The Art of the “No” 101: Dealing With Rejection From Editors, Publishers, and More

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How persistence is necessary for getting your content out there

If you’re like the rest of us (and let’s face it, you are), then you probably don’t like being told no. Rejection stings, but it’s inevitable if you want to publish your content on the internet or pitch media who can publish it. Rejection – especially in the form of responses to articles I’ve pitched, projects I’ve promoted, and connections I’ve attempted to make – is something I’ve personally come to respect and use as a foundation on which to build my endurance for persistence.

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When I talk to people about writing or pitching media, nine out of 10 of them are quick to tell me they’d be too nervous to publish or send something out of fear of rejection. I understand because I’ve been there. I’ve had editors tell me to get a new job because, apparently, this one wasn’t for me. I’ve had journalists write the same story I pitched them and ignore my source. Rejection, in its very many forms, happens all the time. But with every rejection I receive, I become that much more persistent.

I’ve kept track of my lengthy list of rejection emails on the wise suggestion from one of the most successful writers ever. Stephen King is known for saying rejection makes a writer. In his book “On Writing,” he drops one of my favorite quotes of all time:

“The nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”  

Persistence is the armor that helps writers and marketers accept rejection and learn the valuable lessons it can teach.

Get Ready for Rejection

Being afraid of rejection is a symptom of being afraid of making a mistake. There’s a blog on The Writing Cooperative’s site that talks about writing and the rejection that comes with it. It asserts that if your rejection letters aren’t weighing down the nail, you’re not writing or pitching enough.

I get it – pitching your content makes you feel vulnerable. You never quite feel like you’re ready for your piece to be sent off and never quite feel like your pitch is specific enough. But, there is never a perfect time, there’s never a perfect draft, never a perfect subject line. Putting off pitching because you’re apprehensive about rejection blocks you from the possible chances of actually getting approval. For every time you hear no, you’re building up tally marks for the time you’ll hear yes. You just have to remain persistent and then it will come, whether you’re ready or not.

Hugh Laurie, best known in the U.S. for his character on House M.D., is a critically acclaimed actor who says some pretty wise words:

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

You’re never really ready for anything, so you might as well just give it a go and get ready to hear the word “no” if (when) it comes. There’s no super scientific way to predict when an editor will approve an article you pitched or when a journalist will pick up the story you pitched as a source, but I can tell you this much: you can’t get anything if you don’t ask for it.

No one likes rejection, but it’s as much a part of life as death and taxes. It’s the kindling you need to start the fire that gets you past hearing no and letting it discourage you.

May you prosper in your pursuit of promotion and pitching, but remember:

  • Rejection stings, but it’s inevitable. No one is immune.
  • Fuel your fire with rejection by letting the “NOs” fuel your future outreach. It’s better for the environment anyway.
  • Don’t wait until you’re ready – you might never be. There’s no better time to pitch than the present.

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