Rejections and You

Rejections and You 4

If you’re a writer, and plan on ever getting something published, at some point you will need to submit your work somewhere (there’s a lot of options out there, and I’ll cover some of that in a future posting). The point of this one is that, after submitting your work, chances are you will receive a rejection.

There’s a lot of reasons for this. You may not be a good writer. Hey, it’s very possible – I don’t know you, and I’m not judging. But even good writers, and good stories, get rejected. So before you get even more depressed on your rejection, lets consider other options.

You’re submitting somewhere where there’s a finite number of spots to fill – this will almost always be the case. Say an anthology has place for twenty stories, and they get sixty, a hundred, or more submissions. They cut out the weak stories very quickly, but they’re still sitting at thirty or forty good submissions, and not all will make it in. It’s a very competitive market, best get used to it.

Your story may not fit the market you’ve targeted. Each editor has their own vision of what they want to achieve in their magazine or anthology, and what you’ve submitted might not quite fit. You probably don’t have a lot of recourse here – research your markets better in the future, and for this rejected story look for another home.

You didn’t follow directions. Each place you submit have their own submission guidelines, and they are there to help you – read them well, and follow them. They want your story in comic sans, 16 point, half-spaced lines? Do it. They have their reasons, and they decide who gets in.

So someone says no – and most of the time without reason – how should you feel and what should you do next?

First off, don’t take it personally. You will get rejected many many times, for the above reasons and more. You should quickly get comfortable with the idea that your work is not you; what you have created, while very personal to you, is not you. It being rejected is not you being rejected. A fine distinction? Not really. I’ll save more details on this thought for a later posting.

Secondly, don’t write back and ask lots of why’s. Editors are busy people, and they don’t need to be your teacher or mentor as well. They already get a lot of negative responses from other people who have been rejected – don’t be one of those and your future rejections will continue to be for professional, and not personal, reasons. Let them remember you for your work, not your questions (or drama).

If you suspect – or are told – it is a specific issue (quality of writing, etc.) take some time and re-read your piece. Also get it into someone else’s hands who you trust to give you an honest opinion. Having family and friends reading your work and telling you “I love it!” or “it’s great!” doesn’t help. You need constructive criticism (and you need to be able to take it well). Then rework it. And rework it again. Very few pieces come out right the first time (I would suspect the odds of this are statistically close to 0) and usually require a lot of editing and rewrites.

If you feel the piece is solid – or you rework it to make it so – submit it again, someplace else. Do this again and again. There are a LOT of places to publish your work, and if the piece really is good, you will find a home for it. Fix any other possible problems – your following of directions, the market you’re aiming it at – and keep the story floating out there. At a minimum you will get very comfortable with rejections, and as a bonus you will exponentially improve your chances of getting it accepted.

My own story to all of this.

As of this posting, I’ve published one story (in Rigor Amortis), and have had one other acceptance for an upcoming anthology, IN SITU. The editors who published my first story also rejected four other stories at the time (though they seriously considered one of those four before ultimately rejecting it). They also recently rejected another story of mine for a new anthology of theirs, 20Spec. The editor who accepted my story for IN SITU rejected two previous stories for an earlier anthology, Cthulhurotica. None of the rejections – that I know of – were personal, and I will continue trying to get into future works of theirs.

A couple of the Rigor Amortis rejects were further edited and have been submitted elsewhere, whereas one of the Cthulhurotica rejects has been sent out (the other is queued for another rewrite before sending out). The 20Spec rejection came in earlier today, and within a few hours I had the manuscript updated slightly (to fit formatting requirements with the next place) and sent out again. I have my plan for at least two other places to send it should I need to.

The thing I’ve started learning (and trying to point out here): accept the fact that you will have rejections, for a number of reasons, and just keep at it. Oh, and be patient – responses can take a while. It’s really nothing to worry about, because your attention is focused on your next works anyway, right?

Get your work out there!

4 comments click to show
  • R.S. Hunter says:

    Great points. I know exactly how you feel. I’ve worked as an editor before, and having people write me back after I rejected their manuscripts was never going to change my mind–even when the guy promised to send me the “1 millionth copy of his book for free, just so I’d know what I’d missed.”

    Rejections happen. Be professional. Reevaluate the story or its potential markets. And most of all, keep writing.

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  • great post Jacob! As a very new writer, I’m still learning to armor myself against rejections, too. Knowing it isn’t personal and feeling it can be two different things–but it’s important to keep it all in perspective. Thanks for the perspective!

    • Jacob Ruby says:

      It can sting, certainly. I’m sure as you rack up a lot of rejections (and worse, no acceptances), it can really weigh on you.

      Perhaps what helps me is my experiences in art school – it’s more fitting for the critiquing process than out-and-out rejections, but critiquing work (artwork, written works, etc.) can often be very brutal, and you either take it very personally, or you learn how to deal with it (and sometimes you do both!). I believe some of the other students treated it like sport and purposefully went for the jugular, out of a spirit of competition.

      A rejection, like a critique, is only one person’s opinion, and even if you disagree with it there’s always something to learn.

      And sometimes you just blog about it as a reminder to yourself. :)

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