Let’s face it: No one enjoys getting rejected. Writers certainly can attest to this. But the key to handling those unwanted rejection letters–via email or snail mail–is all in our attitude. We can either view them as another nail in our writing coffin, in which case we may get discouraged enough to stop writing altogether, or we can try to ” find the silver lining,” “turn those lemons into lemonade, or “see the glass as half full, not half empty”–whichever cliche you prefer.
I’m not saying that receiving rejection letters will ever become fun or something you start looking forward to, but if you view them from the correct perspective, they won’t ruin your whole week–or year! So, how do you have an upbeat attitude about rejection letters? For me, it comes down to trying to view them as a learning experience.
In most cases, especially if you have sent your article or manuscript off to a large publisher, you will receive a form rejection letter without any personalization or indication of where your work fell short. There’s not a lot that can be gleaned from these letters because you have no idea why your submission wasn’t accepted. But, there are those cases where the editor will take the time to give you some feedback. Take her words to heart–if she’s taking the time to talk about your work, she’ll be telling you the truth and not just making stuff up. And don’t try to read anything into her words. Take them at face value and learn from what she’s shared with you.
If you do hear back from an editor who has a couple negative comments about your submission but offers even a glimmer of hope that you can re-submit, jump on that opportunity. Make the changes she’s requested and quickly get your new submission back to her. In the subject line of the email or on the envelope of your submission, write “Re-submission of manuscript.” That will prompt the editorial team that your work has already been looked at once, which usually helps keep it out of the slush pile for the second time.
Also, view rejection letters as one more rung on the ladder you’re trying to climb. The more you submit manuscripts, the more rejection letters you’re going to get. If you never want to receive a rejection letter, just don’t ever send in your work! A writer friend of mine tells a story of her early days of writing, where she won a contest at a writers conference because she had received more rejection letters that year than anyone else there.
At first glance, you may think she’s just a terrible writer. But the truth is, she also probably sent out more submissions than anyone else there. Today, nearly twenty years later, she has published over 100 (yes, that’s two zeroes!) children’s books! And—she still gets rejection letters!
It’s just like the lottery. You’ll never win if you never buy a ticket. You’ll never get rejection letters if you don’t send in your work, but you’ll also never have a chance of getting published. Look at it as a numbers game, and you’ll realize that the more you play, the better your chances of winning become.
Once you receive a rejection letter, check to see if a specific editor and direct contact information was given. This, in itself, is worth getting the letter for. If you originally sent your submission to a generic editing department at a generic address, now you have a direct “in” to the editor responsible for reviewing your future submissions.
Some people save their rejection letters for various reasons. You may or may not want to do this, but even if you don’t save them, at least make note of them. Record who rejected you, why (if you know), the date, and any contact info you have for that editor. Hopefully, you’ll want to send something else to this publisher down the road and now you may have more specific contact info on file, and you can see how long it’s been since you last sent something.
This brings me to my final point, which is, never give up on a publisher. Unless an editor says to you “don’t ever contact us again” or something to that effect, try again! Be sure you have followed all submission rules and writers’ guidelines to a tee and that your style and subject matter matches their house. Sometimes sheer persistence may win out, and your efforts will be rewarded.
Remember, rejection letters are certainly not the end of the world. Learn what you can from them, and know that it’s just part of the process of being a writer. Even the best have been rejected many, many times. And if they quit after just a handful of rejections, no one would’ve ever heard of them!