Monday, March 4, 2013

Pet Peeve about the Rejection Process by Harlie Williams

Hi, I'm a newbie author so my pet peeve will be short, sorta of.  When I wrote my short story, The Couple, I had originally wrote it and subbed it for an anthology call.  You know the feeling, right?  The waiting for the call whether its been accepted or not is agonizing for any writer, published or not.  Well, I didn't get the call but a form email stating that it didn't make it.  Professional and to the point.  Okay, I get it.  But the pet peeve that I had with this rejection is that the call was put out by one of my crit group leaders and I was expecting some feedback as to WHY it was rejected. 

I had put it through the rounds in my crit group for weeks and I got some really good feedback from other authors.  Some good and some bad.  Again, I get it.  Some people loved it and some people hated it.  No problem for me.  I had read some pretty bad stuff in my crit group but I always crit with sugar and spice in mind. 

What really bugged me and still does over a year and a half, I'm still wondering why it was rejected?  I expected something in the form of, you need to work on your POV; your voice isn't what we were looking for; its not sexy enough, etc.  I wanted that personal touch since I personally knew the author that put the call out.  I don't miss any sleep about it but I still wonder to this day.

On the upside of the rejection, I forced myself to take writing classes, buckle down in my crit groups and keep writing.  But the biggest upside is that I re-worked the story and signed up for a pitch contest.  I did my research on what publisher(s) to pitch my story to since it was less than 5k.  Muse It Up won. 

I was so nervous when I pitched to Lea that day.  I'd never pitched a story to anyone before but Lea put me to ease at once.  The feedback that I received from her that day and beyond has been invaluable to me.  Going through edits was a breeze for me.  I know, I'm weird but I loved the editing process. 

I know that rejection is sometimes a hard thing to swallow but for this newbie author, I welcome the feedback, good or bad.  It only makes for a better writer in the end.

So what are your thoughts on the rejection process? 


Pat McDermott said...

Harlie, I don't know any author who hasn't amassed a drawer full of rejection letters, and few of them offer feedback/critiques. The best solution is to take classes and/or join a writers' group. The key is to keep on trying. Congrats on the publication of The Couple!

Christine London said...

As Pat said--it is the norm to receive no feedback. In a perfect world editors would have and take the time to write even a sentence or two for the betterment of the author in her writing.

The editors and agents that I have heard address the matter have said that it is a losing proposition for them as some authors snarl, recoil and retort with much the same venom that some do for bad reviews. Of course in reality that would be the few that respond with negativity, but it has been enough to put off editors and agents from writing anything. It is also a streamlining of the process for them as they do get a mountain of submissions each week.

If the author whom you reference actually was an editor as well and had an input on the evaluative process, perhaps you could have approached her privately and asked for some constructive feedback. She may have left things unsaid as it could be the publishing house's policy, but may have responded privately with a caveat from you saying you would understand if any response would put her in a bad situation. Water under the bridge now though, eh?

Bravo that you buckled down and grew your knowledge of craft. This is the response of a truly serious writer, whether there be one hundred rejections or one. We all keep growing in our craft as long as we breathe and write.

I like the editing process too. It is such a gift to have another set of eyes and the professional mind behind them give input. This, IMO, is one of the most valuable ways to mature in your writing, at least as far as making it marketable in this publishing climate.

Thanks for the great post!

Harlie Williams said...

Thanks ladies for the comments. I know that in a perfect world everyone has the time to tell you why you were rejected but sadly, they don't.

I crave feedback, good or bad and I think it makes me weird. Yes, does the bad stuff hurt? You bet, but it toughens you up in the end.

The author/editor in question...I honestly thought she would tell me but as you say, its water under the bridge now.


Unknown said...

Thanks for posting that. From where I sit as the unpublished author, information like this is invaluable. I appreciate knowing that the form rejection letter is the norm and that your editor can be your very best new friend.

Besides, you always rock in my book.

Cara Marsi said...

Harlie, as others said here. all authors amass rejections. Okay, there may be a few who don't, but the vast majority of us do. And most of those rejections don't give feedback. Editors are too busy to write lenghty R letters, or they are afraid to say too much and incur perhaps the wrath of a rejected author. I've gotten a few nasty R letters, and those always stick out. Once an agent asked for fulls for two of my manuscripts after I'd pitched to her. The R form letter I got from that agency was the nastiest ever. They told me never to submit to them again, and not one of their agents wanted my stuff. Keep in mind this was a form letter they sent to most of their rejections. That agency is no longer in business. So be glad you got a noncommital form letter.

Molly Daniels said...

My 'favorite' rejection came from an editor at the Wild Rose Press who took the time to let me know I was subbing to the wrong genre. I thought I was writing romance; turns out I was writing Women's Fiction all these years. So that helped a lot:)

Starfox Howl said...

Rejection... don't you just hate the sound of that word. Screw up your courage, eye the person you've been crushing on for months and ask them to the dance... and get laughed at in response, just before they turn and walk away.

I guess in the book world it's the same, you psych yourself up, hammer out your cover letter and submit your hard work in the form of a manuscript to your chosen publisher... and then wait to see if you need to rent a tux for the dance, or get laughed at.

My wife has received all sorts of rejections, form letters, mimeographed sheets with check boxes about why her story was rejected. But only one with a four page, very professional critique of the story and what she could do to make it better.

Does anyone like to get rejected. No, probably not. But you have to remember, a rejection letter is about the author's story being rejected, not the author.

Jenna said...

The personal rejections are few and far between and I savor those as a form of personal acknowledgement of my existence as a writer. Those are the agents I sub to first in my process. Those are the ones at the top of my wish list because if they can take the time to give even a little feedback to someone they're rejecting, WOW, what must they do for the authors they accept?

Jenna who is still subbing away. :)

And congrats again on the release of The Couple.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Harlie, check out Rachelle Gardner's blog.

She has several excellent posts on why agents reject mss. Actually, she's answers every question you could possibly think of.

Yes, I have a trunk full of rejections. I don't care about them so much anymore. Each one moved me closer and closer to getting published.

Harlie Williams said... see I would call that a sugar rejection from TWRP. That editor took the time to explain WHY you were being rejected and while it still stung, you realized why you got the rejection.


Harlie Williams said...

@Cara...Ouch. Some people just don't have any class at all.


Harlie Williams said...

@Starfowl...I didn't necessary take it as a personal rejection but a little feedback from the leader of my crit group would have been nice since it made the rounds in the group.


Harlie Williams said...

@Jenna...I will keep subbing and now a days...I don't worry about it as much. People are either going to like my story or not.


Melissa Keir said...

Never give up. Even after getting published and printed, I've had two publishing houses close and end up back at start. It will always happen but those who move past those walls will make it in the end!


Harlie Williams said...'re an angel. Thank you so much!


Harlie Williams said...

@Melissa...I didn't give in and I love my editor. :)


Nikki said...

Rejection is everywhere in the world. It hurts, sucks, and it's a fact of life. I've had so many rejections in one form or the other that I've learned to stop getting my hopes up and just do what i can. What I've also learned about rejection, though, is that it's highly subjective. one person may love something, but the other doesn't. Does it still bug me when I'm rejected? Hell yeah, but I've learned to shrug it off.

Good post!

Wendy said...

What is sadder than a draw full of rejection slips? A draw full of unfinished stories we are afraid will be rejected. Bring them out and give them the TLC they crave. There's a publisher out there waiting for them with open arms.

Wendy said...

oops, 'drawer'. I'm a writer who often turns off her internal editor. :)

Sara Durham Writer ~ Author said...


Great post, and aren't you glad you found Muse It Up and their professional staff of editors and cover artists! As some of the others have said, we do have to keep learning and working hard at this writing thing, even when we are published. Good on you for digging in with determination to do even better:)


Marsha said...

Harley, you've learned the first and most important lesson in writing: Keep on keeping on. :) And third, understand how subjective the business is. After that, take classes, and practice applying all you learn. Good post. Nice to know the majority of us have the same large basket of rejections. :)

Harlie Williams said...

@marsha...classes have helped me so much. I cannot tell newbies to take them.

@S.Durham - Lea and Suzan are the best. :)

@wendy...I have so many stories that are stuffed away right now :)

J.Q. Rose said...

Harlie, it's good to know many published authors didn't get it right the first time either, but they kept working at it, just as you are. Rejection is such a strong word, perhaps we should change the name from "rejection" letters to "no-thank -you" letters?