I have had some conversations with various WordServe authors about rejections over the past few weeks. They are so hard to receive, especially for agents who are rooting for you and your writing. We want publishers to accept your work just as much as you do!
I have shared my own rejections online before, and it is still humbling. Who likes to share with other writers the “no’s” that they have received? However, I have found that writers are often grateful to hear the personal responses. It helps to frame the context of rejections–no, they aren’t fun for anyone involved; however, they don’t come from mean agents or editors (well, maybe some of them are mean, but, as a rule, most of them don’t kick puppies during their free time).
When I was writing and receiving rejections, I usually had anywhere from three to five in my inbox per week. I was writing short stories, so the turn around was a lot quicker. Initially, they were difficult to read, but eventually, I became a bit desensitized to the process. I still cared about what the editors had to say, of course, but the rejections became a part of the job and not so much something to take personally.
Many of the rejections I received were humorous:
Thanks for sending your story along. The fiction department was torn on it. One of our editors is a big fan of mustard in fiction, but personally, I can’t stand dark chocolate and mint Milky Ways. It was a close call, but we’re going to pass on this one. Thanks for your patience, and please think of us again in the future.
Often, I was encouraged to send more writing:
I’ve read your story a half-dozen times now, and while there’s a lot to like here, it didn’t end up fitting with the issue I’m putting together. That said, I enjoy your sense of humor and your writing, and I hope you’ll send me something else to read soon.
And a lot of my writing received more than one glance:
Although I will not be accepting this submission, it received repeated attention well beyond a first reading. I encourage you to submit again.
Finally, often my writing received even a first glance because of the writing communities in which I was involved. Although I was rejected, because of my submissions, blog posts, and comments on writing networking sites, my name became known enough for people to read my work, whether or not they accepted it.
I’ve read and enjoyed your pieces in other journals so did give your story a quick read anyway.
And, honestly, in the publishing world—whether literary or otherwise—getting someone to look at your writing can be considered, to utilize a lunar reference, one giant leap for mankind!
But, it is still important to know your market. Do your homework before submitting. Read books that the agent or editor has previously represented. Be able to clearly communicate how your story or book would fit into their publishing world.
Also, familiarize yourself with submission requirements. In a query, I want to see a strong query letter as well as the first ten pages of the manuscript in the email. I do not open attachments that are sent over in queries. If I ask for a partial, that means I want to see 50 pages of the manuscript. A full means I want to receive the whole manuscript. Both the partial and the full can be sent via email attachment.
Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the market in which you are interested, writing awesome stories, and researching, researching, researching, will allow you to feel confident with the material that you submit. When you do send your work out and receive your first rejection (because you will), now you can realize that they aren’t quite as scary as you initially perceived, and you can keep submitting your work.
But, again, please do your homework. You will keep getting rejections if you are only antagonistic toward the responses that you receive.
Anyone care to share some not-so-scary rejection letter stories?