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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

10 Dumb Things Writers Do To Get More Rejections
by Emily Bridges

If you are a writer, rejections are par for the course.  To my way of thinking, your first rejection is like a fraternity initiation. Once you’ve experienced the high of submitting and the low of rejection, you’re qualified to lend a shoulder to your fellow writers with true understanding. With that said, most of us are searching for ways to reduce the number of rejections that we find in the mailbox and spend more time in the “highs of submitting” than in the “lows of rejection.”

Here are 10 ways that we beg for rejections: 

Swim in the slush pile.
Why send a submission into a pile when it can go to the editor’s desk? Sending a query straight to the editor skips the slush pile and saves time in two ways. The first is the obvious preparation time for your submission. A single query letter is faster and easier to submit than your entire manuscript. The second is in determining if the editor has an interest in your story in roughly half the time. Response time for queries is usually weeks as opposed to months for unsolicited manuscripts.

Seem careless.
Cutting and pasting names on the same letter may seem like a proficient way to send out a blizzard of submissions, but if you forget to change one thing, especially the name, you may offend the editor. I once received a note back with a “Who’s this?” by the foolishly mistaken name.

 “Dear Editor” isn’t far behind in terms of offending the editor.  Doing this is admitting that you were not interested enough to research the publication. If you can’t find the editor’s name in the submission guidelines, place a call to the publication to ask the editor’s name for your type of submission. Also ask for the correct spelling and whether it should be addressed as Mr. or Ms. Sam Editor.

Chant with me, “White is nice; white is nice.” White space on your query or cover letter is pleasing to the editor’s eyes (and we want to please the editor’s eyes!). Three short paragraphs on one page of paper is sufficient. Don’t ramble on about why your article will have a psychological impact on society, why it will reform the healthcare system, why kids will never misbehave again after reading your story, or anything remotely similar. Simply tell what the article is about in the first paragraph, say who you are in the second paragraph (and list a few places you have been published, if applicable), and thank him or her for their time in the third paragraph. It's a narrow line to walk though; you don’t want to be so straightforward that you submit a “cookie cutter query.” Hilary Evans, a freelance writer from Fort Dodge, IA warns against being "bland and boring.” She says, “Editors don't just want the facts about what you are writing. They want to see your sparkle too."

Submission guidelines should be considered the map to publishing nirvana. If a roadmap said that you needed to take 95S to your destination, you wouldn’t take 95N to see if you could still get there. The submission guidelines are essentially the editor’s wish list.  

Get frugal.
Placing a phone call to an editor in lieu of a mailed query may save paper and the cost of a stamp, but it will probably cost you a chance to publish an article.

Neglect reading.  
Mailing “Baby Poop, Revisited” to Romantic Couple magazine might seem like a good idea because some of their readers have to be new parents, but it is not what they publish. Reading guidelines is great, but reading the actual publication to see what they publish is better. 

Forget the cover letter.
If your query has piqued the interest of an editor (or the publisher welcomes unsolicited manuscripts), submit the manuscript with a cover letter. Like the query letter, it should look professional, fit on one page, and only include necessary information. The first paragraph should briefly indicate what you have enclosed and the word count. The second paragraph should say who you are and where you have been published (if you haven’t been published, keep quiet). Lastly, the third should convey that you appreciate his or her time.

Have a failing attitude.
Assuming that you will be rejected will not only shrink your self-confidence, but your purse as well. Thinking that you will be rejected regardless of your effort will lead to careless mistakes. If you are determined to be a writer, choose one project that you are enthusiastic about and doggedly find a “home” for it. Success will renew your confidence and pave the way for more of the same. My “Baby Poop, Revisited” article might collect a nice pile of rejections if I continually offered it to romance enthusiast magazines, but it may start to draw interest once marketed to parenting or pregnancy magazines. 

Go it alone.
Writing is a solitary career, but it does not have to be a lonely one. Join writers' groups for friendship and support. Critiquing other writer’s stories and having yours critiqued in return is a priceless advantage to joining these groups. Objective opinions will help to polish your work and ready it for submission, many times finding mistakes that you’ve read over 30 times in the last hour alone. Check your newspaper for local writers group meetings. Online writers' groups on communities serve a healthy dose of camaraderie from home.

Overlook non-paying markets.
It may not put cash in your pocket, but it will put writing clips in your envelope not to mention experience under your belt.  

Each time you get a rejection, look over your submission again. Does anything need to be changed? Is it too long? Does the cover letter or query need a catchy first sentence? Is there grammar or spelling mistakes? Be especially vigilant in checking for the sneaky ones that spell checkers do not catch, such as too-two-to, diffuse-defuse, effect-affect, accept-except, or others? Go back to your copy of the magazine to check length, style and tone of the articles that they publish. If you are submitting manuscripts to book publishers go to the bookstore to examine their new releases. What have they recently published?

Allow each rejection to become another log in the fire of your determination to become a widely published writer. Preserve your sense of pride in knowing that one day your work will be accepted, and then perhaps some of the same publications that have rejected your work will be contacting you to offer assignments!

Though her profession is nursing, her passion is mothering. Emily is a freelance writer and mom of 3 from Northern Virginia.









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