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My Say - Deborah Durbin


My Say gives writers a chance to air their views about writing and the writer's life.

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Deborah Durbin writes about the pain of rejection, but tries to see it from the publishers' point of view as well

Rejecting Rejection

No one likes rejection, but if you are thinking of making a career out of becoming a writer, this is part and parcel of the job, I’m afraid. I’ve had eight books and hundreds of articles published in the eight years I’ve spent glued to my keyboard, and I still receive more rejection letters than junk mail through my post box. Yes, it’s frustrating, yes, it’s disheartening and yes, it makes me mad, but I don’t take it personally.

There are approximately 12,000 publishers in Britain and the bigger ones receive hundreds of manuscripts every week from aspiring writers. When you consider that a writer has no more than a five per cent chance of being accepted by a publisher, you soon realise that you are lucky if you get a letter from them at all.

Whenever you hear the thud of your returned manuscript, along with a standard rejection letter, land on your doormat, try stepping into the shoes of a publisher for a moment. Publishers don’t publish books for the sheer hell of it. Publishing books is a big and very competitive business and any publisher will only take on a book if he/she can see a profit coming in from it. Would you invest all your own money into a book that might not sell a single copy? Would you take the gamble?

Last year approximately 975,000 books were in print in Britain – 550,000 of those didn’t even sell one copy. So it just goes to show, publishers have to be very selective when choosing which new titles they are going to take on.

As I said, it is not personal. I know of one publishing company which employs a member of staff just to open manuscripts and pop them straight back into the return envelope, along with a standard rejection letter. No-one ever actually reads the manuscripts, because they simply don’t take on new writers.

Some companies will only accept a submission if it has been forwarded by an agent. Many publishing companies just don’t have the finances or resources to take on any new writers, or they have enough titles on their lists for the next couple of years.

When you receive a standard rejection letter apologising that your material is not suitable, just remember, this is a standard rejection letter that is sent out to everyone and could easily mean that no one in the company has even looked at your manuscript, or is even qualified to pass judgement on it.

If you have followed all the guidelines given by WritersServices and your writing is what they are looking for, at some point a publisher will pick your manuscript up from the ‘slush pile’ and send you a completely different letter - a letter of acceptance.

If you really never, ever want to see a rejection letter ever again, you can always consider investing your own money in your book and publishing it yourself.

Deborah Durbin

© Deborah Durbin 2004