Rejecting Submissions

In the course of putting together this anthology, Passions of a Man, I received some 400 submissions. Before the call for submissions period ended I started receiving queries from men who had sent in their work. "Has it been accepted?" they all wanted to know.

So I have had to carefully send rejection replies to many of them. The most difficult rejections were to friends. Aargh. The next call for submissions I mount will designate that friends may not submit. It will save me heartache.

I have submitted many pieces to many periodicals over the years, and have been rejected almost as many times. Now in the editor's seat, I see that when the editors write to you saying, "It wasn't right for our publication," they mean just that. It is not the quality of the writing that is at issue, it is the substance. Bad writing can be helped if the piece is on target. But being off target is beyond help.

Today I received replies to two rejections, both from friends whose work I had said No to.  Interestingly enough, both were heartfelt pieces written by a man about his older brother's passing. Both were off target in that they did not say anything that was male-unique. Their stories were not about something that could by and large only have happened to a man, which was the main prerequisite stated in my call for submissions. I sent them virtually identical e-mails rejecting their stories.

One note was delightful, charming:
"Your rejection note was perhaps the kindest I've received in a long line of them. As the young whippersnappers say--too often--"No worries."

The other was:
"Well, I am so disappointed. For obvious reasons, it was an important piece for me. Wish you had told me earlier that it didn't work for you."

I'm not sure what he would have gained by hearing from me earlier. My call for submissions stated that simultaneous submissions were allowed. It could be that I've lost a friend here. That I would regret.

When I'm rejected I usually send a note to the editor to this effect: "Thanks for taking the time to read my submission and get back to me. I appreciate that very much."

Many of the submissions I received had clearly not been vetted by anyone except the writer. It is vital that you join a writing group and have the members hear/read your work before you submit it anywhere. And it is vital that you take their comments and criticisms on the chin. TAKE NOTES as they talk about your piece. Say "Thank you" to them individually and as a group. You may disagree with some or all of what they have to say, but you should probably keep that to yourself. Go home with your notes, read them, consider them. They are gifts to you from people who care enough to listen to/read your work and make comments.

The other thing that editors say is also true: "Keep writing. Keep submitting."