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A Positive Lesson in Rejection


Rejection is a natural part of being a writer.

Even those writers and authors who have gone on to achieve international success were, at one point or another, rejected.

One of the differences between those who go on to be successful and those who don’t is the willingness to learn from the experience and try again.

It’s with this in mind that I aim high when I pitch and walk away with something, even if it’s an important lesson in rejection.

A recent example:

I pitched a piece to a major in-flight magazine using the standard query format, and the editor emailed me back looking for a little more information. Over the next couple of days, we exchanged emails half a dozen times—him looking for just a bit more … that special something that would knock the piece from the “maybe” pile into a contract while I did my best to flesh out my idea and answer all of his questions, being as truthful and honest about what the piece could and could not deliver.

Think of every rejection as an opportunity to build rapport with the Editor.

In our final exchange, when I knew I had exhausted anything and everything I could offer, I told him that I would welcome the opportunity to write for him but that if the story really wasn’t what he was looking for, then I completely understood why he had to pass on it but that I appreciated his time and willingness to discuss the idea with him.

The editor passed on the story. He told me there just wasn’t enough to it but to keep the publication in mind for future pitches.

I am 100% totally okay with the outcome of this exchange. I didn’t get the gig, which, admittedly, is a bummer, but I learned so much in the process:

  1. Editors are human and they’re just doing their jobs. This one didn’t have to take the time to correspond with me; he could have just thrown my pitch away, but he didn’t.
  2. Don’t over-promise if you’re going to under-deliver. Could I have told the editor what he wanted to hear? Yes, but then I wouldn’t have been able to deliver. With a major publication like this, the last thing I wanted to do was not live up to the editor’s expectations.
  3. There’s something to this story idea. It might not have found a home in this magazine, but the story isn’t dead. I just need to redouble my efforts to find the right place for it.
  4. A sincere thank you goes a long way. I could have kicked and screamed my way out of this conversation, insisting that this story absolutely was the right fit for this publication, but what good would it have done? What I’ve done instead is opened the door for future opportunities and started to build rapport with this editor.

So what now?

I re-purpose my pitch and find a new place to send it. I’m also in the process of brainstorming some other ideas the editor might be interested in.

But most importantly, I keep my chin up and keep on writing regardless of rejection. After all, someone has to become the next international bestseller.

~ JoAnna

Have any tips on handling rejection? Share your advice!