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I Fail More Often Than I Succeed

I was shocked by the number of commenters on this post who expressed surprise at my project being rejected for publication.  First of all, thank you!  Your kind words always make me feel so much better.  And second, I get rejected all the time.  I just don't blog about it.

Rejection is just a part of the game.  It comes with the territory.  So let's have a little chat about it.

Being Rejected for Publication

No matter who you are, no matter how talented you are, you will submit for publication and get rejected.  Being published in a magazine is all about fit. 

What does that mean? 

Well, for instance, the way I scrapbook is not appealing to everyone.  In fact, it's not appealing to most scrapbookers.  I've been called messy, scattered, un-focused, product vomiter, and so on, more times than I can think of.  So the artwork I submit to the traditional scrapbooking magazines (Scrapbooks Etc., Creating Keepsakes, Scrapbook Trends) tends to be the more restrained stuff.  Mostly graphic with a tiny bit of artsy.  Those magazines also like to see multi-photo layouts, and layouts with kids.  The former I can give them, the latter, not so much.  But I'm thoughtful about what I send in and I pretty much get rejected 90% of the time regardless.

Besides all the considerations I've shared, remember that magazines are looking for layouts that fit into their seasonal theme, any editorial theme, and that fill an open niche.  Even if your project is gorgeous, it can still get rejected for a thousand reasons:

  • Out of season (winter layout for summer issue)
  • Photos are not up to par (photos sell a layout as much as the design)
  • Another layout already uses that product (if you use a recognizable embellishment or patterned paper, it's possible that they already have a project using it and two is too many)
  • Wrong colors (they need blue and yours is red)
  • Project too complex for readers (people want to open the magazine and feel that they can replicate the project)
  • Too many of the same thing (everyone has a Christmas layout with a photo of a tree)
  • Technique already being used (the technique on your layout was featured in the last issue or is going to be used by another layout)
  • And so on and so forth

The example I've used is from submitting to scrapbooking magazines, but the same holds true in many other categories.  I know artists who've had their project on the cover of a magazine and then been told that the magazine couldn't use any more of their work for a year because they got complaint letters about using the same people over and over.  Magazines have a lot of balls to juggle, so don't take it personally.

Being Rejected for Design Teams

I've recently stepped off of the design team carousel.  But I know how badly I wanted to be on it for a long time before it ever happened for me.  My applications for design teams have been rejected more times than I can count.  I've been rejected from American Crafts, Pink Paislee, Shimmerz, Tattered Angels, WRMK, Sassafras Lass, Hambly, Crate Paper, Cosmo Cricket, GCD, Graphic 45, Jillibean Soup, Collage Press...and plenty more! And more than once from many of them, may I add!

And you know what?

It hurt every single time. 

But it's not personal.  This is business.  Think about it.  If you owned a crafty business, what would you be looking for in a design team?  I know what I'd want. 

Design team members who...

  • Have an active blog (mutliple postings per week) with a *huge* blog readership.  Thousands of subscribers.
  • Get published in books and magazines all the time.  As important as the internet is, there are lots of people whose first exposure to product and crafting is a book or magazine, and getting your product into publication is very very important.
  • Can write killer tutorials.  Almost all manufacturer and kit club blogs are packed with tutorials.  Gone are the days when you could merely show off a pretty project.  People want to know how to do it.  You need to be able to take step-by-step photos, write good directions, or do tutorial videos.
  • Can take high quality photos.  I know I've said this before, but being successful in this day and age is as much about your ability to take a photo of your project as it is about being able to make the project.  Truth.
  • Surprise me.  It's all about getting noticed.  What gets "pinned" and "favorited" and re-blogged?  Projects with surprising elements.  Unusual think-outside-the-box type stuff.
  • Know how to show off product.  It's one thing to use product.  It's another thing to use product in a way that makes people feel like they can't use anything else.  And it's the latter that is design team magic.  Because that magic equals sales.
  • Have a proven track record that they can meet deadlines with quality work. I know that we all lament how the same people end up on every design team.  But, there's a reason.  Design team work is hard.  You're asked to publicly be excited about product that may not excite you.  You're asked to make amazing projects from items that may not be amazing.  And all of it has to be done on a strict deadline.  You may have just a few days to get a project done.  And it has to be great every single time.  It's unfair, but I'm more likely to trust someone who has already proven they can do it.
  • Have a vanilla and positive track record.  Let's face it, design team members are ambassadors for the company they represent.  People who are negative, get into public fights, have extremely public strong political opinions, or denigrate others, are not my first choice to represent my company.  I could write a book about the pros and cons of this one, but let's move on.
  • Are social media savvy.  Besides a blog, they post on Facebook and Twitter, but not in an aggressively self-promotional way.  And I want them to have lots and lots of friends and followers.  And it wouldn't hurt if they were active on message boards and forums too. 

That's a lot.  And we haven't even really discussed artistic talent.  But don't ever forget, the one and only purpose of a design team is to sell product.  If you can't sell the product, or if the powers-that-be can't see how you could sell the product, then they don't want you.

The World is Full of Rejection

And if the previous two categories don't apply to you, don't worry there are lots of other ways that your artwork can be rejected!

  • You post it online (your blog or an online gallery) and no one comments.
  • You share your artwork with your husband/best friend/children/mother and they...well, let's say they underappreciate it.
  • You enter a contest and don't win.
  • You apply to a juried craft fair and are rejected.
  • You apply to teach and are rejected.
  • You send artwork to a gallery for consideration and are rejected.
  • You tell someone you're an artist and they say you're not.
  • You put a video on YouTube and people hit the "dislike" button.
  • Your book/DVD that you worked so hard on gets bad reviews.
  • The product you developed doesn't sell.
  • You write a book proposal and it is rejected.
  • And the list goes on.

There is no way to avoid rejection.  Well, I suppose that's not true.  There is one way to avoid rejection: don't try.  But I'm not willing to do that.  I would rather try and be rejected than not try at all. 

The sting of rejection is nothing compared to the sting of wishing I would have.

What do you think?  Do you agree or not?  And why?

Thanks for stopping by!