Flash Fiction or Short Stories: Which Is Rejected More?

A little over a month ago, I published a post called How Long Does It Take to Sell a Story? In that post I charted out how long it took me in days to sell some of my published flash fiction and short stories. The results were interesting, and I want to revisit that topic today. Instead of looking at the number of days before acceptance, though, I want to look at the number of rejections before acceptance. Like that first article, I’ll split my findings into flash fiction and short stories.

We’ll use mostly the same stories in that last article (one new addition) and start with short stories.

Short Story Rejections
Night Games 6
Caroline 7
Paper Cut 16
Scare Tactics 6
Paint-Eater 7
A Point of Honor 10
Bites 12
The Past, History 8
The Back-Off 10
Reading the Room 5

Some big numbers there, huh? The average number of rejections for these ten stories is almost nine. But before we start trying to figure out why, let’s look at flash fiction and see how much of a difference a change in story length makes.

Flash Story Rejections
What Kind of Hero 10
When the Lights Go On 10
Do Me a Favor 0
Far Shores and Ancient Graves 2
Time Waits for One Man 0
Ditchers 3
Liquid Courage 0
His Favorite Tune 0
Outdoor Space 1
The Night, Forever, and Us 2

Well, that looks a little different, doesn’t it? The average number of rejections before I sold these flash pieces is three, and as you can see, four of them sold on the first try (I’ve never done that with a short story, by the way). There are two ten spots up there, but those really are anomalies in my flash submission archive.

If you were to look at all the stories I’ve published, you’d see the numbers I’ve presented for flash fiction and short stories are not just sample sizes. The average number of rejection for all the flash fiction I’ve published is just over two, and the average number for short stories is just over seven. But why? Let me briefly reiterate my theories from the last article, which also apply here, and add one more.

  1. Maybe I’m Better at Flash. The numbers would seem to indicate that, but I think there are other factors at play.
  2. More Pro Markets. There are dozens of pro short story markets, but really only a handful of dedicated pro flash fiction markets. In other words, my short stories generally run a gauntlet of sometimes a dozen of the toughest markets in the business, resulting in more rejections.
  3. Demand. Flash markets generally need more material, as they tend to publish more often. That means more slots for more authors.
  4. Flash Fact Finding. I write a lot of flash fiction. I mean A LOT. One of the reasons is simple math. It takes a lot less time to write and polish a thousand-word story than it does a five-thousand-words story. What this translates to is way, way more flash submissions. All those submissions, whether they end in acceptance or rejections, give me information, information that lets me hone in on exactly what a publisher might want. I might not be a better flash fiction writer, but I am definitely a better flash fiction submitter. I have the editorial tastes of a number of flash markets pretty well figured out, and I can submit to them with a level of confidence I just don’t have with short story markets. That doesn’t mean that every submission to these markets ends in an acceptance. Far from it. But I’d say my chances of acceptance are higher than they are with short story markets. Add that to the other factors above, and I think the rejection discrepancy in the two lengths makes a lot more sense.

Thanks for indulging me in another bit of rejectomancy, and I hope the whys and wherefores I presented held some small bit of wisdom. Probably not, but a guy can hope. 🙂

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