Day 31: How To Get Rejected In 5 Easy Steps

So, I completed my 30 submissions in 30 days challenge and all I have to say is PHEW!

What a challenge. It was like running a marathon after only ever having trotted down the block to your favorite coffee shop. It’s not that I haven’t sent out query letters before; it’s that I have never sent out one per day for an entire month. The irony is that about two weeks into my daily submissions, my freelance writing business started to really get busy. What the what?? Didn’t the universe know that I had a PLAN?

As I stated on day one of this challenge, Please Reject Me, the winner is determined by the most rejections received prior to publication. So the judges have ruled, and the winner is…


Of course I’m the winner since I am the only one playing this game, but even so, it’s still an honor. I’d like to thank the Academy….

Anyway, so here’s what has happened so far as a result of submitting my ass off.

I submitted:

  • 12 short stories
  • 1 essay
  • 2 novel


  • 5 literary agencies
  • 22 literary magazines
  • 2 publishers
  • 5 short story contests

Results so far:

  • 1 request for full manuscript by a publisher
  • 1 rejection by literary agent
  • 1 rejection by literary agent to whom I immediately pitched another novel because she said that while she really liked my voice, she wasn’t so keen on the story’s themes (and she happily accepted my second pitch!)
  • 4 rejections by literary magazine 


And now for the takeaway: here's how to get rejected in 5 easy steps:

Step 1: Be vulnerable. Sounds dangerously counter-intuitive, I know, but you can’t be rejected if you don’t expose yourself. Decide to do it. Make it a game if you must (like me), and definitely get support (from people you trust, not your naysaying boyfriend or belittling parent or jealous friend), but just make an agreement with yourself to do this monumental thing. 

Step 2: Perfect your query letter. You can’t expect people to get excited about your book if you aren’t intriguing and wowing them with your letter. I’ll post a query letter example next time, but basically you want to start with a strong hook (“Ooh, interesting. I must continue reading this!”), provide relevant info about your manuscript like genre, word-count, tag line (“Wow, this is just the kind of book that is up my alley and I think I can sell the shit out of it!”), include a one-paragraph summary of the book (“God, she is such a great writer that I must read more!”), and a paragraph about yourself—publishing credits, relevant education, contests won (“Jiminy Cricket, this writer is serious about her career!”).

Step 3: Know who to send your query letter to. Why waste everyone’s time querying a romance agent with your sci-fi book? You can find everything you need to know about agents, literary magazines and contests, and publishers in Writer’s Market, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer.

Step 4: Get into the habit of sending out one query per day. Or maybe take one day out of the week to send seven in one go. Keep track in a simple spreadsheet or Word document so you know when to follow up or who not to query because they just rejected you and there’s nothing worse than showcasing your stupidity when you’re trying to impress someone.

Step 5: Practice the art of Zen and let go of the outcome. Forget you ever sent out these queries. Get on with your life. This grounded state will come in handy when you receive your first rejection, say out loud “It’s all part of the game,” and then fall to the floor sobbing.

Oh, and don’t forget to book yourself a trip somewhere exotic and far away. After a certain number of rejections (the number at which you finally crack will depend upon your personal constitution; for me it appears to be 6—plus the previous zillion from before this challenge), you’ll need to make yourself feel better. Taking my own good advice, I am going to London and Paris next month!!!

Happy querying, everyone!