Saturday, February 14, 2009

Q&A a la Ann Landers: Deconstructing Rejections

In most issues of my Sharing with Writers newsletter I run a question (and answer it) from subscribers or from those who have purchased The Frugal Book Promoter or The Frugal Editor. This one is from a writer with lots of writing experience but not much publishing experience--yet! She will soon have clips all over the place, though, because she is doing her homework.)


I wrote a small story about a girl who wants to help her mom in the kitchen but the mother is an extra careful lady and doesn't trust her daughter. Finally she finds an opportunity to help her mom and wins her mother's trust. I have included a fun recipe.

I submitted the story and the cover letter to my crit groups several times and got a nod from them. But the story was rejected by various magazines. I can take rejections very well because it's a part of our profession. But what I don't understand is why the story is being rejected? If I know the reasons I'll have an opportunity to learn from my mistake. It's a very small story. It would be a great learning for me if you have some time to just glance at my story and tell me where am I going wrong? Please do not think I'm taking an advantage of your kindness and helpfulness. It's just a request. Opinions from experienced writers like you make a lot of difference and that means a lot to me.

Thanks for your time.
Regards, Priya Iyengar, freelancer and writer of fiction for children and adults


Dear Priya:

I am flattered that you thought of me at a time of obvious frustration.

As to your request. I would be happy to peek at your story at no charge, or edit it and give complete input at my regular editing fee. Having said that, here is my guess and I'm almost certain that I'm right because you have been through critique with it, etc. And here it is. There is nothing wrong with your story. Here is what may be wrong that you can help:

1. You may not have read the magazine or media you are submitting to--at least not with a critical eye. Your story may not fit well with their style or goal and those rejections have nothing to do with the quality of your story. Just that it's not right for that magazine or that editor.

2. Your story may be similar to one that has been published in the last few weeks, months, or even years. That's another good reason to try to keep up with the magazines you submit to.

Here is what may be wrong that you can't help:

1. There are just so many writers and the places available for them to publish are dwindling.

2. Publishers are having trouble making ends meet in this economy (and actually long before). Thus they are buying less and producing more of their copy/material in-house.

I have one last idea and that is the critique group you may be using may not be strong enough. I talk about how to put together a critique group suitable for your writing level and your genre in my book the Frugal Book Promoter. But here is what may be wrong with yours.

1. None of your fellow critiquers have any expertise in children's literature.

2. Perhaps none of them has experience in the publishing world.

3. Your group may be doing little more for one another than typo hunting or grammar checks.

So, you may need a facilitator. Or it may be time for you to take a class from an accredited university writing program and try to put a critique group together from those who take the class. Fellow students will have already had some guidance from a professional.

If you would like to see regular Q&A features like this, you may subscribe to my Sharing with Writers newsletter with the sign-up box in the left column of this blog or send an e-mail with SUBSCRIBE in the subject box to me at
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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