In Parts One and Two, I covered 40 reasons why your work may have been rejected – 20 which are easy to avoid, and others which go to the heart of writing craft. Today, to wrap up, 20 or so reasons which may or may not make sense, but turn out to be more or less true
Some Reasons you really can't control…
1. The editor was in a lousy mood that day and didn't like anything that crossed his/her inbox.
2. The editor has seen your work before and just doesn't like it, period.
3. The section in which your piece would have run has just been eliminated.
4. The venue got way more submissions than anticipated and even though your piece is good, they can only publish so many.
5. The publication got way more submissions than they anticipated and since they have far too few staff to read them all, everyone in the overflow lot simply got a rejection.
6. Your piece was read by an overworked undergraduate student on an internship who makes mistakes and overlooks good work sometimes.
7. The editor who read your work just doesn't like ____ (fill in blank with whatever the subject of your piece was – ducks, China, smokers, kids…)
Reasons you can't control, but might have realized before submitting…
8. They only publish work by…women and you're a man; health professionals and you're not; Asian-Americans and you're Greek.
9. You've written about this topic dozens of times in publications similar to theirs, and the editors don't want to be derivative.
10. You have paraphrased too much of another writer's work.
11. You keep sending to the same editor over and over, and keep getting impersonal form rejections (never any personal notes or encouragement). Take the hint. He/she isn't interested in your work. (Probably.)
12. You are not a writer that venue considers established enough for its pages.
Reasons that sound inauthentic, but sometimes really are just plain true:
13. We just ran something similar.
14. We recently accepted something similar.
15. Liked this, but it just missed: please submit again. (You know, editors often really do mean this.)
Possible explanations for: "This is just not for us," or "This doesn’t meet our editorial needs":
16. We just don't like it and aren't really sure why.
17. We have other stuff at the moment that we just like better.
18. Someone here knows you, doesn't like you, and cast the veto vote. (Yes, it happens; though thankfully, not too often.)
19. We're in a budget crunch which is limiting our page count, bandwith, editor and/or contributor budget; therefore, we're cutting back on how much we accept.
20. We're just way too busy to explain why we are passing on this.
Annoying things that, on a good day, probably won't get you rejected on their own, but are just enough to annoy the editor so that if he/she is having a not-so-good day, may just get you the boot:
- You don't know how to properly punctuate or format dialogue.
- You don't use page numbers and it's a long piece.
- You sent it to an editor's personal email address instead of their professional inbox.
- You wrote a rambling cover note filled with unnecessary information.
- Instead of inserting direct links to your published work, you invite an editor to "visit my website (or blog)" so she/he can spend time she/he doesn't have hunting down your published work.
- You mention that you and the editor once met and that he/she indicated your piece would be a shoe-in, when what was really said was more like, "send it along."
- You address a female editor as Mr. or a male editor as Ms.
- You wave your MFA (or other) degree as if it is reason enough to accept your work.
Did I miss anything? Writers, and editors especially, do chime in.