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    Reversing Rejection

    Ah, rejection. Ain't it grand? Be it a form letter or personal nitpicking from some grouchy editor with an axe to grind (right in your back!), there's nothing quite like coming home after a long day of work to see your pleasantly addressed SASE from some Big Name Publisher, only to open it up and read those famous words: "Dear Writer We Couldn't Be Bothered To Remember The Name OF, While we have given your story/book/proposal careful consideration/thought/laugher we regret that yada yada . . ."

    But don't let rejection letters get you down. Instead, turn them around to put a positive spin on your freelance writing career! Here's how:

    Read Between The Lines

    Every publisher handles rejection letters differently. Some print off reams of colored paper to print them on, then cut them into halves or even fourths for more rejections per sheet. Others have a form business letter which appears personalized, if only because they've bothered to type your name above the same rejection they sent another thousand writers that day. Others, though these are few and far between, send out personal messages that are actually, gasp, signed by a real human being!

    No matter what type of rejection letter you get, resist the temptation to curl it up into a ball, set it on fire, and toss it in the circular file. Mine it for information first, and read between the lines. For instance, is there anything encouraging about the wording at all? As mentioned, many publishers send out color-coded rejection slips. This is not just because they have some extra time on their hands and were feeling perky.

    Instead, this is a carefully thought-out system that allows editors to keep track of what they're rejecting and why, such as blue for "don't call us, we'll call you," pink for "this didn't work, but please feel free to send us anything new" and yellow for "this was great, but we just published something exactly like it: keep trying!"

    Unless you get the blue one, this is a good thing. Believe it or not, the publisher is encouraging you. Take this at face value and go back to where you found out about the publisher in the first place and do some more research. What did they just publish? What do they specialize in? Write something new, or rewrite something old, and give it a second chance. After all, they practically begged you to!

    The Name Game

    The most important thing you can glean from a rejection letter, despite a little encouragement, that is, is a name. Names are valuable currency in the publishing industry, and with the fast-paced world of mergers and acquisitions, names are constantly changing. This is why Writer's Digest and Writer's Market always suggest that you call a publisher first to get the current name of the editor you're pitching. However, even this isn't always accurate. Finding a helpful phone voice at a publisher is a little like finding a helpful sales clerk at a gas station, at two in the morning, on Christmas! In other words, it's not very likely, and you could just be given the wrong information in order to get you off the phone quickly.

    On the other hand, an editor's name on a rejection letter is pretty current. So hold onto it, and address all further correspondence to that publisher to that editor's name. In the highly-competitive world of publishing, it's little things like getting your submission on the proper editor's desk that make the difference between landing in the slush pile, and the really BIG slush pile.

    Cyber Considerations

    Of course, in these modern times, e-mail query letters are becoming more and more common. As postage prices rise and all of us become more aware of the damage we are doing to our environment by cutting down tree after tree, e-mail is quickly becoming an accepted form of communication between writers and editors. Not everywhere, but enough places to keep you busy if you stay logged on long enough!

    Of course, for many writers, this just means that you start getting those rejections even faster than before! But hold on. That's not always a bad thing. After all, at least you didn't have to hold onto that story, article or book for months while you submitted to that editor who doesn't allow simultaneous submissions. Now you at least know about it in a fraction of the time, and can get that manuscript out there even faster.

    Furthermore, most e-mail software allows for a generous address book, which means you can add those editorial e-mails quicker than ever. Begin a virtual file folder for each and every one, and refer to it frequently. To make the file fatter, e-mail yourself a quick description of the publisher who rejected you, such as what they specialize in, what you sent them, when you sent it, etc. Now you've got a few fast facts on file each time you want to submit something new to them!

    Another nice feature of e-mail rejections, if there is such a thing, is that they are quite often handled by younger, newbie assistant editors or even editorial assistants. Since these folks are still sensitive to writers' feelings, they often send back a personal, albeit short, reply, signed with, treasure of all treasures, a name. This makes a valuable selling point when you finally have something to send back to them. Use it!

    Write Away!

    Rejections are a great inspiration for writing. So why not write an article on thinking up new ways to insult writers, why not collect your best ones and compose a quick, 750-word, Net friendly article to contribute to online writing zines, Web sites and e-mail newsletters? Post it on Themestream or e-mail it to your friends to let them know the agony you suffer on a weekly basis. If your article gets accepted, let alone purchased, you've just made rejection a positive thing, and that's no easy feat! So congratulate yourself, and enjoy the notoriety.

    Who knows? Some big editor could see it on the Net, and contact you with an offer!

    Copyright © 2001 Rusty Fischer

    Rusty Fischer is the author of FREEDOM TO FREELANCE: The Editor of The Buzz On Series Reveals How To Find, Get and Keep Your Next Freelance Job, available at

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ

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