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Nuts and Bolts: Dealing with Rejection

October 15, 2013


Artist,  photographer, writer — we’ve all had to learn to deal with rejection.

It’s frustrating, humiliating, and can feel insulting when you’ve labored hard to create a masterpiece in your eyes, only to have a total stranger tell you it’s not acceptable for some reason you can’t even fathom. Your first reaction is probably anger: how dare this stupid poo-head tell me my art isn’t good enough!? That’s understandable. But what separates the true professionals from the rest is the ability to understand a rejection isn’t personal, and just move on graciously.

Rather than simply urge artists who take rejection as a personal insult to cultivate a more professional outlook, we’ll address some of the issues that have cropped up again and again on the Forum. Hopefully, you’ll come away from this post with some food for thought and some answers to questions you may have.

Let’s start with the most common reaction to a rejection or request for edit.

But This Same Card/Photograph Sells on Other Sites!
(Or the Apples & Oranges Argument)

Greeting Card Universe has standards by which they judge designs submitted by artists. These standards may feel arbitrary to you. We’ve seen accusations thrown around the Forum by upset artists which include the notion that GCU is stifling creativity or fostering censorship. Nothing is further from the truth. No one is trying to prevent you from creating whatever design tickles your fancy. Just some designs don’t fit GCU’s guidelines and there’s a reason behind their choosiness.

GCU simply knows their customer base very, very well. They know exactly what kind of greeting cards their shoppers are looking for because they’ve got years of data backing them up.

Telling fellow artists that your photographs have been accepted and sold on stock photo sites doesn’t mean anything. Nor does the fact you sell the exact same greeting card on another POD. You can’t compare GCU to any other POD or stock agency. That’s like comparing apples and oranges. GCU only sells greeting cards. That’s their focus. That’s what their customers come to their site to purchase.

Don’t try to use an invalid argument to make what you think is a point. It’s not.

What’s the solution? Rather than waste your time and energy, if you’re really in disagreement with GCU’s decision and a resolution attempt hasn’t worked out, how about uploading your rejected design somewhere else. There are several other PODs to choose from and most GCU artists have accounts at these places too. Besides, it’s good strategy not to put your eggs into one basket.

And now let’s address…

But the Submission Guidelines Are Too Hard!

True, GCU’s Submission Guidelines are technical, particularly for photographers. But every greeting card company has its own standards by which they measure all submissions. GCU is actually very reasonable in their expectations, which are not out of line with other greeting card companies.

If your intention on joining GCU is to have fun playing with snapshots you took with your digital camera and jollied up with graphics effects software, don’t be surprised if those cards receive a “no thank you.”

If you refuse to believe the submission guidelines apply to you for some reason, don’t be surprised to receive rejection notices. The guidelines apply to ALL artists, from the top sellers to the newbies.

However, if you’re willing to learn the guidelines, apply them, and put work into developing your craft as a photographer or artist AND as a greeting card designer, you may do well at GCU.

What’s the solution? If you’ve made an effort and still can’t seem to grasp a particular guideline, try asking for help from your fellow artists on the Forum. Or you can always submit a card design to the weekend Critique Clinic on this blog to receive constructive criticism and advice.

But the Reviewers Aren’t Consistent in Applying the Guidelines!

Because the reviewers are human. They have the same resources at their fingertips as you do – the GCU Wiki, the submission guidelines, the articles about the guidelines Doreen Erhardt has been writing for this blog — but they aren’t robots. Mistakes get made and sometimes things fall through the cracks under the pressure of thousands of cards entering the queue daily.

So stuff happens. An inconsistent review doesn’t mean you get a free pass to do whatever you want. Nor does it mean that GCU’s entire review staff is incompetent. Or that GCU’s submission guidelines are utter garbage (see the Apples and Oranges section above for why this isn’t true).

What’s the solution? If you feel the reviewer has made a genuine error in rejecting your card or asking you to edit something, there are steps you can take.

  • Contact the reviewer. Just hit “reply” to the email you received.
  • In the subject line, put the PID# of the card. This is very important. If you don’t include the PID# in the subject line, the review team will probably deal with emails that DO have the PID# first. This is because they can quickly bring up the card’s information and deal with the issue much faster than if they have to launch a Sherlock Holmes-type investigation. Remember, this is for YOUR benefit. If you didn’t bother to try to help yourself, don’t complain later.
  • Explain the problem politely. Being rude, snarky, nasty, sarcastic or insulting doesn’t get you help any faster. Behaving that way only serves to point out your personal flaws.

But I’ve Sold Fifty Copies of That Same Card Design at GCU In the Past!

The reviewers do not have access to sales data. They can judge only the card you submit (or if this is a housecleaning of your shop’s older designs, the cards you submitted in the past).

If you think a mistake has been made, contact the reviewer via the instructions in the above section.

Be aware that prior sales don’t always mean a card will be reinstated. Mindy (one of GCU’s administrators who takes care of such matters) DOES have access to sales data and a whole lot more. She’ll not only look at if a card has sold and how many copies, she’ll check out other information such as … was that fifty card sale to one customer a year ago? How often do customers click on the card? And other stats. Only then will she make a decision.

What’s the solution? Communicate your concern. Don’t expect an automatic reinstatement.

But Artist X’s Design is Almost Exactly Like Mine and Mine Got Rejected!

GCU began weeding older card designs a while ago, but it’s a very slow process. New card submissions take priority, which is something we think all artists will agree with.

What this means is the older cards which were accepted before the guidelines went into effect don’t always reflect GCU’s current standards. However, all new submissions must meet the guidelines.

Rest assured older cards that don’t meet the guidelines will eventually be weeded out.

What’s the solution? Why are you worrying about other people’s card designs anyway? Focus on your own if you want to be successful.

But I Submitted a Proposal for a Card Design That Was Accepted and When I Uploaded the Rest of the Series, They Got Rejected!

There’s a specific way of dealing with card design proposals. Fast tracking the first card of a series and waiting for pre-approval will save you time, but only if you follow the steps. If you skip a step, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

Go and read this post: Pre-Approval for Card Series with Fast Track
You will learn everything you need to know to make this technique work for you.

What’s the solution? Check if you skipped a step in the process. If everything’s good on your end, contact the reviewer via the process detailed above and don’t skip any of those steps, either.

But the Reviews Take Forever!

At the current time, between 6-8 weeks. Yes, that’s a long time to wait. And if a card is Returned for Edits or put On Hold (usually for a second opinion), that adds more time.

With so many artists submitting thousands of cards daily, there will be a long wait. Just like at the checkout line in the grocery store at peak times, your cards will be stuck in line. That’s reality. The best way to deal with review times is to move on to another design while you’re waiting for approval. In time, like many GCU artists, you’ll get into a rhythm where you’re steadily submitting new cards and having slightly older cards approved.

Essentially, faster review times will require a group effort from all of us. It’s not just GCU’s responsibility. If artists wouldn’t submit cards with obvious grammatical and spelling errors, there’s half the battle right there. If artists would pay attention to the guidelines and actually apply them, that would be the other half. Until that happy day, we just have to grin and bear it.

What’s the solution? Here are a couple of articles you can read for tips.

Faster Review Times

Star Submitter
If you become a Star Submitter, you get expedited review times.

Now let’s move to…

But the Reviewer Was Rude to Me!

The reviewers are not rude.

Let’s repeat that: the reviewers are not rude.

How can we be so certain? Because every reviewer is working from the same play-book. GCU provides reviewers with stock replies both as a time saving method and a means to ensure reviewers are giving the same answers to every artist. What you perceive as curt is actually a formal communication style.

When you’re not speaking to someone face to face or even over the phone, you’re missing a lot of emotional context. It’stoo  easy to make an assumption that someone is being rude to you when you can’t hear the tone of their voice or see their expression, especially if you’re not used to a formal written communication that lacks emoticons or other visual cues.

Some reviewers add personal notes. Some don’t. Just because a reviewers didn’t lavish you with praise or treat you with kid gloves doesn’t mean they’re rude. They’re giving you the facts. If you find those facts unpalatable, that’s a problem of your perception, not a lack of manners.

What’s the solution? Before flying off the handle, take a step back. Count to ten. Go away for a half hour, do something else, and come back to read the email again. Is the reviewer REALLY being rude by asking you to please remove a distracting element from a photo? The answer is no. You’re allowing your emotions to overrule your logic.

Let’s go on to…

But I’m a Professional Photographer/Artist!

That may be true, but if you are a professional, you’ve dealt with rejection in the past. You know that not every photograph or picture will appeal to everyone. This is a fact. So jumping up to declare how professional you are with X many years of experience and how dare anyone ask you to change anything in your wonderful, amazing, totally perfect artistic design doesn’t impress.

Making threats doesn’t impress either. Nor does whining, nagging, constantly reiterating the same complaints over and over, or putting on a diva act. Want to be treated like a professional? Act like one.

By asking for edits or rejecting a design, GCU is doing an artist the courtesy of treating them like a true professional in their field. In providing the resources to understand and apply their submission guidelines, they’re going the extra mile. Do them the courtesy of conducting yourself in a truly professional manner.

What’s the solution? If you have a difference of opinion with a reviewer, take the steps outlined in the section above.

And finally…

But GCU Wouldn’t Exist Without Me, the Artist!

You can assure yourself that if you ind GCU odious, plenty of other artists do not. Drop the sense of entitlement, please.

Here are the brass tacks. GCU is a privately owned business. We artists are not the owners. As artists, we’re freelancers, not factory workers, and you’re not Norma Rae.

Don’t like the direction GCU is going in? Feel like your creative expression is being stifled? Hate being told what to do in your artistic work? If you find GCU so dreadful, why are you still here? If you think you’re being treated so unfairly, why stick around? There are plenty of other PODs where the rules aren’t so strict and no one will judge you.

If you can’t take criticism or rejection, what the heck are you doing submitting designs intended to be sold on the commercial market?

What’s the solution? If the differences are truly irreconcilable, maybe it’s time to consider looking for another home for your designs. We’ll be sorry to see you leave and wish you good luck in your next endeavors.

We hope you found some answers here that will help you in your interactions with GCU and with your fellow artists.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Cathy Gangwer permalink
    October 15, 2013 1:34 pm

    Solid information!

  2. October 15, 2013 1:39 pm

    Very well written for someone who is not trained or very experienced in this field. Thank you for your hard work on that information. Very informative and I know it will help.

  3. October 15, 2013 3:11 pm

    Well done Corrie, thank you! This is sure to help many.

  4. October 15, 2013 6:31 pm

    Thanks Corrie, very informative and down to the brass tacks!

  5. October 15, 2013 7:37 pm

    Wow! Thank you Corrie. If I didn’t know better, I would think this was a directive to teens instead of mature adults. Hard to believe you can get to be an adult and act like what is described above. What I read in many art groups on the net ( like art licensing groups in particular ) is that although you may have talent, your ability to work with people plays a HUGE role in one’s success. It’s true for any job, but particularly true for any free lance business. If GCU is causing some artists here so much grief, it’s time to move on. I’m starting to think some people relish in being miserable and complaining. Life is way too short for that. Find something you’re good at, go do it, and be HAPPY!!!

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