Most published authors have experienced rejection at some stage in their career. Of course, it can feel as if you have wasted your time in making the submission, especially as most editors and agents don't like re-submissions or re-queries, so you only get one shot or you will quickly be regarded as a pest, but there is more than one editor/agent in the business so you can always try again somewhere else. Having said all of that there are different degrees of rejection, which if you are new to the industry, you might not be aware of. The list below will help you to determine where you are on the slush/rejection pile and which editors are genuinely interested in your work.
- Ignored; This one sucks as no-one likes to be ignored. It is the worst kind of rejection and it effectively means that you still have to get onto the bottom rung of the slush pile ladder! In this case the editor either didn't have the time to respond with a rejection, they suspect you of being a Piggy-Backer ( see my earlier post on this topic) or it is their editorial policy that after six months of waiting new writers should simply assume rejection. The good news is that the more successful you become, the less likely you are to be ignored.
- Rejection Slip; This is similar to a compliments slip but without the flattery. It will usually be attached to your returned hard-copy submission and be printed with words along the lines of We have read your work with interest but cannot accept it for publication. The rejection slip is a polite thanks but no thanks, though in these days of free and easy email subs, it is not so commonplace as it was when I first began my writing career.
- Form Letter; A polite letter which is a slightly longer version of the rejection slip. A form letter is usually PP signed by a representative of the publishing house, say an admin worker, rather than a named editor or the signature is likely to be an illegible squiggle so there is no come-back from a disgruntled writer.
- Form Letter + Tip Sheet; As above but with a print out of tips on how to get published, which may include hints on presentation. While this is still a rejection you should be grateful for the free professional advice; editors don't have to spend the company's money printing and sending out tip sheets. Read and absorb. Also check to see if any particular tip has been highlighted, as if so the editor is giving you a hint on why you were rejected and how you can improve your work/submissions. Still a rejection though I'm afraid.
- The Named Letter; This is where it starts getting interesting! If the rejection letter is addressed to you personally as Mr/Ms Surname AND it is legibly signed by a named commissioning editor you have got their attention. Now, how the letter ends is important; if it goes something like Sadly I am afraid we cannot offer you publication but wish you every success in placing your work elsewhere then they are basically closing the door in your face and telling you not to bother them again....BUT ...
- Named Letter + Request; If the above letter ends with wording along the lines of Sadly on this occasion I am afraid that I cannot offer you publication but I would be interested in seeing more of your work you should be happy dancing! Editors don't make such a request unless they see potential. Take your time when working on something new; don't rush it. Second chances are very rare in the publishing industry so waste it by being impatient and turning in a half-cooked idea or badly written synopsis. The editor will respect you more if you take the time to make a decent submission. It was a letter of this type which launched my career. Be encouraged if you receive one.
I know that rejection stings - and yes, I have had my fair share of all of the above at various times in my career! - but knowing where you stand with a particular House or editor means that you can submit your work where it is best received. And when it comes to rejection, it is possible to be in two places at once; you might be ignored by one House and get a tip sheet from another. Its all swings and roundabouts.
I hope this post has helped those of you who are trying to get published; don't be too disheartened by rejection - we've all been there and lived to write another day. Bon Chance!