There’s a commonly-held belief amongst amateur writers, and it goes like this:
Editors are all bastards who hate writers and will do everything in their power to prevent you from getting published.
Obviously this is complete bobbins, because an editor gets paid to edit, and one who rejects everything has no editing to do. But it seems easier to believe that there’s some vast editorial conspiracy out there that is preventing the amateur writer from being published, than it is to accept some very simple facts:
- Editors are human, and their judgements are formed of opinion as well as subjective assessment of a writer’s work. Sometimes they read something that may be fantastic, but which they just didn’t fall in love with. For the writer, it’s actually a good thing to get this kind of rejection, because the last thing you want is to work with an editor who doesn’t love your story.
- Ideas are rarely unique. There’s such a thing as commonality of source at play. Suppose you got your idea from a widely-published news story? Chances are that a thousand other writers read the same story, and it’s possible that a handful of them came up with the same idea. And an editor can spot a meme a mile away without having to know the source. When they receive five stories within a month, all about a powerful leader who’s been caught in a sexual act with a member of staff, it’s very likely the same thing happened recently in the real world. Doesn’t matter if you make it President Targ of the Planet Thrug, or Squadron Leader Smythe-Walters of the Land of Hyemarliea. So there’s always the chance that your story was rejected because it resembles another they’re already set to publish.
- Editors often have to persuade other people that your story is marketable before they’re allowed to take it on board. No matter how much they love it, if they can’t sell it internally, you’ll get a rejection slip.
- Distressingly, a lot of stories which get rejected aren’t actually bad. They’re just average. They’re okay. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re not awesome stories that completely blow the reader away, either. And in the cutthroat world of publishing, editors are under pressure to select the very best work submitted to them. Would you tolerate mundanity from any other profession? (And, yes, there are a lot of writers whom I consider mundane and wouldn’t have selected for publication, but that’s where point 1 comes in to play).
- Some writing is just fucking awful.
There’s no point fostering this ridiculously antagonistic attitude toward editors, publishers, or anyone else in the industry who isn’t an author. While the word “rejection” feels personal, it isn’t. An editor is not rejecting you as a person, they are simply declining to accept the story you submitted for publication.
Of course, you might choose to get online, name names, hurl abuse, and generally make an arse of yourself. Then you could make it personal and ensure that no publisher or agent in their right mind will touch you with a shitty stick. That seems like a solid career move, doesn’t it?
No. I didn’t think so. So if you’ve received a rejection letter, do the following:
- Refuse to be deterred.
- Realise that it’s nothing personal.
- Accept that there’s just something about your story that didn’t work for the publisher or agent that you submitted it to.
- See if you can get a fresh pair of eyes to check over your story (an honest writing group, for example, not a bunch of niceys on LiveJournal who couldn’t say “Actually, this bit’s rather plain” for fear of hurting someone’s feelings).
- If you’re sure your story passes muster, send it somewhere else.
Giving up is for wusses. You’re not a wuss, are you?