Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reasons Writing Submissions & Queries Get Rejected: Part One

A while back, I was prepping a talk for a writers' group about submissions and rejection (and I admit, was in a slightly cynical mood), I came across an article titled something like, "10 Reasons You Were Rejected," and I thought: Ten? Really? Is that it? I can probably come up with ten times ten. Thankfully, I didn't go quite that far, but I did compile "61 Possible Reasons Why You Got A Rejection: The Good News and the Bad." Relax, I'm not going to sling them all at you right here, right now. Nah, I'm going to break them up into three posts. There, isn't that better? First up --

20 possible pretty simple reasons why you got a rejection. (These, by the way, are oh-so-easy to avoid):

1. You sent a piece of the wrong word length.
2. You sent it to the wrong editor (and that editor did not do you the supreme favor of forwarding it on to the right one).
3. You sent it by postal mail and that venue now only accepts electronic submissions.
4. You sent by personal email and that publication now only accepts submissions through their site's Submission Manager form.
5. You sent a piece as an attachment when guidelines said NO attachments. Or vice versa.
6. You missed the deadline (yes, even by five minutes – if it's an online sub).
7. You ignored or did not read the exact submission guidelines. Or figured they did not apply to you.
8. You sent a form/genre that the publication does not publish, or no longer publishes.
9. You put your name on the pages of your work, or it appears somewhere in the text, when the guidelines say NOT to (because it's either a contest or the editors do a blind reading).
10. You sent single-spaced text or a teeny font size or otherwise poorly formatted your work.
11. You made a pest of yourself by following up too soon, too often, or impolitely.
12. You said something stupid in your cover note like, "I don't read your publication, but…"
13. You submitted (via email) something that was previously published and the editor found it online (because yes, some venues do a routine search/scan of all submissions).
14. Your cover note stated that you needed a speedy reply, hinted that another publication was interested, or asked for a specific (and way high) amount of money. Or you otherwise made an ass of yourself.
15. You queried about something you should have sent in as a fully completed piece.
16. You sent in a fully completed piece when you should have queried first instead.
17. You called something a short story (indicating fiction) when it is really a personal essay or piece of memoir (nonfiction) or vice versa, and the person who edits that genre dismissed it.
18. You sent something that is not right for that venue's clearly stated readership, mission, or desired style/form/aesthetic.
19. You dropped the names of certain editors, authors, or others who you think have influence at that venue, and you didn't check with those people first; when the editor asked them about you, there was a less-than-effusive reaction.
20. You have been published by this venue in the (recent?) past and they have a policy about not publishing the same authors more than X times per Y time period.

Have I made these mistakes over the past few decades? Some, sure. Live and learn.

Tomorrow, 20 or so possible reasons for rejection that are related to your writing craft.

Update: Parts Two and Three have now been posted and you can find them here and here.

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