Swings & Misses: The Submission Slump

If you were to look at my acceptance ratio at Duotrope a few months ago, you’d have seen a number of around 20%, meaning, very roughly, that for every ten submission I sent, two would be accepted. In baseball terms, that’s a batting average of .200, which, admittedly, ain’t great for the MLB (the infamous Mendoza line), but from what I understand, it’s not a terrible number for writers.

Well, just like a baseball player, a writer can see his or her average plummet from too many swings and misses in a row, and that’s what’s happened to me of late. I’ve watched my acceptance ratio plummet to 11.3% (I’m hitting like a pitcher now) over the last couple of months. This is due to an extended string of rejections without the respite of an occasional acceptance. I’ve gone 0 for 17 since my last hit . . . uh, I mean acceptance. So, to amuse myself (mostly) and hopefully a few of you, I’m going to liken some of the rejections I’ve received in my slump to the various hitting woes a baseball player might experience over the course of the season.

Here we go.

1) The Routine Play Rejection – The player hits a medium-depth fly ball or a nice Sunday-hop grounder that even a little leaguer could field cleanly. It’s so common, it’s, yep, routine.

This is the vanilla form rejection that arrives by the publisher’s expected response time. No surprises here, just routine rejection.

2) The At ‘Em Ball Rejection – In baseball, the “at ‘em” ball is a ball hit straight at an infielder that results in a quick out. The player sometimes doesn’t even make it halfway down the line before the out is recorded.

In rejection terms, this is the fast, sometimes same-day form rejection you can get from some top-tier markets. You hit send and you don’t even have time to fantasize about selling a story to that one market you’ve been trying to crack for five years before the rejection arrives in your inbox.

3) The Can of Corn Rejection – The can of corn in baseball parlance is a high, lazy fly ball that gives the outfield plenty of time to settle under it and make an easy catch. It’s one of the more ho-hum outs you can make.

The rejection version of this particular baseball play is the form rejection that comes after months and months of waiting (6 months in this case). The editor has had all the time they need to make a decision, and that decision was “nope.”

4) The Circus Catch or Highway Robbery Rejection – The batter has done everything right. He’s made good contact and hit the ball hard, but the fielder makes a spectacular play, even leaping high over the wall to take away what should have been a homerun.

In rejection terms, this is that story the editor professes his or her love for but decides not to publish after a few months of deliberation because they have another story just like it, one they like a bit better, or a dozen other perfectly viable reasons beyond your control. You wrote a good story, sent it to a market that liked it, but despite all that, you still get a rejection.

5) The Swinging Bunt Rejection – Sometimes a baseball player will take a mighty hack at the ball, barely touch it, and hit a little dribbler out in from of home plate. Often, he won’t even realize he’s hit the ball fair until the catcher picks up the ball and throws him out at first while he stands there staring at the umpire like an idiot.

The rejection version of this particularly embarrassing situation is when you send out a story and realize, to your everlasting horror, you’ve sent an older, error-riddled version instead of the polished, properly formatted, and, you know, SPELL CHECKED, version you slaved over for hours. The rejection doesn’t say, “Hey, dumbass, you sent us something that looks your 7th-grade book report,” but in your heart of hearts, you know the truth.


Well, that’s a hopefully amusing look at my current submission slump. Maybe I’ll break out of it in April and hit for the cycle, which would be placing a story with a free market, a token market, a semi-pro market, and a pro-market in the same month. Hell, at this point I’d take a seeing-eye single through the infield because the second baseman got his spikes caught on the turf and fell flat on his face. Not sure what the literary equivalent of that would be, though.

I’d love to hear about your own submission streaks or slumps in the comments.

11 thoughts on “Swings & Misses: The Submission Slump

  1. Lately, I’ve received mostly routine-play rejections, although I did get an at ’em ball rejection a couple of weeks ago. (The publisher loved it so much, I think he sent the rejection before reading it.) 😛

    I’ll probably receive some can of corn rejections in May and June. Something to look forward to.

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  2. Ha. This was great, and I’m not even a baseball fan.

    My first acceptance was actually a swinging bunt. I polished and polished the story, got ready to send it, changed the first line at the last minute, and sent it off. A day later, I looked at the story, and noticed that I had deleted half of the first sentence. It was completely nonsensical. I wrote the editor asking if I could withdraw and resubmit. I wrote, “If not, that’s fine. Just reject it.” The editor responded that day saying that he loved the story, it was accepted.

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    • Well, sometimes the third baseman is playing back, and that swinging bunt can surprise him, giving you enough time to get to first base. It goes in the books as a hit, and there’s an old baseball adage, “Looks like a line drive in the box score.” 😉

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  3. Aeryn,

    Thanks for the Sportsball explanations….

    I have sent out stories 10 times this year. I got 6 rejections back, responses pending on the other 4. But I did have an acceptance on Dec. 30 of last year. So, having that late 2016 rejection is keeping me optimistic!

    Good luck, hope you have something published again soon!

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    • Damn, that is impressive. I’m definitely working to build those kinds of relationships with editors. So far, the most times any single market has published me is 10. Got a ways to go to catch up with you. 😉

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