The Rejectomancer Mk II

If you’ve followed my blog for long, you’ve likely seen the “Be a Rejectomancer” page. It’s been a fixture in my menu bar since I began Rejectomancy. Essentially, it translates rejection into a game of sorts, an RPG-class-inspired bit of fun designed to take some of the sting out of rejections. I’ve been threatening to update it and add new features to the “rejectomancer class” for a while, and, well, after four years of this blog and a whole bunch of rejections, it’s time. So here’s the new and improved rejectomancer. New features highlighted in red. Enjoy!


You’ve decided you’re a writer, and you’re going to send your work out to publishers, hoping for the glories of publication and likely ill-prepared for the realities of rejection. You have taken your first step on the path of rejectomancy.

Like anything else, rejectomancy is a skill that must be practiced, and the only way to practice it is to be told “this is not for us” and “we’re going to pass” over and over and over again. You see, rejectomancy is not a measure of your talent or even your success—though, those things often come with the higher levels of rejectomancy—it is a measure of your perseverance against the relentless grind of the submission process. The rejectomancer has developed a toughened skin that can turn aside the sharp sting of rejection letters and the mental fortitude to endure the sometimes years-long wait for a response to a submission. The rejectomancer learns from rejection and grows stronger from it.

How do you become a rejectomancer? You submit work and get rejected (mostly). Each rejection earns you vital experience that propels you down the path of rejectomancy, allowing you to stand up to more and more disappointment, until, finally, rejections are no more than minor irritations along the path of writerly achievement.

Since I’m a giant nerd who has worked in the tabletop gaming industry for the better part of my professional career, I’ll be quantifying rejectomancy using the framework of an RPG character class. Yes, I know, that’s a little weird, but I have a feeling it’ll make sense to many of the folks who read my blog. If you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, think Dungeons & Dragons, and try to follow along.

And a quick disclaimer:

Of course, I do not mean to imply your rejectomancy level is, in any way, a real measure of your writing ability. This whole thing is just a way to have a bit of fun with the often painful reality of literary rejection. So, please, don’t take this seriously or anything.

Rejectomancer Advancement

Level XP Resistance
1 Baby Bunny
2 5 Paper
3 10 Glass
4 25 Ceramic
5 65 Denim
6 140 Leather
7 225 Bark
8 325 Wood
9 500 Lead
10 650 Stone
11 850 Tin
12 1000 Copper
13 1250 Brass
14 1500 Bronze
15 1750 Iron
16 2000 Steel
17 2250 Titanium
18 2650 Tungsten
19 3050 Diamond
20 3550 Adamantium

If you’re familiar with tabletop roleplaying games, the table above is going to look pretty familiar to you; if you’re not, let me break it down:

Level: This number indicates your general rejectomancy skill, a quick way to gauge how much rejection you’ve endured over your career.

XP: You gain rejectomancer experience points by submitting work and surviving rejection. Rejection letters, long waits, and story withdrawals add to your point total. Awesome things like acceptance letters and contest wins also add to your total (because nothing makes you stronger like success).

Resistance: This indicates the relative thickness of the rejectomancer defenses against rejection. Below is a more detailed summary of the rejectomancer at various milestone levels.

  • 1st Level: A 1st-level rejectomancer is a pitiful creature with skin so thin you can see their delicate organs squirming beneath it. The barest hint of rejection can utterly destroy the neophyte rejectomancer, but if they survive those first few nos, they’ll get tougher.
  • 5th Level: By fifth level, the rejectomancer has a few calluses, and their skin is tough enough to turn aside the odd form rejection. They can still be devastated by multiple rejection letters in the same week, which is sure to shred their meager protective covering like a chainsaw through kittens.
  • 10th Level: The 10th-level rejectomancer is a true veteran, and they have developed a high level or resistance to literary disappointment. Form rejection letters bounce off their scaly hide without a scratch, and they can weather multiple rejections in the same week with relative ease. The 10th-level rejectomancer can still be wounded by multiple rejections in the same day or long periods between publications.
  • 15th Level: The rejectomancer at fifteenth level is one tough motherfucker. They barely notice form rejections, understand feedback is a chance to improve, and have likely weathered rejections numbering in the triple digits. They are not invulnerable, but a modicum of success has made their weaknesses more specific. The 15th-level rejectomancer has hidden doubts that allow certain criticisms to bypass their armored skin and strike their vitals. Maybe it’s sensitivity about dialog skills or writing combat scenes. Maybe their trying a different genre for the first time and uncertain if they can pull it off. Whatever the vulnerability, a well-placed bit of feedback can wound the high-level rejectomancer, though, if they’ve made it this far, they’re likely to refocus and carry on.
  • 20th Level: At twentieth level, the rejectomancer has mastered the art. They are an unassailable juggernaut whose impenetrable confidence defies rejection of all types. They’ve probably attained some real success at this point: sold multiple novels, gathered a large following of readers, makes an actual living at writing, or had so many acceptances rejections no longer even register. The master rejectomancer has proven they’re tough enough to survive everything the industry can throw at them.

So, how do you get that precious rejectomancer XP? By doing things that writers do: submitting your work, getting rejection letters, getting acceptance letters, and so on. Here’s a list of ways to gain XP with links to the posts covering most of these topics. I’ll update this table as I add more posts.

Event XP
Common Form Rejection 1
Improved Form Rejection 2
Further Consideration Letter1 3
Personal Rejection 3
Shortlist Letter1 3
Revision Request Letter  5
Acceptance Letter 10
Withdrawal2 1

1 If a rejection comes after a shortlist or further consideration letter, add the shortlist/further consideration total to the rejection total. For example, if you receive a shortlist letter (3 pts) followed by a personal rejection letter (3 pts), add 6 total points to your score. If you receive an acceptance after a short list letter, count only the 10 points for the acceptance.

2 If you send a withdrawal letter after sending a query letter with no response, then award yourself 1 XP for time spent and for handling the situation professionally. If you send a withdrawal letter because you sent a sim-sub and the story was accepted elsewhere, you don’t get the extra XP. (Hey, you still got an acceptance, right?)

***

In addition to the standard responses you might receive from a publisher worth rejectomancer XP, there are other events that can modify the XP earned.

Event XP Modifier
Multi-Rejection Day1 Total x1.5
Rejection – 62 months x1.5
Rejection – 12 months x2
Contest Cash3 +1
Contest Win +3
Every 100 rejections +25
500 rejections +100
1,000 rejections +500

1 On a multiple rejection day, take the total points from all rejections for the day and multiply by 1.5. For example, if I received a common form rejection (1 pt) and personal rejection (3 pts), my total points for the day would be 6 (4 x 1.5).

2 Getting a rejection after a very long wait can be, well, extra disappointing, so after a rejection taking six months or more multiply the rejection XP by 1.5. For a rejection taking over a year, multiply the rejection XP by a factor of 2.

3 Contests often add an additional factor of difficulty to getting an acceptance. There are generally fewer spots for more submissions than a typical zine or online market. So, if your story places in a contest and earns a cash prize, add 1 XP to the acceptance. If you actually win a contest, then add 3 XP to the acceptance. Placing in a contest that does not offer a cash prize still counts as an acceptance, of course. (10 XP).


You might have noticed I removed the things that cost you rejectomancer XP. Why did I do that? There’s already enough negativity involved with rejections that I don’t think I need to pile on for what might be simple mistakes. Of course, if you keep making mistakes like complaining to editors about rejections and whatnot, you’ll see very real consequences well beyond my silly little game. 🙂

Some of you might be recalculating your rejectomancy score based on these new features. If you do, put your new rejectomancer level in the comments. What’s mine? Well, I hadn’t calculated it in some time, so I sat down and added up all the XP on the roughly 400 submissions I’ve sent since I started tracking them via Duotrope. If my math is right, I have 1,160 rejectomancer XP, which puts me at level 12 (copper).

Got any suggestions for how I can expand or improve the rejectomancer class? I’d love to hear about that in the comments too.

8 thoughts on “The Rejectomancer Mk II

  1. I’m at level 9 (lead), although I didn’t keep track of anything until 2016, so I may be actually at level 10. However, since I don’t have records of what I did in 2014–15, I wouldn’t be able to provide an accurate count, so I just stuck with everything from ’16 on.

    Reply
    • Nice. Almost to that level 10 benchmark. 🙂

      I’ve got poetry and short story rejections and acceptances before I started tracking everything via Duotrope in 2012 (and I don’t count those). I also don’t count anything I’m invited to write or any of my publications in the gaming industry.

      Reply
  2. Just calculated: 720 XP, which makes me a level 10 (stone). I started subbing fiction in the summer of 2017 (literary, humor, and some slipstream) and speculative fiction about a year ago (2018). 242 subs and 46 acceptances total so far (as per The Grinder).

    Reply
      • I think there are a couple of elements to this, one objective and one more having to do with my own path. (Warning: verbosity ahead.)

        I think the hierarchy among literary magazines is flatter because most of them don’t pay, and there are many great ones with different styles that are all considered equally desirable. When I first started submitting fiction for publication, it was literary and slipstream work, and I felt like it didn’t take me too long to identify those magazines that liked how and what I wrote and then be able to place some work into at least some of them. In contrast, with speculative fiction, there are a few pro markets that are extremely hard to crack, but everyone submits to them because that’s the way to SFWA/HWA memberships. I know several short-form spec fiction writers who are on record saying that nothing but pro publications counts for anything (which I think is really unfair toward all the hard-working editors in semipro, token, and nonpaying markets, but that’s another story). Anyway, in speculative fiction the hierarchy is much, much steeper, with a sharp drop in prestige and what people pay attention to once you leave the small number of pro markets. So everyone’s new stories are first submitted to the pro zines to the tune of near-certain rejections; mine are no exception.

        Another aspect is that, when I first started out, I had no reason to believe in the publishability of anything I wrote, so I was really focused on getting things out to places that looked interesting rather than worrying (or, to be honest, knowing much) about the hierarchy of literary magazines. I wrote a lot (all the decades of not writing fiction bottled up!), simsubbed, stuff got rejected but a lot got accepted, too. I needed a lot of affirmation (read: acceptances) that it’s OK for me to write fiction, that it doesn’t totally suck, that I can get it published and read and appreciated. But after that initial hunger for approval abated, I started looking more toward finding my real voice and seeking challenges. I think I have always been more of a genre writer; my literary work was never quite literary enough, it was usually a straight-up narrative with a discernible plot and fairly spare language. As of a year ago, I’ve decided to focus on where my natural tendencies lie, which is (dark) genre fiction; as a reader, too, I enjoy sci-fi, dark fantasy, and horror above all else. So that’s where I am now: working mostly (but not exclusively) on speculative short fiction (usually flash), trying to get better, good enough to sell to the pro venues with the ultimate goals of getting SFWA and HWA memberships. In the meantime, I’m collecting tons of rejections, working on my craft and increasing my Rejectomancer street cred!

      • That’s a fascinating journey. I’m one-hundred percent behind your new focus on dark genre fiction with spare language. Call me biased. 🙂

        Personal tidbit about the SFWA. Despite all the short genre fiction I write, I pursued that membership through my other writing, the gaming/media tie-in novels I write for Privateer Press.

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