You did the research and you conducted the study. You still remember that first morning at your desk: a mug of coffee steaming to your right and reams of crumpled notes to your left, next to a stack of articles marked up and highlighted beyond recognition. The way that blank white screen glared back at you, mocking you. Judging you. That moment of apprehension as you typed the first word.
There were bad days. There were good days. Some nights, you rolled over in bed, wondering if you ought to just scrap the whole thing. Other nights, you collapsed onto your pillow, exhausted, satisfied, and drained. You finished the first draft. You showed it to your advisor and colleagues. They took the liberty of editing it to shreds.
You thought about dropping out and becoming a door-to-door encyclopedia salesperson. Instead, you wrote the second draft. And the third draft. Finally, the day came when you could grasp something hard-won in your hands. It took months of blood, sweat, and tears, but you did it. You completed your academic paper.
Then, you took the most important step.
You sent it off to an academic journal, with the same mixture of dread and pride parents experience on their child’s first day of kindergarten. You waited a month. Two months. Nearly half a year passed. Some days, you almost forgot that your baby was out there, sweating underneath someone’s magnifying glass.
One day, a letter arrived in the mail. Your heart stopped. You waited a few moments before tearing it open. You squinted at the tiny print.
Unfortunately, all writers and academics have experienced the situation depicted above. There is no denying the agony of receiving a rejection letter. As Isaac Asimov, a science fiction novelist, put it:
“Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil—but there is no way around them.”
At some time, all authors, no matter how good, must face a barrage of rejection. Instead of drowning in it, the finest authors understand how to use rejection to their advantage.
In the previous post we talked about the possible reasons of paper rejection. Today, we have four sure-fire ways to get the wind back in your sails, your paperback in the mail, and your manuscript where it belongs:
Step 1: Take a deep Breath
Before we move any further, there are a few things to consider.
To begin with, every paper that is submitted is rejected. Everyone. Resubmission is an inevitable element of the procedure. Just because your work was rejected does not mean it was unworthy of it. Maybe your paper wasn’t the proper fit for that publication. Perhaps you were blind to certain methodological shortcomings. A paper might be rejected for a variety of reasons (please read the previous post that we mentioned common reasons for journal rejection). That’s why it’s crucial to save some backup journals, which we’ll discuss later.
Before we move any further, there are a few things to consider. To begin with, every paper that is submitted is rejected. Everyone. Resubmission is an inevitable element of the procedure.
Second, just because your work was rejected does not mean it was unworthy of it. Maybe your paper wasn’t the proper fit for that publication. Perhaps you were blind to certain methodological shortcomings. A paper might be rejected for a variety of reasons (please read the previous post that we mentioned common reasons for journal rejection). That’s why it’s crucial to save some backup journals, which we’ll discuss later.
Or, to put it another way, as novelist Chuck Wendig so beautifully put it:
“Rejection refines us. Those who fall prey to its everlasting soul-sucking tentacles are doomed. Those who persist are its survivors. Best ask yourself the question: what kind of writer are you? The kind who survives? Or the kind who gets asphyxiated by tentacles of woe?”
Keep in mind that each rejection pushes you closer to acceptance.
Step 2: Examine the Remarks
Now comes the hard part: reading the comments.
This can be exceptionally difficult for any writer at any level. Nobody likes to have all of their paper’s flaws and imperfections glaringly put on display. And this is your baby! You spent months churning this report out. You lost sleep and probably gained weight. It can be hard not to take the less-than-flattering comments personally.
It’s easy to retreat into anger. What do they know? My paper deserves to be published!
Yes, this is a tempting response. And it was to be anticipated. But, when the criticism starts to hurt, keep in mind how beneficial a peer review is (For more information on how to navigate the peer review process, see this article). Your paper was scrutinized by a world-renowned specialist who dedicated some of their valuable time to it. They don’t want you to fail, therefore they’ll do all they can to prevent you from doing so. They are rooting for you to succeed.
It would not only be stupid but also damaging to your success, to disregard your peer reviewer’s suggestions. If the problem is merely one of language or formatting, consider hiring an editing service to guarantee that your work is evaluated on its own merits rather than being rejected due to spelling and grammatical mistakes.
Untangling your own emotions, seeing your article objectively, and evaluating the peer reviewer’s remarks might be challenging. It won’t be easy, but it won’t be impossible. Take a few days if you need to, but never discount the gift that has been given to you.
Step 3: Investigate Your Back-Ups
You can resubmit your application. Of course, this would need a second lengthy draft to address (or at the very least reply to) all of your peer reviewer’s concerns, as well as a professional edit and proofread. Make a list of everything you want to do. It’s best to have as many possibilities as possible. Fine-tune your paper after each rejection and submit it again. And it happened again, and again, and again.
They’ve pinpointed the flaws in your reasoning. That’s incredible! You can now strengthen them.
Before you send your first application, make a list of 20 academic journals. That way, when the first rejection letter arrives, you won’t be as discouraged. You already have a strategy and a goal in mind. You may go through your document again and send it down the production line.
Nobody said it would be simple. But keep in mind that academic publications reject even the greatest articles and professors.
Rejection management is a talent in and of itself.
Step 4: Have Hope
Have faith in your manuscript. Have faith in yourself. Remember that all great work will eventually be published somewhere.
Ben Bova, author of 124 science fiction and non-fiction books and former editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact and Omni, identified three qualities every successful writer must have:
- Talent, which is innate. No one can teach you talent.”
- “Craft, which can be learned.”
- “Perseverance. Of the three, the most important is perseverance. Writing is a hard, lonely, often bitter calling. Only tremendous perseverance can see a writer through the pains of disappointment and rejection. Only those writers who persevere can become successful.”
One rejection might be all it takes. It might take up to ten rejections. But, if you stick it out, you’ll win the thrill of seeing your novel published one day.
Also, keep in mind that you are not alone. Great academics are turned down. Great papers are often turned down. It’s a regular, natural element of the academic journey you’ve decided to embark on.
Take it in stride. With pride, collect your rejection slips. Others would have given up a long time ago. What’s more, you know what? If you have a brilliant article in the works and enough optimism, you’ll figure out how to deal with academic journal rejection and finally publish it.