Ask Ali: Dealing with Rejection

Ask Ali is all about answering questions from writers. Here’s one from Krista:

Krista asked…Do you still experience rejection? If so, how do you handle it?

Hi Krista!

Certainly. Every writer, no matter how skilled or experienced receives rejections. It’s part of the business. I read somewhere that most writers receive 9 rejections per 10 submissions. That is what I receive on average. For beginners, it is probably a little more. Most of the time I handle it very well. I know it comes with the job. Every once in a while I curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb. It does get to you sometimes. I now rationally that it’s not personal, but it sure feels like it sometimes. The reason I’m fine most of the time is because I understand the reasons for a rejection. I avoid the ones that are in my control. Most of the time a rejection is sent because it doesn’t fit the publication, or because a similar piece has already been published there (or is scheduled to be published).

To avoid these rejections writers must thoroughly read the publication. Seriously, some writers will write up a query and send it to an editor without even reading the magazine! You have to figure out what they publish, what their writing voice is like, which articles are written in-house by the staff, and which articles are open to freelancers. You also need to know how far ahead of time you need to pitch your idea. Large magazines need 6-8 months or more time. So, if you’re going to send a query for a holiday piece you need to send it to the editor in April, May, June….depending on how busy the magazine is. Many magazines show their editorial calendars online now, so you should check those out to see what they’re getting ready to publish. This may help you avoid the rejection due to a similar piece already scheduled for publication.

To get to know the magazine read some back issues online. You can also go to your local library to read some back issues, or check out your local newsstand. If you subscribe to the magazine (in print or digitally), or buy a few copies, you can deduct that expense on your taxes.

Some rejections are more personal. It could be grammar mistakes, the structure, an uninteresting piece, or an error such as spelling the editor’s name wrong (yikes!). Unfortunately, it could also be because your writing is simply horrendous. I’m not saying yours in particular is, because I know yours is good. I’m just saying. It happens.

Know the magazine. Read it. Proofread your pitch. Make sure you’re sending it to the right editor. Make sure it is something the publication’s readers will enjoy reading. Will they feel inspired, sad, angry, happy? And good god man, make sure you spell the editor’s name right! I like to think of a rejection as progress. At least I’m getting closer to an assignment!

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