You Will Be Rejected

by Joe Bunting | 59 comments

I recently received a rejection letter for a short story I submitted at the beginning of July. The letter read:

Dear JH Bunting,

We regret that your manuscript does not fit our current editorial needs, but we appreciated the opportunity to consider your work. Thanks very much for submitting.

Sincerely,

The Editors of the Magazine that Doesn't Want to Publish Me

This is the nature of this work we do. On the one hand, we get to make up new worlds, and play with our imaginary friends. We experience the joy of creating. Writing is wonderful, isn't it?

On the other hand, we will face rejection upon rejection upon rejection.

Are you ready for that? Is writing worth that for you?

Rejection

Photo by Steve Snodgrass

How to Handle Rejection

I have another rejection letter that makes an excellent coaster for my coffee cup. It's made out of card stock. I try to spill as much coffee on it as I can.

A friend on Twitter told me she has a wall in her closet where she pins all her rejection letters. She highlights all the nice things editors say. (Why don't the rejection letters I get say nice things?)

Stephen King did something similar, and in On Writing, he says at fourteen, “The nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”

Rejection is a red badge of honor. It means you're serious, you're disciplined, and you won't give up. If you haven't been rejected, it probably means you're not passionate enough.

Has your writing been rejected recently? Share your story in the comments.

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

59 Comments

  1. Katie Axelson

    When my dad was job-searching, he got so many rejection letters that he wrote “FUCK YOU” on the wall with them and hosted an FU party. I kid you not.

    Reply
    • Zoe Beech

      That is HILARIOUS!!!!!!  Good for him!!!!

    • Katie Axelson

      I didn’t believe the story until he finally showed me the picture. It’s true. There they were: all seven letters written in rejection letters.

    • Katie Axelson

      Do you really think I’d swear in your comments if it weren’t true?

    • Joe Bunting

      I didn’t think you’d swear in the first place!

    • Katie Axelson

      I had a professor whose goal was to get me to swear. No matter how badly he tried to corner me, it never happened. The only trick he didn’t use was calling on me to read aloud during Beat Lit.

    • Suzie Gallagher

      I am laughing at you, your dad and Joe, on a train with two people facing me thinking I am mad!
      Very funny.
      Is that why I don’t send my stories off because I can’t handle rejection?
      Will have to think some more on this.

    • Katie Axelson

      I’m glad you’re amused, Suzie!

      By not sending off your stories, you’re rejecting the pieces yourself. That’s worse than having a publisher reject them because even you–the author–don’t believe in them. Rejection letters are miserable. I still cry over them. But I cry knowing that I’ve taken a step in the right direction.

  2. Steph

    Sorry to hear that, Joe. At least you have an answer and can move on. I always hate waiting on things like that! All is not lost; I’m sure you learned a lot from the process and, by sharing, you have helped your readers keep perspective, too. Will you submit this elsewhere? On to new projects? Best to you, Joe!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Steph.

      When you submit short stories, you send them to several different magazines at once. This time I sent it to six, and this was only the first one to get back to me. I’m pretty excited to receive five more rejections (or maybe I’ll get lucky). Then, it’s on to the next round of submissions.

      In the meantime, we must write on.

  3. Zoe Beech

    🙂  Thank you.  I needed to hear this today!  Key phrase = ‘keep writing’.

    Reply
  4. Susan Rinehart Stilwell

    Of course I’ve been rejected recently! But I still like reading other peoples’ stories about it. Makes me feel like I’m part of a club 😉

    Funny aside: I subscribe to your posts, and this subject line reads:
    “You will be rejected by Joe Bunting”
    Swell. One MORE person rejecting me
    😉

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      That’s hilarious! And for all those who participated in the contest this month, that will probably be true. Sad face.

      Thanks Susan 🙂

    • tamyka

      It’s funny you should mention that, Joe, because when I first skimmed my inbox I thought that’s exactly what was happening—my short CNF was being rejected. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive this month 😉

  5. Sarah L. Webb

    I agree with Steph. The worst part for me is the waiting. Once I’ know I’ve been rejected, then I can quickly move on, resubmit, etc. It’s frustrating, but giving up is a guarantee that you’ll never be published. The only way to eventually get published is to keep writing and submitting. 

    Thanks Joe. We definitely need the encouragement when things aren’t happening when and how we wish.  

    Reply
  6. Zoe Beech

    This inspired me into creating a fun rejection song – YES!! – a theme tune of sorts… ‘I get knocked down, but i get up again, ain’t never gonna keep me down.’  I’ve always loved it, but now it’s especially significant!!  I’ll play it loud and proud when rejection knocks @ the door!!!  

    Reply
  7. Tim

    I have rejections from the polite “we enjoyed reading your story but it’s not for us” to the blunt “we’re not going to publish your short story.”  And Joe may I point out the Editor Who Didn’t Want to Publish You didn’t really say that.  What he said was he didn’t want to publish THAT story of yours.  Bet the day will come when you submit something s/he does want to publish.  I’m still waiting for my rejection from the New Yorker (being ignored is worse than a rejection) to frame and put on the living room wall. 🙂

    Reply
    • Katie Axelson

      I definitely agree time: being ignored is worse than being rejected. Rejection letters mean the publisher loves you enough to tell you they don’t want you.

  8. Marla

    I have a friend who hangs her rejection letters in her closet – and it’s a big closet – like a whole room in my house.  I couldn’t do that.  It stings to be rejected, and we’re a needy group, I think.

    I do, however, appreciate a rejection that says something constructive.  The last one I received said that the story was strong but they wanted to see a transformation of the main character from an interaction with animals.  And when they said that, a light went off.  I didn’t fulfill that requirement.  It helped me.  I read too fast and I scan a lot and I didn’t slow down enough to take that one line in when I read what they were looking for. 

    On the other end, I’m an editor for a local magazine and I struggle with rejection letters to other writers.  I think I’m too worried that I’m hurting someone, so I tend to praise what’s good in their writing and then tell them there’s no place for it in our publication.  I don’t think that’s the best method and I’m working on it.  Many of the people I know, which makes it even tougher.

    So, I see both sides.  I think the answer is to send out multiple submissions, and to keep the cycle going, so you’re not waiting on one editor who’s looking at one story.  That, I think, breeds insecurity.

    Reply
    • Mariaanne

      It must be tough to see it from both ends.  I wonder if it makes it harder or easier to submit things. 

    • Marla

      Marianne,

      I don’t submit much at all, so my job may influence me. I do feel for editors, since I have a small insight into what they do. I enjoy contests though, and I plan to do more of that. I think I’m monumentally lucky to have the job I do. I’m grateful every day.

      Marla

  9. Zoe Beech

    However, congratulations are in order, Joe, for the 3,900 people following this blog – if I’m not mistaken, that’s 200 since yesterday?! 😉  Balances things out pretty nicely…

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Haha. Thanks Zoe. I update it manually every two hundred or so, so it’s slightly less impressive than that. I will definitely take it, though 🙂

    • Joe Bunting

      Great idea! I thought about writing my shopping list on my letter, but rejected the idea. This is much better.

      Thanks for sharing this!

  10. tamyka

    I am truly envious of all those who have received rejection letters. Here in Australia, where it can still take a week for a package to cross the country, the vast majority of our submissions are in electronic format. That means the vast majority of rejections are also in electronic format—when the publishers bother to send one—and it seems so wrong to waste paper printing them out. So I have an electronic file of rejections, but it’s not quite the same as that nail on the wall.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Mine are mostly electronic, too, Tamyka. Although, I started printing them out for extra motivation.

  11. Jason Ziebart

    I tell this story about Stephen King every semester to inspire my students to write the best they know how. The worst rejection I’ve received is silence. I’d at least appreciate a “no.”

    Reply
    • Oddznns

      I hate those silences. Apparently it’s kosher to send a reminder. My publisher friend told me that, so I actually sent one out yesterday. I think it went into a black hole but I feel better having DONE SOMETHING than sitting around waiting.
      Thank god for the internet. At least I don’t have to save my pennies for stamps now. 

  12. Marianne

    It’s like falling from a horse, you just put your foot back in the stirrup and try again.  You are going to go far Joe.  You’re young, you’re gifted and you are committed.  I hate that this happened to you though.  It just doesn’t seem right.  You do so much for everyone else.  I’m bad about submitting things myself. I must have a shoebox full of rejections but I think I’ve only submitted maybe five times in the past 12 months.  It isn’t easy.  

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Sheesh, Marianne. We need to get your submission count up!

    • Mariaanne

      I will but competitive athletics is something I know zip about.  

    • Joe Bunting

      I mean with literary magazines!

    • Oddznns

      Marianne, I’m going to repeat what I learnt this week. The more we ask, the more we get. Sure, the rejection count also goes up, but so do the chances of getting accepted. And there’s always feedback.
      You are SUCH a good writer Marianne. I really look forward to more.

  13. Richard J Lester

    One of my proudest and much treasured rejection letters came from you Joe. The fact that you took the time to communicate with me and offer some fine guidance will, no doubt, stand me in good stead for the trials and tribulations that await me. In some way, rejections could be considered badges of honour?

    Reply
    • Oddznns

      YOu are so right Richard. Rejections ARE badges of honour. We have tried.

    • Yvette Carol

      I like that way of looking at it. I used to keep rejection letters, imagining a rejection hall of fame one day perhaps. Then it got depressing, and I chucked them all out!

  14. kizi4

    Another question but people respond in a different mind. sometimes I do not understand what they are talking about anymore. thanks!

    Reply
  15. Puffy

    I write because I LOVE writing, and I join writing contests simply because, if I love writing, then I would probably be able to write more. 

    Writing more = Puffy shall be happy at last XDIf I get rejected, I’d probably won’t care much. I don’t think I’d care at all. (One of my biggest talents: lying. I’ll care so much that I’ll spend the next hour soaking my pillow with snot and tears. Just kidding!) I did my best, so if I get rejected, I’ll just find another contest and write an entry.

    Most of you probably wouldn’t trust me on this because I’ve only joined about three contests (only two of them for writing) and I don’t get a lot of heartbreaking rejections.   But I always believe that if you love what you’re doing, will you let some people who don’t want to publish you get in your way and make you stop writing? I rest my case.

    Reply
    • Steph

      I am with you 100% Puffy! I do this to entertain and challenge myself. It is fun. My background and future are not in writing (especially if I want to feed myself!!). I know this. But for me, it is no different than learning to play the piano even if you know you will never be a concert pianist. The monthly contests are like entering a racketball tournament that I know I won’t win either — it is just fun to try it out, get some exercise, try to improve, see what other people can do, and all the more fun if the ball happens to bounce my way, even if it is simply that someone commented that they enjoyed my story.  Most people do not seem to comprehend that anyone could do this just for the sake of fun…guess we’re weird! 🙂

    • Mariaanne

      I love your writing though Step, and really want to know what happens to Rex and Mags etc.  I keep thinking it’s a book I haven’t finished.  Of course I guess I’ve been getting glimpses of them for more then six months now. 

    • Steph

      Fun to “see” you in your profile, Marianne!! You look as delightful as I have always imagined you.

      Thanks for your kind words. I hope to wrap things up with Rex and friends this fall when my kids are back in school. Then I’ll send it to you – you and my husband can be my grand audience. If either of you makes it all the way through, I’ll consider my efforts a raging success! 🙂

      Of course I have the next two books rattling around in the back of my mind once the first is done!

    • Yvette Carol

      Good on you Puffy!

  16. Dawnstarpony

     i can’t wait to get rejected XD the first one i get i will treasure it forever.. althought i hope i eventually have luck. -_- but we’ll see how that goes once i actually finish the MS

    Reply
  17. Oddznns

    There’s a great new way of dealing with our fear our rejection. It’s called Rejection Therapy – just go out and try to get rejected. The premise is that if we don’t ask, we don’t get. So because we fear rejection, we never ask enough, and we get less than we deserve.

    I tried it. It was fun. And I did get more leads for my queries. It’s a bit of a long story, but I’ve posted it on my blog
    http://oddznns.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/rejection-sucks-lets-get-rejected/
    if you’re interested.

    Reply
  18. Leti Del Mar

    After HUNDREDS of rejections (the worst are the ones that come on index cards as though they can’t even spare an entire piece of paper on you or your work) , I decided to self e-publish.  Guess what?  No more rejections!

    Reply
  19. Yvette Carol

    I think the rejection is one of the most difficult adustments to make when you first start submitting your writing. However, having said that, it actually doesn’t get easier with time. Waiting on a reply is agony. Every rejection hurts. At first. But as you go along, the sting goes away faster each time. You do get over it. And if you’re in it for the long haul, you learn your coping mechanisms. If you’re lucky, you even start to learn from them.

    Reply
  20. Christy Boston

    For the first time ever in my life I submitted something for publication, and it got rejected, lol!  I actually laughed, because now I can say I have officially embarked on what I believe to be the beginning of my writing career.   Woo hoo! 

    Reply
  21. Joseph Ting

    I critically appraise other authors’ arguments in quality newspapers and magazines, then Letters to the Editors that rarely get published. Even when the scarce one is chosen, I am often not told they were accepted for press. This has led me to self-googling on a weekly basis to see if a Letters Editor finds my commentary deserving of dissemination, which is often time-consuming, frustrating and less satisfactory than getting a rejection emailed to you-in the latter situation you know for sure. I find that my self esteem is directly related to whether my letters get published rather than be in the e-commentary trail at the end of articles. There is something so esteem forming about someone judging your letter or writing worthwhile to be proffered to their audience

    Reply
  22. Yepi Friv

    Many of the people I know, which makes it even tougher.

    Reply
  23. eva rose

    I can’t say I’ve received rejection letters. What’s worse is hearing nothing! Last fall I submitted several stories requested to reflect the “senses” (sounds, smells, tastes, sights,etc.) of the area where we live. It was a contest with a promised winner. Months later I followed up to ask if the contest was over. The reply was that the judges were still considering a winner. To date there has been no further information. When this happens I put it out of my mind and submit elsewhere. One positive: two years ago I submitted a poem and a story, heard nothing, then received a BOOK which included my entries as part of a collection! Patience rewards?

    Reply
  24. Kizi 3

    I browse this text whereas i accustomed be at school and presently that i’m home I even have browse it yet again. i created a call to tell you i feel you ar ideas ar nice.

    Reply
  25. Kenneth M. Harris

    I agree with all of your opinions about rejection. there are a few that I had never thought about, but, you see, this is my first rejection and I do expect to get others. The difference between me and you all is that I’m close to 70 years old, so time is running out for me.

    Reply
  26. Paul Gooder

    I try to look at the positive, at least someone took the time to open the envelope and read my story (maybe?).

    Reply
  27. R. Alirhayim

    I haven’t submitted anything yet so I never had the honour -:)- of a rejection before. But this certainly prepares me for what is to come. I have received many job rejections though, and I imagine it is quite the same. There was a time when I gave up applying to jobs .. The worst thing is when they leave you hanging there with no explanation as to why you have been rejected. I understand that some companies receive many applications, but a word or two would make a lot of difference. Especially to those seeking genuine instructive feedback.

    Thanks for putting this up Joe. We all need this kind of encouragement to keep us from giving up too soon.

    Reply
  28. Laurel Lancaster

    Just had my first professional rejection. It’s a rough hit, but I love writing too much to let this stop me.

    Reply
  29. Johnny Cottrell

    Yes, I got a no response rejection from amazon kindle about publishing a short story. I guess the proposal was too vague. But I’m going to probably publish my novel through amazon. Self-publish through them. I thought going to college to try to be a filmmaker was hard, but I didn’t think that publishing a book would be harder. I have thought of giving up writing because rejection does hurt my feelings. But i love to write, so should I or give up?

    Reply

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