How this publisher handles rejections

One of the things I find most difficult about publishing is rejection. Somebody hears that I’m building a site that publishes poetry so sends me a few of their poems. Or I’ve already published someone’s work – their art or their poetry – and they show me more.

Rejection’s a horrible thing. The artist or writer has lovingly polished their work, created something they’re proud of, only to hear me say “It’s not quite what I was looking for.”

It’s not because I’m a better judge of artistic endeavour and achievement than they are. It’s not necessarily that I don’t like the work – I might love it. But it has to work within the context of the site, and that’s a different matter.

For example, today I’ve been working with another of Chris Pearson’s poems, called Canon Fodder. I really like it – in fact I already put it out on my HROomph site a couple of months ago. At surface level, it’s a humorous poem about an under-utilized photocopier. You know the way it is: all those wonderful things copiers can do, but for most of us, it’s just copy and go. The poor photocopier is under-utilized, bored and frustrated.

At a deeper level, the poem speaks to me about the nature of work. How many of my own employees have I under-utilized in my career in business? How many could have done so much more if I’d paid a bit more attention to their real capabilities? So I wanted to add Chris’s poem to the collection.

But it just didn’t work out. First there was the question of illustrating the poem, to bring it up to the standard of the wall-art we’ve released so far. Chris and I talked about this last night, and decided to run a competition. We’d ask readers to come up with an idea – something humorous to match the tone of the poem. A cartoon perhaps. Perhaps we’d find new design talent. I played around with a few ideas anyway this afternoon, so that we had a placeholder for the design temporarily.

But when I worked on the layout of the words for a poster or a card … I found it just didn’t work – or at least I couldn’t find a way to make it work. On a poster 24 lines in the absolute maximum, 20 lines is better and around 16 lines is ideal. This went beyond the maximum – and the line-length was long too. As a poem it works just fine. But as wall-art, it doesn’t.

Other considerations also determine Coloring The Wind publication decisions:

  1. Does the whole work – words and design – have a Wow factor? Does it feel finely-crafted? Can I imagine that people would want to have it on display permanently in their personal space? (I recently put one of my own works – Colors Flying in the rejection pile because I feel the overall design of the wall-art just isn’t strong enough.)
  2. Does it fit with one of the major themes that we’re developing? The environment and heritage, issues in the developing world, age concern, business inspiration, personal and business gifts – these are the lines that are emerging. The themes are not entirely arbitrary. I’m thinking of how and where we’re likely to be able to sell our products, who’s likely to find them important.
  3. How many works have we already published from the same person? Our ‘Featured Works’ are large graphics files, and I’d be surprised if the site could cope with more than 250 of them. We’ll see. For this reason, and to make sure we have plenty of variety, I’m planning to limit each writer and artist to a maximum of 5 features (although the features might change from time to time – and we will of course direct readers to each contributor’s other published work in their artist profiles.)

So what to do with Canon Fodder? It’s not for our store at the moment, but I think you’d enjoy it. So I’ve decided to add another publication category to Coloring The Wind. Poems that are not featured, not illustrated, not added to the store – but which are linked to the writer’s profile – up to a maximum of 5 additional poems for each contributor. Here’s a link to Canon Fodder.

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. I’m glad I don’t have your job Alan. It’s so difficult to critique someone’s creative work. I do love what you’ve decided to do with the poem and I’m looking forward to reading it.
    Julia Neiman (@parenttrainer) recently posted..Can You Just Jump Into Business?My Profile

  2. I agree with Julia, very happy I am not in your shoes. However, I like the way you write and this is a wonderful post because it explains that no is not a synonym for rejection.
    Retha recently posted..Communicating with God – Day 6My Profile