4 Reasons Why My/Your Work Gets Rejected

Reuse-Reduce-Recycle–> This is one of my favorite posts and is a gentle reminder to us all that rejection is just part of the game.  If you want to be a writer, expect it.

I write to be read.  I recognize that finding the right venue for my work is not always an easy job.  I spend a great deal of time researching journals and venues in the hopes of finding the right media.  Handling rejection… can be… tough, to say the least.  And yet, it’s an integral part of the writing process.  Not everyone is going to like my work—just like I don’t like everything I read.  I really held on to the fantasy that all I would need to do was write in a ‘room of my own,’ and all that other crap would be handled by some ephemeral agent/editor type because, yeah, I’m that talented—NOT.

Enough with the high school repartee…

So what are the reasons for rejection?

1. They’ve got limited space and have already promised it elsewhere.

Despite the effort I make to submit during a reading period, editors sometimes “close” the reading period when they feel they’ve received the pieces they want to showcase.  Not every journal waits to send out acceptance notices, especially when good items land on their desks.  Many major journals and publications allow for simultaneous submissions, as long as you notify them of acceptance elsewhere.  They then remove the poem from their own consideration pile.  This has led to a trend of very quick response times at some journals.  Visit Duotrope to check for submission turn-around time. So even though they may state that they are in the midst of a reading period, that door might be metaphorically closed already.

* side note—although duotrope has been free in the past, they are shifting their business model to a paid subscription plan.

2. It’s not a submission period

I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to get sometimes, but if it’s NOT the reading period, editors literally throw unsolicited items in the trash.

3. The aesthetics don’t align

Blanket submissions are insulting for everyone.  They are an insult to the editor/journal.  It means you didn’t even bother to check and see if your work fits.  Worse, blanket submissions are an insult to the work itself.  Simply put, you value your work so cheaply, you simply throw it away (along with your money at times).  But moving beyond this, I’ve submitted to journals where I thought my work really did fit the “feel” of the publication.  Rarely do I receive any feedback—just a polite, “Thanks for your submission but we do not have need of your work at this time.”  So why didn’t my poem get in?  Sometimes informal themes begin to emerge as submissions are considered.  Sometimes an inexperienced reader tosses things into a discard pile that might be accepted by a more discerning reader (I totally tell myself this, but it’s probably wishful thinking).  One thing to remember is that editors and ‘readers’ for journals are human.  They have good days and bad.

4. The work needs work

Nobody wants to admit it, but sometimes we just write crap. We get impatient and submit prematurely.  We get really attached to sentimental drivel.  I have a poem where I explore some of my deepest emotional fears.  The lines are awful and lack detail.  They sound like a twelve-year-old wrote them.  Maybe I’M the audience for that one.  No one wants to admit that they just aren’t good enough yet.  But mastering writing is a life-long process.  One teacher told me it’s the longest apprenticeship.

IApril Pameticky’m not much of an expert on publishing, but I keep plugging away.  And there are vast and distinct differences between poetry/short fiction anthologies that are sponsored by nonprofit entities and schools, and the for-profit publishing industry that focuses on mass market paperbacks.  Reminding myself of these four little answers to the question of ‘why’ helps me maintain clarity in the often-muddled process of developing an audience.



Rejection Sucks

Rejection sucks.  No matter how many times someone tells me, with the best of intentions, that rejection is part of the ‘business,’ it still sucks.

I’m a big girl.  I understand that not every journal needs work like mine.  I’ve even been the editor sending out the letters.  Perhaps that’s why I cringe and wilt some every time I get one; I know that “this writing is terrible; don’t they know it’s awful?” may have actually crossed the mind of the poor editor experiencing my submission.  I realize that we’d all like to believe that the editor is some kind-hearted tooth-fairy-type, but that’s because no one, me included, wants to confront the reality.

Editors are beasts.  They are protecting the design and poetic aesthetic of their publications.  They are working against deadlines, juggling full-time employment, and often facing bankruptcy.  Any writer’s work that doesn’t fit in with the view or vision of that press gets rejected.  On rare occasions, the work actually fits the aesthetic, but the caliber of the work doesn’t reach the level of other submissions. 

Frankly, maybe I used too many ‘to be’ verbs.  Maybe the editor didn’t appreciate my line breaks.  Maybe that profound moment which was authentic and true for me feels sentimental and overblown to the editor.    On some higher, cerebral level, I respect that.

It still sucks.

I even have a system for dealing with this situation.  I almost always have something out for review.  That way when the rejection letter comes from one press, there’s still the chance that something else will be picked up elsewhere.  It’s the eternal cycle.

Unfortunately when I receive one of these letters, inevitably I stop writing, even if it’s only for a few days.  I just get the wind knocked out for a bit and need to regroup before I can keep writing.  Every so often, I actually get a letter which show time and effort because the editor actually addresses me personally.  But mostly I wait six months, only to be told “We regret to inform you that we did not accept your work for publication at this time.  Feel free to submit again.”