Over the last three days I’ve read commenters on several blogs and message boards insisting that the race, gender or political affiliation is the single reason certain writers get rejected, regardless of the quality of their writing.
Under the current submissions system, writers send their work in to agents and/or editors; then their work is read, and accepted or rejected because it’s either good enough or it isn’t. Being good enough includes all sorts of things: the quality of the writing, the story, what competition is out there, and the likely market. And unless the submission was made to a niche publisher, this judgement has nothing to do with the age, colour or gender of the author concerned.
Last Autumn, one of my books was rejected by a Muslim editor. Did I react by ranting that this was religious discrimination, because I’m non-Muslim? Or racial discrimination, because I’m white and the editor wasn’t? Or discrimination because I’m a woman and the editor is a man? Nope: his gender and religion had nothing to do with the rejection. I thanked him for his time, had a look at my writing and realised that he was right: my work wasn’t suitable for publication by the company he worked for.
Writing is judged purely on its quality by editors, sales teams and publishers, who themselves belong to all ethnicities, religions and genders. They have little or no idea of the ethnicity or religious beliefs of the writers they’re considering unless the writers choose to tell them: so how can anyone logically insist that that’s why they reject some writers and accept others?
When submissions are rejected by all who see them, chances are the writing, premise or story just isn’t good enough to be published. It’s not good to hear that about something you’ve worked hard on for a long time, but you can learn from the experience: write something better that won’t get rejected. Move on. And for goodness’ sake, don’t try to blame others for your own weak work.