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Writer Wednesday: Why articles get rejected

March 6, 2013

Since most of the east coast of the U.S. (from Virginia on up) is happily (?) enjoying a snow day today, I’m taking a break from my Lenten devotional series and have been trying to catch up a bit on reviewing manuscripts for the magazine I edit, Living for the Whole Family.


Our spring 2013 issue.

I’m also a writer who has also submitted many many articles and book proposals to a variety of publishers and publications, and that’s what makes my job as editor so hard.

I know the sting of rejection. The desire to lash out, “stupid editor, she/he doesn’t know anything. People would love this topic! They would buy thousands of books! They would beat a path …”  Or not. (Hence why you have so many publishing their own blogs today. Me included.)


(What you hope you never get)

So I HATE to send rejections (and that’s why it takes me so long to respond sometimes). But I have had many writers tell me, “yours is the nicest rejection I have ever received.” Some writers are grateful for any comment, any direction, any feedback that will help them (us) in our quest to connect and be published!

Thus I weigh the options for the feedback I give to writers:

  • Shall I be brutally honest or spare feelings?
  • How do I tell an elderly writer that the writing feels like it was written in the 1960s or 1970s? How do I feel about maybe becoming an elderly writer myself someday (not now, heavens!) and feeling rejected because of “ageism”?
  • How do I balance the need for articles with a different twist or slant, with the “way out there” pieces that no one will identify with because no one else has had or will have this experience?
  • The profound experiences of everyday life – birth, marriage, death – are just that, profound experiences that all of us experience (except for marriage) and therefore, most editors receive way way too many articles on the topic (especially grieving and loss or death).
  • Would writers rather hear “we are overstocked” which is usually true, even though I make exceptions for pieces that totally rock and sing? Or would they (you) rather hear “this humor just isn’t funny” or “you are talking down to your readers.”

Hating to send rejections is almost overcome by the joy of opening an email or letter to find an article that jumps from the computer screen or page and makes me laugh, cry or think deeply.

The amazing thing to me is that writers go through all this trouble and travail to be paid a mere $35 to $50 most of the time and be JUMPING UP AND DOWN FOR JOY when they get the check and a copy of the publication with their name in print.

Writers are not really vain, we just live for the byline.

But at least I rarely get pieces anymore (which used to be fairly common at some publications) from writers saying “God inspired me to write this piece” and inferring you better use it or your publication is not so inspired. L Editors have probably complained about that old standby for so long they have pretty much killed the line, even if writers still feel it.

My old standby advice for getting published anywhere is to spend a lot of time reading the publication or website or blog where you’d like to be published, so that you absorb not only what it is about, but the language (formal, informal, loose, trendy) the publication uses, how they approach readers, the editorials (what the editor writes about gives you clues as to their likes and dislikes). And for pity sake, do read (memorize!) whatever guidelines the editor or magazine shares. Ours are here.

If you are a writer, what kind of feedback do you prefer from an editor? Feel free to respond to any of the above bullet items if you comment. You will be a help. Thanks!


From → Writing Life

  1. Reblogged this on fastmaking.

  2. Personally, I prefer rejections (rude or nice) to no response at all.

    • So, anything is better than nothing. Agreed for sure. Like a diagnosis of something medical is better than not knowing what’s wrong. Sometime I’ll write about why it takes so long (way too long) for an editor’s reply.

  3. I understand taking long because I’ve worked on a major newspaper’s desk. But not replying at all seems plain mean and unnecessary.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Writer Wednesday: Can you help me choose a title for my next project? | spiritual practice, faith, and life
  2. Writer Wednesday: Why articles get rejected | MennoNerds

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