First, let me quickly introduce myself. I’m Silvia Moreno-Garcia, publisher of Innsmouth Free Press, a Lovecraftian zine which, in addition to other types of content, releases three yearly issues of fiction. We’ve had people like Nick Mamatas, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ekaterina Sedia and Charles R. Saunders in our virtual pages.
Today we are going to talk about dealing with rejection. First of all, rest assured that despite how good your work is, you’ll be rejected at some point by a publication. It might make you angry. Anger can be a good thing because it can spur you to try harder. Sometimes it turns into writer’s rage, which can take a couple of noxious forms:
Scenario 1: Bargaining Through E-Mail
You receive your rejection. You then reply to the editor lambasting them for their lack of feedback. Why exactly, was this rejected? Can’t the editor take five second of her precious time to write a few lines on the story that took your five months to write in your own blood?
Stop. Don’t ask for feedback. If a magazine doesn’t give it, there’s a good reason behind this policy and asking to bend the rules is not going to work. Let it be.
But wait. What if there is feedback? Then it is a chance to quarrel about every single, helpful point that the editor made and end the e-mail with a disdainful “I didn’t even want to be published by you.”
We are not at the market stall, bargaining over tomatoes. Your reply to the editors will not make them suddenly change their minds. It is a waste of time for you and them if you decide to engage in an e-mail quarrel. Resist the impulse to reply to rejections. I won’t even discuss the use of profanity in your correspondence because: no. Just don’t.
Scenario 2: Putting It Up On Your Blog
So you’re smart enough not to type an e-mail saying “eat caca, you squid-head” and hit reply. But you type “eat caca” on your blog, trying to vent your frustrations. Next day, I see it.
No, I’m not Sauron with the all-seeing eye. Neither are most editors. But many of us have a Google Alert and your comments will arrive in big, bold type. If we don’t have Google Alerts, then people will tell us (small world!). Does this mean we’ll ban you and never buy your stuff? Speaking for myself, no. But do you really want me to recognize you the next time I see your stuff in the slushpile as the smart writer who almost had it right or that writer who called me smelly publisher?
Rejection hurts. But if you are going to vent about it, I recommend phoning your friend rather than airing it all on the Internet.
Sure, it may seem that in an age when we Tweet about what we ate today (Greek salad and chicken, by the way), such rants would be kosher. But they’re not. Trust me on this.
Scenario 3: There Is No Complaint Department
I’ve had this happen. So I’m putting it out there: don’t e-mail the publisher to tell them that the editor is an ass who rejected their wonderful story, and then offer it to the publisher for their perusal.
At Innsmouth, Paula R.Stiles is the editor-in-chief. But we both read slush. We also have a policy of not buying anything if we don’t both agree on it. This sometimes means we don’t take a story because one of us has reservations. Rest assured, if Paula didn’t buy it, I won’t.
E-mailing the publisher to complain about perceived slights accomplishes nothing. Don’t try to badmouth the slush readers or editorial staff and expect an acceptance letter in return.
What’s the best way to deal with rejection? Absorb it (was there some useful information I can use?), then move on. Send it to other markets and start working on something new. After all, you’ll get plenty of rejection even if something is accepted and published, because then (gasp!) someone might read it and give you a bad review. And you probably shouldn’t do what Anne Rice did when that happened, which was to go on a flame war on Amazon.com. So start dealing positively with rejection, right now. Because the only way to avoid the pain of rejection is never to submit.