6 Rejection Records & Other Dubious Achievements

When you’ve submitted your work long enough, you start to notice certain “firsts” and “bests” in the meandering pattern of rejections and acceptances that define the freelance writer’s career. I certainly don’t have as many data points as some, but I’ve got enough to compile the following list of record holders and whatnot. So here’s my “all-star” rejection roster.

1) Fastest Rejection: 2.5 hours

This is a recent record, beating my old time of four hours. The market in question isn’t known for super speedy rejections like this, but my last submission to them was short-listed (and eventually rejected), so maybe, just maybe, the editor was actually interested to see what I’d do next (and hated it). Or maybe I used the wrong font or something.

2) Slowest Rejection: 419 days

This rejection was from a magazine that is known to be slow to respond, but this was a long time even for them. In fact, I’d given up on the story after I’d sent them query letters with no response, and submitted it elsewhere. Then, 16 months later, I received a personal rejection telling me they nearly published the story after much deliberation but ultimately decided to pass. I’m a patient guy, but 16 months is a long time to wait.

Coincidentally, the rejected story here is the same story in the next rejection record.

3) Most Rejections before Publication: 16

Another recent accomplishment. This beat my old record of 13 pretty handily. Nothing dubious about this one, though. I liked this particular story a lot, and it had received a number of close-but-no-cigar rejections, so I stuck to my guns and kept sending it out. I finally found a publisher who liked it as much as I do.

The moral of the story here, I guess, is if you believe in a story, the rejections shouldn’t deter you from submitting it again. That said, 16 is A LOT, and I wouldn’t blame most folks for throwing in the towel long before that. I think what kept me going is a) I like the story a whole bunch and b) a writer friend of mine who has seen a lot of success recently had a story rejected 37 times before publication. I figured if he can weather 37 rejections, I should be able to withstand at least 20.

4) Fewest Rejections before Publication: 0

I had to check my records to make sure, but I’ve pulled of the one-and-done exactly twice. It’s not common, really. For me, anyway. This might have something to do with my submission targeting, which I think can be a bit off at times. I think writers can get to a certain point where their name alone can greatly improve their chances at publication, resulting in more one-and-done acceptances, but I am most certainly not there yet.

5) Most Rejections by a Single Publication: three tied at 5

When I looked this one up, I was actually surprised. It certainly feels like I’ve been rejected a lot more by certain publications, but 5 is the most (there’s a lot of 4’s, though). I’m well into triple digits in total rejections, and I’ve spread my stories around quite a bit more than I’d thought. That’s the great thing about services like Duotrope; they keep track of all that interesting (and potentially useful) submission data you would never track yourself.

6) Most Acceptances by a Single Publication: 7

Bless you, The Molotov Cocktail. Bless you. A lot of these come from placing in the Molotov’s various flash fiction contests, though I’ve published a few in their regular issues as well. Hey, you find a market that digs your work, and you stick with them. I’m certainly not the first writer to have done that. There’s two more markets that might fall into this category, though I’d need at least one more publication with them to be sure.

Got any records of your own? Share them with the class in the comments.

10 thoughts on “6 Rejection Records & Other Dubious Achievements

  1. Oh, I was waiting for this one! I love sharing stats, but I haven’t looked at mine in awhile. I have 2.5 one-and-done to my name (one published, one pending, and one I’m counting as a half because a publisher is interested enough to ask for a rewrite, but hasn’t made a final decision.)

    I credit this to getting better at researching markets. I used to only submit to Pro-rated markets but my writing probably wasn’t polished enough to merit that, despite getting the occasional kind word upon rejection. Once I invested a few more years into writing and working more on my revisions it got better. After that I applied to more Semi- and Token- paying markets I started getting a lot more personal rejections and queries for additional pieces.

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  2. It’s funny: I received this over the weekend. I’m giving this The Longest Rejection That Didn’t Include Multiple-Reader Feedback Award:

    Dear Christopher Iacono
    Thank you so much for submitting to [publication]. I am grateful that you see the journal as a possible home for your work; as an editor, such an encouragement means a lot.

    We greatly enjoyed reading this particular set of poems for the beautiful poetic landscape and the intelligent imagery that graces it. The poems are both haunting and enchanting in the way they throb inside the very sinews of the language to make their presence felt. I admire their fluidity and their aesthetic strength, and the beautiful poetic narrative that results from the interaction. I particularly enjoyed reading [one of the poems] for the various interpretations that it evokes in the readers.

    There is much to cherish in these poems; however, they are different from what we are looking for, and this does not allow us to include them at this point in time. We are confident that these will find a better home elsewhere. But we, as always, would love to read your work. Do consider us again in the future.

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  3. Over a year for a reply is taking the piss, wow, unprofessional.
    I dont have an extensive list so not much to share, the quickest shut out was probably within a couple days, at least I knew they didnt want the story pronto.

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      • If you know they take their time thats ok, but over a year is bs.
        The turnaround period is so frustrating from most publishers. Much over two months seems inefficient and sluggish. I know thats just the way it is, they get xxxxx submissions etc but its the single most off putting factor of sending in short stories.
        Could be worse though, could still be bogged down in sending snail mail and sae’s.

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  4. My speediest rejection was an hour and a half. Not quite 48 minutes, but still. From a magazine that isn’t usually that fast (my second-quickest rejection from them arrived in seven days.)

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