I keep getting form rejection letters. Why don’t editors give me the facts and what can I do about it?
In the magazine and book world, rejection comes for many reasons. Sometimes it is the quality of the material from the writer.
In the book area, it might be a good idea that needs more development or more explanation. I’ve learned from acquisitions that there are only so many hours the work week. There are literally thousands of manuscripts coming across your desk. You don’t have time to take a marginal idea and develop it into something which will work (except in rare cases). Even if the book proposal is 50% of the way there, I can’t carry it the other 50%. It must be something like 80-90% complete and exactly the type of material that I need or it gets rejected. Or if the nonfiction proposal is incomplete or lacks the competition or other critical elements, then this proposal is rejected with a form letter. There isn’t time to critique or fix or anything so the material is rejected. Nothing personal–just a reality of the volume of submissions.
Also as a writer, you have no idea which projects have been contracted recently or are near contraction (approved for contract and in process)–possibly a similar idea is in this process. I saw it often in the magazine world. We would receive a magazine article or even a magazine query for almost exactly the same article which we had in layout to be printed in a couple of months. Solomon had it right when he wrote, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
Writers conference have the huge benefit of being able to sit down with an editor and get such specific feedback. Otherwise, the writer is left wondering if their material was rejected or if some other factor was involved. To learn more about the benefits of writers conferences, follow this link.
Admittedly editors have bad attitudes and bad days. Some days I decided not to read unsolicited manuscripts because I knew I was going to reject everything–no reason other than piles and piles of unread manuscripts sitting around. Yes, editors are real people.
Finally be aware that a number of best-selling authors have been rejected time and time again. The rejection isn’t personal but simply a part of the publishing business. As a writer, you can determine to persist with marketing your magazine and book ideas–yet at the same time, continue to improve in your craft as a writer. It’s the combination of improvement of craft and persistence that will allow you to overcome rejection and find a place to publish your work.
W. Terry Whalin understands both sides of the editorial desk–as an editor and a writer. He worked as an editor for Decision and In Other Words. His magazine articles have appeared in more than 50 publications including Writer’s Digest and Christianity Today. Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books and his latest is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams (Morgan James Publishing). See more about Terry at:www.right-writing.com/whalin.html. For more than 12 years Terry has been an ECPA Gold Medallion judge in the fiction category. He has written extensively about Christian fiction and reviewed numerous fiction books in publications such as CBA Marketplace and BookPage. He is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing and the creator of www.right-writing.com. Sign up for Terry’s free newsletter, Right Writing News. Terry and his wife, Christine, live in Irvine, California.