Real-Time Rejection: The First Rejection of “Story X”

Well, that didn’t take long. “Story X” has received its first rejection. (If you’re just joining the “Story X” party, see the first post in this series here: Real-Time Rejection: The Journey of “Story X”

Let’s have a look:

Dear Aeryn,

We have read your submission and will have to pass, as it unfortunately does not meet our needs at this time.

Thank you.

Yep, the formiest or form letters. Not much to learn here. It’s a classic example of the common form rejection, which I discuss at length in a segment of Rejection Letter Rundown.

This rejection came from one of the more prestigious magazines in the spec-lit market. They’re a very tough market to crack, with an acceptance ratio of well under 1%. I typically send stories to markets like this first for two reasons. One, I really, really want to get published in a magazine like this. It would make me fell all warm and fuzzy and validated and stuff. Two, these guys turn stories around fast, and I mean really fast. This rejection took less than twenty-four hours. If I’m gonna get a form rejection, the quicker the better, because it lets me do what you should always do when you get a form rejection on a new story—reload and fire that story off somewhere else.

Of course, the speed at which this magazine reviews stories does beg a pretty obvious question. Are they actually reading the stories? Yes, I think they are . . . kind of. Now, this is all pure speculation based on talking to folks in the business, but what I think happens at a publication like this—one that gets hundreds, if not thousands of submissions every month—is the slush pile reader gives a story two or three paragraphs before pitching it or deciding to read further (most get pitched). So, it’s absolutely crucial that opening scene be a real winner. Stephen King, a writer I quite admire, goes a step further and says in his collection Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing that the first sentence better be a humdinger. He calls that first sentence a “hooker,” and apparently mine didn’t turn any tricks with this particular publication. (Har! See what I did there?)

The first rejection is in the books, and I’m locked and loaded to send the story off again. It’ll be another magazine with a quick turnaround time, so expect an update soon.

4 thoughts on “Real-Time Rejection: The First Rejection of “Story X”

  1. Let me guess…does the litmag start with a “C”? By the way, the same logic w.r.t. submitting to fast-turnaround places goes for querying novels as well — that’s what I did when I first began sending out queries, so I’d know if the query itself might be a dud.

    Thanks for a great post. Looking forward to reading more!

    • Nope, that one’s next. 😉

      Yeah, I expect the situation with novels is the same. What do you consider a reasonable turnaround time for a novel review with an agent or publisher? For stories, I think 60 days is reasonable, but, of course, I’d prefer faster. 🙂

      • Well, it’s not about what I consider a reasonable turnaround time, but the industry standard seems to be about eight weeks — I’ve seen that magic number from agents when they request fulls and I’ve heard it’s the minimum amount of time an agent should wait before nudging acquisition editors re a novel on submission. Now, if that’s the turnaround time for a 90K-word novel, I’m at a loss as to why it would take longer to read and respond to a submission of a story between 500 and 4,000 words. Perhaps it’s a volume thing? Or perhaps many of the editors at smaller litzines have other jobs? Your guess is as good as mine!

      • Wow, that’s faster than I thought it would be for a novel. That’s the turnaround time for most lit-mags that publish short stories. I think the reasons you state for the slower turnaround times for short stories are right on the money. Volume, lack of fulltime editors, or a combination of both I think lead to slower turn times.

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