Advice From the Pros

Six Tips to Help You Deal With Rejection From Editors

Learn to handle rejection professionally, and keep it moving as a writer

Rejection is unfortunately a part of life. But for writers, it can sometimes happen on a daily basis. Getting a rejection letter can be stressful, and may even make you question your abilities as a writer. While hearing “No” is par for the course as writing professional, there are still things that can be done to help you learn from the process, and to improve this often uncomfortable situation.

Here are six tips to assist you in the pitching process and to help make the sting of rejection more manageable.

  1. Shake it off

As a writer at any stage in your career, you will inevitably get a rejection letter. While this is a professional causality, it can bruise your ego and hurt your feelings in the process. However, the quicker you are able to develop thick skin, the better equipped you will be to deal with rejection in the long run.

Getting used to criticism, and having your ideas rejected, can be an adjustment. But once you make this change, you will see an improvement in how you react to this situation. While there is no right way to handle rejection (and this is certainly easier said than done), being able to hear it, process it and move on, without being reactionary, is one of the healthiest things you can learn to do as a writing professional.

  1. Ask for feedback

You just sent out a pitch, and got a rejection email. In this situation, be grateful you heard back. Editors are busy people juggling multiple writers. Sometimes a story just isn’t the right fit for the publication. However, if an editor took the time to write back, read the email carefully and be sure to follow up. Ask for feedback on the pitch: why it didn’t work for them and how it can be improved. Another possible course of action is to ask the editor if they are looking for stories on specific topics.

Once you receive a response, incorporate the feedback into your next pitch. Remember, just because one editor turned down a story, doesn’t mean your piece won’t find a home. And ultimately, getting feedback on your pitch could lead to a stronger working relationship with an editor and the publication or website they are associated with.

  1. Turn a negative into a positive

Don’t get discouraged when your pitch isn’t accepted. You can still turn the situation around, and as a freelance writer, sometimes you have to be a creative problem solver.

Looking for an unexpected story idea, spotting a trend before it catches on, trying to place your story with a different publication, or just simply emailing an editor to see if they are taking on freelance pieces, could work to your advantage. Being creative is a valuable skill to have, and while your pitch may not have landed in the exact publication you imagined it in, after some tweaking, it may end up with a home after all.

  1. Learn from the process

A lot of rejection is arbitrary, and out of your control. The quicker you are able to realize this, the better off you will be in the long run. The pitching process is all about learning what to do. With each new pitch you send out, you will become a stronger writer and able to decipher what a story is and is not. You’ll also get a better sense of the publications and websites you are pitching to.

When pitching to specific places, it’s helpful to already be familiar with their content so you will have a better idea of the kinds of stories they may be looking for. Go on the magazine’s website, or the site of where you will be pitching, and conduct keyword searches of your article ideas. This way, you will be saving yourself and the editor time if there is already a similar story up. If that’s the case, you can potentially offer another angle, and hopefully, place your story.

  1. Don’t take it personally

Writing is a hard industry to break into. And sometimes it may seem that you are hearing more no’s than yes’s. If that is the case, don’t take it personally. Like other industries, writing isn’t immune from seasonality; depending on the time of year, you may find it harder to place stories. For example, editors may not be able to take on pitches from outside writers due to budget constraints or other issues.

Another thing to keep in mind: try to pitch stories ahead of the curve. Editors work off of an editorial calendar, so if you know that summer is coming, or a blockbuster movie is being released on a certain date and you are dying to review it, pitch early and often! Being able to sort professional rejection from personal life is a hard skill set to learn, but once you are in the practice of doing it, it will make your pitching process less stressful and more fun in the end.

  1. Think positively

Thinking positively can sometimes make all the difference when pitching. If you are more confident in your writing skills, this will come across in the pitches you are putting out. Be excited about the story ideas you come up with and convey that in the emails you send out. A little positive energy can go a long way. By adjusting the way you think, this may help you yield more positive results.

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