Tiered Form Rejections: Fact or Fiction?

If you’ve been submitting stories to the many literary and genre magazines, journals, and zines out there, then you’ve no doubt heard that some markets have more than one type of form rejection. Not only do these publishers have more than one, they have different tiered or higher levels of rejections, and the higher the tier, the closer the story got to an acceptance (in theory).

Here’s my two cents. I think tiered rejections are absolutely a thing, though they’re more common with larger markets, and I have examples!

First, let me tell you where I’m going to get the bulk of my evidence. I found a nifty little wiki called the Rejection Wiki, which is a database of rejections from various publishers. They have actual examples of real rejections submitted by real writers, and they break them down into standard and higher tier form rejections, as well as a few other types of form letters. It’s a great site, and I’ve been contributing to its database when I can, and you should too; it’s an invaluable resource for writers. Note, some of the letters in the database are a few years (or more) old, but, in my experience, many markets haven’t changed their form letters in that time or have changed them very little.

Oh, and one more thing. I’m actually going to name the names of the markets here because these are form rejections and and there’s no personal information involved. A rejection with an asterisk is one I’ve actually received.

Example 1: Fantastic Stories of the Imagination

This is one of the top markets in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. They’re a pro-paying market with a very low acceptance ratio, which is par for the course with top markets that receive hundreds of submission per month.

Standard Form Rejection

Thank you for sharing your story with us. Unfortunately it doesn’t meet our editorial needs at this time.

Higher Tier Form Rejection*

Thank you for sharing your story with us. Unfortunately it doesn’t meet our editorial needs at this time. Please keep us in mind for future submissions.

Further Consideration Letter

Congratulations, your story has been kicked up to the editor-in-chief [name]. He should have a final answer for you shortly.

Can you spot the difference between the standard and higher tier form rejection? It’s going to be a running theme in this post. Yep, the higher tier mentions future submissions. As with many top-tier publishers, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination sends a further consideration letter if your story makes it past the first round of readers.

Example 2: Apex Magazine

Another top genre market in the fantasy, sci-fi, and horror genres, Apex is also a pro-paying market that regularly publishes stories that are nominated or even win prestigious awards in the speculative fiction industry.

Standard Form Rejection*

Thank you for submitting XXX to Apex Magazine for consideration. Unfortunately, it does not meet our needs at this time.

Higher Tier Form Rejection

Thank you for submitting XXX to Apex Magazine for consideration. Unfortunately, I’m going to pass on it. It’s just not what I’m looking for right now.

I look forward to reading further submissions from you.

Further Consideration Letter*

Thank you for submitting XXX to Apex Magazine. One of our first readers has read your story and believes it deserves a closer look. We would like to hold it for further consideration. Good luck!

Again, the difference between the standard and higher tier is future submission, in that they mention or ask for them. And, again, like many big markets they’ve got a group of first readers that go through submissions and decide what gets passed up to the editors.

Example 3: Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons is one of the premier fantasy and sci-fi markets, and checks all the boxes for that level of publication: pro-paying, low acceptance ratio, quick to respond, etc.

Standard Form Rejection

Thank you for submitting XXX to Strange Horizons, but we’ve decided not to accept it for publication.

We appreciate your interest in our magazine.

Higher Tier Form Rejection

Thank you for submitting XXX to Strange Horizons, but we’ve decided not to accept it for publication. There was some lovely writing in this piece, but overall it didn’t quite engage us.

We appreciate your interest in our magazine.

Strange Horizons departs a bit from the pattern of the previous two magazines in that they do not ask for further submission in their higher tier form rejection. They do, however, note the quality of the writing, and I would say it’s safe to assume the “send more submissions” part is implied.

Example 4: Nightmare Magazine

One of my favorites, Nightmare Magazine is one of the top markets in the horror genre. Like all the big boys on the block, they’re a tough nut to crack.

Standard Form Rejection*

Thanks for submitting XXX, but I’m going to pass on it. It didn’t quite work for me, I’m afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way.

Higher Tier Form Rejection

Thanks for submitting XXX, but I’m going to pass on it. It’s nicely written and I enjoyed reading it, but overall it didn’t quite win me over, I’m afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way. I look forward to seeing your next submission.

Nightmare’s higher tier form rejection is the best of both worlds. They praise the writing and they ask for more submissions. Can’t beat that in a rejection from a market like this.

So, what’s the verdict? I’d say it’s pretty clear. Higher tier form rejections are absolutely a thing, and you should feel good about getting one from a top-tier market. You might ask why they don’t send a personal rejection instead of the higher tier form rejection. I think the answer to that is simply they don’t have the time. These markets receive hundreds of submission a month and writing out a nice personal note to every author who wrote a good story but didn’t quite make the cut would take a lot of time.

It should be noted that some markets include something about further submissions in their standard form rejection, so it might seem like a higher tier, but it isn’t. It’s just a nicety the editors decided to include in their form rejection. That’s why a site like the Rejection Wiki is so handy. You can actually see what type of rejection you’ve received. They have tons more examples than the ones I’ve posted here, so head on out and have a look, and if you’ve received a rejection that’s not in their database, be a pal, create an account, and add it.

Have any thoughts on tiered rejections? Tell me about them in the comments.

An Interview with Strix Publishing – The Book of Three Gates

Strix Publishing is at it again with another Kickstarter for fans of horror and H. P. Lovecraft in particular. This time it’s a collection of stories and essays called The Book of Three Gates. I recently spoke with Strix founder Simon Berman and the very talented artist Valerie Herron about their latest project. Check it out and see why you need to run right over to Kickstarter and support this bad boy.

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AR: So Strix Publishing has launched another Kickstarter campaign with another very intriguing product called The Book of Three Gates. Tell us about it. 

SB: I’m pretty excited about this one. It’s a companion volume to The Book of Starry Wisdom, the first book I published via Kickstarter. I’ve chosen three of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories as the centerpiece for the collection, and the brilliant Valerie Herron has returned to illustrate them. “The Dunwich Horror,” “The Dreams in the Witch House,” and “The Haunter of the Dark” were chosen for their common themes of alien horrors transgressing the thin walls between our world and others. “The Dunwich Horror” is one of my personal favorite Lovecraft stories, and this book also gave me the opportunity to bring in a good friend and talented cartographer to produce a map of the Township of Dunwich as the book’s endpapers. The book concludes with a selection of essays by some notable authors, all of whom were given the chance to write pieces that blur the lines between fact and fiction.

three-gates

AR: Again, you’ve assembled a fantastic group of writers to contribute to The Book of Three Gates. Tell us about some of the contributors. Any returning from The Book of Starry Wisdom?

SB: Absolutely! I’m pleased that a number of authors have returned, including Adam Scott Glancy of Delta Green fame, noted poet and weird fiction aficionado Bryan Thao Worra, Orrin Grey of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings renown, C.A. Suleiman, known for his work on Mummy: The Curse, and artist and occultist, A.S. Koi. I’m particularly excited about that last one. Koi has promised me an instruction manual for how to bend time. The new authors I’ve chosen for this volume are all very accomplished writers as well. Evan J. Peterson, is a 2015 Clarion West writer, who is writing an extremely interesting academic essay on the queer history of Miskatonic University’s Apollonian Dionysian fraternity, and Don Webb, a noted occultist, is producing a piece on the history, theory, and practices of the Order of the Trapezoid of the Temple of Set.

AR: You’re also working with talented artist Valerie Herron again, so I’ll direct this question to her. How will your contributions to The Book of Three Gates differ from those in The Book of Starry Wisdom? 

VH: The obvious difference will be the subject matter. While Starry Wisdom focused on the Cthulhu mythos, the subject matter in Three Gates gets into witchier and inter-planar territory. The illustrations will be less character-driven and more atmospheric, so expect more use of unsettling scenery and evocative visual texture. I will be preserving more of the traditional elements in the work to try and capture this ambience. Don’t worry, there will still be monsters!

valerie-art

AR: Another one for Valerie. You obviously have quite an appreciation for Lovecraft’s work. What about the mythos gets you drawing, painting, and creating?    

VH: This work is largely my way of processing my own sense of cosmic horror. It’s a reaction to these titanic forces that govern our lives with no regard for our existence and how insignificant I feel at their mercy. I make this art because it’s much more effective than remaining frozen in panic or hopelessness while all of these slow-motion disasters in the world play out around me. This is the way I feel like I relate to Lovecraft as a creator. The crushing weight of a materialist’s reality left him catatonic as a young adult, but he was able to channel that particular anguish into timeless allegory. I am honored to give visual form to these unbridled forces.

AR: Simon, you’ve become quite the old hand at this Kickstarter thing, and you’ve funded your first four campaigns. What is the secret to your success? 

SB: Being willing to go without sleep. Honestly, it comes down to having an idea for something that people want and then making sure you get it in front of them, treating your backers like the generous supporters they are, and being as transparent as possible about everything you’re doing. A high tolerance for sleep deprivation does help, though.

AR: Since The Book of Three Gates is a companion volume to The Book of Starry Wisdom, can we expect a third volume in the series?

I don’t want to say too much just yet, but if all continues to go well with Three Gates, there are two possible collections on the docket for a third volume. One goes beyond the wall of sleep, the other beyond the veil of death.


Simon Berman worked as a Social Marketing Manager and staff writer for Privateer Press from 2008-2016. He worked in both capacities for the award-winning miniatures war games, WARMACHINE and HORDES, and the Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game, winner of 4 ENnies awards. He also works on the ENnies nominated roleplaying game, Unhallowed Metropolis. He has also worked as a social media manager on Kickstarter projects for WARMACHINE: Tactics, Widower’s Wood, The Book of Starry Wisdom, the Problem Glyphs art book, APOCRYPHA: The Art of Jason Soles, and Orrin Grey’s Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings.

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With an enduring love for the unusual, Valerie Herron began expressing her interests through writing and illustration in childhood. Fantasy illustration, mythology, the occult, and the natural universe remain her greatest inspirations. Valerie’s work has evolved in time to be conceptually layered and mysterious. She collages together a powerful visual-vocabulary that is mystical and socially relevant. Valerie creates allegorical narratives that are poignant and beautiful, ugly and elegant.

Fascinated by contours, Valerie considers her primary medium to be line. She finds the synthesis of traditional wet media and digital media best communicates her visual style.

Valerie received her BFA in Illustration at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, OR. She currently lives in Seattle, works for Privateer Press, and is also a freelance illustrator. Outside of her creative practice she spends her time listening to music and podcasts, being out in nature, writing, reading, and venturing a myriad of sorcerous activities.

The Long View: Genre Markets for Novelettes & Novellas

If you regularly submit short stories to genre markets, you’ve no doubt learned the longer your story the fewer publishers who will accept it. This post isn’t meant be a condemnation of longer stories, but it is beneficial to understand where many genre markets stand on novelettes and novellas.

I’m going to take a close look at the market for three popular genres—horror, fantasy, and sci-fi, i.e., the ones I know best—and see how many accept stories of the most popular lengths. All of my stats will be drawn from Duotrope, which is a pretty robust database of potential markets, but it is not a database of all markets. So my numbers are naturally skewed and will not include publishers that aren’t part of Duotrope’s database. Also, the data here is a snapshot, and counts only those markets that are currently accepting submissions. In other words, this is not a scientific study by any means; it’s a quick summation of the data I have easily at hand and should be viewed as such.

Okay, some definitions first.

In each of the three genres I named above, I’m going to see how many markets accept stories in the following four lengths: short story, flash fiction, novelette, and novella. Duotrope defines those lengths thusly:

  • Short Story: 1,000 to 7,500 words
  • Flash Fiction: Less than 1,000 words
  • Novelette: 7,500 to 15,000 words
  • Novella: 15,000 to 40,000 words

It’s important to note that while Duotrope’s definition of a short story is a piece up to 7,500 words, many publishers do not publish fiction at that length. In my experience, 3,000 to 5,000 words is more common for short stories, and of those publishers that do publish up to 7,500 words, some don’t do it very often and will often state that in the guidelines.

I’m also breaking the markets down into three payment tiers: token, semi-pro, and professional. (I’m keeping non-paying markets out of this simply to keep the numbers manageable.) Dutrope defines those payment theirs like this:

  • Token: under 1 cent per word (often a flat rate)
  • Semi-Pro: 1 cent to 5 cents per word (most of these markets tend to be on the low end of this scale)
  • Professional: 6 cents per word and up

Okay, let’s look at our first genre—horror.

Horror Token Semi-Pro Pro
Total Markets 98 42 9
Short Story 88 34 8
Flash Fiction 53 27 6
Novelette 31 7 4
Novella 9 3 2

As you can see, most of these markets accept short stories and a fair number of them also take flash fiction. (The ones that don’t take shorts often specialize in flash.) The numbers drop off dramatically the longer the story gets, hitting single digits when you get into novella length. In fact, if you want to submit a novella-length horror story to a professional market, it’s currently Clarkesworld Magazine or Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show or nothin’ (according to Duotrope). It should be noted that Clarkesworld cuts off novellas at 16,000 words and Intergalactic Medicine Show at 17,500 words. So if you’ve got a 20,000-word horror novella, there currently isn’t a pro market to send it to in Duotrope’s database.

Okay, now fantasy.

Fantasy Token Semi-Pro Pro
Total Markets 131 72 28
Short Story 112 57 22
Flash Fiction 71 44 17
Novelette 47 19 11
Novella 18 8 7

Fantasy is a bigger market than horror, but the numbers are similar. Lots of places that accept shorts and flash and far less that accept novelettes and novellas. You’ve got more options with longer works in this genre but not by much. Again, like with horror, most of the pro markets definitions of a novella falls well below 40,000 or even 30,000 words. Only one of the seven pro markets above accepts novellas up to 40,000 words; the rest cut off at 25,000 words and below (most are below 20,000).

And, lastly, science-fiction.

Sci-Fi Token Semi-Pro Pro
Total Markets 149 78 30
Short Story 131 64 25
Flash Fiction 71 43 17
Novelette 57 19 11
Novella 20 10 8

Again, similar ratios as the other two genres, but since sci-fi is the largest of the three, you do have a few more options for longer story lengths. Like with horror and fantasy, novella writers will need to keep their works on the low end of the spectrum. Only two markets here accept novellas up to 40,000 words, the rest cut off at 25,000 words and below.

That’s a whole bunch of numbers for you, but the conclusion is simple: there just aren’t many markets in these three genres that accept longer stories (I’d guess it’s similar with mystery and romance, but I could be wrong). It’s something to keep in mind when you’re writing. If you’re targeting semi-pro and pro publishers, then you may have a more difficult time selling a novelette or novella simply from lack of potential markets. Again, I’m not saying don’t write to these lengths–a story needs to be as long as it needs to be–just be aware it’s a tougher road.

It’s not all bad news. Some of the big book publishers are actually open to and even looking for submissions of novella-length manuscripts. Here’s a couple I found with just a quick internet search (there are likely more):

  • Tor is looking for fantasy novellas between 20,000 and 40,000 words that are not modeled on a European culture through January 12th, 2017. Check out the full guidelines here: Tor.com novella submissions.
  • Hydra, a digital-only imprint of Penguin-Random House, is looking for horror, fantasy, and sci-fi works of 40,000 words and up. Technically, I think they’re looking for novel-length submissions, but 40,000 words is the upper limit of what most people consider a novella. They’re looking for queries first, and there’s a online form you can fill out right here: Hydra submission guidelines.

If you have additional info about potential markets for novelettes and novellas or if you have experience with a genre outside of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi, please tell me about it in the comments.

Rejection Letter Rundown: The Considered Rejection

Often you have to wait quite a while for a publisher to get back to you about a submission, which is just a reality of being a writer, but when you have good reason to hope your story will be accepted, the waiting can be pretty nail-biting and the possible rejection all bit more disappointing. The rejection letter du jour is the considered rejection, which is a whole process that begins with an encouraging note like this.

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

What we have here is a further consideration letter, which is always a good thing. It says the publisher liked your story, and they’re, well, considering publishing it. I appreciate these largely because they often come from markets that can take a while to get back to you, so it’s nice to get some notification that a decision is in the works. Now, of course, getting a letter like this is no guarantee of publication, because it might eventually result in a letter like this:

Thanks so much for letting us consider your story “XXX.” While it made it to the final round of consideration, I’m afraid that we chose not to accept it. We had a lot of submissions and there were difficult decisions to be made. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

Ouch. Bummer, right? My story was under consideration for about three months before they decided to pass on it. This is all part of the writing gig, and I have no doubt my story was up against some stiff competition. So what’s the takeaway from a rejection letter like this? Simple. I got close. The story got close. I like to think that’s evidence the story is pretty decent the way it is, and I should send it to another publisher right away, which is exactly what I did. If this publisher liked it enough to seriously consider it for publication, the next one might like it even more. We’ll just have to see.

Have you received a considered rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

September 2016 Submission Statement

September was a solid month, and my progress with short story submissions was much less sloth-like than previous months. It’s a mixed bag this time, with rejections, acceptances, and some noteworthy publications.

September Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 7
  • Rejections: 5*
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Other: 0
  • Publications: 2

*Three (3) of these rejections were for submissions sent in September.

Rejections

Here we go. This is what Rejectomancy is all about! Five rejections this month; let’s have a look.

Rejection 1: 9/3/16

Thank you for your submission to XXX. 

We regret that we are unable to publish “XXX” We are grateful for the opportunity to consider it, and we wish you the best of luck in placing it elsewhere. 

A common form rejection from one of the bigger horror markets. Nothing much to see here, really, and I’ve received this exact rejection numerous times. This will be a running theme for September, by the way.

Rejection 2: 9/3/16

Thank you for your interest in XXX, unfortunately, your story does not fit our needs at this time.

As this is a brand new publication with no real backdrop of study, you should not take this rejection personally. Please submit again in the future, however, no sooner than 20 days from the date of this notice.

The 3rd was a multiple-rejection day, and this one is from a brand new market. It’s a pretty standard form rejection, but I like the note they tacked on at the end. I don’t put a lot of stock in this canned niceties you often see in rejection letters, but this is always good advice. Rejections are NOT personal.

There’s one other thing about this rejection that’s a bit different. They ask you not to resubmit for a period of 20 days. It’s not uncommon for publishers to do this, though I usually see it in their submission guidelines. I think it’s a good idea for a publisher to remind writers of this particular rule in a rejection, since it’s likely you haven’t looked at the publisher’s guidelines in quite some time, and the rejection will be fresh in your mind.

Rejection 3: 9/12/16

Thank you for the opportunity to read “XXX.” Unfortunately, your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now.

In the past, we’ve provided detailed feedback on our rejections, but I’m afraid that due to time considerations, we’re no longer able to offer that service. I appreciate your interest in XXX and hope that you’ll keep us in mind in the future.

Remember that theme I talked about in rejection number one? So, I finished a new story this month, and, as I usually do, I’m sending it to all the top-tier markets that accept horror. These are all exceedingly tough markets to crack, and I’ve received lots of form rejections, like this one, from all of them. Anyway, this is another standard form rejection. Moving on.

Rejection 4: 9/14/16

Many thanks for sending “XXX”, but I’m sorry to say that it isn’t right for XXX. I wish you luck placing it elsewhere, and hope that you’ll send me something new soon. 

Another standard form rejection from a top-tier horror market for the same story as the previous rejection. What’s great about these markets is they’re really fast, usually taking no more than a couple of days to send a rejection. So, I can usually hit three or four of them in the same week.

Rejection 5: 9/15/16

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

Remember when I said these top-tier markets are quick? This one is by far the quickest, and this rejection came within an hour and a half. That’s not even my record for this publisher. I once received a rejection in 46 minutes. I honestly don’t know how they do it, but I appreciate the lightning-fast response. Another standard form rejection, likely recognizable to anyone who regularly submits to the pro horror markets.

Acceptances

One acceptance this month, though it comes with a catch (see below).

Acceptance 1: 9/10/16

Normally, on the blog, I’ll share just about everything with you when it comes to ejections and acceptances, but this is one of those times where I can’t. The acceptance letter for this month contains some information I’m not at liberty to divulge, and there’s really no easy way to excise that info from the letter. I’ll just say that it’s an acceptance from a market that’s published me once before, and it’s a story I’m really excited about. I’ll post more info when I can.

Publications

My two publications this month are a little out of the ordinary in that they’re both audio publications.

Publication 1: 9/23/16

“Night Games” – Pseudopod

Man, I was excited for this one. I sold my vampire/baseball story “Night Games” to Pseudopod way back in December of 2015. As you can imagine, a market like Pseudopod needs a bit more time to prepare a story for publication, what with securing voice work, recording, editing, and so forth. In addition, the editors thought it would be fitting to publish the story at the end of the 2016 baseball season, and I wholeheartedly agree.

The narrator, Rish Outfield, did a fantastic job, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way the story turned out. Normally, I wouldn’t harangue you to go out and read/listen to one of my stories, but in this case, I’m gonna. Why? Well, “Night Games” is my favorite of the stories I’ve written thus far, and I think it’s very indicative of my writing style (that’ll be good or bad depending on your point of view and tastes). And, seriously, the narration is just awesome. It’s worth the price of admission all by itself (the story is free to listen to, by the way).

Publication 2: 9/27/16

Flashpoint – Privateer Press/Audible

So the second publication is the audio version of my Iron Kingdoms novel Acts of War: Flashpoint. Again, the narration, this time by Noah Levine, is top-notch, and it was really cool to hear all the characters in the book come to life. I was really happy with the way this turned out, and I’m grateful to Noah and Audible for doing such a bang-up job.

Anyway, if you’d like to listen to Flashpoint, click the pretty picture below.

flashpoint-audio-cover

And that was my September. How was yours?