The Art of Rejection

A guide to the many factors to consider when receiving a rejection response from magazines, agents and publishers.

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Follows: Submitting

Not everyone is born with a knack for taking rejection on the chin. Luckily, it is a learnable skill—which is great for budding writers who may fear the big R.

Rejection comes with the territory of writing, whether it is a submission to an anthology, for a competition, or in regard to a manuscript. It might be you’re a journalist about to submit an article for publishing, or you may be applying for a job. Rejection happens to everyone, on different levels, for different reasons, and success comes from this—or better yet, it comes from how one handles rejection.

As silly as it sounds, a rejection is proof of something great. You’ve put yourself out there in a way that a lot of people shy away from, and it is important to remember that. Of course you’d rather your work be accepted, but this is the nature of the beast, and it’s demonstrated that you’re ready to do the dirty work.

Given the nature of the publication industry, unfortunately, rejection cannot always be explained. It should be stressed here, however, that they, whoever they are, are not rejecting you. They are rejecting your work (which can feel like the same as rejecting you) and this is simply them saying ‘this work is not right for us.’ This could be for a variety of reasons, but there are other places to apply to, and that is worth remembering.

Each place has guidelines for its submission process, and it isn’t worth trying to haggle your way through, or to try to prove you are an exception to this rule. Publishers have seen this all before, and all it suggests is that you will be difficult to work with. Follow the rules to a T. This also means, and should go without saying, don’t argue with a rejection. What would that achieve? It wouldn’t achieve a publication, that’s for sure.

Take it and move on

It should be worth noting that publishers talk to one another. Arguing with the rejection or publicly shaming a publisher for not accepting your work is a fast way to getting, for lack of a better word, ostracised. No one wants to work with someone who demonstrates a level of unprofessionalism—and that’s what it is. Don’t waste your energy on a rejection by badmouthing or, basically, acting the diva. Your energy is better spent on bettering yourself, absorbing criticism and applying it where needed, and looking to the future.

So you’ve been rejected. What now? One can reflect on their work and see whether it needs tweaking. If you’ve been given some feedback on your work, either by a beta reader or a publisher, try to take it on board and see whether it suits where you wanted to go with your work. Maybe it isn’t ready for publication yet, or maybe it just isn’t right for that particular publisher. Check for grammar, punctuations, and spelling, and, if necessary, send it out to some trusted, impartial beta-readers for some thorough feedback. If you’ve been given specifics on why you were rejected, use this to as a baseline for your feedback questions. Then try again.

There are thousands of fish in the industry

That piece of work may not be right, but the next one may well be, and so on. If necessary, take a step away, but don’t let one rejection defeat you—or even a hundred. This is an exercise that can be used to help boost your skillset; it isn’t a measurement of your self-worth. It isn’t even a measurement of your worth as a writer. Everyone faces rejection, and that includes veterans. What veteran writers all have in common is rejection and the tenacity that follows it.


Remember: it’s not personal; don’t make it personal, and never give up.


Next: Acceptance

Sometimes she writes. Sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, she’s not doing what she’s supposed to be doing.

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