Remember this always: when you get a rejection from an editor – it isn’t personal. It isn’t about you. Manuscripts get rejected, not people, and there are dozens of reasons why that happens. Here are a few of the most common:
1. A rejected manuscript is most likely wrong for that editor or agent. They have preferences. They are looking for that one gem of a manuscript that will jump out of the slush pile right into their hearts, and say, “Take me, I’m yours!” Every other manuscript gets rejected no matter how skillfully done, fascinating, or amazing. Sorry!
2. Some manuscripts get rejected because they are formatted wrong, or because something an editor or agent expects isn’t included in the submission. For example an editor may have writers guidelines saying she wants three novel chapters, a query letter, and a synopsis. If she gets the wrong number of chapters or no synopsis do you think she would reject a manuscript regardless of its other merits? Of course, she probably will. She wants to work with an author who can follow directions. Sorry! Try again!
3. Suppose a manuscript really is pure nonsense submitted by a person who hasn’t developed his writing talents yet. The only cure for this is to keep practicing. I will serve as your example here. I’ve been writing novels for seven years, but haven’t submitted one yet because I wanted to improve my writing and editing skills. All this time I’ve been learning about what makes novels great, and what publishers need. I don’t want to submit junk novels – I want mine to be excellent in every respect, so I’ve been revising one for the last six years as I struggled to learn all about the editing process. I’m getting ready to submit my first novel manuscript which was originally written way back in 2001. So now I’m writing this blog post to remind myself (and you) that if the manuscript gets rejected, it’s not personal! If you believe your lack of writing skill is a reason for rejection, take time to keep practicing – there’s no dishonor in that. Sorry! Write some more!
At one time back in the 1980’s I planned to publish a poetry journal. Before long I was swamped with submissions. I was flooded with them. I was unprepared for the onslaught. I couldn’t manage the workload, and none of those poets got published by me because I gave up on the project before it got started. It wasn’t their fault they didn’t get published – it was mine. It wasn’t personal! I didn’t even know poetry writing was all that popular at the time. That was back in the dark ages before the internet came into being.
More recently I worked as editor of Happy Camp News. I established the news site in 2001 and sold it recently after seven years as editor, news writer and owner. I would have loved to get more submissions, but those few I did get sometimes didn’t get printed. The problem was the editor’s lack of organization, time, or money. It wasn’t personal! In a perfect world, I would have published them all.
So please, when you submit your work, follow instructions carefully and try hard to target the right editors and agents. But if the answer is ‘no’, don’t take it as a judgment against you.
It isn’t personal!