ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing»
  • How to Write

Rejection Letters Don’t Kill, Only Maim A Little.

Updated on August 26, 2015
PAINTDRIPS profile image

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

Source

My experience.

When I graduated from high school, a fresh-faced, naïve, girl hoping to conquer the art world, my plans were to go to college and get a degree in graphic design. Unfortunately, my father was sure this would be tantamount to career suicide with starvation looming in my future, so he put his foot down, literally. My choices were deal with it or get married. I was unaware of the alternate possibility of student loans so… I got married. College and art went out the window, replaced by dinners and diapers.

Source

That was 40 years ago.

After the kids all left home for futures and careers of their own I decided to try my hand at an art career again. I wanted to illustrate books, specifically children’s books, but any books would do. I started by sending out resumes, samples and query letters to every publisher I could think of. I got a book of listings of publishers and sent queries to all them. I was sadly rejected everywhere. This was a set back. It stung at first. Knowing my own self-debasement and propensity to depression, I only sent out 3 queries per week, because I believed if I received more than 3 rejections per week I would fall into the bottomless pit of despair.

Source
Source

Back up and try again.

After a year of so I started rethinking. Maybe you can’t just break into books just like that. Maybe, I formulated, you have to work your way up. So I began sending samples of my work to greeting card publishers and poster design printers. The consensus that I received back stated that they were looking for “lines” of cards not just single cards; a line being 12 to 13 cards of similar design or theme. With that in mind I created a line of angel cards, a line of teddy bear cards, a line of Americana cards (cards with National monuments and flags), a line of Native American nostalgia cards, a line of beach kids cards, a line of animal cards (lions, tigers and bears, oh my), and a line of cartoony little girl cards. All of them were rejected summarily.

Source
Rejection form letter
Rejection form letter | Source

Form Letters... the worst.

To add insult to injury, all the rejections were form letters stating due to the volume of submissions, they could not send me a personal note, but the form letter was so they could respond in a timely manner. Also most of them stated that my cards and artwork was too similar to submission they already had or that it didn’t fit their editorial needs at this time. I got so tired of seeing that particular sentence that I wanted to scream. Instead I filed it away. I saved all of them. Mostly so that someday I could pull them back out and laugh at them. However, I didn’t feel much like laughing right then. I felt like I tried everything. What else was left to try?

Source

Children's Magazine Craft Articles

That’s when I read an article about a writer who just couldn’t break into the publishing market, and she was frustrated at all the rejections. She had my attention. She said she had found out that children’s magazines were always looking for craft articles and projects that children could do with little to no adult supervision. She wrote an article about a craft and was immediately published, then she found that once the editors knew her they were more receptive to possibly published an article on another subject. She was in. And I thought THAT’S IT. I know crafts. I’ve done tons of crafts with my kids… kid tested, mother approved. I didn’t think of myself as any kind of writer but I did know how to put one word in front of another and then I could do some illustrations to go with it. Sure enough, it worked. I got my first article with illustrations published. I was overjoyed. But it was only the beginning.

Illustrating for Children's Books

Source

Still dealing with rejection!

I still received a few rejections here and there; not as many as before but still, they stung. One day I received 3 rejections on the same day. I thought about crawling into a hole and dying there. Then I got mad. Good and mad. I thought, reject me will ya! I reject you! So I went to my keyboard and typed up my own form letter rejection of rejections. It went something like this:

My Rejection of Rejection Form Letter

Dear Publisher,

Thank you for sending your rejection of_____________________________________

back to me. I appreciate your time in reviewing my work. However, I am unable to utilize your rejection for the reason(s) stated below.

____ It is too similar to one I’ve already received this month.

____ It seems too old and needs to get with the current times.

____ It shows a lack of foresight concerning my talent and future popularity.

____ It is too short. I could use a little more feedback.

____ It does not fit my current financial needs.

____ This type of rejection is usually staff-written. Needs an editor’s touch.

____ Other______________________________________________________________

I am sorry to send you a form letter but with the volume of rejections received each month it would be impossible to correspond to each rejection individually. Thanks again for the opportunity to review your editing insights. I wish you success in the future of your publication (but doubt it without my talents enhancing your production).

Sincerely,

Denise McGill

Disgusted but Gifted Artist/Writer


Source

How do you handle rejection?

See results
Source

What I thought...

Here is what I thought: some office assistant at the publishing company will open this along with thousands of other daily queries, get a good laugh and toss it into the circular file. She got a laugh, I got a laugh, and it only cost me 45 cents worth of therapy.

Over the Moon

Source
Source
Source

What happened...

There is what happened: The following week I received a phone call from the publisher. When I answered the phone and he told me who he was, all the color drained from my face, I stopped breathing and I wasn’t sure how I was going to call 911 for the paramedics while this guy was on the phone with me, because I was sure I was having a heart attack. Intuitively he heard my labored breathing and quickly stated, “stay calm, I not going to publish your piece.” Now I’m having a heart attack and I’m mad. Why not, I managed to stutter. He said he received this rejection from me in the mail and didn’t quite know what to do with it. I said, laugh? Then I told him I hadn’t intended for anyone but the office assistant to see it, laugh and throw it away. He said that’s what happened. She saw it, laughed and started passing it around the office. Then she decided the editor needed to see it, and there we were. He said it was clever and insightful. He had never received a rejection before. I told him it was about time, because he had sent plenty to me. That’s when he told me that their small publication had recently gone to black and white to save money and he felt my artwork warranted full color which he could not give me. Now if he had just told me that up front he would not have received a rejection from me. Haha. Still he felt the rejection was so astute that he wanted permission to publish it in a piece about handling rejection.

Feedback

That was just the first in a long line of callbacks I received by sending my rejection letter to publishers who rejected me. One Christian children’s publication called me to make sure I knew that Jesus loved me. He felt sure he sent me “around the bend”. I assured him I had gone around the bend long before his rejection letter. I actually received more positive response from the rejection letter than from my initial artwork. There’s a disturbing revelation.

After a year, I decided I needed a new rejection letter. I had used that one at least once for many of my favorite publications. Being an artist and knowing the rejection was receiving positive feedback, I decided I needed an artistic rejection for the next one. That’s when I created the Mean Ol’ Editor Ogre award.

Source

Don't let rejection get you down.

Just like before, I received lots of callbacks from the Ogre that I hadn’t received from the original art and articles. The Ogre himself had even received a publication offer.

My point is not to take rejection too seriously. It hurts but it isn’t fatal. I know someone who has allowed his talent to be put on a shelf because he simply cannot handle the sting of rejection letters. He got one and it was all over. Friends, even Dr. Seuss received 27 rejections before the 28th publisher decided to take a risk on an unknown children’s book author and illustrator. That’s 27 publishers who are kicking themselves right now! If I cannot take at least 27 rejections, I’m not worthy of the title: children’s book illustrator.

He created and produced several series videos and dramas for the church but won't send them to publishers for fear of rejection.
He created and produced several series videos and dramas for the church but won't send them to publishers for fear of rejection. | Source
Source

Rejected Comments Welcomed Here

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      letstalkabouteduc,

      You are so right. It's about the passion we have for the craft and not really the acceptance... but acceptance and validation is really nice. I remember teaching as a visiting artist in public schools. I'd so up with my boxes of materials and the kids would all clap and scream the ARTLADY is here. I felt so validated... Yes, I am an artist; the kids just said so. Funny how a little bit of validation goes a long way. They were probably just excited because they got to put away the math books for an hour.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 2 years ago from Bend, OR

      First, Denise, let me say how truly talented you are. The ogre is fantastic and the rejection of the rejection letter is the best. I've become politically active recently on an issue that means the world to me -- early childhood intervention services -- and have written to many politicians (local, state, and national). Talk about rejection! I never hear back from them, not even a crappy form letter! It's very disheartening, but I keep plugging along. My 12-year-old son is a budding actor so I'm preparing him for the rejection ahead. Most importantly, though, he LOVES acting for itself and not for the fame. I think artists and writers are the same or we would have quit a long time ago!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Flourish,

      Thanks. That is very kind of you. I will keep working at it anyway. I think the journey is part of the fun, even more so than the destination.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      I love your spirit, and I have confidence that some day you'll find what you're looking for. Voted up and more, and shared!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Lady Lorelei,

      Wow, she has a great attitude. I find rejection mostly crushing, like my legs just got cut off at the knees. My rejections of rejections were the only healthy way I could think of to deal with it all. Thanks for visiting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 2 years ago from Canada

      One of my daughter's proudest moments was when she received a rejection letter from the Chicken Soup book publishers lol. They had read her work and she was thrilled even if she didn't make it into the book.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      phoenix2327,

      I don't know that I would say brilliant... bright maybe, radiant even... but not really brilliant. Besides it was my sister who put the thought in my head so that makes her brilliant. But thank you for thinking I am. Gave me a boost for the day.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      I loved your rejection letter and ogre. What a clever way to vent your frustration; and you managed to get your foot in the door. Brilliant.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      ladyguitarpicker,

      Sounds like we could be from the same family. :) Thanks for visiting and commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Our fathers seem to have the same thinking. You are so right it was marriage and deal with it. We were from a different planet. I know what the kids today would have done. They are free. Love your rejection letter. Stella

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Larry Rankin,

      Do you really think so? I have several listings like that (where there was no response at all) and I always wonder if they even opened my letter. Isn't a form letter better than that at least? Maybe. I got to where I included a self-addressed stamped postcard they could return to me to at least say they got my query. I wanted to know.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      My dear social thoughts, you are so welcome. I really appreciate your life experience too. You have been authentic about your journey as well and I got a lot out of what you had to say about women and expectations put on us. I felt it was about time to share my rejection story since I won't be using the form letter anymore for myself anyway.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      denise.w.anderson,

      Very true. Like any sales, it's all about the numbers. But I did find that crafts for children's magazines are a sure thing especially if they are unusual... not the overdone folding paper airplanes and toilet paper roll creations. Good luck.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      It's hard to take a positive swing on a form rejection letter, but it's better than when they don't bother responding at all.

      Great article.

    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

      This is a beautiful and hilarious piece! Rejection is too common. So, thank you for not only doing what most would be too afraid to do, but sharing your experience with us!

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I love it! I was just getting ready to submit another query letter when I came across your article. It helped me to put things in perspective and try again. From what I hear, I am more likely to get published if I just keep on trying!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      lollyj lm,

      Are we ever too old to have gumption? I don't think so. I am pretty stubborn though. I just won't quite, since I think I have something of value to give to the world and who would ever know unless I get published? Thanks for the comment and visit.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 2 years ago from Washington KS

      I just loved this hilarious, well written hub. Sorry to admit I was never clever enough to come up with a rejection letter to send to publishers. I've been rejected by experts, usually with copies of rejection letter copies that have been recopied so often the print is sideways. I finally got too old and tired to care anymore, but do admire your gumption and imagination. Well done!!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Dana Tate,

      Thank you, that is so awesome of you to say. I believe if I keep working at it I can't help but get better and better... and all I really want is to create all day and get paid for it.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 2 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      Bravo Denise! this is an absolute must read! I must admit I don't handle rejection very well. I'm trying to thicken my skin but it hurts when you don't feel appreciated. I got a glimpse of your work on your website and I thought it was fantastic. Eventually your ship will come in.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Cornelia,

      That's great that you are following your dream. Maybe it is the artist who has to overcome great adversity and trauma who finds their great passion in the end. I've seen so many young people whose parents encourage their art and even pay for classes outside of public school, and they don't appreciate it. As a matter of fact, many/most of those kids don't bother taking their art any further as adults. What's up with that? Perhaps our parents who refuse to allow art in our lives are doing us a great favor: artistically we strive harder to get there that way.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • CorneliaMladenova profile image

      Korneliya Yonkova 2 years ago from Cork, Ireland

      Amazing hub, Denise. It is great that you don't give up easily. I was also not allowed to study graphic design for the same reason- I am going to starve, nevertheless I attended Photoshop and CorelDraw courses, then studied Illustrator to follow my dream. And I was rejected many times like you but never lost hope. This is the most important- never to lose hope. God bless! :)

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Jodah,

      Ouuuuh, what about a rejection poem. Very cool. That makes perfect sense too. What a great idea for you.

      Thank you for liking my idea. It was mostly my sister. We had been talking on the phone about my receiving rejections and she basically said how dare they... just reject them back... and so she gave me the idea of typing up the first form letter. Sometimes all it takes is thinking outside the box for these great ideas to pop up.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Sallybea,

      Thank you. I hope they all have a sense of humor because lots of them received one! haha. Most took it very well and some even gave me work over it so I guess it was taken well. At least I was honest and that's the way I felt about their mean ol' rejections.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great hub Denise, I love it. What a great idea, sending rejection letters in reply to rejection letters :) The Mean Ol' Ogre is wonderful too. I can see why they elicited a response. This is something I would like to do although I have only received a couple of rejection letters (most of mine have been rejection emails). I got a rejection from one publisher which I felt was unfair so kept sending them poetry submissions until they practically begged me to stop sending anymore. A simple rejection reply by me would have saved time. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      PAINTDRIPS

      Wonderful, very original and creative. I love the Mean Ol' Ogre Award image and I can definitely see why an Editor would laugh out loud at receiving one of those. Shared, tweeted and Google+++

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Justthemessenger,

      That's what I published it for. I feel like I got as much mileage out of it as I could and now you can feel free to utilize it for your own ideas if you like. I still used rejections of rejections, just not these anymore. But I did feel they served more than the purpose. It wasn't about being original and creative at first. It was about much needed therapy to keep me from reverting to the fetal position and sucking my thumb.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • justthemessenger profile image

      James C Moore 2 years ago from The Great Midwest

      I like your solution to send a rejection to the rejection letter. It's original and creative. I might try this myself.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Elayne Savage PhD,

      It is a very special club... that's why we all ride in the little yellow bus. We should start a support group, "Hi. My name is Denise. I'm a rejectee-aholic." "Hi Denise." I could see it all now. I have binders of rejection slips, some form letters, so actual letters but all rejections. I figure when I'm rich and famous I can pull them out and laugh! Or maybe I should just laugh now.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Jaye,

      What a great idea. I see a book in your future... unless you don't want to tackle that subject! Sounds like it resonates with enough people that it could be very useful.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      CatherineGiordano,

      That is so true. I think in the end it's the ones with the unusual or outlandish that even get remembered enough to get called back. There seems to be an avalanche of queries descending on the poor publishers, so much so that only those who stand out from the pack can hope to get noticed. Your idea was great. Genius.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Elayne Savage PhD profile image

      Elayne Savage, PhD 2 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Love this piece, Denise! As you might guess, as author of 'Don't Take It Personally! The Art of Dealing with Rejection, I do lots of consulting and workshops on how not to take rejection and disappointment so personally. Actually, humor helps a lot -- and cartoon and rejection response letter are just wonderful!

      When I was writing my first book, Susan Jeffers, one of my earliest mentors, told me stories of her rejections when trying to get ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ published. I felt I was joining a very special club of rejectees!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Denise - I love your creativity and wonderful sense of humor! You are not only a writer (as well as talented artist), but funny enough to make me laugh out loud. I can visualize a full-length book (delightfully illustrated, of course) about rejection responses to various types of rejections. There's probably a huge market just in jilted lovers alone! Think of the numbers of job applicants who get rejected for that perfect position when someone else is hired. You could make a fortune....

      Voted Up/Useful/Funny/Interesting

      Jaye

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I loved your rejection letter and I'm so glad it did good things for you. Years ago when I was starting out in market research, I sent a questionnaire along with my resume. It got me job interviews. It had questions like "Do you want a hard worker? Yes ( ) No ( )" Sometimes you have to do things to get noticed.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Grammie,

      Sounds like a fun thing to create. Let me know how it goes. We could sell it and make a fortune! Haha.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 2 years ago

      WEll done, I could use a rejection letter for my mother and some other relatives that just keep taking advantage of me.......

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Audrey,

      Thank you so much. I found rejecting publishers rejections to be so absolutely freeing and therapeutic.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image
      Author

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Bill, I can tell you aren't bothered by this. You seem so resilient in everything you say and write. I used to let it bother me, but now I learn from it and strive to be better at my craft than I was yesterday.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 2 years ago from California

      I loved this on all kinds of levels! Amen!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dreams never die. Sometimes they are just put on hold for forty years. I love your attitude towards rejection. I guess I have a thick hide because they no longer bother me; instead they are motivation for me.