Rejection bites


I’ve received plenty of rejection letters in my day, but I’ve yet to get used to them. I actually prefer never hearing from a publisher or editor over getting that dreaded NO letter. Still, any creative freelancer (or any small business owner, really) has to get used to being rejected, and possibly rejected often. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me to deal with the inevitable gloom and doom feelings following the receipt of the big, fat No.

  • This one’s #1, and everyone knows this but it bears repeating: Don’t take it personally. I think women in particular suffer from this “disease to please,” but one will likely never know why an editor chose to reject an article or query. It could be that she was having a bad day; she may have just accepted a very similar query or article to yours; she may have wanted someone with more established credentials in the field in which you’re pitching (healthcare, technology, etc.); or she may have just not have believed that your pitch fits into her publication’s content profile. Whatever the reason, 99% of the time it has nothing to do with you or your writing talent, but rather other factors that you have no control over.
  • Don’t wallow over the rejection to the detriment of your writing productivity. As freelance writers we can’t afford to waste time, as that’s part of what we’re selling other than our writing talent: our time. It’s perfectly fine, even recommended, to mourn the rejection from a particularly favored publication, but don’t let it last longer than five minutes. Yup, 5 minutes.
  • After that brief mourning period, get back to work. Look through your list of possible markets (Writer’s Market is a great resource) and see if you can send your rejected query to another publication. Let’s say your article offers advice on how to find a professional wedding photographer on a limited budget. Writer’s Market‘s online edition lists six wedding publications, but there are dozens, if not hundreds more that aren’t listed on there. Indeed, a 2007 article in MediaLife Magazine says that there are 135 bridal magazines on the market, and that’s just the United States. Make sure that you tweak the query to match the needs of your target markets before you send it out.
  • Send another query to the same editor. I once exchanged several emails with the editor of a $$-priced market with a large national circulation. She liked my first query but didn’t think it quite fit their market. I emailed her back a couple of days later with another pitch, which she again politely rejected. However, she added that I was getting closer to figuring out her publication’s needs and encouraged me to keep pitching. (They were awfully picky for a $200/article market, but anyway.) I ended up temporarily closing up my freelance writing business for a couple of years after my day job got enormously business, but I know I would have eventually landed an assignment with that editor had I continued to pursue it. Querying soon after a rejection helps keep your name in front of the editor and establishes a relationship with her — always a plus when you’re working in this business.
  • Keep working! As you send these queries out, don’t just sit around and wait to receive acceptances or rejections. It’s a percentage game: the more queries you send out, the more acceptances you get, the busier you’ll be. And the busier you are, the less likely you’ll succumb to depression because of a rejection or two. If you need extra motivation to send out those queries, sign up for Kristen King’s 2008 Query Challenge on Inkthinker. Pretty soon you’ll be too busy to even think about the rejections.

How about you? How do you deal with the rejections that come your way in your freelancing?