Long ago at a writers conference far, far way, I heard an editor offer a delightful and unexpected explanation for why a solid, polished manuscript may be passed over by an editor.
She suggested that we think of the editor as the owner of a bake shop. Imagine the bake shop owner standing in front of a gleaming glass and chrome case filled with the most delectable strawberry pies. A well-meaning, yet witless baker strolls into the shop to sell the owner her wares. She modestly presents a dish of juicy, glistening, flavorful, luscious pastry perfection. Much to her amazement, the owner shakes her head and points to the door. How can this be? the baker wonders. I worked so hard. I refined my recipe. I used only the finest ingredients. Where did I go wrong?
The answer? The baker brought the bake shop owner a strawberry pie. With a case already filled with berry pies, how could the owner buy another, even if it was sublime?
Sometimes that’s what happens with editors and our submissions. It’s not a matter of you sending out rejection-worthy work. It’s just that she doesn’t need another middle grade novel with a shy boy protagonist or an article about Abraham Lincoln or one more collection of zombie bunny haikus. It’s just a matter of timing–supply and demand. You needed to send the right “pie” at just the right time.
So, what can you do to enhance your chances?
You can study a publisher’s catalog before you submit and pay attention to their newest releases, but success with a submission is due, in part, to just plain dumb luck with timing. I say that not to discourage you, but to remind you that rejection isn’t always a reflection of your work. It may be a matter of an overstuffed pie case (so to speak).
Keep refining and polishing your work. When it’s “baked” to the best of your ability, do your homework and submit it to publishing houses that are the best fit. The more you hone your skills and keep submitting, the more timing will be in your favor.
Oh, and have a slice of pie. You deserve it!
I really wish I was less of a thinking man and more of a fool not afraid of rejection. ― Billy Joel