by Dunn
(Nashville, Tennessee)

Question: Should one reply/respond to a rejection notice from an editor or from a workshop such as Clarion or Odyssey? If so, what do you suggest?

Answer: I think it depends what type of rejection you get. If it's simply a short, generic rejection that means the editor wasn't impressed with your work enough to write something more personal. In that case, I probably wouldn't respond, since there's little to be gained.

On the other hand, if the editor takes the time to give you some suggestions on how to improve your work, that might be worthy of a thank you note. The editor in this case might be willing to look at the next manuscript you want to submit (or in some cases they might actually say they would look at a revised version), so it helps to stay on good terms with them. A thank you note might help them to remember you as someone who seems easy to work with and appreciative of their feedback.

Above all, there is no point in arguing with the editor's comments or decision. You won't get them to change their mind, and you risk making them remember you as someone who is difficult to work with.

If you really feel the editor is wrong about your work, the best thing is to show it to another editor or perhaps a critique group who can give you some other opinions. If everyone else says your work is great, keep submitting until you find an editor who appreciates it. If everyone gives you the same negative comments, they're probably right and you should revise.

Bear in mind that sometimes an editor's decision is not based on the quality of your work but whether it is marketable at the time it is submitted. For instance, if publishers are all looking for a particular type of book and yours falls into that category you stand a much better chance of making a sale. On the other hand, if your book falls within a trend that has recently fizzled (or perhaps been dead for some time), the odds are stacked against you. You can't predict or control this. It's a matter of luck.

Comments for Rejection

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by: Dunn

Thanks for answering, Glen. I misspelled "Odyssey" in my question. Would you correct that for me please?

I asked a generic question about rejection. But to be more specific, my most recent rejection was by the Clarion West Workshop. They are known for not providing any feedback with their rejections. I want very badly to argue with them. Thanks for advising me not to as in my heart I know doing so might be counter productive.

I know Clarion has a history of producing notable writers. I wonder if there are any notables that they rejected.

I am definitely going to get some more feedback about my novel. I don't have access to a critique group. And my novel is incomplete so sending it to editors is not an option. But I recently found that Odyssey Workshop maintains a Critique Service where one may get an comprehensive professional critique of a 20,000 word piece for $275. Seems like a lot, but not nearly as much as review services like Forward or Kirkwood (that charge around $400-600). Plus the Odyssey Critique caters more to up and coming writers. What is your opinion regarding such services?

to Dunn
by: Glen

Almost all professional writers collect numerous rejection slips, so clearly publishers reject a lot of good manuscripts (as well as mountains of bad ones). It's also much easier to spot a terrible manuscript than tell which one out of a dozen great manuscripts (because you can only afford to publish one) stands the best chance of making money, let alone becoming a rollicking success.

Before you pay for a critique service, you might consider participating in a free online critique group or writers circle. Most communities have writers groups, if you look around. Many writers associations have critique groups you can participate in once you join. The nice thing about these groups is that they are typically founded by writers for the benefit of writers.

You always have to be careful because there are a lot of businesses that make money from aspiring writers. Some offer good value, others don't. It's worth asking around to see how satisfied their customers are. Find out the credentials of the critic, if possible. Odyssey is pretty reputable, as far as I know.

(I thought Forward only reviewed published books?)

Obviously, you can't submit a novel to a publisher until it's finished, but perhaps you only need a few chapters critiqued, just to find out if there are glaring problems. Most editors only read a few pages before deciding to reject a book anyway, because most problems show up quickly and they can't afford the time to read an entire manuscript in hope it will get better toward the end.

Best of luck.

by: Dunn

I don't know much about Forward, except that they are a pro book review service. They are mentioned on a list of several review services, but the description does not say that Forward only reviews published works.

I will look more for less expensive/free alternatives. I just asked about Odyssey because they are also a workshop. And a pretty reputable one, though not as prestigious as Clarion. So I thought that their critique might be better than what one might get in a free service. The adage "you get what you pay for" usually gets verified in my experience. However, there are great free services, like the invaluable help you provide, Glen. So I am not "knocking" free services just because they are free.

Also, I have a fear of ideas being stolen from me. Though admittedly improbable, I find myself reluctant to share my manuscript indiscriminately. It seems safer, to me, to share it with a professional service as opposed to in an internet forum or the like (paranoid, I

Thanks again for your esteemed opinion regarding these matters.

to Dunn
by: Glen

"You get what you pay for" is true in situations where the reputation of the service provider is easily verified. Sadly, there are so many aspiring writers who desperately want help and don't know who to trust that scams abound. There are aspiring or "professional" editors, agents, and publishers who are underemployed and find they can make more money charging aspiring writers for critique and editing services than actually selling books. Sometimes the reason they are underemployed is that they are not very good at their job, so their advice is suspect. You might check out the site Writer Beware to learn about some of the more common situations to avoid.

On the positive side... there's no need to worry about your ideas being stolen. Ideas are worth nothing. Only great, finished manuscripts have value, and even then the value is dubious since no one can know if a book has value until after it is published. Half of all books published lose money, so an unpublished manuscript is not worth stealing. (A good thief only risks stealing something he can quickly make a guaranteed profit on.)

It's also not worthwhile stealing an idea for a book. Any writer talented enough to steal your idea and turn it into a profitable work will already have enough of his own ideas to work on. Plus, give two writers the same idea and they will turn out two completely different books, and it's impossible to predict which, if either, will be successful.

Again, it's just not worth the risk and the effort to steal someone else's idea and spend years writing and flogging a manuscript, with no guarantee of making any money from it when you could be working on your own idea.

Rejection - Word Count
by: Vijay

Hi, Glen,

My question is relevant to the discussion going on here. My Romance novella which is around thirty seven thousand words is rejected by few publishers. I am reworking on it to make it a full length novel.

I researched online to know if the word count may be the one of the reasons for rejection.
Is the word count really matters for the editors? Can it be the one of the reasons for the Romance genre novel to be rejected?

I appreciate your detailed and helpful advice on this subject.


to Vijay
by: Glen

Novellas are hard to sell as standalone works. Usually only literary magazines will publish them.

In addition, publishers often have clearly defined categories for romance novels. You will notice that the books in a certain category often have similar lengths, covers, subject matter, level of sexual content, protagonists, etc. Check the websites of the publishers to see what category your novel fits into and what requirements, including word count, the publisher has set.

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