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"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!
Rejected - 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
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
Your manuscript was addressed to the wrong
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
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
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
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
Now that we all understand that trivial fact, let's ask
the following question:
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]
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?
is a Published Author?
I know, I know - you're already thinking "A
published author is a writer who has been
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!
--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
--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
--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.
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
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,
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!
Copyright Lee Masterson. All Rights Reserved.
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