That one word is the quickest way I know to ruin a writer’s day. Just say the words “rejection letter” and you can completely derail some writers. Like Kryptonite to Superman, the idea of being rejected brings some writers to their knees. “Why, oh why…” they wail as if the publishing industry had a vendetta against them. The idea of rejection even causes some people to experience actual physical discomfort.
Note to those people: Switch to decaf and stop writing. I’m serious. You’re gonna hurt yourself if you don’t.
Some people even take rejection personally. What is no more than a business decision becomes, with the word, No,” an indictment of the writer on a deep and personal level. The fact that their work does not meet our editorial needs at this time, is perceived by the writer as an indictment on them as a person.
It’s enough to make you tired.
To be fair, nobody wants to hear, “Thanks, but no thanks” after they’ve submitted something. But it happens. And life goes on. It shouldn’t be more than a hiccup in our day. Something to make us look for somewhere else to send the manuscript, then get back to the project at hand.
Rejection is simply part of doing business in the publishing industry. And it happens to everybody who sits behind a keyboard and thinks, “I have a great idea…” and starts grinding away. Think about this: Over 29 publishers rejected Michael Hyatt’s¹ first book proposal, but once the book was published, it went on to become a New York Times bestseller.
There are may reasons a piece is rejected. Sometimes an editor may have just bought something similar to what you submitted. Sometimes their editorial needs changed and what would have sold a month earlier is now no longer in the realm of what they publish. Sometimes the work isn’t quite up to the level the publisher is looking for. Sometimes writers don’t follow the guidelines.
Sometimes the work just isn’t very good.
And sometimes it stinks. Plain and simple.
And writers don’t help the situation by proposing novels. That’s what so many beginning writers want to do; write a novel. And in the early stages the work is often derivative, not terribly original, or just not very good. Whereas they may have a better shot at breaking in with a non-fiction book (or shorter work like articles, essays, Bible studies, etc.) , the lure of seeing their work on the shelf or reaching number one in some vague category at Amazon draws them like lemmings to the sea.
Even so, it’s just business. And unless the rejection letter begins with, “Dear Bubble Headed Moron,” there’s every chance in the world that it’s not personal.
In the old days I had a label on my monitor. It said, It’s not a rejection letter. It’s a reminder to buy more postage.
The same thing applies today.
¹Michael Hyatt is the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson