Rejection. Is. The. Worst.
You know it’s just part of the game.
You’ve probably gotten some of these rejections before. How did they make you feel?
The “it was nice working with you, but please go away”
“Hey, thanks for all your hard work, but we’re switching to an internal model and won’t be outsourcing any of our production to freelancers anymore. Bye.”
This isn’t the most traditional type of rejection, but it’s more common than you might think. In most cases, they’re not just saying this to get you to stop working for them — freelancers are kind of expensive … but it still strings. More than one well-paying, trustworthy client has dropped me this way, and even though it’s usually not your fault, you can’t help but wonder: “Did I do something wrong?”
The “thanks for trying, but …”
“Dear writer, thank you so much for your submission to our publication. Unfortunately, your work has not been selected for publishing.”
These are usually the “template” emails — the generic, “we’re sending this to mass quantities of people who are all getting rejected, we don’t actually care” emails. I wish writers never had to see these. I understand why they happen. I was … fortunate? … enough to work for a small magazine where I could actually respond individually to every person who wasn’t getting their work published. It was a lot less terrible, as an editor, to send rejections when I was genuinely trying hard not to discourage them too much.
The “we’re not accepting submissions right now”
“Thanks, but we’re not selecting any new work for publication at this time …”
Maybe their submission forms were outdated. Maybe you got a date wrong. Maybe they just need an excuse not to bother with you. It’s these kinds of rejections that are most frustrating for me. Does it mean I can submit again later? Did I do a bad job and you’re just not telling me? I need to know! Well, this is just how it goes. In some ways, this is also the easiest type of rejection to react to — you just move on to another publication with slightly less deflated hopes.
The “we actually sort of care about you but still no”
“I’m glad I got the opportunity to look over your work. You’re a great writer, and I hope you’ll continue to create well thought-out content like this. This piece doesn’t quite meet our requirements — we’re looking for something about topics our audience members are interested, like x. Feel free to browse our archives to get a better idea of our scope and style, and please, submit again when you’ve come up with something.”
You’re probably not going to get rejections like this. They’re the least painful to write, but extremely time-consuming — I just threw this together as a shaky example, and it still took longer than most editors will have time to craft. There are probably some editors out there who really do wish they could say yes to you, but just can’t. You’ll be OK. You’ll find somewhere else.
Rejection is terrible. But in a world full of writers who have dealt with it before, at least you’re not alone.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.