No one likes to be rejected, but it comes with the territory when you’re a writer. In fact, some would say you haven’t earned your writer stripes until you’ve been on the receiving end of a rejection slip.
While you might find it ideal to get the rejection over with as quickly as possible (kinda like pulling off a band-aid), when it comes to rejection in the writing world, you want it to be because the person rejecting your book has read it and discovered that they personally can’t help you, not because your submission didn’t make it past the opening paragraph of your query letter.
To ensure you’re being rejected for the right reasons, here are the quickest ways to have your writing rejected for all of the wrong reasons, so you know exactly what to avoid.
You Haven’t Researched The Right Agent
You’re a writer who has written a book and a quick Google search has given you agents who can help get books published. It doesn’t matter that they don’t represent your genre because there’s no way a non-fiction agent won’t be interested in your sci-fi western because it’s totally bad-ass, right? Do your book, your sanity, and the poor non-fiction agent a favor and send your work to the right agent, one who represents books similar to yours. Statistics say you’ll probably still be rejected, but at least you’ll know that you sent your manuscript to someone who will be able to give your submission the proper assessment.
You Haven’t Submitted To The Right Publisher/Imprint
A similar mistake is expecting that any type of publisher that produces books can produce yours. If you think that it doesn’t really matter that your steamy romance isn’t an ideal fit for the biggest publisher of true crime fiction because your book is so good and the protagonist witnessed a crime in the backstory so it kinda counts, then you’ll be collecting rejections instead of royalties. Submit to the publishers that publish your specific genre and don’t forget to research their imprints. The major arm might not publish YA fiction, and therefore give you an automatic rejection, but a smaller imprint/teen division linked to them just might give your manuscript a read.
You Don’t Worry About Your Submission Ideas
We’re in a 24-hour news cycle and the world needs content. Thankfully, you have ten fantastic ideas that are ready to be pitched to any magazine that welcomes submissions. It doesn’t matter if the readers of Car Mechanics Weekly don’t yet know The Top Five Best Fillings For Pie because they will once you’re submission is accepted (and why wouldn’t it be? everyone loves pie). Again, if you’re submitting your best ideas to the wrong place, all you’re going to get is more rejections, and then the world will never know what the number one filling for pie is (is it apple? I feel like it’s apple), so do worry about your submission ideas and pitch them to the right place.
You’ve Paid No Attention To The Guidelines
While being able to submit whatever you want would make your life easier, publishers and agents do like to have manuscripts submitted in a particular way. And even though it’s annoying to have to spend time making sure your MS is up to scratch, submitting the documents they want in the right file format does mean that the publisher can work through their submissions much faster, which in the end, will help you out.
When you’ve been submitting for a while, you’ll realize most of the guidelines are standard and quickly get the hang of it. Still, always make sure to check the details for the specific publisher before submitting, otherwise, rejection will be swift.
You’ve Followed Up Your Submission—Immediately
Submitting is an exciting and nerve-racking experience and it’s been five minutes (literally) since you sent your submission, so naturally, you need to know what they think and when you can sign your million dollar contract. If you’re asking about your submission with a follow up right away instead of playing The Waiting Game, then it’s likely you’ll soon be playing The Rejection Game.
Other ways to gather a quick rejection are to follow up with an hourly/daily/weekly email, multiple tweets, a Facebook status where you tag the publisher or a tagged Instagram selfie that shows you waiting by your computer, #waitingistheworst.
If you haven’t heard anything in 6 months, or a specific time set out in the publishers’ guidelines (which you carefully read, right?) then, by all means, follow up with a polite email regarding your submission, and respect the answer they give, even if it means more waiting.
So you see, by not making these mistakes, you can give your work the opportunity to be rejected based on its merits (which is a good thing) and not because you sent your attachments to the wrong email address (which I’ve actually done) at the wrong publisher in a format they couldn’t even open.
After that, the key to handling rejection is to keep trying and not take it personally. Then, hopefully, one day, an email will land in your inbox that isn’t a rejection and the only thing quick about it will be how fast you can plan your much-deserved celebration.
— K.M. Allan