Monday, January 08, 2007

On Rejections: An Agent, Editor, & Writer

It's in the air. Rejection. It's a hot discussion topic over at the ACFW main loop. And it's being discussed in these dawning days of 2007 in blogs about SF-dom.


Agent Jennifer Jackson posted the following on the 5th:

I was taking the time to clean out some files over the holidays and sorted out a few old gems of my own. They were just lovely. Insults written on my own rejections and then sent back to me. My personal favorite which carries on at some length (with swearing) about how I at least owe (yes, owe) them a referral and trying to persuade me that it's in my own best interests to provide one to, not just them, but in response to each and every query I receive. I do give referrals. Rarely. When I think the work is just really that good but I know I'm just not the right person to be that project's advocate. But, as buymeaclue says, I don't owe anything beyond an answer - yes or no, will I or won't I.

The post she refers to written by "buymeaclue"--Hannah Wolf Bowen, who writes and edits--states:
A rejection is an answer. To what, you say? To the question that your submission posed: "Would you like to publish this story of mine?" A rejection is an answer in the negative.

"Would you like to publish this story of mine?"

"No, thanks."

(An acceptance, of course, would be an answer in the positive. But no one writes snarky responses to those.)

And that, my friend, is all. That's what you're owed. You ask a question. You get an answer. All else is gravy.

Ms Jackson offers a link to Sarah Monette, who also has a few things to say, especially about the attitude a writer must have in the face of persistent rejection:
I made my thirtieth short-form sale last night, on a story that racked up twenty-eight rejections in previous incarnations, and then got sat on for almost two years while I figured out what the fuck I thought I was doing. And for those thirty sales (one of which was a solicited novella, and one of which was a co-sale with matociquala for which I don't actually have the stats), I got two hundred thirteen rejections. Fifty-four of which are on the eight stories still circulating from editor to editor.

You should be sensing a theme here. I'm obstinate as a mule. Being a successful short story writer (and I'm not sure, btw, that I'd necessarily describe myself as all that "successful") requires both patience and fortitude. And if it isn't going to kill you, it also requires a professional attitude. Your job is to write the stories to the best of your ability and send them out. The editor's job is to decide whether or not she wants to publish the story. Your further job, if he decides no, is to accept it and move on: send the story out again. Remember that you are, in fact, asking the editor to give you money for the story. Submitting a story is not like asking someone out on a date. Getting a rejection letter is not like having your crush-object refuse to go to the prom with you.


Heather said...

Can I at least whine in private first? Then I'll don my mule-ears.

Josh said...

Good articles indeed, and good reminders. It helps to remember that I'm not the center of the writing universe and that there are hundreds upon thousands of other writers out there who open up those oh-so-familiar SASEs with a cringe, no matter how much they've mentally buffered themselves. I'd like to claim that I've learned to deal with rejections, that I no longer feel anything when I see the phrase, "Thanks, but..." For the most part, it's all good. I file it away and decide where to send the story next, or perhaps set it aside for revision considerations. But there are times...yes, there are times when hope decides to play a version of whack-a-mole, and the rejection feels like a hammer (even if made of foam). So, yes, it is good to be reminded that there are others sharing in the fun. Maybe it's a bit of schadenfreude worming its way through me, but it makes it easier to blow it off the next time a rejection comes back to me. So, further in and further up we go.

Mirtika said...

It's funny, but the first time I got a rejection, it was so nice that I even felt pretty good. The asst editor said she LOVED my poetry and asked me to sub more (I never did), and that she'd argued for its publication in COSMO, but it was shot down by her superior.

Hey, someone liking my stuff enough to go to bat for it. How can that not make me feel good?

I got rejections on fiction many years after that (I went through a long, long non-writing hiatus, or at least ,not writing with publication in mind). I felt like a pro. A bit sad, but as if I was "in the real game."

Then I started getting yesses and winning contests, and I felt pretty good. Rejections hurt more after that, cause I had more emotionally invested.

But I still consider it part of being a professional writer: Until you've suffered rejections, you haven't really gotten in there.

It takes courage to mail something to an agent or editor. It really does.

It takes more heart not to give up.