Reflections on a rejected manuscript

And the lessons learned

Harley Bell


A bird on a rock.
Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

My poetry manuscript (Wild Altar) was rejected for publication. I wanted to update you on the process and progress of my manuscript becoming a book. I also wanted to give myself a pep talk.

There is a great expanse of silence after submitting a manuscript. It can be months. Longer. Sometimes, the silence feels like it will never end. There are many places that do not acknowledge submissions or let you know about the impending rejection. Granted, this was an unsolicited submission. It is a kindness to send me something. Even if that something is bad news.

I was searching the internet for poetry-presses that I thought would be a good fit. I found a few, spent a few hours reading guidelines and writing cover letters. There are more publishers out there and I will send my manuscript to them too.

I suspected this was coming as soon as I saw the email. There is something suspicious about the subject line of a form letter. I won’t deny that it hurt. Any rejection does. My writing has been rejected many times before but it still feels like a jab to the gut.

I know, there is nothing else for it but to keep going. I know, persistence is key. But I wanted to talk about the process of feeling the feelings as part of being a writer. I don’t want to pretend I am immune.

Feel the feelings and let it hurt. This means you care. Means you are connected to the work. Means the work matters. I will hear no far more times than yes and it only takes one yes.

I am writing this in the vulnerable space of a fresh wound. Forgive me my rants. There is never any feedback, no pipeline. No communication but form letters. It leaves me guessing, how can I improve?

Did I do something wrong? Was it the writing? Was it me?
(I know it is market conditions, viability, profitably, fit, taste etc) But it is hard not to take it personally. I know, it is just business. But it feels like rubbing salt in the symptoms of an imposter syndrome. I feel like I am pretending to be professional. What if I do not have it in me to keep submitting?

I need a pep talk. Right now, it…



Harley Bell

I write about writing, creativity and business. I'm currently working on a poetry book, titled Wild Altar.