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CODE BLUE: Dealing With Rejections
by Deborah Clark

Rejections are a fact of a writer's life. They are also an indication that my hard work and research missed the mark. There is little more aggravating to me than receiving an envelope or postcard in my own typeface. Nothing, that is, except a form letter or postcard with no indication of which of my submissions the publication had declined. This is the one thing I cannot make the publication change. I realized that some markets would send their rejection forms, regardless of what I include. Not being one to sulk, at least for too long, I created a simple code to help me track my submissions, and the inevitable rejections.

The solution was easy once I had spent a few months, and several false starts, perfecting it. I had been invoicing publications with a double three-digit number, since I had started being paid. It is an easy way to keep track for my own records, and the taxman. The first series represented the publication; the second, the invoice number. For example, WRITING FOR DOLLARS has a oo5-xxx code. It represents the fact that WFD was my fifth paying market, since I had started the system. The ‘xxx's would represent the invoice number itself. The only departure from this occurred when I was assigned a number by the publication itself. Then I used my system to cross-reference the publication's number. So I decided to stay with what I knew.

I coded the return envelope with a series of letters and three digit numbers. The three-digit number reflected the number I assign the publication. The letters represented the stage of inquiry of the package I had sent. I put them on the inside flap of the SASE. I had tried putting the code of the bottom from of the SASE, but personally didn't like the look of it. Some publications prefer to use postcards, and I incorporated the code onto the left-hand bottom corner of the return postcard. The letter codes reflected what had been included: ‘Q' for a query, ‘F' for a follow-up, ‘A' for an article and ‘C' for clips [tearsheets]. For example:

-‘QC' represented a query with clips, my usual first step.

-‘A' represented a query with an article, if the market or the editor requested it.

-‘FA' represented a follow-up with the article included.

If I included more than one of anything in the package, the code reflected it; e.g. 'QCCC' would be a query with three clips.

I also began to use color to denote the number of times I had gone through that step with each particular editor. The first time I contacted an editor, I would use blue; the second, red; the third, green and so on.

The system may sound difficult, but it isn't really. If an editor is interested in my first query, ‘QCCC' [in blue], I send a follow-up, ‘FA', still coded in blue. So, ‘FA' in green would been that I had submitted a follow-up package for the third time. Hopefully the editor would accept, or I would give up, before the 23rd time. That is all the colored pencils I have. Luckily, my database accepts colored entries, so I can stay coded and coordinated.

I have recently upgraded to a computer database. It allows me to continue with my system. Having worked both ways, I can say that as long as the system work for you, it is a good system. I use a pop-up scheduling service to remind me of impending projects and follow-up notices. I have found that contacting an editor is much easier now that the information is displayed in front of me. I simply email or call with a little spiel that includes all the pertinent information. It is quick, painless and responsive.

I add each market faithfully. Once an editor or publication is entered, the system kicks in as I send the query out. It is working so well, I may even have to add another digit.

© Copyright 1999, Deborah Clark

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