Sunday, November 23, 2014

Managing the Rejection: Knowing When NOT to Say When

By Len Lawson

I submitted a poetry manuscript to a highly coveted university press. Six months later I received its response: a rejection. However, within that six months, I was not clutching my cheeks in front of my computer every day waiting for an email from the publisher. I wrote more poems and perfected my craft, so I resubmitted to them an updated manuscript in a reply email . We'll meet back in another six months to see how this turns out...

Rejection will always be a part of the writer's existence. Unfortunately, it is like a continual pain in the body that has to be managed effectively. Otherwise, the body, or in this case the writer, will double over in agony with every hurt.

Here are some tips to counter the sting of rejection from publishers and editors:

1. Don't take it personally. Rejection from a publisher or editor is NOT an indictment on a writer's character or personality. I try to place myself in the shoes of these individuals. Publishers and editors receive hundreds to thousands of manuscripts annually on a continual basis. Their challenge is to choose works that either fit their style or that they feel represents their entity the best. It's almost like a lottery where one or a few manuscripts are chosen from many selections that actually have merit. The ratios are really pathetic when we stop to think about it. They do their best to select their own opinion of merit. In other words, it's not us; it's them.

2. Resubmit. Most publishers/editors will allow us to submit a new manuscript within a reasonable amount of time. I recall recently when I submitted a poem to an online journal, and the editor rejected it. I quickly replied to their rejection with more poems I had written during their selection period. Ultimately, the editor chose two of the new poems I submitted. Unless there is a limit on submissions for a single writer, continue to seek what the publisher/editor is looking for by resubmitting. I tend to use a "three-strikes rule" when resubmitting. After the third rejection, I may get the picture that my stuff is not what they want (...or I may not...).

3. Keep writing and submitting during the selection period. Do not, as the saying goes, place all the eggs in one basket. Most publishers/editors will allow writers to have simultaneous submissions, which means that writers can still submit one work to many presses at the same time. However, if the work is accepted, then the other presses should be notified (it's like reverse rejection!).One publisher/editor is not, as they say, the only game in town. We should not simply await our fate in the publisher's/editor's  hands. We are the writers. We have the talent. We should not be afraid to share our work with multiple sources. We are worth it!

This writer's/poet's life is the way of rejection which is why most people quit in a short period of time. The key is to NEVER GIVE UP. In search for publication,  we become more like explorers or hunters in search of the editors and publishers that "get" our work. When we find them, it's like that great archaeological discovery or like striking oil or gold. Then, after we do, the best writers become addicted to it and search for more: more publications, more audiences,  more readers, more hearts and minds that surge with our words. Let's go exploring,  friends! The spoils are ours for the taking!

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