You worked hours, weeks, months, years on your writing project until every word was exactly where you wanted it to be. You researched literary magazines, writing competitions, and/or agents until you found the perfect fit. You waited patiently for your work to move up the food chain and begin processing. Then one day it finally happened: you got a response!
“After careful consideration…”
Rejection. It’s a gut wrenching, visceral experience. But rather than wallow in feelings of hurt and misery, successful writers use the experience to better their craft. The first step in this process is to recognize a few basic principles:
Every Writer Gets Rejected
Let me say that one more time for the people in the back: every single writer who has ever lived and breathed on planet Earth has been rejected. Every. Single. One. Being rejected does not necessarily mean you’re a terrible writer. It means you’re writing.
Not All Rejections Are Created Equal
Some form letters are curt and to the point. They’re basically “thanks, but no thanks” letters. But others end with an invitation to see more of your work. This is a good sign. It means the work you initially submitted may not have been the proper fit for the current market or magazine, but the editors see potential in your writing.
Rejections Happen For Many Reasons
Sometimes rejections are the result of elements an author controls: poor writing and/or a failure to properly research the agent, publisher, or literary magazine and follow guidelines. But there are also factors well outside of author control. Maybe the magazine you submitted to received 10,000 submissions of outstanding quality and your piece was 10,001. Or maybe the literary agent loved your writing but doesn’t personally have the tools necessary to place your book in the correct market.
Take This As An Opportunity to Hone Your Skills
If an editor gave you detailed notes, put them to good use. If you didn’t get notes, look over your work and see if there is anything you could improve. Write more works. Write better works. That is how the game is won.
Remember, This Isn’t About You (Unless It Is)
It’s important to note that the rejection is aimed toward a particular piece of writing you created. You, as a person, are not being rejected.
However, if you are rude and unprofessional toward the editors/agents, they have every right to reject you, as a person, too. Their work lives are busy and hectic enough without unpleasant people adding to the workload. There’s a simple solution to this dilemma: be polite and courteous to editors and agents. This includes keeping correspondence concise and to the point (which reveals you respect their time) and not responding to rejection notices. Let me repeat that. Do not respond when your work is declined, not even to say “thank you.” The last thing you want to do is add another email or letter to an editor’s insurmountable to-do pile. The best response to rejection is to improve your work and submit again, either to the same editor (many have mandatory wait periods in between submissions so read their guidelines thoroughly) or to a new editor.
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