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What writers and editors want each other to know about rejection

Plus, how to cope with receiving them.

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Not enough time

While writers expressed desire for a “clear-cut no” with a reason, Cipolla Barnes confirmed that time is not on the editor’s side: “Editors would love to send personal feedback with each rejection, but the truth is, it takes time that may not be available.”

The numbers sometimes are not in anyone’s favor. Monks reported in his 2019 Vulture article that his magazine receives “200 to 300 submissions a week,” and he tries to “read and respond to each and every one of them within five to seven days.” That’s an impressive feat. Not every editor can afford to take that time to send hundreds of rejections each week. Depending on their workload, that may simply not be feasible. 

When Cipolla Barnes has the time, she’ll “try to make notes if a writer is unpublished or a teenager so that a rejection is extra encouraging. One line might make the difference for a beginning or younger writer.”

The jerk file

So while there may be writers who get remembered for good reasons, you really do not want to anger or upset an editor. It’s simple; do not argue with an editor if they reject you. And, better yet, do not insult or abuse them. That’s a good way to get ghosted or blocked forever.

Monks wrote in his Vulture article that sometimes he’ll get pushback on rejections he sends out. So instead of engaging the angry rejected writer, he places “these mean messages in a folder I’ve titled ‘Jerks’ and occasionally share screenshots of them (with the names of the jerks redacted) to my followers on Twitter.”

So while I would not recommend that editors take nasty emails to social media, the sentiment is clear: Do not get remembered for the wrong reasons. That will ensure you never get your pitches accepted at the publication or by that editor.

Be kind

After all these discussions with writers and editors, one clear idea emerged: We should be kind to one another. Gurvis summed it up well: “I think that you need to realize that everybody is on their own journey, and everybody has problems.” Especially since most communications are done through email in freelancing, tone and facial expressions are lost. Ultimately, we never know what the person is feeling or dealing with on the other side of the computer. A nasty comment or a thoughtful message can make or break someone’s day.

That being said, it goes both ways. Writers need to know that editors face their own challenges, personal and professional, and we should be kind in our responses to them. So while rejections are part and parcel of the freelancing game, we can try to be a little more thoughtful to one another. After all, editors want to see articles get published, and writers want to see our work out there. 

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—Elisa Shoenberger has written for the Boston Globe, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. She is the author of In Good Company: A Guide to Corporate Fundraising and co-editor of The Antelope: A Journal of Oral History and Mayhem.

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