You Thought YOUR Rejections Were Tough?

Rejection is part of the process of pursuing publishing, and I had to give my share of it at the writers’ conference this weekend. But lest you think rejection ends once you get through the query stage… just wait till you have a published book! Below are some book-reviewer quotes that I found compiled on the Internet.

“…it’s rather pop-corny in nature, but it’s good popcorn, not the kind you get six packs for a dollar in a little grocery where no one ever shops.”

“…a long dreary tale full of unlikeable people doing pointless things…”

“So, although [author] can write breezy dialogue and some amusing observations, the sloppiness and creative bankruptcy of this particular exercise makes it difficult to say that the book succeeds.”

“[character] comes across as clueless and it is hard to be sympathetic when she misses obvious signs like the decaying body in the trunk of her husband’s car…”


But those were professional book reviewers. Wait till the readers get ahold of your book and start leaving their comments on Amazon! Here are a few Amazon reader-reviews.*

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“I don’t see why this book is so fabulous. I would give it a zero. I find no point in writing a book about segregation, there’s no way of making it into an enjoyable book. And yes I am totally against segregation.”

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
“While the story did have a great moral to go along with it, it was about dirt! Dirt and migrating. Dirt and migrating and more dirt.”

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“It grieves me deeply that we Americans should take as our classic a book that is no more than a lengthy description of the doings of fops.”

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
“I bought these books to have something nice to read to my grandkids. I had to stop, however, because the books are nothing more than advertisements for “Turkish Delight,” a candy popular in the U.K. The whole point of buying books for my grandkids was to give them a break from advertising, and here (throughout) are ads for this “Turkish Delight”! How much money is this Mr. Lewis getting from the Cadbury’s chocolate company anyway? This man must be laughing to the bank.”

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
“I am obsessed with Survivor, so I thought it would be fun. WRONG!!! It is incredibly boring and disgusting. I was very much disturbed when I found young children killing each other. I think that anyone with a conscience would agree with me.”

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
“The book is not readable because of the overuse of adverbs.”

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
“The only good thing to say about this ‘literary’ drivel is that the person responsible, Virginia Woolf, has been dead for quite some time now. Let us pray to God she stays that way.”

And finally, EXACTLY what you want to hear from someone who is going to review your book:

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
“This book is one of the worst books I have ever read. I got to about page 3-4.”

See? Things could be worse.

* Compiled on

Photo by Iz zy on Unsplash

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Anonymous on October 28, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    >Surely the thought of a zombie Virginia Wolf can bring joy to all of us?

  2. Bonnie Lacy on October 27, 2010 at 6:05 PM

    >I just got a rejection today! Thanks for the laugh and balance!

  3. :) on October 27, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    >Thanks for sharing those! They made me smile. I've read some Amazon reviews that made me wonder if the reviewer ever even opened the book. why do people even bother to post a review when they have no clue what they are talking about?

  4. Tanya Dennis on October 27, 2010 at 6:14 AM

    >This is too funny. Amazon reviewers are a tribe in and of themselves. I'm part of the tribe, I admit. There are some great reviewers out there, but then there are … well, the Others, often as feared and confusing as their LOST counterparts.

  5. Ishta Mercurio on October 26, 2010 at 9:59 PM

    >Ads for Turkish Delight? "About page 3-4?" Who are these people?

    Thanks for the giggle! I needed that!

  6. Heather on October 26, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    >Do these reviewers understand how utterly ridiculous they sound?

  7. Mira on October 26, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    >Thanks for the laughs, this article made my day. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe review had me in stitches. If anyone's interested, the Turkish delight referred to in the book is the Middle Eastern dessert named lokum – try it if you ever get the chance, it's delicious 🙂 The Cadbury's bar has little in common with the original and consists of some gross jelly-type stuff coated in chocolate.

  8. BrittLit on October 26, 2010 at 12:01 PM

    >I like that by page 3-4 you can declare that something is the worst book you've ever read. Some people amuse me to no end.

  9. Kieran Roy on October 26, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    >My favorite is probably the review for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I am baffled by the people who read classics like that, or buy them for their children, and have no clue who the author is or was…

    Thanks for the chuckle!

  10. Normandie Fischer on October 26, 2010 at 6:11 AM

    >When my son took a break from homeschooling to try a charter school, he discovered they expected him to read a total of two books, not necessarily classics. Needless to say, he did not remain there. Instead, his summer reading at age 13 was THE IDIOT. He not only read Dostoevsky, he wrote a paper on the book that got him into Duke and Stanford for their summer program. My guess is that the brilliant folk commenting on Amazon graduated from the two-books-a-year sort of schooling. If that.

    The dumbing down of our culture…

  11. Bkwrm on October 25, 2010 at 11:51 PM

    >I have to say, if you expect everyone to love your book…find a new profession. Tons of books that I love "always" have someone who didn't enjoy it. So what. Write what you like, what you enjoy and what you want to share with the world. That is what will truly make you happy. Writing is a love, and a business – end of story. Pay attention to those who thoroughly enjoyed your work, [cause you'll find a lot of them], and giggle at the negativity that will always be there like the silly ones above – but not as much as the positivity is – which is what we should always focus on.

  12. Jil on October 25, 2010 at 10:45 PM

    >Great fun to read! It also introduced me to some people I would never want to meet and I doubt i would like any books they DID like.

  13. Daniel Smith on October 25, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    >I'd pity C. S. Lewis IF HE WASN'T ALREADY DEAD! For this grandmother, good intentions do not a scholar make.

  14. Amanda Daubenmeyer on October 25, 2010 at 9:04 PM

    >That's funny because I've found that some of the top selling books are the worst to read. It's just like the movies, my husband and I tend to stay away from the ones with all the academy awards, because they end up being the most boring to watch.

    I figure if I can read my book literally a hundred times and still never get bored with it, then that should give me the motivation to keep pressing forward past rejections.

  15. Sarah Sundin on October 25, 2010 at 8:51 PM

    >I have to admit…while in London, I bought Turkish Delight just to see what was so wonderful about it, and bought an extra bag to share with my daughter's class, which was reading Lewis. Yes, I succumbed to his blatant commercial.

    Thanks for the laugh – and the perspective.

  16. Dangerous With a Pen on October 25, 2010 at 8:14 PM

    >Oh my gosh, hilarious! Ok, as long as they are not about your own book, lol… but I guess it goes to show that while we TRY to listen to critiques that are constructive criticism, some are just readers venting. 😛 🙂

  17. Renee Gold on October 25, 2010 at 7:58 PM

    >It is so much easier to critique a book than to write one. I believe every story has some merit. I focus on the positive.

  18. Layla Fiske on October 25, 2010 at 7:08 PM

    >Well, everyone says it's a subjective business and this shows it more than ever…it's all a matter of taste.

    Thanks for sharing.

  19. Alex Marestaing on October 25, 2010 at 6:44 PM

    >Love the C.S. Lewis review. I need to call Cadbury chocolate myself to see if I can insert some promo's for cash in my books too :)Thanks for posting.

  20. Crystal Laine Miller on October 25, 2010 at 6:30 PM

    >Maybe I'm weird, but that was the best laugh I've had all week (this being Monday) over the reader reviews! My favorite was the grandmother who wondered if C.S. Lewis was getting kickbacks for advertising "Turkish Delight!" ROTFL.

    When I taught first grade, I had the group of exceptional readers to teach. I decided to let them try reading The Witch, The Lion and The Wardrobe (this was a Christian school.) Those first graders could've taught grandma a thing or two about symbolism and the story's intent. Her grandkids probably got it better than she did…LOL.

    This was fun. Thanks!

  21. scotthanley on October 25, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    >Well, that is terrifying, but also a relief. If the greats can get that kind of flack, who am I to complain?

    Thanks for posting!

  22. Beth on October 25, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    >LOL! I find myself wondering if this person had any clue who C.S. Lewis was. Let us thank God she wasn't the editor he sent his manuscript to!

  23. Sara Flower on October 25, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    >The turkish delight comment was priceless.

  24. Angela on October 25, 2010 at 2:52 PM

    >My blood actually boiled at the To Kill a Mockingbird comment. I'm pretty sure that's just blasphemy.

  25. Lisa Yarde on October 25, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    >Thanks for the reviews on classics – classic in themselves. I shared a few of my reviews with blog vistors a few days ago, and one person applauded me for acknowledging the lone two-star review. What was I going to do – find and kill the reviewer? I applauded myself for having joined the ranks of authors I admire, who find some people like their writing and others don't.

  26. Kim Kasch on October 25, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    >Great post – that makes me feel so much better about rejection. . . it's nice to know we wannabe writers are in good company

  27. T. Anne on October 25, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    >The Grapes of Wrath review was hilarious, and I happen to agree with it! Hey we're all entitled to our opinion, right?

    On a serious note I've read some reviews on Amazon that made me cringe for the author. I suppose you take it as a grain of salt, unless of course all reviews are similar in nature.

  28. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on October 25, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    >Hi, Rachelle.

    I'd like to add my favorite negative review for Changing Me, Change the World:
    "There are three types of religious people in the world. One, those who mean well, like Dorothy Day, Pete Maurin, Robert A.F. Thurman. Two, those who think they mean well, Mother Theresa and much of the rest of the rank and file of religious groups. And lastly those who do not mean well—the Pope, Pat Robertson and the Ayatollah Khomeini. This falls in the second category leaning towards the third…"

    So I guess I fall somewhere betwen Mother Theresa and the Ayatollah Khomeini. I admit, the concept staggers me.

    Thanks for the amusing post.


  29. Eric on October 25, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    >I love this! As a composer, I actually own a whole (hilarious) book of horrible reviews that were given to great composers from Beethoven to Copland– Lexicon of Musical Invective. It always cheers me up.

  30. Hilarey on October 25, 2010 at 12:12 PM

    >Thanks for sharing the reviews on classics.
    I will chuckle all day about Lord of the flies…

  31. Sharon A. Lavy on October 25, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    >I am thankful that learning the writing craft is teaching me about life. So nothing is wasted. And I continue to write.

  32. Juli Cragg Hilliard on October 25, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    >At the St. Pete Times Reading Festival on Saturday I thought it was pretty fascinating to hear what readers would say right to a writer's face during Q&A.
    Two books that have fortified me for my fiction writing journey are "The War of Art" by Stephen Pressfield — and "The Resilient Writer: Tales of Rejection and Triumph from 23 Top Authors" by Catherine Wald.

  33. Bekah on October 25, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    >These are hilarious!! "I got to about page 3-4." Well, this is what every writer wants to avoid, but you can't get every reader.

  34. Nikole Hahn on October 25, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    >I think some of those critiquers had more fun coming up with creative rejections than actually focusing on the book itself. I wonder how much time they spent on spinning those words?

    Yeah…I can face a rejection from an agent or publisher any time. The public is less than predictable when it comes to books.

    All I can say is…if I ever get blessed enough to have a book out in the public and someone doesn't like it, would they please get creative in their critique. They are almost fun to read. LOL.

  35. Little Bonobo on October 25, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    >I love Turkish delight! And, for the record, it wasn't invented by Cadbury.

  36. Dorci on October 25, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    >The sad thing is that the readers' reviews say more about themselves than they ever would about the book.

  37. annaliterally on October 25, 2010 at 11:04 AM

    >It just goes to show that you can't please everyone. Thanks for this post!

  38. Heather Sunseri on October 25, 2010 at 11:00 AM

    >Book reviewers scare me, and I don't even have a book out there.

    Hope you enjoyed the conference, Rachelle!

  39. Caroline Starr Rose on October 25, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    >Hilarious! My boys and I were talking about the Turkish Delight on the way to school this morning. They've been tricked into wanting some, all due to Mr. Lewis. 😉

  40. Imani on October 25, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    >Too funny! I need to find the reviews for Twilight. My 14 year old loves the series. I told her I'll read the books after I finished with my writing. I want to see what's the big deal with the storyline.

  41. Julie Gillies on October 25, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    >This was SO stinkin' hilarious, Rachelle. I laughed out loud over "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". People crack me up.

  42. Sierra Gardner on October 25, 2010 at 10:07 AM

    >I guess this means you have to write to please yourself and hope that a few others agree with you once (or if) your book is published. I also think it's important to note that it may be just as destructive to focus on reviews raving about how amazing the book is and how you are a literary genius. Being overconfident can be as bad for your writing as being insecure.

  43. Erica Vetsch on October 25, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    >These were hilarious.

    I had one shockingly abrupt rejection early in my career that hurt like an RPG to the chest when I first got it, but now, when I read it, I laugh.

    And when I'm at a conference and I see the editor that sent it to me, I always find myself grinning uncontrollably. I'm sure this goofy expression on my face has done nothing to change his mind about me or my work! 🙂

  44. lynnrush on October 25, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    >This is great! You sure can't please everyone, huh? There will always be someone who hates your book or think you're nuts for having been able to get published. . . .

  45. L.C. Griffith on October 25, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    >Rejections are like teachers, some are good and hold valid views, and others are pointless and intentionally hateful.

  46. Jaime on October 25, 2010 at 9:31 AM

    >I must go get me a Turkish Delight! Rachelle, these were great! Love the smile you put on my face on a dreary Monday morning 🙂

  47. Anonymous on October 25, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    >Reviews don't bother me. You cannot please everyone.

    But I'm curious. Why did you put up those particular amazon reviews? Why not reviews on more current books such as Freedom?

    As for rejection, how is the query process any different from sending in a resume? How is a partial or full any different from an interview?

  48. Walt M on October 25, 2010 at 8:47 AM

    >Adverbs? In Lord of the Rings? That review is going to spoil my 4th or 5th re-read of that book.

  49. steeleweed on October 25, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    >What they think of BABBITT?

    Maybe this will make writers, agents, publishers and booksellers think twice before willy-nilly indiscriminately encouraging EVERYONE to read.

    Some people should just never be allowed to go beyond tying their own shoes. Sit them down in front of the TV and keep them out of the way of the rest of us.

  50. alaskaravenclaw on October 25, 2010 at 8:35 AM

    >rofl– Against segregation, that's taking a bold stand. Advertisement for Turkish delight! But I think the Viriginia Woolf one is my favorite. *Will* she stay that way? Or is she Virginia Woolf, Vampire?

  51. Sarah Forgrave on October 25, 2010 at 8:32 AM

    >LOL! The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe review is my favorite. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  52. D. Ann Graham on October 25, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    >And then every once in a while you come across one like the following that will encourage me forever. It was written by a boy (on Amazon) for THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND by Jules Verne: "After reading this book, I now know I can survive…"

    Goodness! The ultimate success for any writer. I'm sure he must have received a "special memo" up in heaven for that one, just to make his joy complete.

  53. KO on October 25, 2010 at 8:25 AM

    >very funny– great way to start the week

  54. Vonna on October 25, 2010 at 8:22 AM

    >After reading this, things don't look so dire. Thanks!

  55. Lisa Jordan on October 25, 2010 at 8:08 AM

    >More proof about the subjectivity of the writing world! We may be thinking, "Don't they get it?" That's the joy of having opinions–you're entitled to your own thoughts.

    I've read books that I've loved and others have hated. I've also read classics that many rave about.

  56. Ben on October 25, 2010 at 7:58 AM

    >The Lord Of The Rings comment cracked me up. It reeked of a novice writer. "Well, if adverbs are bad, Tolkien is bad"

  57. Wendy Paine Miller on October 25, 2010 at 7:25 AM

    >Lord of the Flies review made me laugh.

    ~ Wendy

  58. Terri Tiffany on October 25, 2010 at 7:15 AM

    >I have been learning in the past few weeks that so much about a book and who loves or hates it is so subjective.

  59. Timothy Fish on October 25, 2010 at 7:01 AM

    >Make me wonder why we even bother reading our reviews.

  60. Em-Musing on October 25, 2010 at 6:57 AM

    >Great post. There should be a forum to critique the critics. But then, as the French proverb, "Success is the best revenge." And I should be so lucky.

  61. Chad Thomas Johnston on October 25, 2010 at 6:56 AM

    >This is fantastic! Reminds me of a handout one of my profs gave me in college in film class. It was a collection of comments about classic films that were shredded by merciless critics. But it also featured a list of films that critics over-praised: "'City Slickers 2' is even better than 'The Godfather 2!'" Really? 🙂 Ha! I assume this happens in the literary world too?

  62. Missy on October 25, 2010 at 6:03 AM

    >I'm going into writing with no plan B. I suck at everything else I've ever tried. Writing is the only thing I've done that people have told me I have an aptitude for, so this post does not scare me. I'm commited to improving my craft and that means putting it out there and risking hurt feelings.

    I look at it this way. Someone MIGHT like my writing. Someone MIGHT love my writing. But someone WILL hate my writing. That's just the fact of the matter.

  63. Katy McKenna on October 25, 2010 at 5:32 AM

    >It's 5:30 am, and I've already been up since 3:30, don't ask. Let's just say it's ABOUT TIME I got some comic relief introduced into this Monday morning!

    The review of the still-dead, thank God, Virginia Woolf has me howling with good cheer. Thank you, Rachelle. You have a way of making even rejection palatable, and sometimes even downright fun. 🙂

  64. Amy Tripp on October 25, 2010 at 5:15 AM

    >LOL! The reviews of the classics were pretty funny…. though I guess I'm guilty of not liking certain classics myself (*cough* Bronte Sisters *cough*). Though I've never disssed their books on Amazon.

  65. KV on October 25, 2010 at 2:57 AM

    >Oh, thank you for the good laugh! However, it does leave one wondering what sort of reader leaves such comments for some of the best classics, too.

    This was a terrific post!

    K. P. Vorenberg

  66. Paolo Puggioni on October 25, 2010 at 2:35 AM

    >aha I never noticed the overuse of adverbs in The Lord of The Rings.

    (not to self: counting the adverbs is not a good enough reason to read it for the twentieth time)

  67. Aimee L Salter on October 25, 2010 at 2:28 AM

    >While I would hate to read a review of my book in a similar tone, this post made my laugh my apples off. Thanks Rachelle 🙂

  68. Rane Anderson on October 25, 2010 at 2:24 AM

    >I think if any author is writing with the hopes of pleasing the world, they are wasting their time.
    It's true. Some people are going to love what you do, while others hate it. It's about finding those like minded people and appreciating that they "get" why you write the things you do. I hope I can find that group one day.