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.