Excerpted from The Happy Writer. How to deal with rejection letters in the creative writing and publishing business.
Resilience: Use the steps outlined in our previous post on The R’s of Rejection to help you develop the ability to recover and adjust easily to the rejection that is a necessary part of your writing life.
With this in mind, developing a thick skin to the submission process and rejections can be difficult. No one knows that better than we do. Writer’s Relief has been helping writers rethink rejection (and get more acceptances) since 1994!
Here are some statistics and information about the number of submissions, acceptances, and publications at literary journals and magazines:
Cream City receives 300/month, accepts only 6 for each issue
Florida Review: 200/month, accepts 4-6 for each issue
Gettysburg Review: 350/month, accepts 4-6 for each issue
Georgia Review: 300/month, accepts 3-4 for each issue
Hayden’s Ferry Review: 250/month, accepts 5 for each issue
Indiana Review: 5,000/year, accepts 50 for each issue
Iowa Review: 600/month, accepts 4-6 for each issue
Midwest Quarterly: 350/month, accepts 5 for each issue
Missouri Review: 400/month, accepts 5-6 for each issue
North Dakota Quarterly: 120/month, accepts 4 for each issue
Paris Review: 1,000/month, accepts 5 for each issue
Prairie Schooner: 500/month, accepts 4-5 for each issue
Some True Stories About Famous Writers Who Were Rejected
–C.S. Lewis and Ray Bradbury submitted more than 800 manuscripts before they made a sale.
–Nabokov was told by one editor that Lolita should be “buried under a large stone.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald was told, “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.”
–Dr. Seuss’s first children’s book was rejected by 23 publishers. The 24th sold 6 million copies.
–In 1902, the poetry editor of Atlantic Monthly rejected poems by a 28-year-old who took a road less traveled (Robert Frost) and persevered.
Encouragement For Writers
You must be thinking, “Yeah, but I’m not C.S. Lewis or Robert Frost.” Ah, but you have the potential to be.
We know the odds seem staggering. Keep in mind that Writer’s Relief approaches submissions from a marketing perspective.
Say you’ve sent your latest group of poems, a book query, or a prose piece to 30 markets, and you’ve only received rejections or light editorial comments. We know you’re frustrated by this, but keep in mind that the acceptance rate is one out of 100. This means that the piece you are submitting needs to be seen by at least 100 different markets. Read more about your chances of getting a book published.
Considering the response time from editors can range from three to twelve months, you just might be submitting for a year (or sometimes more) before you see an acceptance. We believe (and this is supported by how long we’ve been in the business) that each rejection leads you closer to that magic number—and acceptance!
How To Interpret Rejection Letters and Editors’ Or Agents’ Comments
The most common mistake writers make is interpreting criticism sent by editors as “never send to us again.” Nothing could be further from truth.
If an editor takes his or her time to send you a personal comment, get another submission in the mail to this journal TODAY! Don’t give up!
Very often, you need to make three or more submissions to the same editor before your work is accepted. Above all, you need to make extensive and comprehensive submissions. However, if you’re not sure you can handle it alone or know where to start, consider hiring a partner to help you in your submission process. Writer’s Relief may help you take the sting out of each rejection because you’ll be less personally attached to each submission targeted on your behalf.
Thanks for the specific data regarding how many submissions are accepted by different literary presses. It really helps to see things put in concrete statistics. I am a numbers person, so this is much more useful than "just keep working; it takes a lot of time and perseverence." It is something I can keep in mind when I feel like Poe’s raven and am internally saying "Nevermore."