Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Reflection on Rejection

Some rejections are harder to get than others. Or maybe they’re all equally hard. I should be able to judge this. I’ve gotten all kinds of rejections. I just got one a few hours ago so it’s nice and fresh and pulsing in my mind. So take whatever I write next with a grain of salt. (I don’t even know what that expression really means. But I digress.)


I used to think the worst kind of all was the No-Response Rejection. That’s when you send your manuscript off to a publishing house that tells you up front they’ll only respond if they want it. So, chances are, you get nothing. Maybe the editor lost it. Maybe they hated it so much they set it on fire. Maybe they thought it was a hilarious mess and tacked it up on the wall so people in the office could practice throwing darts at it. Or maybe they thought it was okay but just not right for them, blah blah blah, but simply had no time to tell you. It doesn’t matter. You’ll never know.

The form rejection ranks up there too. I imagine a nice stack of these on the editorial assistant’s desk. She wades through a few pathetic lines of a particular manuscript, pitches the rest in the recycle bin, grabs a form rejection and sticks it in the aspiring author’s self-addressed stamped envelope. Done. Sorry. On to the next manuscript in the slush pile. Yes, getting a form rejection is depressing. Although I have read some very sweet let-the-poor-writer-down-easy versions. At least someone cared to write that once upon a time. It beats the No-Response by a hair. At least you get something. Or maybe not. With the No-response you’ve still got a slim chance…

Next up—the form rejection with a nice personal note tacked on the end. This used to be my favorite kind of rejection letter. It meant there was a real live editor on the other end who liked my manuscript enough to uncap a pen. I used to live for those sweet scrawled: Not right, but try us again notes, and I hate to admit that sometimes I would pull them out of the drawer and look at them again in moments of despair.

Once I got two rejections for the same story. That was kind of sad. Not sure how it happened. I sent a story to a magazine, got their form rejection, then a few months later got another form rejection. I guess they really really didn’t want it. Or somehow it missed the recycle bin and some other suffering assistant had to read it again. Oh well.

Now I get letters from editors explaining why they’re rejecting my manuscripts. This seems like it would be a big step up but somehow it almost makes me yearn for the form letter/no response days. Do I really want to know that there is no market for my manuscript, that reading it was frustrating, that the structure was confusing, or that they liked it but didn’t quite love it?

Gah. I don’t know. All I know is I hate getting rejections. Who doesn’t? I also know that in the end getting one (no matter what kind) is just a silly little wall thrown up in my way. It does nothing to keep me from writing. Oddly enough. And my first order of business is to write the kindly editor a thank you note. For taking her time reading my manuscripts. (she read two. And two others over the years. Which must be some kind of sad record. But I digress again) For taking the time to explain what she liked and (gulp) what she didn’t like about them.

Long sigh.
I feel better already.


  1. I know it doesn't help much if I say that you're getting closer, but--you're getting closer! Hang in there.

  2. Does it help if I point out that every rejection letter is one letter closer to the "THIS IS AN AWESOME MANUSCRIPT. YOU MUST LET US PUBLISH IT NOW!" letter?!?