It has been four months; you know there should be a call coming any moment from the editor of the magazine or book publisher you sent your manuscript to. How could they turn down your story about the shy kid finding the lost ticket booth money? You studied their magazine; read books they have published, spent months writing and revising your story . . . and your critique group loved it. However, the phone isn’t ringing and there’s email in your inbox either.
You are afraid to get your mail. It’s been three days and you know the post woman must be getting mad. How much more could he really stuff in that little P.O. Box? You take a deep breath, put on your shoes, call your dog, and go for a really long walk. Maybe it will keep your mind off the mail, off the thought of your manuscript, and maybe you will get past your writers block and come up with a new story idea.
Your dog is pawing your leg. You have been walking around your neighborhood for an hour. Okay, time to head home this is not working. You turn the corner and there it is . . . your mailbox. You could just look away and keep walking. Oh no, the post woman is there. She’s putting something big and tan in your section of the P.O. Boxes. Oops, she sees you. Her eyes narrow a bit. You give her a half smile and wave. Okay, you had better go check your box.
Before you can even put your mail key in the mail woman hands you all your mail. There it is right on top….a big fat 9x12 envelope with your name on it. No, it couldn’t be…but it is. Your manuscript has been rejected. Well at least you still have two more—no, wait…one more—no wait…
That’s it! Time to throw in the towel. Three rejections in one day. How many other writers has this happened to, you wonder. Well the fact is…Lots!
Yes, I had three rejections in one day. I really had my hopes up on Highlights for Children. After all, I’ve been reading their magazine my whole life. First as a young reader and now to my children, but that does not mean you always send the right story. What I did learn is the more rejections you get the better a writer you become.
James Giblin once said, “I’d worked as a children’s book editor for more than 15 years, but still I felt uncertain. Did I have what it took to be a writer, or would I just make a fool of myself?”
Well, I felt like a fool after three rejections in one day. The thing is, I didn’t throw in the towel. I kept at it. Writing until my hands bled. Okay, maybe not until they bled, but close enough to it! Nevertheless, as each rejection came I made notes. They helped me prepare for the big day when I was able to say, “I’m published!”
Here is what I have learned:
Besides having a great manuscript, you will also need to make sure it is something editors want to buy. What good is your story if it’s not what editors are looking for? This means finding the right place for your manuscript by doing research. This does not mean posting on your writing social sites for places looking or open to submissions. Of course, knowing who is looking does help you know where to read guidelines and want lists to see if your manuscript fits. Also, don’t ask a fellow writer who you should send your stuff to. You need figure that out for yourself. If you cannot find a place to send it, hold on to it. It does not mean the plot isn’t any good. You just need the right editor in the right place at the right time to submit. That’s when editors will pick up your manuscript and say, “Hey, this is what I was looking for.”
Next, you will want to target your market before your manuscript is polished. Liked I just said before, if there is not a market for your manuscript then do not send it out. Knowing what editors are looking for is the best way to give them what they want, and make your manuscript stand out from the rest. This means read their publications. Know what types of books they publish. I mean really read them by reading multiple books or magazine issues, you will know what trends the magazine or book publisher is following. Moreover, it helps you hone your writing skills.
Once you have written a marketable manuscript and found the right magazine or publisher, it’s time to submit. Make sure you study each magazine or publisher's guidelines. You will be surprised how many ask for different things. In addition, I cannot tell you how many manuscripts I turn down as an editor because our guidelines were not followed. I am sure some of them were great, but if a writer cannot follow guidelines . . . then how can I expect them to know what rules can and can’t be broken in writing. Another thing is most publishers want a query letter and writing samples before they even see your manuscript. Above all, don’t over submit. If you have already sent a manuscript to an editor two to four months ago, hold off. Editors are busy and do not need an over zealous writer on their hands.
In the end, you may have to deal with the rejection letter if it comes. There are so many kinds that it is hard knowing what they mean. Just remember to keep writing, take notes if you get some advice from an editor, and keep in mind maybe your manuscript just needs a different home or a little more work. One day you will get that email or phone call saying, “We would like to publish your manuscript.”