Time for another Ranks of the Rejected. This time, talented fantasy and sci-fi author Josh Vogt has agreed to give us the lowdown on his rejection experiences. Josh is another writer I met through Skull Island eXpeditions when I was heading up that imprint. He was interested in writing some Iron Kingdoms fiction and sent me some samples of his work. The samples were great, but I also saw that he’d published short stories with Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show and Shimmer Magazine, two very tough markets to crack. I was impressed, but I wasn’t sure if I should publish him or lose his email in a fit of jealous spite. Thankfully, I chose the former, and it was definitely the right call.
Josh is a potent 12th-level rejectomancer undoubtedly destined for rejecto-mastery. He commands many strange and wondrous literary powers including Prestigious Publication and Create Captivating Concept.
Here’s a little more about Josh:
Josh Vogt’s work ranges across numerous genres and formats, including writing for a wide variety of RPG developers. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, is a tie-in to the Pathfinder roleplaying game. WordFire Press has also launched his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor and The Maids of Wrath. He’s a member of SFWA, the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, and a Scribe Award finalist. Find him at JRVogt.com.
1) What do you remember about your first rejection letter?
That it didn’t surprise me at all. It acted like a milestone in my fledgling writing career because it meant I was actually doing what I needed to do: write stories and submit them to publications. It meant I was trying; so long as I kept trying, I believed those rejections would eventually turn into acceptances.
2) In your opinion, what can writers learn from rejection letters? What have you learned?
Well, once you become a writer and get your rejection letter decoder ring, you can tap into all the secret messages industry pros hide in them…
You don’t have your decoder ring? Oh, well, forget I mentioned that.
Anyways, writers can learn a lot from rejection letters. Through rejection, we can learn just how subjective writing is, and how one editor’s tastes can be in stark contrast to another’s. You can also use rejection letters to track, in a way, your progress as a writer. Did you use to get only form rejections but now are getting personal rejection letters? Are you getting specific feedback, being told your story made it to higher review tiers, or being asked to send in more of your work even though your last submission “wasn’t the right fit?” If so, those are signs of growth and should be encouraging, even within the sting of the denial.
I’ve also learned to not take rejection so personally. Rejection isn’t an attack on me, even though it may feel like it at first. The story I submitted just didn’t hit the target…this time. It’s not a sign that I should give up being a writer. Instead, it’s an opportunity to submit the story elsewhere and keep trying until it finds a home.
3) Got a favorite rejection? Memorable, funny, mean, just straight-up weird?
Here’s a favorite from all the way back in 2007:
Thanks for your patience while we slogged through our slush pile.
Your work is not right for us at this time. Please understand that this doesn’t mean your work isn’t right, it simply means it’s not right for US.
There are any number of reasons we as editors felt this way:
Maybe the hook didn’t catch us. Maybe you ignored the formatting guidelines. Maybe your story didn’t jibe with the theme of the magazine for a given issue. Maybe the editors were in a bad mood. Maybe the editors were drunk.
You get the idea. The important thing is that you wrote something. Please keep doing that.
Many authors have papered their walls with rejection slips before going on to extraordinary success. Let this letter help wallpaper you to the stars. (Boy does that sound cheesy.)
4) What’s the toughest part of rejection for you? Pro tips for dealing with it?
Actually, it’s less about the pain of the rejection itself and more about determining why the story got rejected. It’s easy to get wrapped up in wondering and worrying, “Was it not a good fit or does the story just suck? Is it broken and I’m fooling myself thinking it’s worth submitting for publication, or will the next place I send it to absolutely love it?”
This can be paralyzing and counter-productive. On the one hand, yes, you want the confidence to keep submitting your work. On the other, you need to learn to recognize when a story could use some revising or has flaws that are holding it back. This is why having a critique group or beta readers is so helpful, because you can have them take a look at the piece and give you direct feedback—rather than trying to perform rejectomancy and driving yourself insane with doubt and second-guessing.
5) Tell us about your latest acceptance letter. How long did it take the sting out of the rejection letters that followed?
My latest story acceptance was based on an anthology invite, so I had the odds tipped in may favor from the get-go. I got asked to fill in as a pinch-hitter writer, adding a short story to an upcoming holiday anthology, Naughty or Nice, being edited by Jennifer Brozek and coming out from Evil Girlfriend Media . I got to write a story based in my Cleaners reality—a new series about a supernatural sanitation company—and had a lot of fun doing so! Of course, if I’d done a piss-poor job of it, it could’ve been rejected just as easily. Fortunately, Jennifer enjoyed what I turned in, and I’m now excited for future chances to write more Cleaners shorts.
6) Okay, plug away. Tells us about your latest project or book and why we should run out and buy it.
This year saw the debut of my urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with the first book, Enter the Janitor, kicking it off! It’s about a grumpy old janitor working for a supernatural sanitation company who gets a germaphobic young woman as an apprentice. It has more of a humorous edge to it, with a nice dose of absurdity added into the mix. The second in the series, The Maids of Wrath, is scheduled to come out this November if all goes well!
So if the thought of magically empowered janitors, maids, plumbers, and other sanitation workers makes you grin or chuckle, give it a whirl!