by Lu Ann Staheli
Spiders, snakes, public speaking, and being laughed at—all of these items were listed when I asked a group of students what they most feared. But when I asked the same question to a group of writers, the number one answer was REJECTION. Having an editor turn down your writing has been compared to being told your baby is ugly, and no loving parent wants to hear that news.
Once you have decided to submit your writing, you stand the possibility of being rejected. To minimize rejection, try the following:
1. Choose carefully where you plan to submit. Read the writer’s guidelines that can be found online or in Writer’s Market, or send for copies directly from the publisher.
2. Decide the right audience for your writing. Is this piece for a local or national market? Does the format fit with the previous work the publisher has done?
3. Read copies of the magazine where you plan to submit, or read recent books published by the same house to get a feel for what they publish.
4. Polish your manuscript. If you need to learn more about the writing process, then do so. Use the comments from your writer’s group or peer editor to help you know how to revise and finish the piece.
But what if you do your homework, study the publisher, polish your writing, and you still receive a rejection letter? Does that mean you should give up, accepting your fate of never becoming a published author? Absolutely not.
Although there are many reasons why an editor may reject your writing, their rejection may not mean that the writing is substandard in any way. Sometimes editors reject a manuscript because they have run something similar in a recent issue. Other times their sales staff doesn’t feel the company will make a large enough profit on your work. Maybe they just had a bad day, or their slush pile had grown too large, or they weren’t in the mood to read about dragons. The reasons may seem unfair, and perhaps they are, but being judged in this way is part of life. Just remember, it is not YOU as a person who is being judged; it is the value of your writing to this particular editor at this particular time.
If you get a rejection, take a moment to breathe--keeping your self-esteem intact--then take another fresh look at the writing. If something needs to be reworked, then by all means do it. But if you feel the writing is your best, send that manuscript out again right away to a new publisher. Remember that you’ll never be a successful author if all of your writing is sitting in a computer file or in an envelope at the bottom of the file cabinet drawer.