Thanks to Meg Gardiner for posting on this topic. She’s right: rejections don’t stop just because you’re published. There’s no magic “yes, I’ve got my novel or poetry collection accepted so I won’t have to deal with rejections ever again” moment. Rejections don’t stop.
Rejections will only stop if you stop sending submissions to editors and when you stop doing that, you stop being a writer.
Acceptances are so dependent on a combination of factors: the right manuscript landing on the right editor’s desk when the editor’s looking for a manuscript just like that, is in the mood to read submissions thoroughly and recognises that the manuscript they are reading is the perfect fit, ie such a narrow window of opportunity, it’s a wonder acceptances happen at all. But even an acceptance doesn’t guarantee publication. Editors move on, their replacement may decide not to go ahead with publication, a new priority is set turning acceptance to rejection or magazines and publishers go under meaning publication won’t happen. There’s more to getting published than an acceptance letter, contract and waiting for publication.
Writers at any and all stages of their career have to accept rejections. Whilst acceptances that do turn into publication are always very welcome, rejections aren’t always bad news:
· Rejections aren’t personal: you aren’t being rejected, just that particular piece by that particular editor.
· Rejections aren’t always a reflection on the standard of your writing, often they’re down to lack of space, prior acceptance of a similar piece or an incoming editor clearing an outgoing editor’s in-tray.
· Rejections stop writers becoming lazy. Doesn’t matter where you are in your writing career, every submission should be to a professional standard.
Doesn’t make rejections easier to take, although they can be reduced. Research your markets: only submit work to editors who are likely to be interested in your work, check submission guidelines and submit your work in the right format and during the reading period (where applicable). A magazine that focuses on experimental poetry is never going to take your traditional sonnet no matter how good a sonnet it is. If a magazine only takes postal submissions, don’t submit via email. If an editor asks for names not to appear on submitted work, take your name off and submit a covering letter or sheet with a list of titles and your contact details. If a magazine states it has a reading period of May to September, don’t submit in April – you won’t be first in the reading queue, you’ll be automatically rejected. If the guidelines state that you have to wait a year after an acceptance before submitting again, wait a year – it may be tempting to re-try an editor who has already accepted a poem, but you’ll be automatically rejected for not following guidelines if you don’t wait. If an editor asks for email submissions as an attachment, don’t paste your poems into the body of the email and note what format the attachment should be in (if in doubt use .rtf).
For a writer, a submission is like a job application and should be treated as such. Just like job applications, where the recruiter often reads them looking for reasons to reject such as miss-spelt words, bad grammar, coffee stains, crumpled paper and a general unprofessional approach because they have one vacancy and over 50 applicants; so editors overwhelmed with submissions will look for a reason to reject you. Don’t give them one.
Whilst you need to keep a record or what you’ve sent where (to avoid simultaneous submissions and prevent sending a published piece to an editor who will only consider unpublished work), you don’t need to keep rejection slips. If an editor’s taken the trouble to scrawl a comment, note the comment and put it aside to read later. Recycle all rejection slips (they make useful cat litter tray lining). If there’s no comment, assume your work was simply not on the right editor’s desk at the right time and send it elsewhere.
Do keep all you acceptance letters, positive comments and feedback in a handy place and refer to them frequently, especially when rejections pile up.