As a writer myself, I am no stranger to rejection. I have numerous pieces submitted to numerous publications. Some weeks it seems like I get a rejection every day in my inbox. I accepted a long time ago that rejection is part of the game. To be receiving rejections means that I’m submitting, and I’ll never get accepted until I submit.
But, as editor of Newtown Literary, I see the other side of rejection. Some of it I had already guessed, and my experience as editor only confirmed my expectations. Other aspects were surprises.
- Rejection isn’t always about the quality of the writing. I’ve been told this and have read it in numerous places, but I didn’t realize it until I was forced to consider other aspects of the submissions I received and the realities of putting out a journal. Sometimes an editor may like a particular piece but have published a piece just like it in the recent issue and reject it, not because it isn’t a good piece, but because the editor is hoping for variety in the journal. Editors might also reject a piece for reasons of space or diversity in the writers represented in the journal. At Newtown Literary, we receive many more poetry submissions than prose and thus reject a higher percentage of poetry.
- Rejection of one piece doesn’t mean there isn’t interest in the writer. Many pieces rejected for quality reasons actually show promise in the writer’s skill. One particular piece might be missing something or have an aspect that doesn’t make sense, but the style is interesting and demonstrates the writer is good at her craft. When journals tell you they want to see more of your work, don’t assume that’s something they say to everyone.
- The automated rejection notes are not ideal, but somewhat necessary. We receive hundreds of submissions for every issue. No one on the staff gets paid or does this work full-time. It’s just not possible to send a personalized note to every submitter no matter how much we may want to.
- It’s not fun to reject fellow writers. Sometimes, I think that people sit in their literary journal offices (because they have great offices and don’t work on their couch like me) laughing maniacally every time they hit the rejection button. It’s not fun to reject fellow writers, especially when you know what it’s like to be on the other end of the rejection. We know that every rejection we sent can end up in the I-wanna-give-up feeling we get every once in a while as writers. While we can’t accept everything, rejecting work is not easy.
When people say “rejection is the name of the game,” they are being accurate. At the same time, though, we shouldn’t be blasé about it. There are times when you get multiple rejections in a row and it makes you want to give up. Hopefully, those feelings pass. If they don’t, it’s time to talk to another writer and get a pep talk.