Killing Me Softly With OneWord: NO!

Rejection letters are the writers’ merit badge and other fibs

Vivian McInerny


Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash

Rejection season is upon us.

Now is the time all those personalized queries you planted in early fall, reap scores of form letter rejections from agents and editors.

It begins in Sober October, so dubbed because it sounds better than The Month of Angst and Despair. And we writers love all the words.

Except “moist” which is universally hated for reasons any Freudian can explain.

The emotionally prepared writer will sweep aside those early standard-issue “no”s with utter confidence.

Rejection happens.

Refer to Submittable, QueryTracker, Duotrope, or your personally-designed spreadsheet to keep track of all your heart-breaking failures. Cry. It doesn’t help but you’re going to do it anyway.

To feel better and/or worse about your accumulation of rejections, know that the acceptance rate of an unknown writer at the most prestigious literary magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, or The Sun reliably hovers close to zero. Seriously, it’s usually less than one percent. Duotrope does the research and provides the stats so that the diligent writer can feel despondent in a precise mathematical manner.

Your optimism that you will be the rare writer to breakthrough is both necessary and cute.

But by midseason the “thank-you-buts” show up more often than periods in a Hemingway novel. * The writer may begin to feel a sense of dread.

The emotional winter is coming.

You may wonder how it is possible that an aspiring junior agent at a startup agency failed to recognize your obvious brilliance.

Show compassion. The newbie is completely overwhelmed by the barrage of nine-hundred page manuscripts, each the firsts in a series of five fantasy tomes, that flooded their query box after they naively posted, “I’m open to submissions!” a post they deleted approximately twenty-two seconds later.

A single call for submissions will echo forever in the mind of the determined writer.



Vivian McInerny

Career journalist, essayist, fiction writer, and life-long spirit-quester.