Write From Home
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610
E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com
10 Dumb Things Writers Do To
Get More Rejections
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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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