An open letter to the writer who told me I’d likely NEVER be published



While I was going through some papers I found a report you’d written on my first novel and as I read it I felt incredibly sad. You probably won’t remember it, or me, but in 2015 you almost crushed my dreams.


I’d longed to be a writer much of my life but, always lacking in confidence, being published seemed unachievable. I didn’t have a degree, any A Levels. I didn’t have the courage to sign up for a writing course.

In my 30’s an accident left me with a disability and my life radically changed. I then spent several years struggling with chronic pain, and my mood until I started writing a story, then entitled ‘Dear Grace’ about best friends, Grace, and Charlie.

For the first time in a long time, I felt I had something to get up for. A purpose. Often I was awake throughout the night, lonely and uncomfortable but now I had my manuscript – a world I could escape to and I escaped often.

I felt a feeling of immense pride when I finished my first draft but then came a bereavement, one of the people I loved most in the world suddenly gone. My depression came crashing back and I didn’t write for a long, long time.

In 2015 I reread my story and a tiny ember of hope began to smoulder. I thought it had potential but I was plagued with self-doubt.

Could I write?

Who could I ask?

It took much courage, several glasses of wine and all of our savings to send my manuscript off to a well-known organisation who offered critiques. When I heard you would be reading my story – someone who reviewed books for a living – I felt delighted.

Until I received your feedback.

Your report started by saying Writing fiction is a long hard slog for anyone and the chances of getting published are very slim.

Immediately I felt deflated, stupid for ever thinking I could achieve my dream. Assuming that for you to have told me it was unlikely I’d ever get published when I hadn’t asked for your advice nor was it something the agency listed as including in the report, must mean my writing was bad.

Very bad.

After your feedback on my story which you weren’t keen on, you ended your letter with ‘you show some flair but I think, bluntly, you need to face up to how difficult it is to get published. You may want to consider self-publishing. Traditional book deals from publishers are increasingly hard to come by. I’m sorry not to be more encouraging and I wish you the best.

Tears rolled down my face as I packed away my manuscript and my dreams for another six months as I spiralled back into depression.

I am writing this to let you know that dreams are fragile and hope easily extinguished. I googled you before I began writing this post and you still critique for the same agency. Please, please think twice before telling someone how impossible it is to be published if they haven’t asked you for publishing advice. You just might make them feel they aren’t good enough to write. Not everyone has an endgame of seeing their words in print and if they do not everyone is chasing a traditional deal. You never know what led them to the story they want to tell and what it means to them. I overcame depression largely because of my characters and it was something I enjoyed. You made me think I was wasting my time. That I shouldn’t. I couldn’t.

But I did.

‘Dear Grace’ became ‘The Sister’ and it went on to spend several weeks at No.1 in various countries, quickly sold well over half a million copies, has been translated into 25 languages and nominated for an award. Three other novels have followed, all with huge success. My fifth is due to be published this October.

Publishing is so subjective and although you thought I couldn’t, I’m so pleased I found a publisher who thought I could.

And for any writers reading this, don’t let anyone lead you to believe that you can’t and if they do, prove them wrong.

From Louise


59 thoughts on “An open letter to the writer who told me I’d likely NEVER be published

  1. Well thankfully you didn’t listen!

    I often wonder what makes people think they are qualified to offer critiques as even being the most experienced and educated cannot dictate other people’s tastes nor a publisher’s appetite for change and reading is such a subjective experience. I can o oh ever share my opinion on what does and doesn’t work for me. The rest is irrelevant.

    Digital publishing is changing the industry rapidly and regularly so why not offer support and guidance rather than essentially telling someone just to quit now.

    Hopefully your success will encourage others to never give up on their dreams. Glad you showed them how wrong they were.

    • Thanks Jen. It knocked me a lot – you know I’m not the most confident (at all confident) anyway. Yes, I think as a book blogger you’ve found a balance of being constructive and fair and realising that something that isn’t right for you could be for someone else is fabulously without ego.

  2. Good for you for believing in your dream and keeping going. And huge congratulations on all of your amazing books.
    What a great post to show other writers that it can happen.
    Amanda xx

  3. Ever since I was a child, I had a natural talent for creative writing. I’ve spent most of my life being told that I could – and should – write a book. The only problem is that I start writing the first few chapters of a manuscript, and when I go back to it a day or so later, I hate every single word. I don’t really know where my niche is – I like writing semi-autobiographical scripts, but I seem to have forgotten how to create entire worlds and characters – I never seem able to flesh them out convincingly any more.

    I’m glad that you never gave up. When I have some extra pennies I’ll be looking out for you on Amazon!

    • Oh that’s so relatable! Every single writer hates their first draft, I can PROMISE you that. Even now, I’m proofreading my fifth book and wishing that I could delete it and start again! If you still like your idea, ignore the loathing you feel for your words (you’ll change those at edit stage) and stick with it. Good luck.

      • I’m so fussy – maybe too fussy! I’ve scrapped so many manuscripts that went off course!

        I’m on opiates for hip pain after breaking my hip and having it bolted back together last year. Opioid dreams are seriously odd, and I’ve written down some of the ones I remember on waking. Who knows, I might get something cohesive out of them 🙂

      • I get that. I’ve been in and out of hospital & once I came home & had an email from my agent ‘That was so powerful and dark, one of the best pieces of writing you’ve produced,’ I’d written a chapter while on super strong painkillers and didn’t remember writing it or emailing it… ‘

  4. Dear Louise, thank you for this post. Chronic illness is debilitating, all the things you went through seem to mirror my own life lately. We raise people up, we don’t crush their dreams, life itself is more than capable of that. This inspired me, you inspired me, inspired a lot of people to keep on writing and to never give up. Thank you.

  5. (Came here via Linda G. Hill’s blog, btw.) Mixed emotions on this. I am so, so glad you didn’t let the negativity beat you. I’m glad you found the original letter. And most of us only dream of being able to write and MAIL a neener-neerer, told-you-so letter AND post it. 😀 On the other hand, I “get” why someone feels it necessary to say “getting published is hard” (though you didn’t ask, so, she probably shouldn’t have). It *is* hard. Not impossible, but not easy, and the odds are against folks. To put it in context, I understood when Simon Cowell would tell Am. Idol contestants that “you can’t sing” when they couldn’t. He could have been nicer about it, but sometimes the hard truth is necessary, and ultimately kinder than false hope. Obviously this person got it wrong, and ultimately you triumphed, and that is just fantastic and inspirational to read. People need to understand how to give constructive, even if hard, criticism, too. 🙂

    • Thanks for reading & I really appreciate your thoughts. It’s true breaking into publishing, while certainly not impossible, is hard and had I asked I’d have been grateful for her honesty, but, I didn’t ask. I think to assume someone is chasing a traditional deal and to tell them it’s unachievable isn’t helpful. Those who stand in front of Simon Cowell are all there for the record deal, don’t forget. I was a guest author at a writing retreat last summer and out of all the attendees only one wanted to be published. The others all wrote for the love of it. We should encourage, not discourage. Who knows whether a writer can be published it’s so subjective. We get so many rejections from agents who beleive not before we get that yes.

  6. Did you actually send this? I would love to know. I know you have put it as an open letter here but I wonder for a moment, it would be awesome to see if they reply and with what. Congratulations as well by the way.

  7. Their loss became someone else’s gain. You are an exceptional writer and I am so glad you dusted yourself off and got back on the horse:)

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this Louise. It gives me hope that one day, just maybe, I will be published too. Your books are great, and I am so glad you had the strength to not let one person put you off. Mx

  9. This is wonderful and inspiring, and even though I know nothing about you you are my hero . You gave given me the strength to keep on going. I read this just as I was going to say sod it to my book of poems . Thank you keep writing 💜💜💜💜

  10. Such an inspiring post. I have been turned down/ignored by traditional publishers and it really does knock confidence and make you think ‘why do i bother???’. I’m 30, no qualifications (working towards my degree part time) and see no way in to the trad published route. I have 3 books which I self published and feedback has been great… but what I wouldn’t give for my books to be taken on by someone who knows what they’re doing! I don’t have the funds to pay for professional editing/proof reading/layout and cover design etc. Writing is very much a passion but for now still only a hobby.
    Your experience has proven it can happen though. I will keep on trying 🙂 xx

    • Hello Debbie. Thanks so much for reading. Congratulations on writing 3 books – that’s a huge achievement. Don’t give up submitting. Have you entered competitions? If you’re placed agents it sometimes helps with agents. There are also grants out there for mentoring & development.

      • Thank you for replying 😊 and thanks for the advice! I’ll look for some competitions and see what there is for 2019. I’m just in the middle of relaunching my 3rd book with a new cover. It hasn’t done as well as I thought it would but I know it can do better. I have a great support network of indie authors around me but to have a publisher take on my book would be a dream (and take the stress away from me haha) X

  11. I’m still pursuing my dream, despite being treated as a lay-about by some people. Despite the people who imply that they would do better if they only had time to sit down and try themselves. Despite people feeling the only way to invest is to buy stock, you can’t invest in your future… More power to you. I’m sad to hear that you were/are in chronic pain. It’s no fun, as I well know. Peace.

  12. I hope you felt more encouraged at our writers group. We try to be only constructive and helpful. I’m glad to know you Louise and think you are an exceptional writer. Don’t you dare stop now. Haha. Much love xxx

  13. I am a PA to authors and friends with a lot of other authors and this blog is the most uplifting thing I have read. There are so many authors that don’t think they are good enough and they just need that little nudge to know they can do it. I will keep your blog handy to show anyone that may need that little nudge. Thank you so much and keep on keeping on 💘

  14. Thank you so much for publishing this letter Louise. The courage you’ve shown to overcome the hurdles that life has thrown at you are an inspiration and if we can all follow our dreams with as much determination as you’ve shown, we’ll be…okay. Love your writing and you’re a very special person. xx

  15. Pingback: Never Give Up - Writing Tip Number Nine - Rachel Sargeant

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