Dan Burgess, editor-in-chief of literary magazine Firewords, shares an editor’s perspective on the loathed but unavoidable reality of rejection letters.
At a recent book fair, we were talking to several writers about their experiences of submitting to literary journals. It was surprising to hear that they had all given up trying after receiving rejections.
We were aghast and quickly reassured them that they shouldn’t take rejections personally. We know (first hand!) that rejections are hard to take, which is why we try to give personal feedback to every single submission we receive, even though it makes our job infinitely harder (we’ll go into our reasons for giving feedback in a later blog).
Rejections are, by far, the worst part of the job for an editor (unless they happen to be some kind of sadist). All these talented writers have chosen your magazine from the hundreds available to submit to, to put themselves and their writing out there in the most vulnerable way. During the last call for submissions, Firewords received almost 500 pieces. There’s no conceivable way we can publish all the good writing, which means we have to reject over 95% of the submissions – a lot of which are of a publishable standard.
There are any number of reasons why a piece may not make the cut. A few of these are:
- Another accepted submission is too similar in theme/style.
- The piece unbalances the overall tone of the issue.
- A particular member of the editorial team doesn’t connect with the piece, when others may have loved it.
- The topic is very specialised and would not relate to a wider audience.
- It’s not right for that particular publication.
Notice, none of the above reasons have anything to do with the standard of your writing.
Just because one magazine, or one editor, or ten editors, don’t like a piece doesn’t mean you should give up. Just because one story doesn’t make it doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a writer. Keep writing. Keep improving your craft. And most of all, never stop putting yourself out there. No one will ever enjoy your writing if it stays on your computer.