Being rejected, like anything else in life, is something you have to practice. Fortunately, it’s something other people are often more than willing to help you practice. Don’t believe me? Quick, send your resume to half a dozen multinational conglomerates, along with a cover letter stating that you’d like to be their new CEO. See, now wasn’t that easy?
As a writer who wants to be professionally published (more on how to define “professionally published” some other time), I get a lot of practice at being rejected. This year alone, I have been rejected more than 100 times.
I’ve been rejected so often that I’m starting to get more acceptances. That’s the way rejections work. The more you put yourself out there, the better your chances of being accepted.
Q: Is that all there is to it? Keep putting the same crappy things out there and eventually someone takes pity on you and accepts it?
A: No. I do keep stories out as long as I believe in them, but meanwhile, I’m practicing my craft, shoring up my weaknesses, building on my strengths, and sending out new stories as often as I can.
Q: What’s the longest you’ve waited for a rejection?
A: I have a story that’s been at a market for more than 2 years now. I exchanged e-mails with the editor shortly before the market went on hiatus (and Ralan.com still lists it as on hiatus, not dead), and she was interested in the story. I’ve sent a couple of queries since, but haven’t heard anything back.
Q: Okay, what’s the longest you’ve waited for a rejection and actually received a response?
A: 519 days. The market was overloaded, the editor mentioned in his blog that he was working on the slush, and when the response arrived, it was a very lovely rejection that said he had almost decided for it. He also gave me the kind of feedback that boosted my confidence and helps me think about what else I can do with the story.
Q: And the shortest?
A: 2 hours, 21 minutes.
Q: How do you get a thick enough skin to deal with all that rejection?
A: Not using lotion helps — alligator hide is tough.
Q: So rejection doesn’t hurt you any more?
A: Sure it does. Just today I cried when I found out how I did at one market I’d really had hopes for. And I moaned and complained to friends in chat. Then I looked the story over to make sure I still believed in it, printed it out, and mailed it off to another market. After that, I started writing a new story.
Q: You didn’t even take a full day to wallow?
A: Nope. Though if we’d had enough chocolate in the house to fill the bathtub, I might have considered it.
Q: To eat, to drink, or to soak in?
The bottom line is, rejection isn’t easy to live with. I was angry when I had a story rejected 7 years ago — all those things novice writers feel: “They just don’t recognize greatness when they see it! I’ll show them!” Except I didn’t so much show anyone as set myself to work learning how the system works, how to write, how to submit, how to be professional. Rejection still hurts, but now I know it’s not personal, I’m not being rejected (yes, all the lovely personalized rejections help there), I just need to work more.
And I am working more: 146 submissions for the year and counting.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.