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How Hearing “No” From Agents and Publishers Can Lead You to “Yes”

After facing rejection, here's how one writer found a path forward with her work. Also, she shares three examples of how hearing “no” can lead you to a “yes.”

I embarked upon my journey into the world of writing in 2010 when I began writing A Song for Jordan, which went on to become my first self-published novel. Shortly after in 2011, what began as an expression of creativity soon became a catharsis when my mother was diagnosed with tongue cancer. Writing brought me solace during a difficult period and the time I spent writing during my mother’s sickness was therapeutic. Upon completing A Song for Jordan, I edited my work and it was then submitted to agents for consideration. Thereafter, I was faced with my first rejection letter.

This guest post is by Mya Kay Douglas. Douglas is a bestselling author, speaker and literary coach who believes everyone has a story to tell. She has published eight novels and a nonfiction guide, Don’t Time Your Masterpiece, Take Time to Write It: From The Inside Out. Her first book signing for her young adult novel, A Song for Jordan, was held in Atlanta at Barnes & Noble, one of the toughest chains to get noticed as a self-published author. Douglas is currently signed to The TMG Firm as an author. Douglas’s three books will be released online and everywhere books are sold on April 4, 2017 and will be available here. To follow her success and to keep up with all of her upcoming releases, visit her website at

Mya Kay featured

Needless to say I was not pleased; however, I soon learned that hearing “no” from an agent was not the end of the world. In fact, hearing that “no” from an agent led to receiving a “yes” that I will never forget. Prior to getting the rejecting letter, I was totally against self-publishing for a myriad of reasons. For me, the most obvious reason being my belief it was impossible to make a decent living being a self-published author. I love writing, but I in no way wanted to take the chance of using my income from my day job to self-publish; only to not make my money back.

Eventually, I threw caution to the wind and decided to self-publish my book of short stories titled Speechless. With two celebrity reviews, I had a book signing in Atlanta and was able to sell all ten copies of Speechless - and I did it all for only $100. This included my website, printing the books, securing the venue and having actors act out one of the short stories.

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Saying “yes” to myself and giving myself permission to see my books in print prepared me for my biggest year to date. On April 4, 2017, I’ll be releasing three books on the same day - a young adult novel, the first in a series, and two non-fiction collaborations. So what changed for me? Why did I decide to move away from self-publishing and sign with a New York publisher?

I moved away from self-publishing to signing with The TMG Firm in New York City because I knew my young adult series, The Clover Chronicles, could receive more exposure in bookstores. I signed with the firm in June of 2016.

Months later, I received a call about collaborating with reality star, Nikko London, from Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta on his book, S.E.A.L.: Sex, Entertainment & Lies. Honestly, I was a little hesitant. My core demographics are teens and young adults and my brand represents them. I wasn’t sure of the reaction I would get from my current fans, but I prayed about it and decided it could help me expand my career into ghostwriting.

After Nikko, my publisher referred me to work with Ms. Andria Mayberry, the mother of Bryshere “Yazz The Greatest” Gray, one of the stars on Fox's #1 drama series "Empire." We collaborated on the April 4, 2017 release titled, Before Empire: Raising Bryshere “Yazz The Greatest” Gray.

As for my young adult fiction series, the first book in The Clover Chronicles series is titled Battling Brelyn. In Battling Brelyn, love, self-acceptance and family expectations collide when 15-year-old Brelyn Clover, who suffers from lupus and her new neighbor, Saith Richards, a paralytic athlete, follow their hearts against opposition and the physical challenges of their conditions.

It’s a great read and I’m more excited than ever to have written a book for people of color, more important, teens. I grew up being able to see myself in many books, especially books by Sharon Draper, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Walter Dean Myers. I believe that’s missing today because minorities are underrepresented on the bookshelves in the main retail bookstores.

I want to make certain I take full advantage of the opportunity to provide today’s teens and young adults with a positive literary role model like I had growing up.

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Three Examples of How Hearing “No” Can Lead You to “Yes”

1. Hearing “no” helps you decide if you really want it or not. As a writer, you can’t be afraid to hear “no” from agents, publishers or even friends and family. The “no” you should be afraid to hear is the one you tell yourself. Saying “yes” to self-publishing led me to an independent deal in 2015, where I published five novels in seven months. I had to decide writing was my purpose and nothing would prevent me from doing it.

2. Hearing “no” prepares you mentally and emotionally for when you get your “yes.” The work I previously published caught the attention of SD Green from The TMG Firm and this year, my works will be in the main retail bookstores. Had I given up because of hearing “no” from agents, and sometimes not getting a response at all: I would still be holding my first manuscript in my hand, afraid to self-publish. You have to hear a few “no’s” to get to that one “yes”, which can really propel your career forward. Sometimes hearing “yes” too soon can send you into your destiny prematurely and you may not have the grit to maintain when you arrive.

3. Hearing “no” helps you practice your writing as you keep on going. You have to write as if your life depends on it. My current publisher informed me that he had my information for three years before reaching out. He was able to see I had a body of work. Had I stopped writing or had I given up, who knows if I would have a book deal today. I didn’t stop after one or two projects and wait for someone to give me a chance. I kept writing, honing my craft and studying the business.

I know so many writers who gave up after one project was rejected, forgetting it takes several projects before you can honestly say you’ve honed your craft to perfection. Even then, you’ll still always be learning.

Don’t be afraid of hearing “no.” You must embrace it and use it to fuel your writing career to your level of success. You’ll learn more about the writing process and you’ll grow as a writer. Most importantly, don’t worry about opportunity because with hard work the right opportunities will find you. You never know whose watching!


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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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