The Unacceptance Letter by Michael Bracken

Hey, folks, we’ve got a very special guest author today, the talented and prolific Michael Bracken. Michael has graciously agreed to write a post about one of the more unusual types of rejection letters – the Unacceptance.

Though it is always disappointing to receive a rejection, regardless of whether it’s a form letter or a detailed personal one, there is one missive even more disheartening than a rejection: The Unacceptance.

You’ve written a story—on assignment, by invitation, or on spec—and it’s been accepted for publication. If you’re an early career writer, you may have told all your friends and family, and you may have noted it on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter. You’re floating on air, awaiting the story’s publication so you can show everyone.

But that never happens. One day you learn the project’s been canceled, or the editor’s been replaced, or the publication has changed direction, and your story is no longer needed.

Most often this news comes as a letter or email from the editor.

The Unacceptance may be a form letter, such as the following I received from a publisher that went out of business after accepting, but not contracting, one of my stories:

Thank you for sending us “XXX.” We appreciate the chance to read and consider it. Unfortunately, XXX will not be publishing any further books.

If you are awaiting a contract for a story, please accept this letter as our sincere apology for the delay in advising you of this turn of events. We wanted to give it a few weeks to see what would happen, and frankly did not like the results.

Any stories “accepted” but not contracted for are no longer required. Any stories already published have all been paid for in full and all terms continue to apply, with the exception of one author that required a mailed payment—and the cheque is, as they say, “in the mail.”

Thank you for your interest in this project. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors and towards all future sales of your work.

Sometimes the Unacceptance, though still obviously a form letter, is directed to a small group of contributors, such as the following, which I received from the editors of an anthology for whom I had written a story to fit a specific theme:

It’s been quite some time since we complied the XXX anthology. Unfortunately, we were not able to sell the project and feel it is time to move on.

Thank you for bearing with us during this time. Knowing the quality of the stories we received, we are confident that all of our authors will be able to sell them elsewhere.

We hope the economy is not an indication of the future of the book business. And if we should put out another call for stories some time in the future, we would welcome your submission.

Or the Unacceptance might be a more personal note, such as the following for a story I wrote after receiving a personal invitation from the editor:

I’m so sorry to keep you waiting this long. As you may have guessed, I ran into insurmountable difficulties trying to keep the magazine going.

Regrettably, it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to produce another issue.

Even more regrettably, I have to return your story, which breaks my heart. I love it. I’m sure you’ll find a good home for it, but I really wish it could have been here.

Humblest apologies for standing you up. I’ve been on the other end of it a bunch of times. I know it sucks.

As disappointing as it is to receive an Unacceptance—especially because you now need to back away from the good news you previously shared—what you do is much the same as what you would do with a rejection: Curse vociferously. Then submit the story somewhere else and keep submitting until the story finds a home.

The advantage of keeping an Unaccepted story on the market, unlike keeping a rejected story on the market, is that you know it was good enough to sell once, so it should be good enough to sell again.

Having received far more Unacceptances than the three I’ve noted above, I’ve learned one other important lesson. Even though I use my blog to share news about each of my acceptances, I don’t mention title or publication name until a story is actually published. That way I never have to back away from the good news I share.

Michael Bracken is the author of several books and more than 1,100 short stories. Learn more at and follow his blog at

Writers, Be Heard: Speculative Audio Markets

If you’re like me—and I assume you are since you read my blog—then you probably spend a lot of time submitting fiction to the multidinous array of print and digital publishers out there. But there may be a type of market of which you’re unaware, like I was until just a short time ago. What I’m talking about are the markets that publish audio versions of short stories. There are a bunch of these, actually, and I’ve been submitting to a few of them pretty regularly. So why should you add audio publishers to your list of targeted markets? Ooh, I feel a numbered list coming on.

  1. Media diversity. Audio books are pretty damn popular, and there are folks who even prefer them over dead-tree or digital reading. People who spend a lot of time in their cars dig ’em (commuters and such), as do many artist types who like to listen to books while they paint, sculpt, and whatnot. In fact, I don’t know a single working artist that isn’t way into audio books. Basically, it’s a chance to reach an audience with your work you might not otherwise. That sure is a big selling point for me.
  2. Good pay rates. In general, I’ve found the audio markets pay a little better than most print markets. It’s not uncommon to see solid semi-pro rates (around .03/word), and there are a few that pay pro rates (.06/word and above). Admittedly, my experience with audio markets has been limited to those that publish speculative fiction, primarily horror, so pay rates could be much different outside of these markets.
  3. Reprint friendly. This is a big one for me. Most audio markets I submit to are very receptive to reprints; in fact, I know one that even prefers them. What’s even better is some audio markets pay the same rates for reprints they do for original fiction. This openness to reprints makes sense, if you think about it. They’re publishing the work in an entirely different medium, so the existence of a print version of the story elsewhere really isn’t competition. In fact, some of these markets will even link to the story’s print version if it’s available. Getting one of your reprints published in audio is great way to revisit and reuse some of your best work, and, like I said in point one, introduce it to a new audience.

Now that I’ve told you why you should consider submitting to audio markets, let me point you at some good ones.

At the top of the list are the four Escape Artist podcasts: EscapePod, PseudoPod, PodCastle, and Cast of Wonders. These markets publish sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and YA respectively. They are awesome for a number of reasons. One, they pay pro-rates for original fiction and really solid rates for reprints. Two, they accept simultaneous submissions, and they get back to you in a reasonable amount of time, about 45 days, which, in my book, is fine for a publisher that allows sim-subs. Lastly, they are awesome because they accepted my story “Night Games” for PseudoPod, which will air in September 2016. I’m more than a little excited about it.

Next up is The Drabblecast, an award-winning market who describe themselves thusly: Strange Stories, By Strange Authors, for Strange Listeners. As you can probably guess, they’re a spec market with a pretty open definition of what constitutes speculative fiction. The Drabblecast is a semi-pro publisher that pays .03/word, and they publish short fiction, flash fiction, and micro fiction. Like the Escape Artist podcasts, they are very open to reprints, and they accept simultaneous and multiple submissions. The Drabblecast has a very fast turn rate, averaging about a week for rejections and a month for acceptances. All that adds up to a great publisher with very flexible submissions and content policies.

Know of any good audio markets? Tells us about them in the comments.

February 2016 Submission Statement

Another month, another bunch of submissions sent off into the literary wilds. This time, however, a few more managed to escape the lions, tigers, and bears and return unscathed and intact. February 2016 is the first month where my acceptances and short-list letters outnumbered my rejections. Here’s how it breaks down.

February Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 9
  • Rejections: 3
  • Acceptances: 3
  • Other: 2
I was fairly productive, but I’d like to get up to ten submission per month. I was just one shy in February, so I’m targeting at least ten in March.

The Rejections

As usual, I’ll start with the rejections. There are just three this month.

Rejection 1: 2/5/16

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read your story. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite what we’re looking for. We do hope you will try again.

This was the ninth rejection for “Story X.” I discussed this letter in more detail in this post.

Rejection 2: 2/14/16

Thank you for submitting your story, “XXX”, to XXX. Unfortunately, we have decided not to publish it. To date, we have reviewed many strong stories that we did not take. Either the fit was wrong or we’d just taken tales with a similar theme or any of a half dozen other reasons.

Best success selling this story elsewhere.

Man, I’ve seen the form rejection a lot. It’s from a pro-paying market I’ve been trying to crack for years. They are primarily a sci-fi publisher that dabbles in fantasy and horror. Unfortunately, I don’t write a lot of straight-up sci-fi. I’ve been sending them horror with sci-fi elements, but nothing I’ve sent so far has hit the mark.

Rejection 3: 2/24/16

Thank you for sending your story for consideration at XXX. We’ve had a chance to read through it now and I’m afraid that it’s not what we’re looking for at this time.

Thank you for letting us read through your work though, and best of luck with finding a home for it. The short story is a complex thing to compose – disproportionately so compared to the final word count – and the best advice we can offer is to persevere. Every editor responds to things differently and it’s a subjective market so there’s nothing to say someone else won’t pick up this story in the future.

This is one of the longer form rejections I’ve seen, but it’s a nice one. The editor states something I think is very true: it is a subjective market. Nearly every story I’ve published has been rejected multiple times; that means there were many editors that didn’t like the story before I found one that did. He also says to persevere, and that’s good advice for any writer.

The Acceptances

Well, February 2016 is hands down my blue-ribbon winner for acceptances. I had three of them this month: one original piece and two reprints.

Acceptance 1: 2/9/16

Thank you for sending us “XXX”. We think it is a great fit and would like to publish it.

We will be in touch shortly with a formal contract and details for your review. In the meantime please email any question or comments to XXX.

If you have not received a contract for review within two (2) weeks, then please do e-mail and give us a gentle nudge.

Thank you again for allowing us to consider your work. We look forward to working with you.

This is a reprint acceptance from a new market, one that has just started accepting flash fiction. By the way, this is absolutely a form letter, and as I recently wrote about in this post, form acceptances seem to be nearly as common as form rejections. There’s a bunch of good reason for that, one of them being the publisher has to convey a lot more information in an acceptance (as you can see here) than he does in a rejection, where he only needs to say no.

Acceptance 2: 2/10/16

Thanks for your submission, “XXX.”  I’m happy to say that I’ve acquired it for XXX issue! I’ve attached your story with my edits. Once you’ve read through and addressed every suggestion to the best of your ability, send your polished version to my associate editor, XXX, and she’ll work with you to get your story ready for publication. I’ve also included XXX, XXX’s production manager, so she can send you your contract when it gets closer to our publication date.

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to let me know.

I was pretty thrilled to get this acceptance. Who am I kidding? I’m thrilled to get any acceptance. Anyway, this one is for a story I’ve been sitting on for years. I really like the story, but it’s an odd one, and I was never sure where to send it. Then I found about this magazine and their most recent themed issue, which, wouldn’t you know, was perfect for that vault story of mine. I managed to get my story in on the very last day of their submissions window, and then, six days later, it was accepted. This is a rare one-and-done submission, and by that I mean the story was accepted by the first publisher to read it. Always awesome when that happens.

Acceptance 3: 2/15/16

Thank you for sending us “XXX”. We think it is a great fit and would like to publish it.

We will be in touch shortly with a formal contract and details for your review. In the meantime please email any question or comments to XXX.

If you have not received a contract for review within two (2) weeks, then please do e-mail and give us a gentle nudge.

Thank you again for allowing us to consider your work. We look forward to working with you.

This one looks familiar, right? Yep, I sent two submissions to the publisher from the first acceptance and both were accepted. This is another reprint, and it completes my acceptance hat trick for the month.

The Other

In addition to the three acceptances, I received two short-list letters, also known as further consideration letters.

Further Consideration/Short-List Letter 1: 2/6/16

“XXX” has been accepted into our final round of consideration. We will be letting you know before the end of April whether or not it is accepted.

A couple of good things about this short-list letter. One, this is the first story I’ve sent this market, and it’s always great to get a positive response right out of the gate. Two, this a story a recently revised quite significantly after a string of rejections, and this letter tells me I might have done at least something right with the revision. We’ll see when April rolls around.

Further Consideration/Short-List Letter 2: 2/20/16

Thank you for sending us “XXX” for XXX. We enjoyed your piece and would very much like to hold it for further consideration.

You will be hearing from us in the coming weeks as we make our decisions. We thank you in advance for your patience.

Like the publisher from the first shortlist letter, this is my first submission to this particular market. So, again, nice to get that positive response right off the bat. This is a story that’s been rejected a fair amount, but unlike the story from the first letter, I haven’t revised this one. Why? Simple, really; I think the story is good in its present form (as do a couple of my beta readers). It’s one of those cases where I think it’s a matter of right story, right editor, and maybe I’ve made that match here. Just have to wait and see.

Well, folks, that’s my February of writin’ and such. How was yours?