The Tea House: Rocking It As a Professional (II)
Last week we talked about the importance of rocking the artistic life as a professional, and we discussed how to write a good cover/submission letter.
Today we’re going to talk about rejections.
Rejections are the responses editors send when they are not interested in accepting the work you submitted for publication. Any writer who submits their work to markets will receive rejections. Lots and lots and lots of rejections. It’s just a part of the game.
Most rejection letters are form rejection letters. They will state that, for whatever reason, the editor is not going to publish your work. This could be for a variety of reasons which you may or may not be informed about. A lot of personalized rejection letters get sent out, as well. They may tell you in what ways your submission did or did not work for the editor. Some of what the responding editor may say is useful feedback, and some is not.
When you receive a rejection, simply prepare your manuscript for the next market you’d like to submit it to and send it off. If several editors have made the same critique about your work, then you may consider rewriting your work. But, again, the best response to a rejection is to keep submitting until it sells to another market or you run out of markets to submit it to. As always, keep writing new material.
If an editor does send you a personalized rejection, or if they include a note on your form rejection letter, take this as a compliment. Editors are super-busy folks. If they take the time to say anything constructive or complimentary about your work, this is something to take pleasure in. Editors don’t have time for a lot of personalized rejections or notes. If you get this sort of feedback, they see promise in your work.
There are two comments editors might make that I’d like to highlight. If an editor rejects your work, but invites you to send more in the future, this editor likes what you’re doing. They just don’t want to take the current story in question for whatever reason. The best response to this comment is to definitely keep sending this editor more work. If you continue to improve and write good stories, and are persistent, it’s likely this editor will be interested in accepting your work someday.
Additionally, if you receive a rejection that states something along the lines of, “Thank you for sending your story–it just isn’t for me,” this rejection is a kindness. An editor who sends you such a response is doing you a favor. This response indicates that they may see value in your work, but they’re not the ideal editor for your story. You want the best editor and market for your work. Sometimes it can take a very long time to find the right editor and market for each piece, but the search is absolutely worth it.
No matter what, don’t take rejections personally. They can be frustrating, they can be a downer, but they’re part of the artistic life. The truth is, editors are looking and hoping for good stories. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep being professional, stay persistent, nurture yourself when times are hard, and take pleasure in your successes. Even if the successes are sometimes small, such as an editor responding with, “Please send me more.”
One final note on responding to rejections: generally it’s good practice to not respond to rejection letters, either with a thank you note or a letter expressing anger or frustration for the rejection. Thank you notes are not necessary, and most editors are so super-busy that, while thoughtful, such notes tend to add more work for the editor to filter through. In terms of notes that express anger or frustration, such notes are unprofessional. Editors remember such responses. The editor may also tell colleagues about such a response, and frankly, publishing is a small world. It’s much better to behave like a professional, bite your tongue, submit the story to another market and do something nice for yourself to sooth your pride.
Please feel free to ask questions in the comments or share rejection experiences. If you’re not a writer, but another type of artist, I’d love to hear about your experiences with rejection and how to handle them professionally in the comments.
Spike Marlowe has held a number of odd jobs, including working as a detective, a Bigfoot researcher, a writer for an internet content farm, a busker and as a performer in a wild west show. These days she’s a writer, blogger and bizarro editor for Eraserhead Press, with a focus on the New Bizarro Author Series. Her first book, Placenta of Love, is available at all the usual locations. You can stalk her online at her website or on Twitter at @spikemarlowe.