Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rejection Sucks!

Yup, it does, royally!

As any author who has submitted more than a couple of pieces knows, rejection is part of this business. No matter how good you are, how polished and fascinating the story is, it's not always what the publisher is looking for. I know I've submitted work and been rejected with comments such as, please submit again, your writing style is excellent, but the content just wasn't what we were looking for. Now, that's encouraging! It's the form letters that tell an author nothing. Sorry, your story, Joe's Amazing Jack Off Stories, has been rejected.

I've spoken to publishers over the years and learned how to increase my odds. Wink, wink! I'll share the little bits of knowledge with you all and hopefully it'll help. Reading the guidelines or the calls for submission is number one. Okay, following them is right up there too. From what I've gathered, this is pretty huge, enormous even, so read it again, Read the guidelines and follow them, to the letter.

My first publisher told me that over 50% of submission were rejected unread. Shocking, yes? His guidelines weren't difficult to follow, in fact they were simple and he accepted all forms of romance and erotica, with the exception of the usual, beastie stuff, kiddies or necrophilia. But often, when he opened an email, the authors had neglected to send the information he needed. Stuff like name, address, contact info. How said author expected to be paid or contacted was beyond the publisher. He simply deleted the ms unread. There were lots more waiting, so why would he worry about Joe or Jane Shmuck who'd messed up?

All righty, you've read the guidelines/submission call and spent that extra time making sure your story fit. It's exactly what the publisher is looking for. Format is the next thing to thing very seriously about. Making the page a pretty pink and your font that sexy swirly script might go over well for you. But, this poor publisher has to wade through dozens of stories a day, if not more. Pity him or her. Think about the hours they spend in front of the computer and how sore their eyes might get trying to disipher your pretty text. If the font is red on pink, said publisher might actually upchuck and that wouldn't be good. Number two, keep the font simple. Most publishing houses will accept Times New Roman if they don't specify something else in their guides. Yup, back to the guides. They may actually tell you what font, spacing, indents, all of that stuff. READ THEM D**M CAREFULLY!

I really can't stress that enough. New authors seem to sometimes think it doesn't matter. Or it only matters to the others submitting work. More established authors are almost as guilty. Some seem to think that because they've got ten books under their belts, the editing staff won't mind if they don't format properly. Well, dumbasses, it matters. LOL It matters a lot. It's called professionalizm and is huge.

Refusing to give a publisher your correct contact information is also something that will find you on the wrong side of the publishing door. You can rationalize and say you can't trust anyone on the internet. Okay, that's a little paranoid, but really, do you want to be published? Very few authors, insert miniscule number here, will manage to snag a contract with a big NY publishing house, especially on the first book. Many authors begin their publishing careers online. Many are happy to stay there. An epublisher is as legimate a publisher as any other. They need information to work with you. Your phone number, your snail mail address, all that and possibly more. Mine also asks for my next of kin, in case I get run over by a truck. Royalty payments don't stop when an author dies. I can determine who gets mine and I believe that's a very good thing. So, before you hit that send button or drop that ms into the post, decide if you trust the publisher.

If you can't trust the publisher, don't send your submission. Period!

I mean think about it. If your story/book is accepted, how are you planning on getting paid those royalties you're hoping for? Some epublishers pay via paypal, some send you a check. Some actually send payment directly to your bank account. This is a job, even if it's not your day job that pays most of your bills, buys groceries and puts bread on the table. If you get published, you will receive money for it. I hope you do anyway.

These really are the basics, but they're so often neglected it's painful. Follow them and your chances of getting your toe in the door are much greater. Be willing to work with an editor is also up there. Many publishing houses have their own likes and dislikes when it comes to both grammar and style. Don't argue unless it's something you feel very strongly about. When you get your contract, read it. If something doesn't sit right with you, ask about it. If you're unsure of something, ask. Any publisher worth his or her weight in salt will be happy to explain this kind of thing or get you in touch with someone on their staff who has the time.

Wow, this turned into a business lesson didnt it? Once you get a couple of submission, rejections and acceptances under your belt, you'll find it's not a lot easier, but it is something that you become familiar with and can do without pulling your hair out. You'll never like the rejections, but you will hopefully see fewer of them. I know I still get my share, but I also try new things and sometimes finding homes for these experiments isn't all that simple. I do write a lot for publishers I know, places I can generally count on an acceptance. But, testing new waters is always a draw for me.

Anyone else have pointers for new authors? Stories about rejections or acceptances that made you laugh? I'd love to hear them.

Thanks so much for dropping by. Have an awesome Tuesday



  1. All good advice, Jude.

    I'd add to try and find out if the publisher sends out automatic confirmations of reciept.

    Most do - but I didn't know that when I sent my first story off. It wasn't until I sent another story off a month later for another call for submissions and discovered that - and at the same time realised they couldn't have recieved the first one at all.

    It's hard to be accepted if they story doesn't actually get to the publisher, lol.

    Kim Dare.

  2. Jude,

    Good info.! I agree with Kim, I've had a couple submissions that didn't make it through, and I've started asking for receipt of confirmation if they don't automatically send one.

    I'd also advise people to choose a publisher carefully. Do you like the covers/titles/subjects of their current catalog? Covers are huge, and if they look cheesy that's a big turn off to me.

    Thanks for sharing all the advice!



  3. As an anthology editor, I'm very picky about the type of story I want in my books. I'm fortunate enough to receive a large amount of submissions. However, most of them get rejected, because I can only accept between 20 to 25. When a story of mine is rejected, I simply submit it somewhere else -usually within 24 hours. All of my stories have been published as a result. What one editor doesn't like - another editor will like.

  4. Kim and Jamie,

    Yup, getting an automatic reply is big. VERY FREAKIN BIG...LOL I've had the same thing happen to me a few times. I do try to remember to ask for a reply, but forget sometimes too. One point here, some publishers don't even check for email for days or even weeks so your request could be in there waiting. Sigh.

    Jamie, great points, gf. When I'm in search of a new publisher, I always go to their website or find out as much about them as I can. If I don't like what they're doing, or their covers, or a lot of little things, why would I submit there?

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.


  5. Jolie,

    It's great to hear the other side of this. I'm glad you dropped in. Being choosy is a good thing and that's why an author looks for your calls. We know it's going to be good. You worry about quality and aim high.

    That's another thing an author needs to know, if possible. Will the editor simply take the first ten or twenty stories and move on or will the editor wait until all of the submissions are in before making the cuts? I've subbed to anthologies well before the end date and been told the stories have all be chosen. To me, that's unprofessional. I have deadlines, but if I find a call I want to write for, I'll try to set time for it. Now, if that editor is going to fill the book before the deadline, I'll make sure I don't sub to him or her again.

    Thanks so much for commenting here, Jolie.


  6. This is all such good advice. Some I've heard before but it's good to go back over it. Sometimes we overlook these things!!! Wonderful post. Thanks Jude!


  7. Jude How Dare They Reject you!!!! That's it the world is coming to an End and the world should just Swallow me up... *soft smile* Thank You for the Good advice and insightful thinking. I will keep it in mind if i ever get the balls to write more then a few pages.

  8. Good advice Jude. I'd just like to add two things from my own personal experience.

    First, remember not to take even bad rejections personally. The editor could have been having an off day.

    I got one story back after an editor had scribbled just how awful (in her opinion) it was all over the first page. Sent the same story out to another editor the next day, without a single change, and sold it.

    Also, I want to re-emphasize your advice to read your contract. Read it CAREFULLY. I've had short story publishers ask for all rights in all formats now existing and to be invented in the future in perpetuity for a couple hundred bucks.

    That would prevent me even from including the story in a collection of my own work. That would allow them to make a blockbuster movie (okay, so that's not likely, but it makes the point) out of my story and never pay me another dime.

  9. Hey Jude.

    Good post, very practical advice too. Thanks!


  10. How about this? Count both your acceptances and rejections. Graph them, if you like, month by month. And watch how, over time, the acceptances start to take over the rejections. Because they will, if you don't allow yourself to get discouraged and stop submitting.

    Also, the more you submit, the better your odds. It just stands to reason. Don't sit there waiting for the results of your last submission - get working on something new!

    One more piece of advice: scintillating characters, compelling plot, luminous style, don't mean sh*t if your submission is full of sloppy spelling and grammar errors. I've edited two anthologies and I have to say that consistent misspellings leave a very bad impression. Either you don't know enough to fix them (which makes you unprofessional) or you don't care enough (which is in some ways even worse).



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