5 ways of dealing with that rejected manuscript

January 4, 2007

referee_no_good.jpgOw ow ow ow. There’s nothing like the feeling of seeing an email from the editor referring to your lovely child, your intellectual offspring, your manuscript, by a long series of numbers. Time to face the music. You click, skim, skim some more, and often as not, there is the terrible sinking feeling. Crap crap crap.

You, my dear, have been rejected. Or at least your manuscript. Might as well be the same thing, right? Here are five ways of dealing with the pain, the self-loathing, the pain, and the outrage. And the pain.

1) Prepare three envelopes. Before you ever sent the little darling out you prepared three envelopes didn’t you? Each with the name of a different suitable journal, right? (OK, you submitted electronically….work with me people!) Fact is, you always have options, there are a lot of journals out there, and as long as scholar.google.com knows of their existence, your work is accessible to anybody who types in the right keywords.

2) Commiserate. We’ve all been there my friend. Call a colleague, stop in and see someone down the hall that will understand (and not giggle). By the rules of the ever-expanding universe, you are entitled to 2 hours of flagrant self pity.

3) Chill. What is the worst thing that has happened to you in the last five years? How does this compare? A little perspective is in order here. When journals reject 70-90% of their manuscripts, even when you’ve got a great one, the stars will sometimes align against you.

4) Learn. In 95% of returned manuscripts, you’ll learn something valuable from the reviews. Most editors want the best work in their journals; most reviewers do their job, even if their social skills leave a bit to be desired. When they totally misunderstood what you were trying to say, perhaps (just perhaps, mind you) you could have been a tad more clear. And even that last 5%, the statistically improbable full house of total asshole reviews, can teach you two valuable lessons.

  1. We live in a random, uncaring universe.
  2. Don’t pay it forward. Write every review bearing in mind how crummy a mean-spirited worthless review can make that person feel.

5 Celebrate. You are in the game. Folks who don’t get their manuscripts rejected ain’t playing.

Have fun!

h/t to TJ, TV, and KH w/r/t 2)


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