Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#197 How Do You Handle Rejection?


Everyone who attempts to publishers peer-reviewed manuscripts faces
rejection. The excerpt below gives some tips on how to reduce the chances of
rejection and how to handle it when it does come. The posting is from,
Writing for Professional Publication: Keys to Academic and Business
Success, by Kenneth T. Henson, Eastern Kentucky University (pp. 118-120).
The book is published by Allyn & Bacon, A Viacom Company, Needham Heights,
MA 02194 and is copyrighted 1999 by Allyn & Bacon. Reprinted with


Rick Reis
UP NEXT: Certain Knowledge and the Conventional University

Tomorrow's Research
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As an experienced writer and teacher of writing, I always want to respond
to this question with fatherly advice and say something like, "I view
rejections as evidence of growth." But to the novice, such fatherly advice
may sound like "Eat your spinach; it's good for you." Well, as many parents
will attest, spinach is good for you-but only if it doesn't cause you to
throw up. Similarly, getting rejections may be good for you, but only if
they don't cause you to give up. Greg Daugherty~ editor of Money magazine
(1996, p. 28), says that if you haven't been rejected lately, it may means
"you simply aren't trying hard enough."

Perhaps a better response is that all successful authors get rejections.
Successful writers grow as a result of rejection because they learn from
experience. Some aggressive novices ask the editors for advice. They ask
the editors of referred journals for copies of the reviewers' evaluations
of their manuscript. With this feedback in hand, rejections can become
painful blessings.

Perhaps the best advice for dealing with rejections is to study the
rejections immediately, make the necessary improvements, and promptly send
the manuscript to another publisher. If no feedback is received, either ask
for it, or quickly examine your returned manuscript for editorial marks.
Then make the needed corrections, put the manuscript and a self-addressed
stamped envelope in an envelope, and send it to another publisher.
Remember, sometimes the reasons behind rejections are unrelated to the
quality of the manuscript.

There are two reasons for handling rejections hastily. If you leave the
rejection on your desk, you will dwell on it--even if only in your sub-
conscious and it seems to grow. Second, by promptly sending the manuscript
out again, you decrease the time between acceptances, and this increases
your number of publications. If your manuscript has any value at all,
there is likely to be some correlation between your number of acceptances
and the time that your manuscript spends on an editor's desk.

After twenty years of writing, I still get rejections, and each one has a
little sting. But each rejection brings a smile as I think, "That's O.K.
I've been rejected before, and I can take pride in knowing that I've been
rejected by the very best."

Experienced authors know that some of their time is better spent planning
to avoid rejections. Jesus Garcia uses an approach that is both preventive
and objective. He has worked out a method to reduce rejections and a method
to deal with rejections objectively.
Rejection should not be the most difficult part of writing, but it
is. I suspect potential authors do not write for publication because they
do not wish to deal with rejection. I learned early in my writing career
that I would need to develop my own mechanism for addressing rejection.
After a few rejections, I sat down and developed a process.

First, I always attempt to develop quality manuscripts. Usually, when I
have a manuscript rejected, it is not because it is poorly written or
poorly put together. Nor is it because my idea was not well thought

Second, I target the manuscript or at least two journals. If one
rejects it, I send it to the other.

Third, when I receive a rejection I read the cover letter and file the
manuscript for a week.

Fourth, after the hurt has subsided, I return to the manuscript and
read the cover letter and the constructive criticism provided on a
rating sheet or on the manuscript. (If no constructive comments are provided, I
send the manuscript to the second journal).

Fifth, when constructive criticism is provided, I weigh the
comments and make those changes I feel are warranted. I then send the
to the second journal.

Individuals wishing to write for publication should not copy my
approach but develop a mechanism that is reflective of their own personalities.

Garcia's effort to develop a quality manuscript before sending it to an
editor saves time and disappointment. His process of carefully scrutinizing
and using criticisms to improve the manuscript is wise. This may be
difficult when readers are unkind, but remember that, left unchanged, the
manuscript might affect others in equally negative ways. Garcia's
concluding advice is the voice of experience, individual authors must
develop their own systems for dealing with rejection.