Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tip O'Day #340 - "Rejection, Get Thee Behind Me"

Guest blogger Jo-Anne Russell on The Reject Effect.

“You must develop a thick skin...”

This is a common phrase most writers hear at some point in their career – usually at the beginning. When I started out as a freelancer and short story writer ten years ago, I didn’t quite grasp its meaning. After receiving a handful of rejection letters, I was ready to quit with much resentment towards those who had put me in that position.

A writer friend of mine heard of my situation and repeated the phrase. Frustrated, I asked what exactly that meant. I knew I would receive rejections, but there were so many.

I believe he answered me by quoting Stephen King’s On Writing, and said: “Give ten editors a manuscript and you will get eleven opinions.”

I doted on this for a few weeks, and then started writing and submitting again. This time I did more research on the magazines, and paid close attention to what the editors were looking for as well as their guidelines. I still got rejections; this time, many of them carried helpful, handwritten editors’ notes.

I continued in this fashion until one day it happened. I got an acceptance, my first sale. I was elated! My attention to guidelines, my market research, and my determination had finally paid off. Every future rejection was taken with a grain of salt, and each page added another layer to my “thickening skin.”

Now, as an editor and publisher of my own press, I am in the same position as those editors who made the hard decisions on my manuscripts. I can understand their frustration with ignored guidelines, sloppy punctuation and inappropriate content. As I write rejections or editorial comments, I try to remember how it felt to receive them, and to be compassionate. The reject effect carried me along from writer to publisher, helping my career and my business to grow.

My advice? Grow a thick skin, be aware rejection is part of the business, learn from it, and pay attention to editors who take the time to personalize your rejection – because they see something in your work that cries out “potential.”

Jo-Anne is a horror writer and publisher at Scarlett River Press. Despite numerous short stories, poems and a novel under her belt, she still feels like a new writer. Her debut novel, The Nightmare Project, will be available October 2012. Find her online at her website or visit her author page.


  1. Hello Jo-Anne; I see we share the same ethos - never write something that you would not tell a person to his face. When editors write, and when writers edit, they get to see both sides of the coin simultaneously. And believe me, this is as tough as it is easy.

  2. I can certainly relate to this at the moment. Writing is a skill I have a lot of confidence in, yet all I have received so far are standard rejection letters. Tough skin is something I have yet to develop. Every time a rejection comes throuhg the letter box, I feel my heart sink a little. On the other hand, I enjoy it and won't quit just because I haven't 'made it' yet!
    Thanks Jo-Anne!

    K Brooks

  3. Great article!! Lots of truth in it for us writer folk!!

  4. As much as I enjoy writing, rejection is still a very tough pill to swallow! And I've yet to develop a thick skin, but hopefully that will soon change.

    Very inspiring and informative guest blog post, Jo-Anne! Thank you for the advice! :o)

  5. You're welcome, and thank you all for stopping by and commenting. :-)