Guest Post: The Submission Game–Overcoming Rejection

By Stephanie Campbell

The submission game is one of the toughest things that writers have to face. You pour your life into your book—hours and hours of time spent to tweak the words into submission. You find a literary agent or a publisher and you send the manuscript in, waiting with bated breath. You feel like you are going mad, waiting for the reply. Then you get it. It goes something like this:

Dear Writer,

Thank you so much for taking your time to submit to publisher XYZ. While we appreciate your submission, it is not a good fit for us at this time. Best of luck to you and your writing endeavors.


Editor X

Heartbreak. Instant shattering. No, I am not just writing that to be poetic. I know because I understand. It’s your baby, rejected. It’s like watching your daughter get turned down for the prom. I have had enough of these letters to wallpaper my house with. I got my first one at sixteen from a literary agent. I still remember that moment. (Though I don’t blame the agent. I look back now and cringe at the state of that manuscript.)

Even as an accomplished writer, I get emails like that. Sometimes the manuscripts I submit are simply not up to par. It’s easy to say, “Grit your teeth and bear with it.” That doesn’t make the hurt go away. Yet now, as a more experienced writer, I have to say that I support the tough-as-nails system.

1) It sorts the men from the boys. I started submitting at sixteen. I didn’t get accepted by a traditional publisher until I was twenty. Now I work with many publishers and editors. The people that want it and will be successful are the ones that find a right fit for their stories and are willing to revise.

2) You develop thick skin. When you become a novelist, you will get bad reviews. I know I do. I don’t check them because if I did, then I would go crazy. Occasionally, though, one sneaks up on you and “Wham!” instant pain. But look at Sherlock Homes and The Scarlet Letter. They are some of the most treasured literary gems. They have one star reviews on Amazon. Edgar Allen Poe got bad reviews. Being a writer means being a warrior. You’re going to get stabbed.

3) Rejection can show important personality traits to editors. An inexperienced writer might say, “They aren’t looking at me, they’re looking at my book.” Wrong. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a good book. You will have to work with your editors on a constant basis. You talk back and forth. You will have to make major revisions. I have worked as an acquisitions editor before. There may or may not be a DNP (Do Not Publish) list, but trust me, we remember the writers that treat us badly and won’t go out of our way to get you published.

What I learned from my “travels:”

Find Pre-editors and Editors and use their lists to find the best publishers. If it doesn’t say “no simultaneous submissions” on the publisher’s guidelines, then trust me, submit to others. Lots of others, in fact. Holding your breath for one publisher is like laying all your eggs in a basket that has a hole in the bottom of it.

*Note on simultaneous submissions

Keep track of who you do submit to. Even if simultaneous submissions are allowed, editors appreciate an email if the manuscript gets accepted elsewhere. It’s about respect. They have a lot of submissions. If your book is already spoken for, even if it is incredible, then it wastes their time.

Walk before you run. I’ve seen some writers get a literary agent straight away in their career, but honestly, not many do. Just a note to remember.

Do nudge. Really, if it’s been two months and their submissions say “two months,” then ask them about it. I once thought I got a rejection after two months and went on to work with another publisher who wanted my book. Four months later I got a contract letter. It was embarrassing.

Lastly, don’t give up! Persistence always wins!

Author Bio: Stephanie Campbell has been writing since she was twelve and had her first novel, Until We Meet Again, published at seventeen. Since then she’s published four more books and she hopes to publish many more. You can learn more about Stephanie by reading my interview with her here or visiting her website here.

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