Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It's not you; it's them

This was supposed to be the post about working with editors, handling edits, navigating different personalities, that sort of thing. But that's not really the next step in this process.

The next step in the process is waiting... and dealing with rejection. Rejection is a natural part of the process. As a writer, you may face a lot of rejection before you finally find success. But those old sayings are true: from adversity comes growth.

You may face a few possible negative scenarios at this point:
  1. An editor replies to you and tells you that the publication is not interested in the piece.
  2. An editor replies to you and tells you that the publication does not print stories this short / this long / from this perspective / without specific information / more experts / more testimonials / more sources / local sources / something.
  3. There's no reply at all. Sigh.
I'm sure there are plenty more scenarios, but these are the most common that I've come across. How will you handle it when it happens to you? There is only one way: gracefully. Because it's not personal.

Your story might be rejected, but that doesn't mean that you are being rejected. And that might be the hardest thing to manage with rejection, understanding that a rejection of what you wrote is not a rejection of you.

If and when you face rejection, here are some ways to handle it directly:
  1. If an editor tells you that the publication is not interested, it could indicate that the editor is unimpressed with the piece or the article is off-topic for the publication, or possibly the topic could have been recently covered. Respectfully ask if there is a topic the editor is  interested in that you could work on as a future submission. Or if the editor tells you that the problem is with the article itself, ask how it could be corrected. Always be as respectful as possible, always be professional; you are asking the editor to give you more time, and time is a hot commodity. 
  2. If an editor replies with a specific issue with your story, be open to editing / changing / adding information / changing the angle / finding more experts / whatever it takes. Remember, you wrote this piece to give it away (hopefully in return for money) and you want it to be well-received. Your ability to be flexible and work with an editor shows that editor a willingness to understand and try--something that will make an impression and be remembered when that editor is in a pinch in the future and is looking for a writer that can be counted upon to deliver.
  3. You hear nothing. Crickets. Cobwebs in your inbox. Resist the urge to follow up. Correction: resist the urge to follow up too quickly. But if you know that this issue is a hot topic or if you see that it becomes a hot topic, reach out to that editor again. Don't browbeat or be rude or demanding; but do provide a gentle, friendly reminder that you have an article available that might fill a need for them. But give it time. I've seen writers follow up on an email submission the next day and then the day after that with a phone call. This is much too persistent; give it time and understand that if an editor is interested, they will contact you. 
You may also want to follow up on a submission after it's been accepted and printed, to let other publications that you've submitted to know that it's been run in a certain market, or to alert them of possible changes made to the article. But we're getting ahead of ourselves a little bit here! I promise, we'll talk about acceptance and edits and all of that in the next post.

Don't just stop and wait; keep working. Research more markets, write more articles. Practice your writing, research writing and editing websites, books or apps that will help keep you focused and sharp.

And you are a writer, after all. It's what you do, and the writing is what's required of you.

So what do I want you to remember about handling rejection?
  1. It's not personal. If an editor doesn't like your story it doesn't mean he doesn't like you.
  2. Be open to suggestion. Sometimes that can make the difference between rejection and acceptance. Remember, you're writing for them.
  3. Keep working. 
Rejection is a natural part of the writing process; learning to handle it well will be a part of your success. 

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