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JK Rowling Just Shared An Important Lesson In Dealing With Rejection

"I had nothing to lose and sometimes that makes you brave enough to try. "

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On Friday morning JK Rowling shared two rejection letters she received when pitching her adult crime novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Ian Gavan / Getty Images
JK Rowling
JK Rowling

Rowling was famously repeatedly turned down by publishers when first writing Harry Potter.

But while those rejection letters are in her attic, she posted the replies of literary agents to her novel The Cuckoo's Calling after a budding writer asked for advice.

I pinned my 1st rejection letter to my kitchen wall because it gave me something in common with all my fave writers!

She said she had always vowed not to give up until every single publisher had said "no".

I wasn't going to give up until every single publisher turned me down, but I often feared that would happen.

The letters Rowling shared, which had the names and signatures removed, warn the author that her books will never be commercially successful. They even urge her to attend a writing class.

By popular request, 2 of @RGalbrath's rejection letters! (For inspiration, not revenge, so I've removed signatures.)

JK Rowling

Read the full text of the letter:

Dear Robert Galbraith,

Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to consider your novel, which we have looked at with interest. However, I regret that we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we could not publish it with commercial success.

At the risk of 'teaching my grandmother to suck eggs', may I respectfully suggest the following:

Double check in a a helpful bookshop, on Amazon or in the twice yearly 'Buyer's Guide' of the Bookseller magazine (order via newsagents, or available in your local reference library) precisely who are the publishers now of your fiction category/genre.

Call the publishers to obtain the name of the relevant editor; it is rarely productive to speak to her/him in person. Nowadays it is perfectly acceptable to approach numerous publishers at once and even several imprints within the same group (imprints tend to be compartmentalised).

Then send to each editor an alluring 200-word blurb (as on book jackets; don't give away the ending!), the first chapter plus perhaps two others, and an S.A.E.

The covering letter should state as precisely as you can the category/genre of fiction you are submitting - cite successful authors in your genre, especially those published by the particular imprint you are contacting. Again a helpful bookshop may be able to advise you.

Much vital information can be found in The Writer's Handbook and The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, but remember that details of an imprint's publishing policy may be out of date, and acquiring a literary agent is even harder than finding a publisher! Owing to pressure of submissions, I regret we cannot reply individually or provide constructive criticism. (A writers' group/writing course may help with the latter.) May I wish you every success in placing your work elsewhere.

Yours sincerely

[Named removed]

Editorial Department

JK Rowling

Read the full text of the second letter:

Dear Mr Galbraith,

Thank you for offering us your novel The Cuckoo's Calling.

Crème de la Crime is now part of Seven House Publishers. We are unable to accept new submissions at the moment.

I'm sorry to disappoint you. Thank you again for thinking of us.

With all best wishes,

Yours sincerely

[Name removed]

Crème de la Crime

Rowling said that the first person to be given the chance to publish Harry Potter, which they rejected, also gave one of the rudest replies to Robert Galbraith.

Yes, the publisher who first turned down Harry also sent @RGalbraith his rudest rejection (by email)!

Rowling added that the reason she persevered for so long was simply because she had "nothing to lose".

I had nothing to lose and sometimes that makes you brave enough to try.

Matthew Champion is a deputy world news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Matthew Champion at

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