Ahhh, Rejection. Such a negative word. So negative that we devise many ways throughout life to not say it, even more ways to not feel it. “It’s not you, it’s me.” “I’m just at a different part of my life.” “We’ve decided to go in a different direction.” Yes, I thought I heard it all… until I began querying my stories.
As creative types, writers can be very sensitive (myself included) to feedback. The art form is incredibly revealing, pouring our innermost thoughts onto the page. Conversely, sometimes with fictional stories, you start worrying people actually think your thoughts are the same as your character’s, or your narrator’s, thoughts. It’s kind of like standing in front of a crowd while nude. Invariably, someone isn’t going to like what they see. They’ll wonder if you’re eating enough, or too much. They could judge you on your grooming, or even why you haven’t got that mole removed yet!
By and large, you may run into naysayers in your creative process who tell you to not waste your time, or not understand your love of writing, but nobody can really stop you from continuing. That is, until the art meets the business side of creative writing. Unless you self-publish, you’ll eventually find yourself having to present your work to a publisher. This is done by and large with querying, something I’ll dive deeper into in a different post.
In the publishing world, there are many avenues to explore, with journals and publishers of all manner in the digital and print worlds. Yet, there are so many talented people churning out great stories daily. The odds are stacked against you. Publishers can take months to get back to you, and not because they’re lazy but actually because they’re reading hundreds, or thousands, of stories ahead of your own for a single issue of their literary journal. While every publisher is different, the acceptance rate for books and short stories both tend to be somewhere less than 1%. Rejection is going to be inevitable early on. The more you query, the more you’ll be rejected. For the most part, rejection letters come in two styles;
Form Letter – These are by far the most common. Essentially, they are templated responses which are able to sent quickly by publishers. Receiving a form rejection letter doesn’t tend to reveal much, other than they declined to move forward on your story. Some advice – don’t read any more into it than that, and don’t try and find validation through well-written templates! They can be very kind since the letters were written by fellow writers who’ve been there too. To better understand, below is a form rejection I’ve received in the past.
“We’re sorry this isn’t more positive news.
Thanks for sending your work to REMOVED. We appreciate the chance to considered it.
Unfortunately we can’t offer publication. This is not a reflection on the quality of your work. We just aren’t able to publish all the good stories that come our way.
We wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere. “
Personal Letter – Personal rejections certainly reveal more than the templated versions do. This is where publishers provide customized feedback as to why they didn’t move forward on your story. These are seen as more positive as publishers are busy people so taking the time to personalize their message means that something regarding your story connected with them. I won’t put an example up for this one as they all can look wildly different but they may mention how they’ve had a very similar story lately, or that the tone/genre didn’t quite work for their upcoming issue.
All this to say, don’t lose hope! Rejection happens. I promise that you’ll grow from every submission you attempt and, if you choose to persevere, it makes being published that much better. The journey to creative writing began by writing for an audience of one, yourself, and that should never change. Keep making stories that interest you. If others eventually gain access to join in on the fun of reading your work later, then that’s just an added bonus. The minute you start shifting your focus on being “marketable,” especially without an already-establish market base, publishers (who are also readers) will pick up on that lack out authenticity.
Keep turning the page,