We all receive rejections at one time or another. As we start out on our writing adventures, it seems we get a lot of them. Most of these are poor marketing or the need to improve in one area or another – things we’ll learn as we go. I’ve found that out of maybe every 10-20 submissions, at the beginning, you might receive one acceptance. <–Note I said might!
Despite the popular belief that editors are sitting at a desk with a REJECTED stamp, laughing like a maniac as they reject one submission after another, this just isn’t the case. I believe – having now been an editor – that most all editors would rather send you an acceptance than a rejection. Reading submissions is very time consuming and it makes an editor feel like they haven’t wasted time when they can say yes.
Let’s look over rejection, acceptances, critiques, and markets – all areas that writers need to know about…
Rejections: You can cut down on these by doing more marketing research. Think of a manuscript as a puppy that you’re trying to place with the perfect family. If you had a small dog and you knew that the family you were thinking about only liked big dogs, would you even bother? No. You would scratch them off of your list and go to a family that you knew might like the puppy. But, depending on the breed, you would also have to take in different considerations. Does it shed, etc. You wouldn’t give a shedding puppy to a family that had allergies!
So, when a magazine or press rejects you, it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible writer, it just means that your ‘puppy’ wasn’t the one their family needed or wanted and with them not accepting the ‘puppy’ it leaves it free to find a home that will truly love it. So, when one market says no, it leaves you open to find the perfect place for your story/article.
Acceptances: These are few and far between sometimes. With the economy downturn the publishing world is shrinking, so if you can find a place that loves your style of writing, take advantage of it. Don’t forget about them when you do your future writings, but consider them as often as possible. Building credits is extremely important, so the more pieces you get published early on the better you’ll do, and a place that will take you into their pool of writers is a special thing.
When you do receive an acceptance, make sure you respond as soon as you possibly can. Working with and being friends with others involved with small presses, I know that there are issues with people getting the contracts in. Why? I don’t know! You would think once you get an acceptance you’d want to get the contract in! It’s very unprofessional to make any market wait for a contract. You’re showing yourself as undependable and they might not consider you next time unless they’re in a pinch and really need a piece. I mean, why would you accept someone who won’t get back to you when you’re up against a deadline, when you know that this other person might not be as good, but you know they won’t hold you up or cause you stress?! Be professional and get the contract in ASAP!
Also, each market has their own ‘rules’ and their contracts are all different. If you have a question about a contract ask as nicely and calmly as possible, pointing out what you didn’t like or don’t understand – sometimes this can get complicated. If you have a friend that has been published and can give you some advice or will take the time to explain what copyrights are being handled and how, talk to them about it! Understanding what you’re signing is very important. If you do decide that you don’t like the contract, let them know right away, so they can find another piece to fill the spot. Remember, just because you were accepted, doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. But, again, don’t keep a market waiting.
Critiques: The main rule to these is to find someone you trust and then listen to what they have to say. No one wants to hear what’s wrong with their writing, but if you can find a friend that will be honest with you and is knowledgeable, you can grow in leaps and bounds! It’s when you refuse to listen to the reader that you lose sight of what a writer is really trying to accomplish. If your reader doesn’t understand something, then you aren’t being clear enough and no one wants to read something that doesn’t make any sense, meaning no one will read your work and you won’t be successful.
Despite that though, there is a line. You should take only the parts of a critique you agree with – after thinking about it and checking the piece over when you’re calm and unemotional – and forget about the rest. At the end of the day, the work is yours and it needs to reflect you. One of the biggest things that makes a writer who they are and creates their fan base is their voice and flavor, otherwise we would all be the same and no one wants that.
Markets: There are a lot of markets out there, but the professional paying ones are slim to none. It’s okay when you’re first starting out to get published by nonpaying markets; it builds your credits and gives more meat to your cover letters. But it’s a good idea to try for paying markets whenever you can.
One way to nullify the sting of rejections is to make a list of possible markets before you do any submitting whatsoever. Write your piece and then look up and find as many markets as you possibly can, making a list (duotrope.com is good for this if you’re writing fiction or poetry). This list should be in the order of paying/professional markets at the top, leading down into nonpaying markets. The first place you send your work will be the highest paying market that you think your work best fits into, although it might not be the top paying on the list. You’ll want a balance between the best paying and the most likely to accept and then you send it there. If it comes back, you just send it to another market. This way when something comes back you aren’t all bummed because you have somewhere else to try. It’s no longer a big dread of getting a rejection, it becomes a ‘I hope they let me know soon either way, so I know if it’s taken or I can send it somewhere else.’ With this mind set you don’t fear rejections, you just look at them as an opportunity to get published somewhere else. (See the ‘puppy’ analogy in the Rejections section.)
There is also market specific writing, where you do marketing research and find the place you think you can get into and then write something that fits just them – even when you do this, you still need make a list of markets, just in case. There is always the possibility of them getting a large amount of submissions and they just don’t have space for them all, leading to a rejection despite your careful planning. But market specific writing can increase your chances for publication, especially if you don’t want to have a bunch of pieces that you can’t find a home for because they just don’t ‘fit’ anywhere.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful and that you find homes for all your works, but if you should get a rejection, remember, they aren’t really rejecting you, the ‘puppy’ just wasn’t right for them!
©Rebecca Besser, 2011. All rights reserved.