When a publication does not want to publish your writing, what is the best way to proceed?
Here’s a productive way to take action after an editor rejects your writing. This is yet another way that will help you become the Editor-in-Chief of the content you produce.
In this 18-minute episode, I discuss:
- Trusting an editor and trusting yourself
- Why the nicest, hard-working people still get rejected
- Why we love stories of perseverance
- How to move past Fantasy Land and become responsive to reality
- How unproductive it is to take rejection personally, when it has nothing to do with your ability to do meaningful work
- What “skipping a step” means
Listen to Editor-in-Chief below ...
The Show Notes
- Don’t Quit Your Night Job
- What’s Your Favorite Word?
- 7 Common Mistakes Writers Make When Pitching to Editors
A Productive, 3-Step Path to Follow When an Editor Rejects Your Writing
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Stefanie Flaxman: Hello there, Editor-in-Chiefs. I am Stefanie Flaxman, and you are listening to Editor-in-Chief, the weekly audio broadcast that delivers the art of writing, updated for marketing in the digital age to help you become the Editor-in-Chief of your digital media business. Today’s episode is called A Productive, 3-Step Path to Follow When an Editor Rejects Your Writing.
Trusting an Editor and Trusting Yourself
The macro theme of today’s episode — the big theme — is trust, and the micro theme, as the title suggests, is rejection. Trust goes back to last week’s episode when I talked about writing mistakes that writers make when they pitch to editors. Embedded in that episode, I talked about the fact that you need to trust the response you get from an editor. You need to trust that they are doing their job to the best of their ability and to respect that decision and to be gracious.
Not in an over-doing gracious way, but to acknowledge that that person is coming from a perspective where they have to do their job, and if your writing is not a good fit for the publication that they manage, to trust that. Also embedded in trust is the idea of trusting the power of your own content, and that leads us into what I’m talking about today, because I want to show you ways to proceed when you do get a rejection. I’m going to go over three steps that you can take that will hopefully help you think about rejection in a different way.
Rejection is not what we want. People normally don’t like hearing ‘no’ or not getting what they were hoping to get. That’s a really natural response, and rejection can really knock you off your game. You had an idea. You were going on an idea of how you wanted something to be, and then if you’re stopped by rejection, you can lose your footing a little bit.
The steps that I’m going to go over in a little bit are going to help you get a clear head and help you regain your footing so that you can keep moving forward and essentially regroup and move on with your work.
One thing I want to make clear first is that I’m not saying that you deserve rejection or assuming that your writing is going to be bad, and you’re going to be rejected. This rejection is just a reality. I’ve gone through it. Every single person in the world has gone through it, no matter how much they’ve accomplished or how great they are. This isn’t like, “You’re bad. You’re going to be rejected.” It’s just that this is a fact.
Because of that, instead of ignoring it and saying, “You’re going to do wonderful all the time, and you’re always going to get what you want,” which is not realistic, I just want to have this as maybe a remedy or a tool to go to. If you encounter rejection, you can come back to this in your writer toolbox and say, “Oh, you know what, there are those three things that I can keep in mind when I’ve experienced rejection, and that will help me keep moving forward.”
Why the Nicest, Hard-Working People Still Get Rejected
Also, rejection doesn’t have anything to do with how nice you are, how good you are, how bad you are, how hard you work. None of the factors that make you you have anything to do with rejection. The nicest people in the world get rejections. The most pure, good-hearted people in the world get some form of rejection somewhere. The same for the hardest-working people in the world.
When it comes to your writing, so much has to do with timing, and a publication’s current needs and flat-out preferences of the gatekeeper of a publication that are completely out of your control. They do not necessarily reflect the value of an idea.
Sometimes, the piece of writing and a publication just aren’t a good fit, and again, it has nothing to do with how hard you work, how much you did your research, how nice you are as a person, how many times you’ve shared a person’s article on Twitter and other social media platforms, all of the effort that you’ve made to show that you want to contribute to some place. If it’s not right, it’s not right.
Why We Love Stories of Perseverance
But those who aren’t paralyzed by rejection find a way to share their work with the world, which is ultimately what I mean by moving forward. And that’s why we love stories of perseverance. We love hearing that Gone with the Wind was rejected more than 30 times before it found a publisher. We love hearing that Harry Potter was rejected more than 10 times before it found a publisher. We love those stories because it shows that people didn’t give up, that they didn’t take the rejection personally, and that they were able to persevere and move on.
Even though someone was in a position to reject those writers, it didn’t mean that the authors gave up on seeing their creations published, and they didn’t give up on the value of their work, which really takes a lot of confidence.
Hopefully, these three steps will again be in your writer’s toolbox and also help you build confidence. If you’re feeling a little off your game, you can go back to these three steps and think, “Okay, you know what, here’s something I can do.”
How to Move Past Fantasy Land and Become Responsive to Reality
The first step is to react based on reality, not fantasy land — what I call ‘fantasy land.’ Also, in last week’s episode, I touched on this. Sometimes writers get very carried away that writing for a site that they want to write for or publication that they want to write for is going to change their life and their career, and everything is going to be different because they got published this one time at this one publication that they really like.
It’s not that it’s not a career milestone if you get this piece published at a place you’ve really been aiming to write for. It’s not going to change your life and career as much as you think, at least not immediately. Over time, yeah — like I said, it’s another milestone. It’s another victory for you, which is super great, but you get so wrapped up. In the rejection, all you think about, “Oh, but, you know, if I just got this one piece of writing accepted, everything would be different.”
We really get carried away with this fantasy of what things would be like when we’re presented with the rejection. Maybe not so much before — maybe you’re working really hard and hoping that you’re going to get your writing published there. The rejection can really magnify all of the fantasies in your head about what something would be like. Because you don’t have it. You didn’t get what you want, so you go off to fantasy land thinking that something is going to be so much greater and bigger because you don’t have it.
It’s that wanting what we can’t have, but you’re really projecting what could happen. I think it’s better to proceed with reality, and reality is accurately assessing where you are in your career, what your current career level is, and looking for the outlets that are happy to have you where you are.
A lot of times, rejection comes from not recognizing that a certain publication may not be the best fit for where you are now. It doesn’t mean that eventually you won’t get to a point where you are on the level of writing for a more prestigious publication. There are plenty of outlets that you can look for that are happy to have you exactly where you are, and again, you’re looking for the right fit.
If there is absolutely nowhere that you can find to publish your writing, don’t devalue the power of your own website, your own blog, your own digital media presence.
I’ve ended up publishing many articles on my own site that I just couldn’t get published anywhere else. I tried to pitch them to other sites, and they weren’t really working. No one was really jumping on them or thinking that they were going to be a good fit. I ended up publishing a number of articles on my own website. That ended up being so much more beneficial because I really liked the content. The content was very powerful, and it was good to have it on my own home base, because then when anyone looks at my website, it’s there in my portfolio. I’m not just on someone else’s website with this content.
Originally, going to fantasy land would be, if I had gotten rejected, and I would have thought, “But this so good. I just want to get this in front of a bigger audience. I don’t have that big of an audience looking at my site.” You start just get to feeling really bad because you think, “Oh, I put it on my site, who’s going to see it?” It is always there. Nothing, no one, can take that away from you.
When you have produced a piece of a writing and you put it on your own website, no one can take that away from you. It is there, and you don’t know what is going to happen. It takes years sometimes. It’s not an overnight thing, but you knew that already. Don’t underestimate the value of your website, and maybe that is the best reality for you right now.
How Unproductive It Is to Take Rejection Personally, When It Has Nothing to Do with Your Ability to Do Meaningful Work
The second step is to get more creative with your work and look for another place for that piece of writing that you originally pitched somewhere.
This requires more work than what you originally did, and if you’ve just pitched an idea, it could work for a complete piece of writing. Basically, you might have a really good start with what you originally pitched — the idea or the full piece. One of the best ways to proceed when one publication doesn’t want a piece of your writing is to think, “Where else would this be a good fit?”
Along with that is, “What else can I do with this idea or with this article that I could change that would be an even better fit?” You’re being really active about the evolution of your writing and the evolution of your work. You move beyond being paralyzed from the rejection, and you start thinking about, “What else can I do? How can I get more creative? How can I push this further to get what I want, which is other people to read my writing on a different site other than my own?”
Maybe you even need to rework it to make it work on your site, but this step is really getting past being paralyzed of taking that rejection personally. Because when you take things personally, it can completely stop you from doing what you want to do, even if you love doing a certain thing. If you think that because someone tell you ‘no,’ that what you do is not valuable, it’s really easy to stop and give up there.
It’s very unproductive to take something personally when the rejection has nothing to do with your ability to do meaningful work. No one can take away your ability to do meaningful work unless you decide that you want to let that rejection stop you.
What “Skipping a Step” Means
The third step is actually a question you can ask yourself, and I call it ‘maybe you skipped a step.’ What I mean by that is related to step number one, and that is that you have to do work and create something of your own that is valuable to others before you can expect other publications to recognize you.
You need to become that authority by actually doing the work, not just hoping that you can somehow convince a writer that you’re an authority. You have to have the proof. You have to have the evidence. The step that you might have skipped as you were pitching your ideas is beefing up your own digital media business before you go out and pitch your work to other people.
You have to have your own body of work, preferably an impressive body of work, but you can’t expect, if you haven’t built that up on your own, that an editor is going to be impressed by what you pitch him. It’s not a personal thing if they’re not impressed. They have nothing to go on. They can’t research your work if you don’t have work there.
Make sure you’re building your own digital media business first, and if you need help with that, you can check out the Rainmaker Platform.
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Again, building up this web presence of your own before you go elsewhere to try to get your writing published is crucial. Because we’re all doing the same thing that has been done forever before the Internet — you have to have a portfolio. You have to have something for people to look at. It’s not just something for people to look at, you really have to be doing something different, because your job is to show why you are the writer to write about a certain topic for a publication.
So many people want to write about the same topics, but the work that you do on your own, that you publish on your own, on your own digital media platform, is what’s going to show the editor, “Hey, this guy is really an expert. This guy has really done a lot of work around the subject. I can look at the writing. I can see this guy is a good writer, and you know, I think I want him to write for this site, too.” These are the things that an editor is going to consider, but you can’t get there if you haven’t done the work yet on your own site.
This is not in theory. This is personal for me, because it was exactly my experience. I started with nothing. I had this website that had no content on it, and I knew that if I wanted to have the type of career that I wanted to have with writing and editing that I had to do a lot of work first. It took years before anybody noticed. That’s just how it goes. But am I glad that I got started now? Yeah, I’m very glad I got started now, and I’m happy about all the struggles and all the ups and downs, because if you keep working at it, things happen.
I can’t say it enough — I’ve said it already — no one can take away that body of work that you do when you produce your own writing and put it out on your own when you are the Editor-in-Chief of your own publication. You do that first, and then your chances of getting published elsewhere will increase over time.
That is the show today. Thank you for joining me. If you like Editor-in-Chief, you can always go over to iTunes and click a little rating. It takes two seconds to click how you want to rate Editor-in-Chief. If you’d like to write a review also, there is a spot where you can add a little text and explain your rating. If you’d do that, I’d really appreciate it.
Thank you so much for listening. I am Stefanie Flaxman. You have been listening to Editor-in-Chief. Now, go become one.