Friday, November 09, 2018

Rating your Rejections

20 years ago I wrote this article—and it holds true for today!

Recently I had 2 rejections, but it was balanced by 1 acceptance.

Rejections hurt momentarily, but they are proof of hard work and stepping stones to publication.

Rating Your Rejections


Linda Joy Singleton (Updated from 1998/2018)

How many times have we heard these phrases:

"It's not right for our list."
"This isn't quite what we're looking for."

"It doesn't meet current editorial needs."

"It does not fit into our publishing program."

"We are not accepting new manuscripts at this time."

Or the familiar, "We wish you success in placing it elsewhere."

The dictionary defines rejection as "to cast from one, to throw away; a person or thing rejected as not up to standard." Which is almost as vague as the familiar phrases we hear from editors when they return our manuscripts.

But what do rejections really mean? What is the coded message behind the inexplicit explanation? Where exactly did we go wrong when submitting? Did we send it to the wrong publisher? Was our writing weak? Our plotting poor? Or was the editor just in a foul mood that day?

There's no crystal ball with the magic answers, but the next time you receive a rejection, turn the tables around. Put on your editor's cap, and you be the Reviewer.

Your rejection - only silence for so long you realize it’s a “no.”


The publisher is undoubtedly swamped, and they may only be accepting agented material. Research their submission policies. Then, before resubmitting to them, query first with a short letter. Always be sure to include a SASE (Self-addressed, stamped envelope).

You receive a reply with only a short “no thanks” type comment. This feels like they hated your manuscript, hated your ideas, and most probably hate you but actually it’s a good thing.


Any reply is better than no reply. Give yourself a few days to cool down, (okay, weeks) then calmly read through the rejection again. Note any constructive criticism and rewrite if warranted. Do not take rejections personally because there's no room for hurt feeling in this business. Remember, writing IS a business. Always be professional.

A bland form letter. Thanks, but no thanks


These impersonal replies are the result of publishers not having the time for chatty explanations. It's not their job to critique your work. Still, some publishers are more considerate in their form rejections and return a checklist of reasons for the rejection. When this happens, take note of the situation and learn from it. Study the market thoroughly, then submit somewhere else.

A form letter with a personal note. "We loved the premise, disliked the execution. The plot was interesting, but weak. The characters were stereotyped, the dialogue stilted, and the subplots confusing. But we liked it, and would be interested to see it again--after a rewrite."

They took the time to critique your work. This is a wonderful sign! Someone out there appreciates your writing. Whether you decide to rewrite is your choice, but just receiving a personal reply is a step up on your career ladder. You may pat yourself on the back.

No form letter, but the real thing. A personal letter written just for you. It's still a rejection, but it offers hope for a real sale.

The editor not only likes your writing, but she wants to work with you. She loves your style, your ideas, and your manuscript. She'd buy it but (a) the publisher just purchased a similar piece; (b) the list is full; (c) she's moving to another publisher, but if you'd care to submit it there, she'd love to see it again.

If you study your rejections, you can turn them into a positive, not a negative, experience. Then maybe the next letter you receive won't be a rejection, but an acceptance, complete with a contract and a check.

Red Heart
Linda Joy Singleton

Copyright © 1998

All Rights Reserved

About Linda Joy Singleton...

Linda is the author of over 50 children’s books. She began writing as a child, filling notebooks with stories about a cat named Taben and girl-sleuth mysteries. It wasn't until she had children of her own that she learned about marketing, critique groups and how to become a professional writer. She writes almost daily and attends writing conferences whenever possible. A frequent speaker, she LOVES to speak about writing -- to both kids and adults.