Here’s how to explode as a writer by getting rejected from publications.
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People think I’m a superhuman writer. I’m here to make a confession: I’m not.
I get rejected every week from publications. “Rejection” should be my middle name. No matter how many viral articles you write or how big your audience is, it doesn’t matter. Publications care about their audience, not your ego.
If you write, you’ll get rejected, a lot. Rejection is a fact of life. The key is to get used to the rejection. You gain mastery when you fall in love with rejection.
I Chase Rejection
If I don’t get rejected by publications then I’m not growing. That’s how I look at it. Maybe the same perspective can help you deal with the rejection. Look, facing rejection is not easy. It’s easy to be disappointed or throw a tantrum.
I want you to think differently. Chase rejection and you’ll get better as a writer. Writing for some unknown publication with three followers is different from writing for Forbes or a timeless publication like GQ. Dare to be rejected and eventually, you’ll get accepted.
Every publication has a different audience and the more audiences you get in front of, the more your writing evolves. Don’t get comfortable with one publication because they always publish your work. Send 5% of your articles to random publications you think you have no chance of being featured in. You might be surprised at what is possible when you do.
Four Ways a Publication Can Reject You
There are many different ways you’re guaranteed to be rejected as a content creator:
- No reply: You follow up. You pitch. You never ever hear back. This is the most common rejection a publication will give you. Often it’s because you’re breaking their submission guidelines and they’re not going to state the obvious for you.
- One-liner decline: “We’re going to pass on this one,” is the standard form. Don’t take it as a bad thing and move on. Submit your story to another publication.
- Detailed rejection: Some editors will go the extra mile and give you a detailed rejection. Don’t take it to heart. They do this because they see something in you. Their rejection is actually a high-five pointing you in the right direction. Say thank you for this gift.
- Crushing rejection: This is where they talk down to you and make you feel like crap. These are rare but I’ve had plenty of them when it comes to traditional publications in mainstream media. Don’t respond to their unkindness. You’re better than that.
Know the rejection type so you can use it to win.
The #1 Reason You Get Rejected
It has nothing to do with you. It’s them. They are overwhelmed with stories in the publication queue. See your rejection through the eyes of an overworked editor, many of them do it for free. When you do, you’ll show them love not your ego.
The way to overcome this reason for being rejected is to stand out. Try and say something about a topic that is different. Flip a topic on its head rather than giving them another “5 Habits Of Sexy People” article to meet the trend.
Personal Stories Take You to the Front of the Queue
Publications don’t just want stuff you recited out of a book you read, jammed with quotes you googled in under 30 seconds. The easiest way to cut through is to add your experience and tell stories from your life.
Editors Back Underdogs
You know what editors love? An underdog. A puppy dog that keeps coming back for more with another story pitch. Editors look for writers that are serious. Because a publication can build its audience on serious writers.
A whole bunch of one-hit wonders does nothing for a publication. Tap into the editor’s subconscious human nature by being an underdog.
Worship Quality and Curation
The whole reason publications have to reject so many stories is because their job is to curate and find quality stories. If a publication accepted every one of your stories then they’d be doing a disservice to their audience. Publications wouldn’t be needed if quality and curation didn’t matter.
Reframe how you think about publications to finally get accepted.
Maybe You Have More to Grow
Maybe your writing sucks. Sorry. It’s okay because my writing sucked too at the start. I wrote startup press releases full of spelling errors and thought I was going to be the next James Altucher. Your rejection rate might have something to do with your skill level. How do you fix this problem? You write more.
The more you write the more you grow. If you want to grow faster as a writer then write more. Simple.
Rejection Makes the Eventual Wins Better
When a well-known book publisher started chatting to me recently, I realized that all the rejections from publications make the occasional wins that much sweeter. I have been told no so many times it’s almost unbelievable. I should hang all those rejections on the wall. I like plain white walls though.
Instead of seeing rejection from a publication as a bad thing, see it as part of the winning process. You’re one win away from having a story published that changes the world. How do you feel now? That thought reframes the rejection in your favor.
Read the Publication a Lot Before You Pitch
Be a fan first. When you’re a fan of a publication, you read what they publish. The more you read a publication the more you understand what they’re looking for. Read more of a publication to eventually get featured. Know the publication better than the editor. That’s how you might eventually become the editor.
Keep pitching. Fall in love with the pitch. Take the rejection on the chin. My only secret to getting featured in publications is to pitch more. If you think the writers you admire are not getting rejected from publications, you’re wrong.
I admire Tim Ferriss and his books have famously been rejected a lot. If you give into the rejection and let it defeat you then you never get to experience what 1% of writers do: the joy of having the odd story accepted.
That one story you pitch could get accepted and change your life. But most stories you publish won’t. Don’t get romantic about publications. Take the rejection letter and use it to improve. Treat editors with respect while you’re at it. Their job is hard.