I like to think I have a sense of humour. Some people have even asked me why I didn’t become a stand-up comic. I tell them I couldn’t deal with all that rejection…so I became a writer instead.
<cue laugh track>
The fact is if you want to be a writer you’re going to get rejections. That masterpiece you’ve been slaving over draft after draft likely won’t sell on the first submission. Maybe not even the second submission, or the third.
It’s even harder to sell a story that has been rejected for a themed anthology. Not because it’s bad, but because there may be at least a hundred other stories rejected by that anthology floating around, glutting the market.
It’s a part of this business. But what can you do? If the story sits, it doesn’t get published. Like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play.
So, you send the story out, again. And it comes back rejected, again. Send it out again. It comes back again like a boomerang. It’s frustrating and demoralizing–and it’s something you have to accept.
You will get rejected.
Don’t see rejections as an attack you, the author. It’s not an indictment on your character. In most cases it’s not even a criticism of your story. Editors of anthologies tend to have a certain vision of what they want, and your story just didn’t fit that vision. Magazines have limited funds and space. They also get A LOT of submissions and for whatever reason your story just didn’t grab them…alas. As for book publishers…I’ll let you know when I figure that one out.
Of course there are reasons that are your fault, most notably not following the publication’s guidelines. READ THE GUIDELINES! Don’t send a fantasy story to a magazine that only prints hard science fiction. Don’t send erotica to a magazine that caters to children. Don’t send your fan fiction anywhere.
If you act professional, you will be treated as a professional.
So, what to do with those rejections? In most cases you’ll just get form letters. Editors are busy people and have many stories to read. For most editors it’s not like the Golden Age. They aren’t sitting in a grubby office in some ancient building on 5th Avenue. They’re probably at home, having just finished a full day at a real job, trying to squeeze in an hour or two between cooking dinner and spending quality time with the wife and kids. The last thing they have time for is composing an in-depth rejection letter.
That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. When you do get them, take the comments to heart, especially if they’re words of encouragement or suggestions for improvement. That editor felt you have skills, and wants you to keep writing. Do it.
Rarely you get the discouraging letter. Unless you submitted something so incredibly ghastly and heinous, broken every rule in the book and even invented new rules to break, submitted a 3,000 page manuscript in crayon, with each letter and punctuation mark in its own unique colour created by a crayon creator, unless you included a severed body part, you can pretty much ignore these kinds of rejections. Whatever the reason that editor chose to write such a response, it is unprofessional.
Severed body parts, however, will likely get you a visit from local law enforcement.
Some people save their rejections as kind of trophies. Me? I simply make note of the publication so I don’t accidentally send the story twice. Then I destroy/delete the rejection. Why keep the losing lottery tickets?
I do, however, keep acceptance letters. Yeah. They are nice to re-read on cold rainy days.