If you don't have inside connections, how do you get a foot in the publishing door?
Go through the back door, which is usually open just a crack. What's the back door? You've passed it any time you've ignored a personal rejection.
My first personal rejection was the result of a query I'd sent to a regional magazine with an international circulation. It was just five words: "Sorry, too small for us" and an editor's name.
I knew the magazine well and wrote back to the editor arguing that my article really was right for the publication. He said he liked my persistence—how about writing it from a different angle? I walked away with my first check.
How can you turn rejection into acceptance?
- Don't take no for an answer. If you've done your homework and know your story is right for a specific magazine, tell the rejecting editor why. You, too, may have an editor say, "I appreciate your persistence." But beware—this strategy can backfire. Some editors don't take kindly to being told, in essence, that they're wrong. Be sure you're ready to take this risk before proceeding.
- Don't overlook the long shot. A regional publisher rejected a cookbook idea of mine. I knew that the company's main focus was on nonfiction, but my market research had revealed it did publish a tiny amount of fiction. I queried the editor who'd sent me the personal rejection about a novel in progress and received an enthusiastic go-ahead.
- Be adaptable. One magazine editor liked my writing but rejected a short story because she was unfamiliar with the unusual setting. I asked her if she'd be interested in an article about the setting. She bit.
When replying to a rejection, always be friendly, polite and professional. Thank the editor for her time in responding personally, remind her of who you are and what you've already sent her. Then follow up with a normal query letter, implementing one or more of the above suggestions. Who knows? Your next correspondence with this editor may include a contract and a check.
This article appeared in the September 2000 issue of Writer's Digest.
Tara Neilson is a freelance writer based in Alaska. Her work has appeared in publications such as Once Upon A Time, Ladybug, Joyful Child Journal, Alaska and Northwest Boat & Travel.