by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

We looked damn successful on Instagram. Like we were having the time our lives! But very few knew our dirty little secret: that in the span of two soul crushing weeks in the Summer of 2020, our seventh novel bombed, we were dropped by our publisher, and we parted ways with our agent. Oh, and the world was in middle of a global pandemic.

We scrolled through our Instagram feeds emoji hearting post after post about other authors’ successes. All while feeling the heavy disappointment of our own failure. How had our fortune flipped so quickly? Or had our career sprung a leak, slowly sinking drip by drip?

Slowly we came out of our funk. We partnered with an amazing new agent, and she took our latest manuscript out on submission. We received several we’re going to have to step aside emails.  We wondered if the universe was not so subtly trying to tell us we should quit writing.

With nothing left to lose, we decided to tell our story of rejection on our podcast, We Fight So You Don’t Have To. To our surprise, it went viral. Countless authors reached out, offering to share their own stories of rejection. And from there, the Struggle Bus series was born. We learned five valuable lessons from these discussions.

  1. You are not alone.

We were blown away by the huge number of authors who’d had similar experiences. To learn weren’t alone in our struggles. There were people to talk to about this! Other experiences to learn from! And maybe these authors would be willing to be guests on our podcast to tell their own stories. There were several who understandably wanted to remain anonymous, but there were also many who did agree to share what they’d been through. We are grateful to them because their journeys helped so many people!

  1. It’s okay to admit you’ve failed.

It took us a long time to get to the place where we were ready to publicly admit to our family, friends, colleagues, ourselves, that we had failed. We had a lot of authors tell us they were also afraid to reveal their career slumps. That on social media, they felt they needed to paint a positive picture or else the publishing world wouldn’t want them. But when they heard our story, they were empowered to share.

  1. Rejection doesn’t mean your career is over.

By July of 2020, we had published seven novels in as many years. We never had the time to take stock of what was working and what wasn’t in our approach. Because we faced the rejection we did, we were forced to look at ourselves under the harsh lighting we had spent years trying to avoid. The time we’ve had in between books has given us an opportunity to spring clean our careers. We purged the habits, tendencies, and patterns that were not working and made room for new ideas and plans.

  1. Believe in yourself.

It’s cliché, but also true that if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. If you let it, rejection will suck the confidence out of you like a power vacuum. It is tremendously skilled at convincing us that we’re not good at something. When editor after editor passed on the manuscript that we wrote during covid, we started to question our ability to write books. It didn’t matter that we’d published seven at that point. All we could focus on was that no one wanted the current book we’d written.

Remember that two ideas can exist at once. You can write a book that no one wants to publish, and you can also be a good writer.

  1. Remember what you love about writing.

Our new agent, Holly Root, was quick to remind us that we should write what we love. And while you might be thinking, that’s obvious, it’s easy to lose sight of why you became an author in the first place. After we all accepted that our latest manuscript wasn’t going to find a home, we had a brainstorming session with Holly. That phone call became our forthcoming novel, Forever Hold Your Peace, which was acquired by Holly Ingraham at Alcove Press and is set to publish on July 11, 2023.

That book reminded us of what we loved about writing—exploring long-term friendships, infusing humor, and creating a fast-paced plot. We think this book is the perfect restart to our career and we hope you love it as much as we do!

In the meantime, we appreciate all the writers who’ve been honest about sharing their struggles at all stages of their careers. Whose stories have reassured you? Visit Career Authors on Facebook to join the discussion. 


Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke have been best friends for over 30 years and survived high school and college together. They’ve co-authored seven novels, including The Year We Turned Forty, which is in development for a TV series. They also host the podcast “We Fight So You Don’t Have To.” They both reside with their families and several rescue dogs in San Diego, California. Find them on Instagram @lisaandliz.