The Publishing Process
WARNING: This blog may come across as pessimistic as the practice of tough love is shoved upon every hopeful writer who dreams of getting published, but is disillusioned due to rejection letters. You have been warned.
Two words — expect it.
My fellow writers, there is no way to get published (unless independently) without suffering through the repetitive blows of massive rejection. You will write your stories, poems, novels, etc; proceed to submit them to literary journals, agents, publishers, and then you will inevitably receive rejection letters. This means that you have to adopt a balancing act of perseverance along with low expectations.
In case you couldn’t tell early on from my tone, this is NOT going to be a glass half-full kind of post where I fill readers’ cups with false hopes. However, I am NOT trying to discourage you either. There’s a dichotomy writers have to learn in order to mentally prepare themselves for submissions.
This post will arm you in the battle of publication. I’m here to help you accept the piles of rejection letters that inevitably come prior to getting published.
Lower Your Expectations
While writing a query and entering a submission is obviously created with a sense of hope, you must expect the worst result – rejection.
Thank you for taking the time to submit your work… We appreciate your entry…. Unfortunately, your piece is not what we are looking for at this time…
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
This is expected. This is normal.
That is the mentality you have to train yourself to believe. So, say it with me. Aloud, if necessary.
This is normal.
Repeat this to yourself a few times: I will expect rejection. I will submit my work with hope, but expect rejection.
If you can accept that most of your response letters and emails will say, “thanks, but no thanks” the blow to your ego won’t be so hard. You won’t have to cry yourself in a corner with every no-thank-you email you receive. It’s just part of the process.
Rejection is part of the publishing process. In a way, it’s how you earn your stripes. When you finally do get your work accepted, you’ll know you’ve earned that spot because you deserve the right to be published and read by others.
Why Is There Sooo Much Rejection?
There are dozens, hundreds, thousands of other writers submitting to the same places you are. Every single publication has their own set of submission rules (which they are extremely strict about).
However, you can improve your chances of publication with research and checking this list before hitting the “send” button.
- Know your genre’s style, story length, expectations, etc. and follow it.
- Submit to publications that publish stories like yours. Check the books/stories/poems that they typically publish.
- Follow the specific guidelines of the submission form, to the letter.
- Write submission letters that are original, polite, and clean of errors. Agents and publishers dislike copy and pasted submission letters that obviously lack personalization.
Every single one of these points is critical to submissions. Follow the submission guidelines and the rules above. Don’t risk ruining your chances of being accepted.
Perspective = Hope
When people say you need thick skin, they are putting it lightly. You need skin of armor to get through the publication process without feeling like you’re having a breakdown every time you send a piece of your soul to an agent or publisher.
Don’t get me wrong. I am in no way telling you all to quit. I would never do such a thing. Again, this is not meant to be a discouraging blog. This is merely a healthy check in reality. If you want to play the publication game, you have to expect to hit restart repeatedly.
What would happen if writers like these accepted their rejections and just gave up submitting?
Famous Authors Who Received Rejection Letters
- STEPHEN KING was told, “…science fiction which deals with negative utopias… do not sell.”
- LOUISA MAY ALCOTT was told to “Stick To Teaching.”
- KENNETH GRAHAME was told the WIND IN THE WILLOWS was “An irresponsible holiday story that will never sell.”
(Read more rejection letters on Mental Floss)
- Chicken Soup for the Soul had 144 rejections
- Kathryn Stockett’s The Help: 60 rejections from agents.
- Lisa Genova, Still Alice: about 100 rejections
(Read more stats on LitHub.com, The Most-Rejected Books of All Time)
The list goes on and on. Honestly, you can have a lot of fun researching your favorite authors and seeing how many times they tasted the bitterness of rejection.
JK Rowling, Dr. Seuss, Agatha Christie, Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, H.G. Wells, George Orwell, etc…
Hopefully, you see the point I’m trying to make. This blog isn’t meant to discourage, but enlighten. If you expect rejection and accept it for what it is — part of the process — the burden will be lightened.
Perseverance and Acceptance
The best way to get through the painful process of submitting letter after letter of submissions, is to expect rejection.
Sometimes rejection letters come with insight that may or may not be helpful. When they do, be grateful for the professional feedback and seriously consider the suggestions you are receiving. Sometimes that information is valuable when it’s in regards to genre guidelines (can’t argue with the experts there) or editing. However, if the critique pulls apart your story idea as a whole, you may have submitted to the wrong agent or publisher.
And, then again, sometimes those rejection letters don’t come at all…
I still haven’t decided whether no letter is worse than a rejection letter.
So, suit up with heavy chain mail. You are a writer. And you are in this for the long haul.
Look at your rejection letters as a form of love letters to your work. They are a testament to your devotion. You pine for publication, for the commitment of making your work official in the eyes of the public. One day you will get there. Writing and submissions are a learning process. The more you do, the better you get at it.
Now, get to submitting and watch those rejections pile up with a smile. Each rejection is one step closer to acceptance.
Thank you. I actually needed this. I recently went into the battlefield of attempting to publish a short story, and though I thought I was wearing my coat of chain mail, it was thinner than I realized. Not that I’m thinking of giving up. I just decided that I should give the one draft some time, maybe get some feedback from beta readers, and work on something else until I’m ready to go out and try again.
Awe, I’m so glad this was helpful! It is a tireless and seemingly endless trek as we submit and resubmit. But, you aren’t alone on this journey.
Getting feedback is a good idea and beta readers can be very helpful to get different perspectives on your work. You may agree or disagree with them, but it’s good to keep other POV of your work in mind.
Having other simultaneous projects is also great. It keeps you busy and motivated. I usually have at least two projects going at the same time LOL
Thank you for commenting!