Submissions: A Pair of Never Have I Evers

With over four hundred submissions you might think I’ve seen just about everything when it comes to editorial responses. I’ve certainly seen a lot, but there are a couple of anomalies in my submission record that stick out. Let’s talk about them.

1) Never have I ever received a revision request.

Yep, not once. I think I’ve received just about every other kind of response you can get from a publisher, but the revision request eludes me. I know authors who receive tons of them, to the point where it’s almost commonplace. So why not me? Here are two possible reasons.

  • The market. Some publishers just don’t send them. It’s either a yes or a no because they don’t have the time to work with an author to develop a maybe. This is certainly anecdotal, but the authors I know who receive revision requests on the regular write more lit-fic, so maybe it’s more common in that circle.
  • I’m a true outcome writer. Borrowing a term from baseball, a true outcome player is one who often generates one of three outcomes in an at bat: a home run, a walk, or a strikeout. So far, I tend to be that kind of writer. I either get an acceptance (a home run), a form rejection (a strike out), or a personal rejection (a, uh, walk, I guess). I’m not sure how much of that is what I write and how much is where I submit, probably a bit of both. It’s possible I’m a true outcome writer because my submission targeting needs work. That’s always worth reexamining.

2) Never have I ever received a rude rejection.

I hear tales of rude or mean-spirited rejections a lot, but I’ve never been on the receiving end of one. Unlike the first anomaly, I’m, uh, okay with that. I’ve received feedback I thought was wildly off base, but it wasn’t rude, just wrong for the story I wanted to tell. So, why haven’t I got one of these literary kicks to the teeth?

  • I’m just lucky. Totally plausible. Maybe, I’ve just managed to avoid the editors that send rude rejections, or I’ve managed not to do anything that would bring their ire down on my head.  *Knocks on wood.*
  • They’re pretty rare. When I do see an author talking about a rude rejection on social media it invariably gets a whole bunch of clicks, shares, and retweets. It’s the kind of salacious tidbit folks love to read and talk about. So, when it does happen, I think it gets magnified, and that might make it seem more common than it actually is. (My personal opinion is that rude rejections are rare as hen’s teeth, but see my last point.)
  • Rude is subjective. Sometimes, when I see an author talking about a rude rejection, it turns out to be what I’d consider a pretty standard form rejection. Yeah, these things can be short and to the point, and if you’re feeling salty about the rejection, it might come across as terse or dismissive. In other words, one author’s rude is another author’s shrug and move on. I’m not saying rude rejections don’t exist–I’ve seen conclusive evidence they do–but I think it’s best to get a little distance before using any rejectomancy to divine a rejection’s intent, good or bad.

Got anything to add to my submission anomalies? Or maybe you have some of your own. Tell me about them in the comments.

13 Comments on “Submissions: A Pair of Never Have I Evers

  1. Believe it or not, I’ve received both. In fact, when I submitted my very first post-college fiction to a journal, I was asked to change the ending before it was published. The editor said the ending was too sappy and predictable, so I came up with something that was a little more surprising. Since then, I’ve made sure I’ve had surprise endings in my pieces.

    As far as the rude rejections: I’ve only received two (from the same publisher). In my opinion, these were examples of personal rejections that weren’t helpful. I admit I’m a bit sensitive, but even today, after receiving hundreds of rejections, I feel the only point of these two particular ones were to make the submitter feel inferior. (I would share redacted versions with you, but I deleted them years ago.)

    • I believe it. 🙂 Sorry you received the rude rejections. Knowing you, I have no doubt they were truly rude and/or insensitive.

    • Any rejection that doesn’t tell you where you can improve but leaves you with “this is bad” is probably a place you shouldn’t wanna submit to anyway. Sucks that you received such rejections though.

  2. I like that you mentioned never having gotten a rude rejection. People don’t want to send rejection letters that will cause good writers or future good writers to quit- at least that’s what I suspect.

    That said there are times when, as you said, a needed rejection might seem rude. I would say it’s when the writing is bad enough to need major work- and the writer takes the criticisms poorly.

    But any unhelpful rejections would be a terrible waste of everyone’s time. I do hope they are a minority in our world.

    • I do think rude rejections are very rare, and for some of the reasons you state. Another is that editors are often writers too, and a think the vast majority have enough empathy that they would never send a rejection like that.

  3. I’ve never received a rude rejection. I would presume that it doesn’t happen often, because it would quickly make a bad name for your publication. As for a request for revision, I got one from a low-tier publication. My experience has been that when I get personalized comments from editors, it is usually the story/theme/topic that they are rejecting rather than the writing.

    • Agreed. I think they’re rare for a lot of reasons. Also agree with your statement about personalized rejections.

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever received an overtly rude rejection, but I’ve definitely received what I’d call personalized rejections that didn’t do much good:

    a) Blunt and dismissive, conveying a disproportionate level of irritation that perhaps stemmed from reader/editor burnout/life issues rather than the story (although I suppose it’s always possible the story was a steaming pile of equine manure and indeed caused all the irritation)

    b) I write literary/realistic fiction as well as speculative, and it’s happened a few times that a reader disparaged a character’s actions (along with unflattering epithets) as completely unrealistic, whereas the actions have been plucked from real life verbatim. Sometimes, when it comes to realistic fiction in particular, I think the experience gap between the reader and the writer (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.), combined with the reader’s conviction that their own vantage point must be universal, can lead to some fairly misguided comments

    c) I also sometimes write creative nonfiction, and I feel that’s by far the most emotionally difficult prose genre to write. Personalized comments on CNF are indeed very personal. I remember one rejection that basically called me shallow (it was more nicely worded) because the reader/editor felt they had a similar experience to the one described and I suppose I didn’t describe it how they thought I should”ve. Yet, the piece was extremely uncomfortable for me to write (as in wanting to puke uncomfortable) and I constantly thought of withdrawing it and trunking it. It was very well received once it was out and resonated strongly with many people, so I’m glad I didn’t trunk it, but being told it’s shallow when it’s in fact gut-wrenching and unbearable stayed with me. Also made me far less likely to write CNF in the future (or submit anything to that market). Horror feels much safer!

    Well-meaning personalized feedback points you to the parts that worked and parts that didn’t, occasionally with some hints towards fixing what needs fixing, but there are no sweeping generalizations re your writerly newbiness or grasp of reality, or summary dismissals of you as a person or writer. I’d say the focus on craft and specificity in what didn’t work for that specific reader go a long way toward crafting effective personalized feedback.

    • When I’ve experienced unhelpful personal rejections it’s usually more of a severe disconnect between reader and story. For example, getting feedback on a baseball story that critiques the story for, uh, being about baseball because the editor doesn’t like baseball. That kind of thing. Generally, in that case, I just shrug and send the story somewhere else.

      I agree that good personalized feedback is focused on craft and story. I even appreciate it when an editor will tell me something like, “Hey, good story, good writing, but not my cup of tea.”

    • That might have something to do with the markets you submit to. They’re somewhat common, but not every publisher sends further consideration letters.

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