Poll: How Many Rejections Before You Retire/Revise?

Recently, I had a story accepted after sixteen rejections. I know; that’s a lot, right? I felt pretty confident about the story despite the mounting number of NOs, so I kept sending it out. I found an editor that liked it as much as I did, and in July, you can judge for yourself if it was worth all those rejections.

Anyway, the rejection count on that story got me thinking: How many rejections is typical before an author decides to retire or significantly revise a story*? With a few exceptions, I have my own target number, but I’d like to hear from all of you about yours. So I’m gonna try out WordPress’ handy poll feature and ask you to vote in the poll below. Yes, I know there areย a lot of factors that go into deciding when to revise or retire, so feel free to expand or qualify your answer in the comments. I’ll update the post with my own magic number next week.

One more thing: my little jokes in the poll answers are just that, jokes (bad ones). I don’t mean to imply one answer is better than the other (I have stories that fit them all).

*By significantly revise, I mean rewrite at least fifty percent of the story or radically change the theme, arc, or POV. By retire, I mean shelf the story and stop submitting it.




9 Comments on “Poll: How Many Rejections Before You Retire/Revise?

  1. I haven’t officially retired or significantly revised any of them, but some of my rejects have been sitting in limbo for months.

  2. You need a voting button: “I’m a newbie. The stings of rejection are brand new. My mettle has not yet been tested.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ll vote how I *think* I’ll react.

  3. I have had stories float around from publication to publication for years before being accepted. The key determinant on whether a story is trunked isn’t how many times it’s been rejected, but how many more markets are left where it can be submitted. Because new publications rise and new editors take over the reins at old publications, a story can have a long life visiting slush piles.

    One science fiction story I kept sending out for near on 30 years (I’m not at home to check the actual time frame) finally found a home in a top-paying (but non-SF) publication. I’ve also had new editors purchase stories that the editors they replaced had rejected years earlier.

    • Hey, Michael, I was hoping you’d drop by for this one. Thanks for your (very educated) perspective on this point. Looks like I need an “Until it’s published” option on my poll. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. At a writers’ conference I heard a top-notch SF story writer say he usually shelved a story after…25 rejections. I was floored. I thought: if this guy waits until 25 rejections and I’m just starting out shouldn’t I go to 50 rejections?

    So now, I’ve adopted the same stance. I start with the toughest markets…Go through send/rejection cycle again and again. I work my way down to less-tough markets and usually I get someone who thinks the story is great. I have not reached 25 rejections on any of these stories. Some have been accepted and some are still being submitted/rejected.

    PS: Would like to hear your experience “revising” stories heavily. Does that work for you? I have polished/altered works, but never done real open heart surgery. If I thought it needed that much work, I would shelf/trunk the work or do a whole rewrite from scratch.


    • I’ve heavily revised a few stories, and I think it really worked for one of them. I was getting nowhere with it, and after I revised it, it started getting short-listed at some very good markets. It hasn’t found a home yet, but based on the response I’ve gotten so far, it seems the revision was the right way to go.

  5. Thanks for the info, Aeryn. Keep up the great content on your blog! As for me, “rejection only makes my stories [and me] stronger.”

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