Stop me if you’ve heard this one. You finish a story, and you know it’s just the best damn thing you’ve ever written. Proud of your shiny new word baby, you send it out to a publisher you’re pretty sure will dig it. You wait with breathless anticipation for a few weeks, and then, BAM! The form rejection drops like a ten-ton weight into your inbox. Now what?
Well, sometimes I see authors want to overhaul a story based on that single rejection. A lot of the time, I think that’s a mistake. In my experience, most stories rack up at least one rejection before they sell. To illustrate this point, here are ten of my acceptances and the number of rejections they received before the blessed event.
|Luck Be a Bullet||2|
|The Food Bank||2|
|Where They Belong||0|
This list includes my story with the most rejections before publication and one of my few stories I sold on the first try. The only story on the list I revised was “Paper Cut” after about nine rejections. It still went on to collect seven more before I sold it. The rest of these stories I kept sending out until they found an editor that liked them.
Two of the stories on this list, “Night Games” and “Scare Tactics,” I’ve sold again to audio markets. I consider “Night Games” the best story I’ve published to date (YMMV), and it still racked up six rejections before someone liked it as much I do.
What am I trying to say with all this? It’s all in the title of the post. Even good stories get rejected. One, or two, or hell, half a dozen rejections doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve written a bad story or even a story that needs (major) revision. It can mean you’ve written a story that doesn’t quite fit the market you sent it to (might be time to dial in your submission targeting). It can mean you wrote a story about ghosts and sent it to an editor who just doesn’t like ghost stories that much. It can mean you wrote a story that’s very similar to a story the market just published or is planning to publish. In other words, it can mean a lot of things that have nothing to do with the quality of your story. Some editors are even good enough to tell you these things in the rejection letter.
This all leads to the next question. How many rejections should a story receive before you revise it or even scrap it? That’s gonna come down to a gut check. Obviously, I fall into the “keep sending it out until it finds a home” camp, but I generally start thinking about revision after six or seven rejections, especially if I’m only getting form rejections. Now, all this “advice” doesn’t mean squat if you get a rejection with specific feedback that resonates with you. In that case, revise away and thank your lucky stars you received such useful feedback right off the bat.
To sum up, consider letting your submissions stretch their legs a bit before you drag them back into the shop for an overhaul. A couple of rejections probably doesn’t mean much.
How many rejection do you let a story rack up before you think about revision? Tell me about it in the comments.