If you want to be a writer there’s one thing you had best get used to – rejection.
No, the magazine isn’t taking any more articles about the polyphonic motets of Lassus¹. No, thank you for submitting your work, but the agent is not taking on any new writers at this time. No, your novel/short story/novella isn’t right for us at Suicide Publishing. Occasionally you might get a bit of comment, with which you may not agree, but at least someone has taken the trouble to give you their views on your work.
“Rejections slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” – Isaac Asimov
Many successful writers have written eloquently about rejection and it is,
generally, assumed to simply be part of a writer’s life. It is said that even mid-list authors get rejections up to 70% of the time, especially when these days the link between author and publisher is not what it was and often lasts for one book only. There are some very famous rejection letters, see Knopf’s rejection letter of Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar‘ below.
‘I’m not sure what Heinemann’s sees in this first novel unless it is a kind of youthful American female brashness. But there certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice. Reject recommended.‘
There are now web-sites devoted to celebrating literary rejection, take a look at Literary Rejections on Display which encourages writers to submit their rejections for publication on the blog. Tagline ‘Join the Revolution, Join the Pity Party’.
“I have discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’“ – Saul Bellow
Which is what I am telling myself right now because ‘Reconquista‘ has failed to make the short list for Mslexia Children’s Novel 2016, ( though I wouldn’t say that to the very nice people at Mslexia, the magazine which organised the prize ). It got into the top one hundred, which is something to be proud of and I wasn’t holding out too much hope that it would go further. Except, of course, that one
The only thing to do is carry on regardless, remembering that it isn’t personal, even if it feels like it. One of the sagest pieces of advice is, I think, to meet rejection with renewed enthusiasm for submission. Submit a short story to a series of magazines, maybe or a non-fiction article to a specialist publication.
There are lots of tools around now to help the would-be author submit
work. There are paid for sites like Duotrope and Submittable which provide listings of magazines and periodicals which seek submissions ( almost 6,000 of them on Duotrope alone ). Or the free, rather more basic
sites such as Freedom with Writing, which list publications which pay for writing ( see its recent list here ).
Whether or not I submit something somewhere else, I will take heart from the novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s comments –
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right
Either that or join the pity party.
¹They took the article written by Sherlock Holmes however, in ‘The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans’.
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