When most writers think of rejection letters, their thoughts run from “Nooooo!” to “I’ll never write another word!” to “Well, maybe I’ll try again.” Rarely does a writer get rejected and think, “Yippee!” But that’s exactly what you should be thinking as you read that thanks but no thanks e-mail. At Writer’s Relief, our submission strategists know you need to read between the lines to see the positives when your work is rejected. In fact, here’s why you should make a point of getting rejected this month—and why you should be happy when you are!
Writer: Get Rejected By Editors And Agents
Having your work rejected by a literary editor or agent is rarely personal. Though it can be easy to get discouraged, try to see rejection as a badge of honor—it means you’re making an effort and putting your work out there! With each rejection you receive, remind yourself what it’s really telling you. First, that you worked hard to create poetry, a short story, or a book that was good enough to submit for publication. Second, you took that brave next step and submitted your work to literary editors or agents. Yay, you! Give yourself a big pat on the back, because each rejection brings you one step closer to the submission that’s going to get a YES.
And if you need a morale boost, remember that many successful authors have been rejected, so you’re in good company!
Meanwhile, know that every rejection teaches you something. There are different reasons why a short story, poem, or book might be rejected, and different types of rejection letters. Our submission strategy experts recommend you submit a piece 100 times before giving up—that could mean 99 rejections before you get an acceptance! Here are a few reasons why your submission might be rejected.
5 Reasons A Literary Agent Or Journal Might Reject A Submission
- Submitting to the wrong markets. Researching editors’ and agents’ preferences is a time-consuming, daunting task. There are thousands and thousands of markets to sift through to find those that are the right fit and, just as important, those that are not right. Maybe you submitted your rhyming poem to a journal that focuses on free verse. Perhaps your short story was simply too experimental for a more traditional magazine. Or maybe you queried an agent who loves historical fiction, but your book was set in the BC era while the agent prefers Victorian-era works. This doesn’t reflect on your writing—it simply means your submissions were sent to the wrong markets.
- A poorly written query or cover letter. Unfortunately, if your query letter or cover letter doesn’t cover the requirements or misrepresents your work, an agent or editor may not even get to the point of looking at your submission. This might be a technical error—you might miscategorize your writing as a genre they don’t work with, or mention a word count outside their requirements. It could be a personal faux pas, like addressing the agent or editor by the wrong name or gender, or an etiquette breach such as complaining about the publishing industry in your letter. If your letter rubs them the wrong way, even if they do read your submission, they may not want to work with you.
- Typos and grammar errors. Everyone makes mistakes, and agents and editors know that! But if your work is riddled with spelling errors and your constant misuse of grammar makes them grimace, they’re likely to see these issues as grounds for rejection. It can be very difficult to catch errors in your own work, so ask a friend or another writer to proofread for you. If you don’t know anyone with top-notch grammar skills, a professional proofreading service may be the way to go!
- Not following submission guidelines. Even the best submissions are rejected because they fail to follow an agent’s or journal’s guidelines. Maybe you sent pages of your book to a literary agent whose submission guidelines clearly state to only send a query letter. Or maybe your short story was incredible, but you submitted it outside the journal’s reading dates, so it was automatically rejected. These may seem like simple, easily overlooked mistakes, but agents and editors are very busy people. And one way they cut down on the number of submissions they have to read is by immediately eliminating any that don’t follow the guidelines.
- Your work was too similar to a piece already accepted. Sometimes your writing is right up a literary agent’s or editor’s alley—so much so that they recently accepted something very similar to yours. If an agent just signed a book that has the same premise as yours, even if your book is amazing, it’s going to be rejected. Or perhaps your poem is exactly what a journal editor is looking for, but a poem in the same form on the same topic is already slated for the next issue.
Again, it’s not a reflection on your writing; it’s simply poor timing. This is why you should never assume your writing is bad and just give up making submissions. Very good writing can still be rejected. You simply need to move on and find the right home for your work.
At Writer’s Relief, we’ve spent over twenty-six years pinpointing the best markets for our clients to boost their odds of getting published—and we can help you find the right markets too! We’ll format and proofread your work, write an effective query or cover letter, and research the best markets. And right now, our Review Board is reading for new clients! If you’re ready to start smiling when you get a rejection letter…and to happy dance when you get an acceptance…submit your short story, personal essay, poetry, or book to our Review Board today!
Question: Which part of the submission process do you struggle with?
This is so true. I used to be one of your full-service clients and I learned this from you. Rejections are good — every no is a yes — because they mean you’re writing and getting your work out there. If you continue to do this, you will get acceptances. If you don’t write, revise and send work out, you won’t.