Okay, so you’ve sent off the manuscript of the story you’ve worked on for a week or two, slaving over it to ensure that it was the best you have ever written, and then you sit back to wait for the email/letter telling you that they’ve accepted it. You KNOW it was a brilliant story, and that it couldn’t POSSIBLY fail. It’s a winner for sure.

And so, a couple of weeks later, an email arrives in your inbox from the publisher/editor (or, rarely, an actual letter plops onto your doormat) and you excitedly open it to read…. “You have not been successful this time, but please feel free to….. “. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?! ARE THEY MAD? CAN THEY NOT SEE HOW GOOD IT IS!!!!!!!! IDIOTS!

Yes, it’s the dreaded rejection letter, that bane of all writer’s lives but which, nevertheless, is an important component of being an author. We’ve all had them, and even if you become well established, you’ll still get them. This much may be obvious to many of you out there, but the reason I am writing this blog is because of a few things I have heard recently about rejections and their aftermath.

There are some out there who aren’t good at taking rejection. One example is taken from a friend who is a magazine editor – they called for submissions and got quite a few in response. One particular author’s story was rejected in fairly short order, which then prompted said author to mount a sustained internet campaign besmirching the reputations of all those involved in the enterprise. And then there was another editor, one of my Facebook friends, who put out a status about one gentleman who replied straightaway to the rejection she sent, implying that it wasn’t the right answer and that he expected the story to be  published and paid for, simply on the basis that he had already been published, apparently.

Now, the general reaction to the status was that the man was a complete idiot – and yes, he is indeed an idiot. Rejection does hurt, but like I have said elsewhere on this blog, it is NOT a rejection of YOU, just the story. The editor has decided not to include your tale for any number of reasons, the least of which could be that it wasn’t good enough or well-written. It could just be that it didn’t fit in well with the magazine’s/book’s ethos, or that the story you submitted to an anthology would have upset the flow of the rest of the book, or possibly that, although generally following the ideas of the anthology criteria, it differed markedly in treatment and was too different from the rest of the stories. Of course, it may just be that it was badly written, with mangled grammar and atrocious spelling.

But, even if it is grammatically-correct and with perfect spelling, there’s one thing that some new writers forget – that isn’t the only place you could submit it. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of alternative venues to send it to. Pick yourself up and send it right back out there, especially if you think that it’s essentially a sound story. The chances are that someone will like your story enough to want to publish it, or can see the potential in it. It’s about getting yourself noticed, after all.

What you DON’T do, though, no matter how overwhelming the temptation may be, is to fire off an angry missive to the editor/publisher, to point out their perceived lack of intelligence/taste/correct breeding, because it isn’t going to do you, or your reputation, any good. The internet can spread things fairly quickly and easily – just as YOU could spread insulting rumours about the publisher’s familial provenance, THEY know a LOT more people than you do in the industry and can do the same, and do it by using YOUR email to them as a weapon. Imagine the embarrassment if you turn up at a convention, introduce yourself to a favourite author, for instance, and they say, ‘Oh, you’re that stupid arsehole who got all upset about a rejection – get over yourself…’.

The best thing to do? Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and see where you could possibly send the story to next. Or just get on with writing a new story and come back to the other one and look at it with fresh eyes and maybe rewrite it. Or just get drunk, rage to yourself and then forget about the perceived slight. In other words, just get on with the business of writing – you ain’t going to get noticed otherwise, and you would rather it be a positive impression you make than a negative one. Amen.

Here endeth today’s lesson. =)



  1. Good post, Simon. Lynda Rucker and I were talking about how instant gratification (or, the desire for it) can be a writer’s worst enemy. Your advice is good—back to work! That’s where the real rewards are. (Thanks.)

  2. Jodi MacArthur Says:

    Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues and you know that don’t come easy ~ Ringo Star

    I hate rejection slips, and yet I love them, because it means I’m working my arse off. Keep up the good work, Simon!

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