A fellow writer drew my attention to an old blog today. Teresa Nielsen Hayden wrote a post on February 4, 2004, commenting on rejection letters that writers had received and their reactions to the letters.
Every person who is serious about writing knows the anticipation, the fear, and the letdown of receiving a rejection letter. It takes courage to send your work off to a complete stranger to be judged.
Writing is such a personal business that it's hard not to take the rejections personally, too. In trying to explain the dynamic to non-writers, I've compared it to having a total stranger look in your baby carriage and say, "God, your baby is ugly!"
Teresa, who's been an acquiring editor for sci-fi, has this to say about rejection letters: "What these guys have failed to understand about rejection is that it isn't personal. If you're a writer, you're more or less constitutionally incapable of understanding that last sentence...[but] If you got rejected, it wasn't because we think you're an inadequate human being. We just don't want to buy your book...You know your heart and soul are stapled to that manuscript, but what we see are the words on the paper. And that's as it should be, because when readers buy our books, the words on the paper are what they get."
Interestingly enough, Teresa makes a similar comparison to my ugly baby example in her blog: "This all becomes clearer if you think about it with your reader-mind instead of your author-mind. Authors with books are like mothers with infants: theirs is the center of the universe, uniquely wonderful, and will inevitably and infallibly be loved by all who make its acquaintance...it can be a form of blindness."
Teresa also points out what should be obvious--don't increase your odds of being rejected by being stupid. Pay attention to guidelines. If the imprint doesn't publish poetry, don't send them poems. Don't neglect to include your SASE. Don't increase your chances of being rejected.
If you'd like to read the entire blog, here's the address: