Why so quick to take it personally? Rejection of your writing doesn’t always mean the writing is not good. It can mean a few other things, too. Things you’d never think of because you’re not running a poetry journal (which requires a different sort of thinking).
A few weeks back I made a submission to a poetry journal in Europe. It was posted in Submittable with a deadline a MONTH OUT. I received a “rejection” the very next day, with the editor claiming they had been swamped with submissions and already had enough work to publish their journal.
I wrote back, which is not like me because I know better. Something to this effect: “Well, sir, as your posting is four weeks out, why don’t you have the decency to contact Submittable and have them yank it to save other writers the futile exercise of putting a submission together, executing the submission, and updating their writing records?”
The response to this wild and crazy idea sounded like this: *** Crickets ***
Then I got the real answer yesterday — an email from this very same European poetry magazine. It was sponsoring a special introductory subscription offer of 40% off, featuring some of the very best poetry in the world (just not yours)!
Suddenly it dawned on me. The rising sun sounded like this: *** Duh! ***
They were not in Submittable for poetry submissions, they were in it to build a poetry-readers subscription base.
And here we have writers constantly taking rejections personally. Look how creative some editors can be! And others may be rejecting your work not because it is bad, but because it’s good but not to their taste. Or because it doesn’t fit with the other works they’ve already accepted. Or because it’s free verse when they fancy form poems (or form poems when they fancy free verse).
Sure, sometimes rose is a rose is a rose and rejection is a rejection is a rejection, but buck up! Your entry might be accepted to a mailing list saving you 40%!
BTW, the response to this introductory offer sounded like this: *** Move to Trash ***
3 thoughts on “When Rejection Really Isn’t Rejection”
Sometimes the editors know the writing they’re turning away is good. One can usually tell this from a personal, especially encouraging request (“send us more”) or even telling you which poem came closest to working for their journal. Sometimes it’s because they’ve received three good elephant poems already and this wasn’t meant to be an elephant-themed journal. Sometimes they really have been swamped with entries and can only use 25 of them. They choose for how they fit together, not just by the individual impact.
I worked as an editor before becoming a writer and could see the issue from both sides of the fence. Occasionally a rejection will get my goat, though, like the one that said they were looking for poems like “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver. They can keep looking for that, but the only one written has flown out of their reach…and mine.
Yes, you often see that. “We’re looking for poets like…” followed by a litany of famous poets. Seems they’re stating the obvious. Who ISN’T looking for the next (insert litany here)?
And yes, I understand the editors’ POV, too. I just thought leaving a request for poetry up when you had no intention of considering a single poem sent your way was inconsiderate (to put it diplomatically).
You’re very right. I’ve seen that before, too. But I think it’s far more common for the author to feel bruised even though the editor may have thought their work did show talent, just not the right poem for the right time. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been both rejected and accepted by the same editor. I certainly don’t like all of my own poems equally.