Hate Mail: Dealing With Rejection Letters

English: Rejection

Hey, at least they said ‘sorry’.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rejection letters: you’re going to get ‘em.*

Sorry, but that’s the truth. They come in a lot of shapes (the form letter, the slightly encouraging personal note, the newly-popular ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’**), but the underlying message is always the same: no, thank you. And sometimes they leave off the thank you.

It sucks. But there’s only one way to avoid getting rejected, and that’s to never submit anything. If you’re okay with that, then fine. You keep doing your thing. The rest of this entry will be directed to everyone else, so feel free to let your mind wander. I hear there are bunnies over here.

For the rest of you, if you’re going to be a writer, you need to learn to deal with rejection. And I don’t mean ‘deal with it’ by weeping into a bag of chocolate-covered Prozac. You can work with this. You just need to figure out how.

But everyone’s got their own way of doing that, or more than one. By dint of some very unscientific research, I have compiled a list of some of the more popular methods for dealing with rejection for your perusal. Consider them along with your next rejection:

1. The Sad Panda: I always knew the world was against me, but now I have proof. I will scrawl illegibly on this with red Sharpie, cry on it a few times, and then post an evocative picture of it with Instagram. Then they’ll understand.

2. The Air Up There: Clearly, this philistine does not recognize true genius when it deigns to place itself within their view. So what if I use words without knowing what they mean? I know what they should mean. Perhaps my gift is too precious to waste in their tawdry, commercial word factory.


4. The Hemmingway: So. This rejection. Burns like salt. But no manly tears. There is bourbon instead. *Rest of week becomes hazy until you wake up in a dumpster with a scar where your kidney used to be.*

5. The Clinger: God, I’m so sorry I offended this agent with my crappy, pathetic submission. But maybe it’s not too late. Maybe I can change. Maybe if I write them offering to change everything about the story and the characters and name the protagonist after their children they’ll love meeeeeee!

6. The Diviner: This is a sign. The universe is trying to tell me that I shouldn’t be a writer. This is too much for me. I’m out.

7. The Down But Not Out: This fucking sucks. Is there anything I can learn from this letter that can be helpful? Oh, you shouldn’t misspell the editors’ names? Gotcha. *Dusts self off* Right. New game starts now. Let’s go again.

*Except for you. You’re special. Your mother told me so.
** The latter is also known as “Passive-aggressive horseshit that makes me want to spit battery acid into someone’s eyes.”


A submissive man worshipping a woman's foot.

I need to start defining the image search terms more carefully. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I really need to start submitting more.

This, to me, is the biggest pain in the ass of writing: getting your stuff out there. It’s not the rejections. I’ve collected enough of those by now to be relatively immune to them, although I do occasionally read the more entertaining ones to other people as a kind of street theatre. As a side note, every time I get a rejection, I think of that scene from The Shawshank Redemption: “I’m up for rejection next week!” Every time.

Once I’ve got my entertainment from a rejection, I put it away in my Folder of Hate records to remember where I’ve already submitted stories and novels. No one wants to be the person who forgets who they submitted to. I imagine that, to editors, this is like being hit on by a drunk guy at a bar who has been so busy trying to get in anyone’s pants that he’s forgotten you already shot him down two hours ago. Might be entertaining, in a tiresome way. But he’s still not getting laid.

The part of submitting that gets me is the research. You need to make sure you’re submitting to the right market, first off. That’s what the Submission Guidelines are for, people. Don’t ignore those. As my old math teacher used to say, you’re not special. No one in this class is special.

Then there’s the letter, and the formatting, and all the other stuff that you have to try not to screw up. It’s not my favourite part of writing. But, and here’s the kicker, it’s necessary. You want other people to read your shit, you have to send it out there. And once it’s rejected, you have to send it out again. Don’t let it sit around, gathering dust and talking about its one big trip with the other dust-covered manuscripts in your drawer. Take that fucker out, polish it up, and send it out the door like your adult son who wants to play Xbox all day until he figures out what to do with his life. Don’t let it come back until it’s got some life experience and maybe a few bruises.

This is a case where I should be taking my own damn advice. So, with that in mind, I’m opening up a new submission line for one of my completed novels. Time to send that bastard brain child of mine out to get some of his edges knocked off. And, in the meantime, I’m going to start something new.  This is the time to bring out the Siren, and see if she’s got what it takes. She can distract me while the other story is testing his wings.


And, hey, you don’t always get rejected. Check this out: it’s the cover of the new anthology that one of my stories was accepted for. It’s called Unearthed, and it’s the third in a series of speculative fiction anthologies from Third Person Press. It’ll be out in print and e-book later this year. I’m sure you’ll know when, since my excitement may make me go nova. Further details will be posted as they come available, but for now, just look at it. This is what validation looks like. And it makes all the hoop-jumping that is the submission process worthwhile.