Most authors know all about rejection. I have a box full of rejection letters, and despite having some success I still have two complete novels languishing on my computer, in all likelihood never to see a bookstore shelf. I spent many hours on them, and it's not easy to know that they are not good enough to be published. But rejection is part of an author's lot, and something we all have to get used to. It's comforting to know that several publishing companies rejected Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
I'm usually the one being rejected, as opposed to the one doing the rejecting, but this week I got to see the other side of the coin. My day job, as you may know, is with a legal charity, and one of my tasks is preparing the regular newsletter to advise our supporters of what LawCare is up to. Occasionally people send in articles for our newsletter, usually on themes related to our work, and theirs. Most recently, for example, an inpatient treatment centre in Marbella sent me a very interesting article on the benefits of being treated abroad for an addicition. I was happy to publish it.
For the first time recently, however, I received an article which I really felt I couldn't use in the newsletter. The primary reason was that it gave a few stress-busting tips which we had already included in a lot of our literature and on our website so for LawCare at least there was nothing new in it. However, even before I'd read the full content I knew it wasn't going to be publishable. It started with the lines, "Things can be stressful when your a lawyer. As a result here are some tips."
With apologies to the author, this is terrible writing. "Things" is too vague. "Your" is incorrect, it should be "you're". "As a result" is badly phrased - does stress really lead to tips and suggestions, because for all these years I've been saying it results in heart disease and mental collapse.
Despite my conviction that the article really wasn't good enough, I felt horrible writing that rejection email to the eager contributor who had thoughtfully assured me that there was "no charge" for using his article. Was I hurting his feelings? Should I ask him to revise it, rather than rejecting it outright?
But it was a valuable experience if only in showing me how tough it must be to be a submissions editor. There is a lot of really dreadful writing out there - most people cannot write well - but there is also a lot which is quite good, excellent in parts, or promising. But with publishing being such a difficult business, editors must often turn down these manuscripts - books which are good, and which their experiences and well-educated authors know are good, but which just aren't quite to the very high standard required. it must be a very dififcult call to make, and, LawCare News aside, I'm very glad that I don't have to be the one to make it.