December 18, 2014

Guest Post: Getting Through Rejection

By Kate Willson

No. Denied. Pass. No matter how the “thanks, but no thanks” letter you receive from publications is worded, it still stings to know that your work has been rejected. It stings even more if you have been rejected multiple times before or if that piece was one of which you were particularly proud. Yet, rejection is an unavoidable part of every freelancer’s career, so it is essential for all freelancers to successfully get through the heartache and discouraging bouts of dismissals.

One of the most important things to recognize when you are feeling down and out over the most recent rejection of a story or pitch is that you are not alone. Hundreds of freelancers receive rejection letters every day, so you are certainly not the only person in the world who has been turned away from publications. In fact, numerous freelance writers may receive consecutive rejection notices before they finally are given the green light for something they worked on. In addition, the rejection may not even have anything to do with the quality of your work.

Publications typically reject a piece or pitch if it has already been written on, seems too similar to something the publication already published, previously granted another freelancer permission to undertake a project similar to the one you proposed, or if your piece does not fit in with the general tone of the publication. Any of these reasons could be behind the rejection you received as most publications will not disclose the reasons for their decision, so remember to not take the rejection too seriously and that there are hundreds of other freelancers who go through the exact same thing.

Yet, while you should not wallow in self-pity and become utterly discouraged from writing or pitching again, you also should allow yourself to feel bad and “grieve” for a few moments. After all, feeling heartache from rejection is actually a very normal thing – and a common physical response. When you are rejected by a peer, as is the case when an editor rejects your story, your heart rate will temporarily decelerate rapidly, according to a study conducted by the University of Amsterdam.

This means that in all human beings, rejection can actually cause the heart to briefly stop altogether, which is little wonder why receiving a “no thanks” letter can hurt so much. This explains why many new freelancers may quit after receiving a particularly devastating barrage of rejections – the physical and emotional stress may be more than they can handle. However, if you accept the feelings of sadness that accompany each rejection but then also quickly recuperate from those feelings, you will be far more ready to take on additional stories and pitches.

To keep yourself motivated, do not dwell on the fact that you were rejected, but take the opportunity to examine how you could improve your piece or pitch the next time around. If one particular idea or story keeps getting turned away, take a hard look at it and determine what could be making it inaccessible:

• Is the story too technical?
• Is the story too long?
• Is the story too broad?

Remember to also tweak your finished pieces and pitches for each new publication you encounter as every publication has a different audience and tone. However, the best way to keep yourself motivated is to just keep doing it. Keep sending out your stories and ideas because you will have a better chance of getting a project accepted this way than if you did nothing at all.

Freelance writing is not an easy thing, but those who stick with it enjoy it. If this is something you want to do for the long haul, keep your spirits up and get through the rejections like a professional.

This guest post is contributed by Kate Willson, who writes on the topics of top online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katewillson2 AT gmail DOT com.

Interested in contributing a guest blog post of your own? Check out the guest blogger guidelines.

Flickr photo courtesy of Caro Wallis

Guest Post: 12 Query Letters, 12 Rejections: My first month as a freelancer

By Stacy Lipson

I have a corkboard behind my desk. On it, I’ve posted a sign: Never give up.

No one ever said freelancing was going to be easy. Still, I was unprepared when my first rejection letter rolled in. And then twelve more. Some were short in length; others ran for a paragraph or more. No thanks. We’ll pass.


I’ve received rejection before. The first college I ever applied to rejected me before I even finished my application. My first summer home from college, I applied for a part-time job as a cashier, and received my rejection letter in a pink envelope. Ouch.

When I received my pack of rejection letters by e-mail, I wanted to crawl into a ball and hide under the covers. I wanted to quit. I was pulling fifty hour weeks with no payoff. Family members were sending me emails with subject lines like YOU ARE GOING TO GO BANKRUPT. I started to wonder if I was in over my head.

And then my first acceptance letter arrived. The silver lining!

I don’t know what lies ahead. But I’m not giving up. I have a steady supply of Ramen noodles and my Silver Reed typewriter (yes, I’m old-school). My parents have blessed me with an incredible stubborn streak, and in the off-chance that fails, I know that a career at McDonalds awaits me. Kidding.

A writer friend of mine recently sent me an e-mail: Have courage. She’s right. You’re going to need courage for the days when the only thing that you write is a check for your electric bill. And you’re going to need courage for the days when your shrink is out of town and your friends have blocked you because you’ve been bouncing too many ideas and they just can’t take it anymore . Courage. It’s a start.

Stacy Lipson is a freelance writer specializing in health. Her writing has appeared in a variety of publications including MarieClaire.com, YourTango.com, Natural Health magazine and other publications. In her free time she likes to bake and watch television sitcoms.

Interested in contributing a guest blog post of your own? Check out the guest blogger guidelines.


Flickr photo courtesy of Frerieke

15 Reasons Your Idea Got Rejected (and How to Fix It)

Rejection is a fact of life for freelance writers. Sometimes a kind-hearted editor takes the time to offer a little direction or nuggets of wisdom (“I really need pitches related to X right now” or “we’ve done enough on Y”), but often we never know the real reason, because we never hear from the editor. Still, if we’re being brutally honest with ourselves, I think we can often see the holes in our query letters. I know I can!

Thus, I’ve compiled a list of 15 potential reasons why you might get rejected. Some of these are tongue-in-cheek, but many of us are pulled from my own rejections (most notably 5-10).

1. You submitted a seasonal idea too late. It’s not too early now to be pitching back-to-school, fall fashion stories, or even Thanksgiving stories to monthly publications.
2. You misspelled the editor’s name. This one’s an easy fix. You know what to do next time.
3. Your voice didn’t match the voice of the magazine. If you’re pitching to BusinessWeek, you’d better not include slang or pop culture references. Likewise, if your target is Seventeen, you need to show that you know the lingo (without trying too hard).
4. Your grammar was a little lacking. This is a nice way of saying that you need to hit the books and bone up. I recommend the Grammar Girl podcast for help on the finer points of grammar.
5. Your query was too general. Don’t say “I want to write about cats,” say “I plan to offer readers 10 ways to save on cat care products.” Make sure that your article idea is clear and focused.
6. Your query was too specific. Sometimes we have the opposite problem and get a little too focused; for instance, “this article will show readers where they can buy vegan cookbooks in Houston” is too narrow for a national consumer audience.
7. You didn’t convince the editor that you can pull it off. If you’re pitching a new-to-you editor and you don’t have major clips, then you have to work extra hard to prove yourself. Include a little original reporting to give her a taste of what’s to come. Or try pitching a front of book (FOB) piece instead of a feature.
8. The publication just covered this topic. Oops! Happens to the best of us. Next time read some back issues or search the archives.
9. The publication is about to cover this topic. C’est la vie. At least it shows that you’re thinking along the right lines. Keep trying!
10. The publication already maxed out its freelance budget. Totally out of your control, so pitch one of their competitors instead.
11. Your topic might scare off advertisers. Unfortunately, this is a concern that many magazines have, especially with advertising dollars so hard to come by. That’s why you may have a hard time selling an expose on inflated airline salaries to most consumer travel magazines. In this case, you’d need something a little more indie and off-beat.
12. Your topic feels tired. Try to come up with a reason why readers will want to read this now. Maybe it’s a new study or a news story or a movie tie-in.
13. Your email got lost in the shuffle. Thus why you should follow-up!
14. Your clips are not impressive. True, some clips are better than no clips, but if they have typos or read like a glorified press release, then they may be doing you a disservice. Keep at it, and you’ll get better clips.
15. The editor was having a bad day. See? It’s not always about you. Sometimes it really is them. And, unfortunately, we as writers can’t do anything to change that.

The bottom line is that there are lots of reasons why we get rejected and not all of them mean we’re destined to fail as writers. In fact, most are simple things and mean that with a few tweaks, we’re back on track. Anything you’d add?