Handling Rejection: An Editor’s Viewpoint

Recently I found someone complaining that an editor rejected her piece because the editor didn’t like the style of writing she submitted to this particular magazine. Her assumption is that the editor shouldn’t have rejected it because of that, but should have looked at the value of the piece itself instead of the style it was written in, that the editor shouldn’t have used his/her personal preferences to reject a piece. As founder of a literary magazine, I am here to deliver a hard truth that writers who have never been editors or slush pile readers need to hear.

  • Your writing only has value to us if we like it. If I read your piece and I don’t like it because it’s stream-of-consciousness (a style I frankly hate), I’m going to reject it. I don’t care that you think I need to look outside of my box to see the value contained therein. If I don’t like your story, I don’t like your story. That’s all there is to it.
  • We editors choose pieces that both fit our personal preferences and fall within what would best suit the magazine as per the guidelines.  Editors are human, and we want to love what we read. Frankly, there is no value to us within a story if we don’t like what we’re reading. Even if my magazine accepted stream-of-consciousness, if I’m reading the story and have no passion for it, I’m not going to accept it; therefore, I’m not going to look for any supposed innate value. In any case, why would you want to be accepted in a house or magazine where the editor has zero passion for your story?
  • Being published in a million places doesn’t obligate all magazines to publish you. Writers need humility. Just because someone has been published in hundreds of magazines doesn’t suddenly give that person permission to think he or she is “hot stuffs,” so to speak. It’s fine to have confidence in your writing, but be humble about it. Don’t get angry or annoyed if an editor rejects you because he/she doesn’t get what you’ve written, and you think you should have been accepted because your publication history is as big as the affordable health care act. We all perceive things differently. What one editor doesn’t get, another editor may get.
  • Be tactful. It’s fine to need a place to rant about being upset about a rejection, but it becomes very tasteless and unprofessional when you basically imply the editor who rejected your piece is an idiot and then suddenly your friends join in on the topic and back you up, calling the editor an idiot, too, saying you’re the best thing out there. Yeah, that’s what I saw today. It wasn’t me being talked about, but it boiled my blood to find this editor being maliciously attacked by people who know nothing about the editor who rejected the piece. We’re human. Plain and simple. We slough through tons of stories, most of which we don’t like, and eventually get annoyed because we want to find the one piece we do like. The Corner Club Press only submits form rejections, but I know some magazines out there will justify why the piece was rejected. Sometimes it’s tasteless, sometimes it’s not. In the case of tastelessness, keep in mind that editor is probably cranky, tired of going through the slush pile, and probably sent a tasteless rejection as a way of easing tension. Am I justifying it? No! Not at all. But this doesn’t mean the editor is a crap editor, just that the editor is human. You obviously submitted to that magazine because you wanted to be in it, so calling the editor an idiot is unprofessional and counterintuitive, especially because you likely looked at what has been published by this magazine. And, yes, sometimes rejection letters are sent with typos in them because we’re bleary from reading all of those submissions that we don’t care to take the time to proofread.
  • Rejection. Handle it with grace. Just because I didn’t like your piece doesn’t mean another magazine won’t. We all have different preferences. That is the fact of the matter. You cannot remove bias from the acceptance process, which is why editors work in different houses and at different magazines. I’m not going to work at a magazine that only publishes erotic fiction. I don’t like erotica. Safely assume that the editor is at that magazine because the editor likes what the magazine publishes.
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Author:

Also known as The Dancing Writer, she is currently working on The Stars Trilogy, among other works.

9 thoughts on “Handling Rejection: An Editor’s Viewpoint

  1. I’ve seen this happen with books before, when self-published authors attempt to then query their manuscripts to houses, only to be rejected. The amount of lambasting online, especially on FB, is amazing.

    1. It’s especially aggravating when I see their fans instigate their repulsive behavior. “Oh, they’re idiots. You’re so wonderful!” “They don’t know what they’re missing!” “Idiots. Idiots everywhere.” Writers need to know how to, frankly, shut up about a rejection letter and move on–no matter how nasty it is. Honestly, because of what I saw from that person, I would never let her in my magazine. It sounds absolutely harsh, but, as the old adage goes, your editor knows better than you do, and I don’t need a writer with an ego trip in my magazine knowing what this writer thinks about editors who reject her, who don’t get her work, and all the other reasons editors reject pieces. We don’t reject them out of stupidity. If we don’t get it, we don’t get it. Someone else will. We’re all different, and we’re all going to see things differently.

  2. I don’t understand people getting angry at poor reviews (or being rejected). I’ve been lucky so far and enjoy favorable reviews, average 4.6. But one of my first reviews was a one star. The guy would have given me 0 stars if could. I laughed because I kind of agreed with him on his main point.

    I think rejection should bring forth hurt if anything . . . not anger. And maybe make you take a second look at your “masterpiece.”

  3. For what it’s worth, I think 90% of having your work accepted for publication, as a writer, is down to targeting it intelligently. In theory somebody who writes stream of consciousness should be smart enough not to send their stuff to your magazine but I’ll bet my arse they do it all the time.

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. The writer I was referring to has a very entitled attitude and thought the magazine should have taken on her spoken word poem. It’s not about looking outside of the box. It’s about that magazine probably doesn’t accept spoken word poetry. If the magazine in question has never published it, you shouldn’t throw a fit if your spoken word piece is rejected. It’s as simple as that.

      1. Absolutely agree. And it’s a situation that’s simple enough to avoid, on that author’s part, with a little bit of research! Instead it just makes her (or him) look like a total plank. I really don’t get why they don’t understand. After all in the real world, if I wanted to write a piece about bead embroidery, I wouldn’t send it to a car magazine and get all antsy because they didn’t publish it! Crazy.

        cheers

        MTM

  4. I agree with MTM. What this writer seems to be forgetting is that every magazine has a different style, and if you are sending your piece off to a magazine that has a different style than your piece, then it’s not the editor’s fault that they rejected your piece, you just sent it to the wrong magazine.

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