There you sit. The message in your hand or on your screen reads,
“Thank you for your submission, but it does not meet our current needs.”
How do you not feel the lowdown rejection blues. You worked hard on that story, novel or poem. You gave up precious sleep to write the drafts. You spent hours at your computer searching for just the right literary journal or publisher for your work. You waited weeks or months for a response, and when it comes it tells you nothing useable. It doesn’t tell you why the publisher didn’t want your work, or how to make it meet the publisher’s “current needs.” What are those needs? Don’t writers have needs, too?
You are in Good Company
We’ve all heard the statistics. Stephen King received dozens of rejections for Carrie. Margaret Mitchell received 38 rejections for Gone With the Wind. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by 26 publishers before it was accepted, and went on to win the 1963 Newberry Award. Nicholas Sparks was turned down 31 times for The Notebook. Anne Frank’s diary was turned down by 16 publishers.
The takeaway from this, of course, is that if you submit your writing for publication you will be rejected. It’s in the writer’s job description. Accept it. So, how do you handle those inevitable rejections? Here are three strategies that will help you get over the rejection blues.
Don’t take it personally.
You have to see the rejection as strictly a business decision. If you’ve ever applied for a job you didn’t get, you understand that sometimes there are others ahead of you or who meet the employer’s expectations more exactly. Writing rejections are business decisions, too. The people who make the decisions don’t dislike you or even know you. Their main concern is the needs of their publication at the moment your work comes in front of them.
Go back over your work.
If you are lucky enough to get specific comments about your work, be flattered and take it very seriously. You may think your protagonist is painted as clearly as a 3-D photo, but if the publisher thinks otherwise, defer to the publisher. When you resubmit, thank the publisher for offering criticism and let them know yours is a resubmission. That lets the publisher or editor know that you appreciate and respect the comments.
Learn how the publishing world works.
Book publishers always have work in their pipeline that is months away from publication. Your book may be similar to something the publisher is already committed to produce. Literary journals receive piles of submissions and they often have a very small staff of volunteers to read through them. You have very little time to make a good impression, and your submission should be as perfect as you can make it. A few typos in the first paragraph can send it to the reject pile before the editor even gets to your brilliant, hair-raising ending. Maybe e-publishing or self-publishing is the way for you to bring your work to the public. Read and study the entire publishing industry to better target your submissions.
If rejections have you singing the blues, remember that there are some very successful writers who have sung the same songs. Finish the chorus, dry your tears, and get back to writing.
Today’s rejected manuscript is often tomorrow’s best seller.
How do YOU cope with the rejection blues? Share with us your “favorite” rejection, and what did you learn?Special thanks to senior editor Marcia Calhoun Forecki for sharing her wisdom with us. Follow Marcia’s blog on Goodreads or check out her latest novel The Blood of the White Bear.