Saturday, October 22, 2011

What's in a rejection? Take it easy.

   A few days ago I got a rejection I did not expect. I thought the journal had an interest in publishing my story. Their website said that they took around two to three months to reply. A longer waiting period meant that the manuscript was most likely being considered for publication. Four months after submitting my story, they sent me a reply and it was... a rejection! To make matters worse, this journal did not accept simultaneous submissions so I wasted four precious months, and I ended up thinking they had a special interest in my manuscript. Around the time my story was rejected, however, they changed their rule and decided to accept simultaneous submissions.
    I normally take rejections in stride, but this one made me feel dejected and deeply disappointed considering the circumstances.
     Now let's put things in perspective. Rejections are very subjective, and they reflect the editor's opinion. Period. Now, let's move on and keep trying.  One editor may hate a story, whereas another one may appreciate it, and even love it.
    I will share with you some facts that support my statement on how subjective rejections are:
   - After reading one of his short stories, an  editor told Rudyard Kipling that he " didn't know how to use the English language".
   - The novel "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle was rejected 26 times before getting published. After publication it won the Newberry Medal in 1963.
-"Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times before finding a publisher.
- An editor told Louisa May Alcott that she "should stick to teaching".
-"The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Forde, a classical of the modern fantasy genre, underwent 76 rejections before getting published.
-"Dubliners", by James Joyce was rejected 22 times before finding a publisher.
-Joanathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach was rejected 18 times. In 1972, the year it was finally published, more than a million copies were sold.
- Gertrude Stein spent 22 years trying to get a poem published.
-"Dune" by Frank Herbert was rejected 20 times before it was published.
-An editor told Irving Stone that his novel "Lust for Life" was "a long dull novel about an artist".
-An editor recommended Vladimir Nabokov that his novel "Lolita" be buried under a stone for a thousand years. Another editor said they would both end up in jail if he published that novel.
-William Saroyan was rejected 7,000 times before his first short story was published. His short story collection, "My name is Aram" is an International best seller.
 The list can go on but I will stop here.
   Every writer endures rejections. Feel free to let me know about your own experiences and how you deal with them, but, in the meantime, don't give up. Keep on submitting  your work to other journals and publishers. Keep on reading and writing!


  1. Oh my goodness. Is that 7,000 rejections for Saroyan current? Jeez, you have to admire these writers who kept on going despite the many no's. Dunno if I'd have had the courage to continue, but I know its very important to love your own work and move forward with the conviction that it will be published. If the writer doesn't have that conviction, then who will?

    Keep on writing and submitting. Publication will come.

  2. Thank you for the beautiful way in which you reminded us, Julia, about how to take rejection in stride. It's true that some declinations sting more than others, but how we as authors grow on our journey toward publication can be as exciting as the reaching of our goals. And thanks for your encouragement of THE UNDERGROUND GIFT.

  3. I find statistics like this very encouraging. Getting rejected is part of the job description. And the fact that they kept yours so long is probably a good sign that it was close.

  4. Funny that I came across this post just now. Here's one for you:

    Two months ago I received a positive note about a submission I made for an anthology compilation of speculative fiction. I was happy to know that I made the first round of cuts and that they enjoyed my work.

    This morning I received a kind note that my work did not make it into the final choices for their current project, but with that note, there was a great compliment about my effective writing skills and my passion.

    It didn't take the sting out of it because I had two months of wind in my sail which made the rejection that much harder. All I have to say is, keep writing! It only means the next one won't feel as bad. But, guess what? I get to submit this story to someone else now!! WOOT! :D

  5. It can be really hard getting rejected. I got about 20 rejections on one story that I have but I decided to pull back on querying because I thought of some things I wanted to do to improve on it and hopefully make it more appealing.

    So I'm in rewrite mode and will give it another try.

  6. J.L Campbell: I agree with you. Confidence is really important.
    Michelle: yes, I am enjoying this journey as well! That's a very good point. Thanks for being there.
    Karen: thanks for the uplifting comment, Karen. I think the statistics show how subjective the decisions are.
    Diane: Well done! Keep on submitting it! Congratulations for the positive note!
    Angela: Follow your heart. If you believe that rewriting will increase the chances of having your story accepted, go for it! Thanks for all the comments.

  7. Julia, I wanted to let you won the giveaway held on my blog for Karen Walker's debut novel FOLLOWING THE WHISPERS. When you have a moment, if you could please forward the address you'd like to have this book mailed to, I'll be sure to let Karen know. My e-mail address is mefayard(at)yahoo(dot)com.

  8. Thanks Michelle! This is so exciting! I will e-mail you now.


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