I’m an idiot.

No one likes rejection, but there are some rejections that sting a lot more than others.

When an editor rejects a story because it doesn’t fit what she’s looking for, sure it’s not great, but it’s totally understandable. The story doesn’t fit. Might be a great story, but it doesn’t belong in this publication.

When an editor rejects a story because it’s substandard, well, that’s just proper. The first summer I really took a stab at selling some of my writing, the story I considered the least valuable, least well written, is what sold. There’s a reason I still send stories out that I don’t consider my best, but when they get rejected, I’m not surprised.

I’ve got some stories that I consider my best. And they haven’t sold yet. When those get rejected, it hurts.

Last week I got a rejection that really, really hurt, though.

I wasn’t rejected because the story was substandard. I wasn’t rejected because the editor was looking for something else.

I was rejected because I’m an idiot.

If you attempt to publish, one of the things you read is that you need to follow directions. If an editor wants a manuscript in Times New Roman, you submit the manuscript in Times New Roman. On the other hand, if she prefers it in Arial, you’d better send it in Arial!

So I saw a call for submissions that fit one of the stories that I think is one of my better ones. I prepped the manuscript. I sent it out.

I got a reject three hours later. Not even a form letter; just a reject.

And when I looked into it, reviewing the call for submissions… I saw that I’d left out information on the cover letter that the editor had requested, resulting in an automatic reject without her even opening the story.

It’s such a little thing, reading directions. You’d think I’d have a handle on it after all these years.

Oy.

I used to read those tips: “Read the directions! Make sure you give the editors what they’re looking for! So many stories get rejected just because the writers don’t read the directions!” I’d read those tips and roll my eyes. It’s so basic! Come on; who could mess this up?

This guy.

So, learn from my mistake. Read the directions if you’re submitting to agents, editors, or voracious wolves.

Though I find that voracious wolves are more interested in eating authors than reading stories.

Maybe that’s a tale for another time, though.

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