I Don’t Mind Rejections

There are times when I post about a story being rejected by some publication or another and people think I’m upset about the rejection. There were times that I expressed anger, but that had to do with what was said in the rejection letter. Sometimes there are comments in the letters that I feel are ignorant about people with disabilities and it gets under my skin. Also–and it’s not so common these days, they seem to be a dying breed–there are editors who think it’s their job to be an asshole and I don’t take that shit very well.

But the rejections themselves? No, I don’t mind. It’s just part of the game. I approach this whole writing thing like it’s a game. From the number of words I get down each day to the number of publishers a story goes to before one of them buys it.

It’s a game. A sport. Jay Lake called writing an endurance sport. I dig that. Looking at it that way makes it fun.

It’s also just business. It’s not personal. Publications get hundreds of submissions, some of them get thousands. They can only publish a few stories each issue. A rejection doesn’t mean the story isn’t good. It could mean they just decided not to buy it. They have to make these decisions and sometimes it’s a tough decision to make.

I have been on the other side. I’d been a slush reader, an assistant editor and a judge in a contest, for different publications, over a period of a few years. For the contest, I was a judge on a panel of other judges. We was like the Supreme Court, yo. That was my last editorial gig. After that, I decided I can’t do this kind of thing anymore.

One of the reasons I made that decision is that most of the submissions were pretty decent. At all of the publications I did editorial work for, most of the submissions were decent. I liked them. I enjoyed these stories. Some I liked better than others. Some I thought were better written than others. But most of them, I found enjoyable on some level. I didn’t like deciding which stories could stay and which stories had to go.

You know the opening scene from the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles? Where the guy is trying to make up his mind about two pieces of art? He can choose only one. Both pieces are brilliant and suitable to his needs. He has to reject one and he doesn’t know which one to reject. He has a tough decision to make. It’s like that for editors, though probably not to that extend.

Seasoned writers are more like Neal (Steve Martin). We just want an answer, yes or no, so we can sell or move on to another publisher. My biggest frustration isn’t getting rejected. My biggest frustration is that it often takes a very long time to get an answer on a story.

It’s just business. The writer creates the product, and the editor decides whether to buy it or not.