was just too much of a niche idea for it to go mainstream like I had hoped it would.

As I laid back down and cried into my pillow, I prayed to my Father in Heaven for some reassurance that everything would be alright. I prayed that somehow I would find the strength to rise above this crushing setback and press forward with my work as I strived to live up to the potential he saw in me. I prayed that he would give me comfort in my hour of need as I struggled to ward off the years of soul-crushing thoughts and emotions placed there by the Adversary. The Prince of Lies who, because of his envy of me, has long tried to convince me that I was not loved by my Heavenly Father and that no matter what I did, I would never be able to overcome the weaknesses that I was born into as a result of this fallen world.

I continued to cry as I prayed until I finally drifted back off to sleep. Just as I was about to lose consciousness again, I felt an impression deep within my soul. It wasn’t any hint that my dreams were about to come true or that the editor was wrong to have turned my book down. No, this was a simple prompting of comfort and peace. A promise from my Father in Heaven that everything would be okay and that I would find the joy I was seeking as long as I never gave up on my Saviour, Jesus Christ, who was ready to aid me whenever I was ready to turn to him for help. It was enough to quiet my mind once more as I fell back into a dreamless sleep.