Editors reject submissions for many reasons. If you want other people to publish your work, you are going to have to accept rejection and criticism.
Rejections aren’t always your fault. There are some clear reasons you’ll get rejected. These reasons should be obvious, but some people just don’t seem to understand. Errors like these result in rejections:
- Send an inappropriate submission or query, such as an article about guitars to a magazine about drums.
- Send a poorly written or unprofessional-sounding submission or query.
- Address your submission or query to the wrong person or department.
- Fail to follow a publisher’s submission guidelines.
- Fail to study the publication well enough to be clear about what they want and use.
Editors who see major errors will reject you without a second thought. Let’s assume for the moment though, that your submission or query is appropriate, well-written, properly addressed, and follows the publisher’s submission guidelines. There are still a number of legitimate reasons that it might be rejected. These reasons do not reflect poorly on you. For the sake of brevity, assume that “editor” means anyone who is deciding whether or not to publish your work.
Editors reject submission because of their tastes
An editor’s tastes may differ from the submissions guidelines. Editors may prefer a specific approach to the subject matter that they publish. They may prefer that their writers have a certain background that you do not have. Also, they may not like your sources or your use of commas. None of these things mean that you did something wrong, it just means that the editor wants something different from what they are seeing.
Editors play favorites
Just because a publication says that it is open to new writers, doesn’t mean that they are specifically seeking new writers. The editor may already be comfortable with the freelancers the are working with and not be willing to break in someone new. Some writers are especially good at building relationships with editors, and those relationships pay off down the line with additional assignments. If you are a new writer to this editor and don’t have a reputation that matters to them, then you may lose out on that basis alone.
Editors reject submissions that are too similar
Your idea may be similar to a submission that the editor has already received or published. Some publishers have long lead times between submission and publication. Another writer may have pitched a similar idea. The publication may have put out a similar article in the past. These things happen.
Editors get saturated with submissions
Some publications receive more submissions than others. This is especially true of major magazines, websites, and book publishers. If an editor has one slot and twenty worthwhile submissions, then you might get pushed out by the sheer numbers. It doesn’t mean that your submission was bad. It just means that someone else’s work met their needs in a way that yours did not.
Look for positive signs and helpful feedback
In many cases, you won’t receive any feedback with your rejection. Some editors are just too busy to give feedback to every writer that approaches them.
If you do get feedback though, and it isn’t overwhelmingly negative, then the editor is trying to give you some hope or advice for the future. Listen to what they have to say. If they tell you to submit again, do so. If they tell you specifically why they rejected you, look for ways that you can overcome that obstacle in the future. Also, remember that a rejection by one publisher doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try another publisher. If you like your idea, find an editor who does as well.
- How to write a query letter
- Escaping the Slush Pile
- What Does an Acquisitions Editor Do?
- Goals of an editor