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Monday, August 1, 2011

The Happy Writer / Dealing with Rejection

Maybe I'm not the best person to talk about how to deal with rejection. I've only been rejected by five or six separate journals. Really crappy journals have not rejected me, mostly because I don't submit to them very much, so I've only been turned down by the best. There are only two journals that I've tried but have yet to accept me. What pains me more is that two of my best articles were never published at all.

So how to deal with rejection?

The first thing to consider is that nobody sees on your cv a list of rejected articles. Someone reading a cv only sees what you've published, not the fact that you might have had some rejections along with way.

Secondly, nobody has a 100% percent acceptance rate. Not me, not anyone I know. The closest I can think of is my brilliant spouse.

If you submit to very good journals, your acceptance rate will go down. About 80% of my rejections have been for PMLA and Hispanic Review. So if you submit to very good journals, you have to expect rejection and not take it as a big deal if you are trying to get into prestigious journals. Even a very good article might be turned down.

Sometimes a journal was correct to reject you. I know that's true in my case. At one point I got complacent and started to send things out that weren't very polished. The field, in its collective wisdom, quickly told me not to do that.

The journal does not care about you. It is not a personal rejection. It is a rejection of your work. I know that still feels bad, but it is rarely personal.

Eventually, if you do good work, you will get accepted. Later on I will tell you how to submit an article to maximize your chances.


Nazca said...

"nobody sees on your cv a list of rejected articles": This is so true.

On the fairness of journals: I was once rejected from a top journal. They send me two reports by the presumable peer-reviewers that rejected it. I later found out from a friend that s/he was one of the reviewers and that s/he had enthusiastically advised acceptance. I never received her report. The journal editor made it look like my report had been rejected unanimously by all reviewers.

Spanish prof said...

I mostly agree with your post. However, I don't think it's 100% meritocracy. Some top journals seem to publish the same people over and over. They are usually (though not always) very good essays, but it looks like a snobbish club where members only get published. In those journals, I've felt that you have to make a name for yourself before they will consider publishing you.

Jonathan said...

I agree that it's not a meritocracy in pure state if at all. What I said was that good work will get published eventually. Among my junior colleagues coming up over the last 15 years, for example, most of them could get their work published in decent journals.

In my own case, I might be own of those people in the snobbish club by now, but I wasn't always. I'd have to say some of my articles were rejected for the wrong reasons, some for the right reasons, and others... I'm not sure.

profacero said...

My best piece evah cannot be published and I have a supposedly blind peer review that says it cannot be published because of my Anglo name! In Xican@ lit you can only do honorific readings with an Anglo name!

Spanish prof said...

@profacero: I know somebody who has a long publication record (s/he is Full Professor at a research university) who fought for 3 years to have a book manuscript accepted by a publishing house, because s/he is Spaniard and it was about Chicano topics, so in publishing houses they felt uncomfortable publishing it.

@Jonathan: I agree with your second post. If you are good, you'll get publish. And eventually, you'll go up the ladder.

I have a question: what's your take on British journals? I've found them to be a completely different world. I've submitted only twice to them. One came with a rejection letter, no explanation, in two weeks (I guess they were not interested in the topic). The other came back with the nastiest, most vicious R&R I've ever seen. It was a 4 pages long evaluation that included things like: "and on page 5, when I read XY, I drop the paper and stopped reading because I couldn't believe anybody could be so sloppy with their ideas" but concluded with "but the ideas are very good, so make the changes and then it will be a great paper". Many of the comments were actually accurate and helpful, I just couldn't believe the nastiness of the tone. I did not resubmit the article to that same journal, but I did work on it and sent it somewhere else.

Jonathan said...

There is a different tone in some British reviewers. Most American editors would redact something like that rather than give it straight to the author. I haven't had much experience with them. I published in Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies and the referees were good but not pushovers.

Clarissa said...

'One came with a rejection letter, no explanation, in two weeks (I guess they were not interested in the topic)."

-I think I submitted to that British journal too in the past. Got the same kind of response.