When an Editor Says No: How to Respond to a Rejection Letter

I still remember the first rejection letter I received as a writer. I had submitted a query to Reader’s Digest (yes, I was reaching for the stars!) about a short story that received an Honourable Mention in an ICWF writing contest and already been published in The Old Albertan.  Reader’s Digest, however, sent me a polite rejection letter with a page of information on submitting to their magazine.

Rejection Letters (or what to do when an editor says no)

I threw that rejection letter in the recycle bin. Then I stormed around the house, cleaning out my desk and doing some other random things. After about ten minutes of that, I realized why I was reacting the way I was, and I sat down for a few minutes to think. Okay, the magazine didn’t want my story. It wasn’t the end of the world. I fished their letter out of the recycle bin and put it in my writing binder. Then I told myself to develop a tough skin and submit it again.

Keep Trying after a Rejection Letter

And I’ve been doing that for roughly the last ten years. Sure, it’s still disappointing to receive a “no” from an editor when I hoped for a “yes.” And yes, every “yes” is a huge excitement, especially if it comes with a cheque.

Both “yes” and “no” teach me about the magazine, though. Next time I submit to them, I have a better idea of what the editor is looking for.  I’ve learned to use the editor’s response—whether it’s a rejection letter or an acceptance—to challenge myself to do better and to submit again.

Rejection Isn’t Personal

Last week, Pages of Stories publisher Darlene Poier emailed me with a request that made me smile.  She’s hosting a workshop for writers and wanted to discuss rejection:

I was wondering if you would mind if I used you as an example in my workshop. I realized today, that perhaps it needs to be said that when a publisher doesn’t accept a story for publication that it’s not personal. There might be lots of reasons for it, but it’s not in any way a reflection on the author personally.

The reason I’d like to use you as an example is that I think you are the only author that has submitted work for each issue of the magazine. I think it shows a lot of confidence in your own ability as a writer to have kept sending in stories even though it wasn’t quite as successful for issue #2 and #3. But that you were successful for the Winter 2011 shows a lot about your tenacity and belief in yourself.

I’ve come to realize recently, that some authors have been offended because I didn’t accept their stories. In most cases where this has been a problem, the authors have just started to dip their toes in the writing waters or they are quite young (by my perspective). You have been a stalwart supporter and it’s much appreciated.

I appreciated Darlene’s perspective on the matter, as I’ve appreciated her encouragement with each submission I’ve sent to Pages of Stories.  And she’s right: it isn’t personal when an editor sends a rejection letter. As I compare the two stories that Pages of Stories accepted to the two stories they rejected, I get a better picture of what the magazine is looking for. The stories that weren’t published there will be published somewhere else (when I have time to look for that “somewhere else”!).

If you are a writer, do you remember your first rejection letter? How do you deal with “no” from an editor?

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  1. Tracy Krauss February 16, 2011
  2. Writer Mom February 16, 2011

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