I have made a new YouTube video, in which I’m talking about something a bit more personal – submitting work for publications and dealing with the rejection letters. You can watch the clip below or go to Youtube and watch it there.
I also started a hashtag on Instagram #submissionrejects and I hope you will join the disussion!
I wrote down the main points of what I’m talking below the video so you can read them if you don’t have the possibility of watching it. I also started a hashtag on Instagram #submissionrejects and I hope you will join the discussion! I’d also love to see the designs you submitted but which were not selected. I also wrote another post where you can see a couple of my rejected submissions.
None of us likes to tell that we have failed at something we do, but I think it’s important to be honest. So I’m taking a bit of a risk here, trying to open a conversation into a subject that is quite hard to discuss but I hope this is something you can relate to.
Rejection – it’s a horrible word, isn’t it? All of us handle rejection differently, but I’m pretty sure none of us is immune to the sting of it. Some of us can brush it off more easily than others, and there are those who just do a better job hiding it. I think the fear of rejection is one of the main reasons why people don’t pursue their dreams. Fear of rejection goes hand in hand with fear of failure and the all too familiar thought of “what will others think of me”. But if we never learn to face rejection we will never get forward in our lives towards the goals we want to reach. Being rejected is not something anyone would like to get used to, but you do grow a thicker skin.
Ever since I started designing my own knitting patterns and publishing them, I have opened myself up for critique, rejection and having my work possibly looked down on. Even though I haven’t faced any bullying in the social media world or on Ravelry, there are also more subtle nuances to rejection, like why doesn’t my photo get more likes or why haven’t people queued my pattern on Ravelry more, when I thought the design would have been better received. The line between success and rejection becomes even starker when you submit your idea to a publication, since you can’t get a lukewarm reception to your submission. It’s either a yes or a no, there’s nothing in between.
The line between success and rejection becomes even starker when you submit your idea to a publication, since you can’t get a lukewarm reception to your submission. It’s either a yes or a no, there’s nothing in between.
Everyone understands that there is only a limited amount of spots for getting your work published in a magazine, and usually the number submissions outweigh the ones that got selected many times over. It is also understandable that the publication needs to have a range of different patterns so not all of the accepted designs can be sweaters or socks. Unless there’s a certain theme. Another aspect to consider when picking patterns for a publication is catering for different types of knitters and remembering that some of us are beginners while others are more advanced. So not all the patterns can be super simple or very intricate. They can’t all be intermediate either.
And lastly, and probably most importantly, publishers must make a coherent collection. The selected designs must look good together and tell a story. Considering all this, it is much easier to understand why your design didn’t make the cut. It is nothing personal, it does not mean your work is bad, and it does not mean you should stop designing all together. Why do I (we?) still take it this way?
I have found the lack of conversation around being rejected from a submission call quite odd. Not once do I recall seeing anyone mention they have submitted ideas but not been selected. Why is that? The social media community of knitters is quite close-knit (pun intended) and people keep rooting for each other. There are many times when people have posted on Instagram about their concerns on not being successful enough, not making the ends meet, and feeling inferior to others, vulnerable, uncreative and all the self-doubt. All these post are quickly followed by responses of encouragement, kind words, and compassion. People telling they can relate to those feelings 100 %. We talk openly about the “comparison game” and self doubt. However, submission rejection is a taboo that no one talks about.
We talk openly about the “comparison game” and self doubt. However, submission rejection is a taboo that no one talks about.
The sweater I’m wearing in the video is one of those unmentionable submission rejects. I was so excited about this design when I was working on it. It was one of the favorite things I had ever knitted, let alone designed, and I really felt it suited the submission call and the mood board given. You can imagine my disappointment when instead of being selected, my design was turned down. I started to doubt myself and wonder whether my instincts about my work were so totally wrong. I have had my work rejected previously, but this time it was something different. This time it was about a design I had stood 100% behind. And even proudly so.
When I first started to submit my work for publications, I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. That way, if I wasn’t selected, no one knew and I wouldn’t have to admit to anyone I had failed. I didn’t even tell my husband. I have only told him about the last two submissions I sent out. Neither of those submissions made the cut.
The first ever submission I sent was rejected. It hurt a bit but I was kind of expecting it since I was a total newbie and didn’t have any name for myself. The next two submissions I sent were for Laine magazine and Pom pom quarterly, both of which I scored. I think I squealed a little (a lot) and clapped my hands when I got the news. I might even have danced a little happy dance, but don’t tell anyone. I was super excited about them both, but only told my husband, because I was sure that something horrible would happen in the last minute, and my designs would be dropped off the magazines just before going to print. It was pretty unbelievable to see my work in actual print. The next three submissions I sent were also selected, and I started to feel pretty smug and good about my work and myself. I even found myself weighing which submissions to take a part of “so that my spring wouldn’t suddenly be too busy”. Then suddenly I hit a wall.
Suddenly none of my submissions made it. All I got were letters of rejection talking about the high standard of submissions and the overwhelming numbers of them. Thank you and please submit again in the future. FYI some publications don’t even bother sending a message that you have not been selected. I myself am very anxious to hear back, and run to my phone every time it makes a peep when I’m waiting for an answer. So if there is no rejection letter I keep doing this (the less enthusiastically the more time passes) until I come to the conclusion that it is way pass the time for them to announce I have been selected.
It is hard to improve your work when you never get any feedback on why your work wasn’t selected or what are the things you should work on.
I understand it takes time to answer all the people who have submitted their work, but you should also remember that those people put a lot of time and effort into writing their submissions. I also understand it would take too long to answer everyone individually why their work wasn’t selected, but I at least would like to know how many submissions there were and whether my work even made it to a short-list. That would help me prepare better in the future. Both in sense of my submission as well as how to handle the possibility of being rejected. It is hard to improve your work when you never get any feedback on why your work wasn’t selected or what are the things you should work on. I know I’m really bad at drawing the schematics and sketching the design, but is that what I should work on in the future or are my little drawings irrelevant in the overall sense of my submission? Or should I try to sell my work better? How important is the way you describe your work and inspiration, since in the end you are actually trying to sell your design? I’ve always been really bad at marketing myself, but is that the thing I should be working on instead?
Since nobody ever talks about submission rejection, it’s hard to know what really goes on behind the scenes. How often do those “famous” knitwear designers submit their work? Or do they only get asked for commissions? If Michele Wang or Julie Hoover submitted their work for a publication, would they ever be rejected or is it given that when you reach certain fame your work is automatically selected? Does anyone ever say no to a design from Andrea Mowry or Stephen West? I hope we would speak more openly about these things.
Not knowing how things work makes the rejection feel very personal. Do we think we will be branded as failures if we say we have failed at something? Is it a question of shame? Or are we somehow afraid that if we speak openly about not being selected for a publication and showing the work that was rejected that all the doors close for us forever? I have been trying to think about why the submission rejection is such a taboo but can’t come up with a one single answer that would explain everything. As you might have noticed, I haven’t mentioned by name which publications I have submitted to and been rejected. I don’t know why I feel like I can’t tell. Oh well. Pom Pom, Quince et co, Making stories, for example. But I won’t tell who rejected the sweater I’m wearing in the video since I don’t know what the correct “etiquette” is. What do you think, can I disclose it or not?
Can you resubmit your work to somewhere else? — Or are the rejected ideas doomed forever for everyone?
When the rejection letter concerning the sweater arrived, I pushed the sweater aside and didn’t even look at it for many days. Then I picked it up again and realized I still felt the same way about the design. Before this, I have always just casted the rejected designs and ideas aside and not continued to work on them. I have never self-published a pattern that has been a rejectee, nor have I submitted the same idea again to another publication. Question: what is the etiquette here? Can you resubmit your work to somewhere else? Is it politically correct? Or are the rejected ideas doomed forever for everyone? And also: how would a publication feel if they heard that the work had been offered somewhere else previously?
So I decided to test the waters and posted a photo of this sweater on Instagram. The response was overwhelming. It turned out to be one of my most liked photos on Instagram and also one of the most commented. I was surprised by the praise it got as well as the number of people asking for me to write the pattern for it.
That is what made me think more deeply about this whole submission thing and what it really means that your work is selected or rejected. Like I said earlier, there’s so much more to consider than whether your design is pretty or not. And realizing this has made me more secure about believing in my own work and (at least trying to) doubt myself less. So much that I can sit here and record a YouTube video telling you guys I have submitted work and been rejected. And will do both again in the future. Probably many times to come.
And yes: I will write the pattern for this sweater because I love it and I’m curious to see what color combination you guys choose for your versions. There will be a call for test-knitters soon so keep checking back if you are interested about being a part of it. And like I said in the beginning, I started a hashtag #submissionrejetcs, and I would love for you to join the conversation. Should we talk about this more or is it nobody else’s business? Should we as aspiring designers be more honest about our struggles? What is the proper etiquette of rejected designs? Have you self-published a design that was a submission reject? And do we want more openness in return from the publications as well?