Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rejections: The Skinny on How to Handle the Inevitable

If you're seeking publication, at some point you will have to deal with rejections. And no matter how much you do to prepare for a rejection, some of them will hurt. Maybe because it was a publication you really wanted to be part of. Or maybe you thought a particular was a perfect match for an anthology. Or maybe because you feel like you're running out of good markets to try. Or you just had a bad day.

Any number of things can make a rejection hit a nerve, but there are steps you can take to dull the sting.

  1. Have a Plan – before I send a story to a first market I like to have the second (and usually the third, fourth and fifth) market lined up. This keeps me focused on the business at hand – selling a story, instead of bogging down in doubt over whether a story is any good or overanalyzing if it's a good fit for a particular publication.
  2. Don't Take It Personally – I know it's difficult, but there is nothing to be gained by getting bent over a rejection. There are plenty of novice writers who like to think editors are evil dream-crushers, but that's just silly. Badmouthing an editor who sent a form rejection (or even a personal one) only makes you look like an asshat. And even if you keep your ill-will to yourself, fuming over a rejection is just a waste of time. Time that would be better spent resubbing the rejected story and working on new ones.
  3. Keep it in Perspective – this is hard until you make your first sale or have your first acceptance, but I find it's easier to keep going if I keep the rejections in perspective. While it's true that the number of rejections you receive is NOT predictive, I like to count how many rejections I have in relation to acceptances. Although the ratio is nothing more than one number compared to another, it helps keep everything in perspective.
  4. Take a Break – no matter how much I try to stay focused on the idea that writing is work and rejections are a part of that work, I still get bummed out sometimes. That's okay. Usually when I start feeling overwhelmed by the rejections popping up in my email-box, I take a break for a day. I read a good book or chill out listening to a favorite album or cook a special dinner. Even when you don't take rejections personally, they get discouraging. It's important to remember to do things that keep you in a positive frame of mind.

No matter how long you've been writing and seeking publication, rejections still suck. But after a while they start to be just another part of the job.

So, what have you submitted today?

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