Submit and Succeed
Before anyone goes crazy, I’m not suggesting physical or mental subjugation to anyone. I’m referring to the act of submitting one’s writings for publication. Now that that’s out of the way…
There are many aspects on the process of writing — from story inception and editing, to writing query letters, to finding the best outlet to submit your work. Those are all worthy subjects for future blogs. But today, I want to address the proverbial eight-hundred pound gorilla in the room — submission rejections. Why? Because many aspiring — and even seasoned writers — have told me this is the number one reason why they haven’t submitted, or don’t submit as much as they know they should.
Rejection, as we have all come to experience, is another one of those ‘life lessons.’ It comes in numerous forms and from many different sources. Most of the time we’re able to blow it off and move on. However, when it comes to submissions, we tend to take it more personally. Why? Because we feel that we are being personally rejected since the writing is something we’ve created. Let me state unequivocally that nothing could be further from the truth. No offense, but it really isn’t about you. It’s probably not even about the quality of your writing.
Whether or not an editor accepts your piece is very subjective. All things being equal between stories, an editor’s job is to ultimately choose which story will be a better fit into that particular issue. Remember, an editor is responsible to the readership of their journal. There is no formula, no equation, no mathematical calculation an editor can rely on other than their judgment. A good journal — whether online or print — will usually receive hundreds, if not thousands, of well-written and crafted missives during the ‘call for submission’ period. A few — and by a “few,” I mean on average about one percent, or less — will get accepted; the rest wind up on the slush pile.
Most of the rejections you will receive will be in a form letter format. Editors simply do not have the time to give you much, if any, feedback. It’s usually, “We enjoyed your piece…but it’s just not a fit for us at this time…this is not a reflection of your writing ability…best of luck finding a home for it…” or something along those lines.
That said, I have had one or two editors who did like my piece enough to suggest some revisions, and then offered me the opportunity to resubmit. The stories were published, but this is extremely rare. I’ve been published in over two dozen literary journals, and even I’m flabbergasted when I get this type of feedback.
Before I retired, a few years back, I had a successful career in corporate sales for over forty years. Anyone in sales has to learn — and accept — early on, that rejection is part of the sales process. My first sales manager gave me this invaluable piece of advice/insight: “This is a numbers game. Babe Ruth may have been known as the King of Home Runs, but for the longest time he held the dubious title as the King of Strikeouts. You’re going to strikeout a lot. Get used to it.” He then added, “Assuming you are doing everything you are supposed to be doing to the very best of your abilities at all times, just know that every ‘no’— a strikeout — brings you closer to a ‘yes’— a home run. Each one is a learning experience.”
I still don’t like getting rejections from publishers — and believe me when I say that I’ve lost count of the rejections I’ve received— but I understand it’s not personal. I also know the more I submit a piece to the appropriate journals, and get a rejection, the closer I’m getting to a ‘yes.’
It’s been my experience that the best way to overcome rejections, is to get a few under your belt. You still may like them, but they will become less foreboding. Or perhaps seek out a more experienced writer — or mentor — and get their insights.
You have a choice: submit your writings and learn to live with the rejections that will most assuredly come, or avoid submitting altogether and spare yourself the pain of getting a rejection. Just consider this — your chances of being successful in getting published, even under the best of circumstances, may be slim, but there’s still a chance. However, your chances of getting published if you never submit…are zero! As the saying goes, “You gotta play to win.”
So, be honest and ask yourself one very simple, but direct question; what’s stopping you from submitting that piece that you’ve been staring at?
Wishing you the best in your writing adventure,