Monday, December 7, 2009

The Rejection Letter

The rejection letter is something that everyone faces every now and again. In fact, some believe it is not possible to be a true writer until you have been tempered by the flames of the rejection letter. Whether or not this is true, there are a lot of things to learn about this letter, from how to cope with the fact you have been rejected to what you can gain from the rejection.

I have received far more rejection slips than acceptances, this much is for certain. However, I am one of those who enjoys receiving rejection slips. I am very curious to see what is contained within, and try to discover what I have learned from them. In fact, I have written stories and submitted them to important markets just to receive a rejection.

But, why would I do this? First, once you get one or two under the belt, they do get a little easier to accept having received. Using this logic, I would rather have my first faltering steps be done in a controlled fashion. While I expect my fantasy series to receive a rejection, it would not be so great a thing if it was the first rejection I ever received.

Know yourself. Would receiving a rejection on your prized story or novel send you for an emotional roller coaster that results in your cart leaving the rails? If so, grow some thick skin by experiencing rejection in short stories you do not care so much about. It will still hurt, but you will learn from it and grow from it, if you so choose.

I can not teach you what the standard rejection looks like. There is no standard. It is by slush reader or by editor and by publishing house, e-zine or magazine.

So, this guides us to the fun part of this post! The collection of sites dedicated or making mention of the rejection letter. I will have plenty of comments and opinions, both on editors and on writers, but this will wait until after you have had a chance to read the rejections.

Rejection Sites:

Rotten Rejections - A Reference to a Book

Literary Rejections on Display
Rejecting Rejection
Famous Author's Rejections Surface
Making Light: Slushkiller
Dallas Woodburn's Writing Life: Rejection Letters
Susie Smith's Children's Stories Famous Rejections
Rejection Letters before they were Famous
Collection of The New Yorker rejections
Ursula K. LeGuin: A Rejection Letter

Resources on Rejections:

Why you get Form Rejections
How to deal with Rejection Letters
Wikipedia's Rejection Letter Entry

There are obviously many, many more sites than I have listed here. This list will grow over time, but here is a good start.

The most important thing to remember is that the individuals who are reading your story do not have enough time to be personally offended by your writing. When you receive a form rejection, you story simply does not fit what they are looking for. This may be caused by poor writing quality or a story that simply does not suit them. The unfortunate part of the form rejection is that it is impossible to know exactly why your piece of writing failed.

This is where the handwritten or personalized rejection can be a double edged sword. Frankly, it is easiest to accept a form rejection. There is nothing personal in the rejection. Your story was not what they wanted, and that it that. When they personalize it, it is much easier to get personally offended by what the editor has to say.

Especially if it is because your editor felt the story was so poorly written they couldn't leave it alone and had to mention it. Unfortunately, without seeing what you submitted, it is impossible to say whether or not an editor is justified in saying this. However, there are ways to find out if the editor was just having a bad day or if there is really something needing changed with your submission.

First, if the same piece gets several really bad, personalized rejections from different editors, then you should seriously start looking at the reasons why. There will be editors who are having a bad day and take it out on you. Accept that now, your pride might be a little more intact at the end of the day. However, like I said before, most are too busy to spend the time to do so.

Live and learn. If your writing skills need improvement, start your next book and continue improving. Keep submitting, keep writing, and keep learning until defeat turns into victory.

On the flip side of the coin, there will be stories that editors notice, they like, and just simply cannot buy for one reason or another. This will spark into the 'good' rejection. It is personalized, but it is complimenting you! Some smaller publishing houses will always send some form of personalized reply. However, most are just too busy to do so, especially the larger houses. I suggest you mount those rejection letters. They are few and far between, and are worth their weight in gold, so far as I am concerned.

But, if your story is good enough to get a 'good' rejection, why were you rejected in the first place?

Publication is a business. I suggest you drill this into your head now. A publishing company has no interest in catering to your 'fantastic new concept that has never been done before, sure it is weird, but it is different and interesting'. They are interested in what sells. You need a story that toes their comfort lines while providing something new to the market. This is a lot easier said than done. You need a story that grips them, fits into their business, and can be sold. High writing quality and a good story have a good chance of getting published. A talented writer who knows their market *and* has writing quality *and* a good story *will* find a home for their stories or books.

Surviving the rejection letter is more easy than it sounds. Accept it, learn from it, and move on.

For now, enjoy the rejections and feel free to link any rejection sites you find amusing or useful, and I will add them to this post.

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