How to Accept Publisher Rejections
Publisher rejection slips are a thorn in the side of all writers, both experienced and inexperienced. They can seem to suggest to us that we just don’t measure up and that our work is not worthy. However, publisher rejection comes with the territory. All writers must be able to cope with the dreaded rejection slip and still be motivated to keep writing.
Step 1: Don’t take publisher rejections personally.
Writers by their very nature are sensitive people. It’s that sensitivity that makes you adept at your craft. However, that very same sensitivity that makes you a skilled writer also leaves you more fragile against rejection’s glancing blows. As a writer, you must learn to distinguish yourself from your work. If you are going to survive as a writer, you must remember that a publisher rejection is a rejection of your work, not a personal rejection of you.
Step 2: Don’t despair.
As a writer, you must get used to publisher rejection slips because you will get many of them over your writing career. You must not despair. Rejection will always be painful because, as a writer, you are passionate about what you write. However, there are things that you can do to lessen the pain somewhat whenever you get that dreaded rejection slip. Do something nice for yourself each time you get one. Treat yourself to a night out, a nice dinner or the theatre. Celebrate rather than despair. Celebrate that you are a writer willing to put yourself and your feelings out there in the first place. Save your rejection slips in a file. Then when you do get published, you will have a paper trail as proof of all the hard work and perseverance that went into making you a published author. Finally, you should immediately send your manuscript to the next publisher on your list, and then start a fresh, new writing project.
Step 3: Realize you are not alone.
I imagine everyone loves the Peanuts comic strip. I just love Snoopy. I read one of the Peanuts comic strips some time ago in which Snoopy (famed for his writing endeavors which always begin with “It was a dark and stormy night…”) had received a rejection letter from a publisher that read, “Please, please, please stop sending me your stupid stories.” Snoopy, after reading the harsh rejection, contemplated a moment and then said, “I just love to hear them beg.” Wouldn’t it be nice if all writers could take rejection letters so stoically? You can be more nonchalant about rejections if you remember that you are not alone. Not only is Snoopy consistently rejected by publishers, but real people, famous and successful writers, have received their fair share of rejections and harsh reviews. Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was referred to by critics as “a stiff, overwrought story”. Jane Austen was reviewed as “a husband –hunting butterfly”. A critic called Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities “a dead pull from start to finish”. If you have received your fair share of rejections and criticisms, know that you are in very celebrated company. You share such plight with the likes of Emily Bronte, Emily Dickenson, Saul Bellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gore Vidal, and even Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., just to name a few from an abundance of noted writers who have felt the very same sting of rejection.
Step 4: Learn from the rejection letters.
Sometimes lack of quality is the reason for a publisher rejection, but sometimes a rejection has nothing to do with the quality of your work. Unfortunately, the standard form letter generally states something like, Does not meet our editorial needs at this time. Such a letter doesn’t do much to help you understand the reason for the rejection. Some possible reasons could include the fact that the publisher had a similar piece either on file, assigned, or published within the last two or three years. The sheer volume of submissions received by publishers on a daily basis is frequently a reason for rejection. They can only publish so many, and yours may have just missed the cut in the stack of maybes. If you are fortunate enough to get a personal note from a publisher in the rejection letter, take to heart what the publisher gives as the reason for the rejection and learn from it. A personal note generally means that the editor thought enough of your work to respond with comments other than just a quick No response. Even more encouraging is a publisher who invites you to Please try again. You should consider such rejections positive rejections and take heart.
Step 5: Don’t give up.
Whatever you do, don’t let rejections prompt you to throw in the proverbial towel. Don’t ever give up. Move on. Submit your manuscript to additional publishers. Keep writing and keep submitting. Above all, don’t allow rejections to cause you to doubt yourself or your abilities. The words of noted author and poet, Sylvia Plath, best summarized such advice in saying, “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
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