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Just In Case You’ve Never Gotten A Rejection Letter From The New York Times

noIf you want to write outside the cozy walls of your blog, it is quite helpful to have thick skin. My own skin feels like crocodile hide. Touch it at your peril.

So, let’s talk rejection.

This is an email I received from the New York Times recently after four or five weeks of waiting:

Dear Josh Hanagarne,

Thank you for sending your writing to (insert column, I’ve tried two so far) ______. Although we have decided not to use your essay, we are grateful for the opportunity to consider it. I regret that the volume of submissions we receive makes it impractical for me to offer editorial feedback.

Best wishes,

Lord High Editor, Slayer of Your Hopes And Dreams

Okay, so I added that last bit, so what?

When I saw that the email had come, I stared at the subject line for about one minute before opening it. I wanted it to say what I wanted it to say. It didn’t. But I’ll be honest, as someone who has gotten a lot of these, this is a fairly gracious rejection email. Many of the big publications don’t respond at all, and many send form letters that simultaneously manage to feel like they were crafted by soulless robots, and were constructed just to make you feel like you’re crap.

Also, I can’t imagine how bloated the submissions inbox at the NYT is. I’m glad it’s not my job to sift through it.

So, my advice on how to deal with this sort of rejection? First, thick skin. Second: about five minutes after I received the rejection, I had submitted it to another large publication. Now the waiting starts again. I’ve got about 12 of these articles at the ready, and I’ll just keep rotating them around.

Someone will cave in. I’m too much of a pest to quit and not bad enough of a writer to dismiss out of hand.

Thick skin. I recommend it.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Asatar Bair | University of the Heart March 7, 2011, 12:03 pm

    The rejections don’t matter. Only the successes count. Just re-read that sign in the upper right hand corner of the blog: over 80,000 monthly readers. That’s gotta help.

    • Josh Hanagarne March 7, 2011, 12:07 pm

      Asatar, the only thing that really bothers me is the waiting. If the rejections were quick I think a lot of would-be writers would submit more.

  • Yusuf Clack March 7, 2011, 12:31 pm

    That’s cool Josh. It’s fun to be part of the process getting a behind the scenes look. Your mainstream breakthrough to me is a foregone conclusion. It’s only a matter of how much of what you detailed above it will take. Have you ever heard the Sly Stallone story of how many times he pitched Rocky and what he went through before finding a studio that would take a chance on it? Check it out if you haven’t. Good story. Continued success.

    • Josh Hanagarne March 7, 2011, 2:49 pm

      Thanks Yusuf. This is no big deal. I have very little interest in being mainstream anything. I’m trying to get these articles out just so I can see what happens, nothing more. Most of my adult life has been driven by that: “I wonder if I could…”

  • Daisy March 7, 2011, 2:43 pm

    Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times before someone saw his brilliance. Let us know when a major publisher recognizes yours!

    • Josh Hanagarne March 7, 2011, 2:51 pm

      Daisy, this part is just a game, completely separate from the book deal stuff. I’m not interested in “getting an article into a major publisher’s hands.” I’m more interested in seeing if I can do it. Just another fun challenge. It just didn’t feel fun the first few times:)

  • Boris March 7, 2011, 4:38 pm

    I look forward to seeing your writing in some major publications Josh.

    I saw this video lately and thought it was a nice story about rejection letters:

  • Justin March 8, 2011, 3:21 am

    Good things come to those who wait.

    The way I see it the longer you have to wait the more time you have to write great and inspiring content here for people like us.

    Best of luck with the articles. I have a feeling you won’t have to wait too much longer

  • Todd March 8, 2011, 8:14 am

    Just keep hounding them. They’ll cave under your awesome power eventually. 🙂

  • albert camus March 8, 2011, 10:32 am

    Josh, always remember, there was a bloke who didn’t sign The Beatles. I think it’s fair to say that they subsequently proved him wrong.