Dealing with Rejection as a Writer

rejection letter“Dear Reject Writer,

The brilliant, masterpiece-seeking staff at Bucking-Huge Publishing have decided to ruin your day and post you this pointless piece of paper. It is an official rejection of you as a person and as a writer.

Basically, we thought your story sucked so much that we didn’t want to use your SASE to return it to you - just in case you personally had licked the stamps. In fact, we were afraid to touch it. We hired someone to burn it for us. We also hired the same person to prepare this form rejection letter, so you’ll never be tempted to think we read it at all.

Once at the post box, the editorial staff will crowd around this soon-to-be-sealed rejection-letter-of-doom and chant curses upon your writing future, after which we shall laugh at you and call you names like Reject and Amateur, just to make us feel better, but especially to make you feel worse.

Have a rotten day!
The Editor”


rejected-865417-mRejected - Personally!

Many writers feel as though each rejection letter is deeply personal. Regardless of whether the rejection you receive is a form rejection or a personalized note trying to explain why that publication has chosen not to accept your brain-child - to a writer, the declining editor is the enemy.

Seriously, the first thing all writers must realize is that rejections are NOT personal. I know many of you are shaking your heads in disagreement and even more won’t believe me right now, but it is true.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons an editor might reject a piece of work:

* The publication is over-stocked with similar stuff right now
* The manuscript was about the wrong topic for that editor’s preferences
* The manuscript was too long/too short for that publishing house’s tastes.
* That editor only buys horror. You submitted romance!
* Your manuscript was addressed to the wrong editor.
* There is no market for books about purchasing snow tires in the Australian Outback
* The editor has spent the quarterly purchase budget, and so rejected everything that came in the door that month.

The above examples are just a few things that could happen in any busy publishing office - and are also just some of the ideas that I came up with off the top of my head. In each example, the editor is in no way rejecting the AUTHOR personally. In each example, however, the editor is making a point of showing the author that his or her manuscript is simply not right for that publishing house on that day from a purely business point of view.

There are many, many more reasons an editor may choose to reject any piece of writing. I could research for the next decade and STILL be finding new reasons why editors reject writing. I’ll lay odds that very, very few of those rejections stemmed from a personal dislike of an author.

What is an Editor?

Despite beliefs to the contrary, editors are people. They breathe real air and work at real jobs. They go home to real homes and have real families (sometimes). They have bosses to answer to and they must fulfill job descriptions, like anyone else.

An editor’s job is to purchase manuscripts (be they novels, short stories or articles) for the publishing house who pays the checks on pay day. In order for that editor to keep receiving pay checks, the publishing house must continue to sell enough books (or magazines) to enough readers to guarantee the running costs will be covered for another week.

If the editor purchases manuscripts that do NOT return sufficient profit for the publishing house to remain in business, then everyone loses. The author’s work is STILL rejected, the editor loses his or her job, and thousands of related workers will also join unemployment cues once the publishing house files for bankruptcy and closes its doors.

Now that we all understand that trivial fact, let’s ask the following question:

Why do so many writers feel the need to exact a bloody, dire revenge on an editor who is simply doing his or her job?

Whilst researching for this article, I visited some “Coping with Rejection” sites. One of these sites offers a place for rejected authors to vent their frustration and anger at hapless editors.

On one forum, I happened across the angry rantings of a rejected writer, determined to let the world know that he thought all publishers and all agents were only out to find out ‘how much money that writer can make for [them] anyway.”

I’d like to know who told that unhappy Rejected Author that the industry was ever any different! Let’s be honest. If your book is not popularly liked by the masses (your readers!) then no copies are going to sell. If no copies sell, then the publisher has lost money. The editor has lost money. The bookstore has lost money. The author has lost money - oh wait - the author has to pay back any money that wasn’t covered by sales…

Honestly, the publishing industry is a money and sales oriented business - just like any other. Why try to internalize something that is simply about how many books are going to sell of how many shelves on any day?

What is a Published Author?

I know, I know - you’re already thinking “A published author is a writer who has been published.”

You’re way ahead of me. Or are you?

I was going to use the following definition:
“A published author was once an unpublished author who didn’t quit submitting.”

You see, ALL published writers were once unknown, unpublished writers, who kept submitting work until eventually they were accepted. It’s purely a numbers game. The more you submit, the greater your chances are of receiving an acceptance!

Did you know:

* -The first Harry Potter book is reported to have been rejected by 14 publishers.
* -Stephen King’s Carrie had been rejected more than 30 times before being picked up for publication.
* -Richard Bach’s Johnathan Livingston Seagull received more than 140 rejections.
* -After 743 rejection slips, British author, John Creasey went on to have 564 mystery novels published!
* -Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time received over 30 rejections. It took 10 years to get published, and then went on to win a Newbery Award.

What to Do When You Receive a Rejection

It never ceases to amaze me how many potential authors swear undying vengeance upon any editor who may have rejected a story.

You have several choices. You could:

a) Scrawl “Die, Editor” in blood across the cheaply photocopied form rejection letter and promptly mail it back to that editor, along with the sawn off head of his Fluffy Bunny soft-toy.


b) Act like a professional writer, file each rejected piece of work into a file and send the piece back out the door. This way, each rejection is turned into a brand new submission the very same day.

Now I’m not saying my way of dealing with rejection is the right way, but here are some of the things I do when I receive a rejection.

Firstly, I open my filing cabinet and take out the file marked “Rejection”. Then I place the rejection slip into it, close it and return it to the filing cabinet.

Next, I’ll open a file on my computer called “Writing Business”. Inside this folder are sub-folders for invoices, contracts, taxes, clippings, ideas, snippets, half-finished articles & stories, pay rate schedules, two spreadsheets (submissions and pay amounts) and one last folder - you guessed it - REJECTIONS.

Inside the rejections folder, I have another spreadsheet. I list the date and publication name. I also list where I intend to send that rejected piece next. Then it gets listed again in the Submissions spreadsheet (because it’s not a rejection anymore, it’s a new submission again, remember?).

Improving the Acceptance Odds

There are also lots of things you can do to improve your chances of being accepted by an editor. The most obvious solution is: Submit more.

Simple, really, isn’t it?

Of course, the more work you submit, the greater the chances are that you’ll receive a rejection. But the same odds are true for receiving an acceptance, too. It really is a numbers game.

The more you submit, the greater your chances become of receiving an acceptance!

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Author: Lee

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