Rejection Reflection: Is This Market for Me?

One of the toughest questions writers sometimes ask themselves is if a particular publisher is a good market for their work. When the form rejections pile up, you begin to wonder if maybe they just aren’t into your style, voice, tone, etc. That’s entirely possible, but make sure you’re not jumping the gun. To illustrate what I’m talking about, let’s take a look at a couple of markets I’ve sent a bunch of stories to without a single acceptance. Let’s see if it’s a case of “it’s not you, it’s me” or if I need to keep trying. I won’t use the names of these markets because this isn’t about calling out a publisher that has rejected my work (because that’s silly and counterproductive). It’s about examining my work, looking for ways to improve, and more importantly, looking for ways to be a more efficient and ultimately successful short story writer.

Market A – 20 Rejections

Market A is a well known SFF market, and I’ve submitted there a total of twenty times, each submissions ending in a rejection. Now you might look at that number and think, well, here’s one market that just doesn’t like his work at all. Based solely on the number of rejections, I might agree with you. If you look closer, though, you’d see a lot of those rejections are higher-tier, and three of them are final-round, you-almost-made-the-cut types. So, what does that tell me? Couple things.

  1. Keep trying. The slush readers and editors are seeing something in my work they like. I mean, they’ve said as much. That’s encouraging and more than enough reason to keep sending work.
  2. Use the info you have. With twenty rejections of all shapes and sizes from this market, I have a lot of useful information. If I look at the stories that got close, something jumps out. They lean more literary than my usual fare and take old tropes in new directions. That tells me a lot about what to send this market in the future and what might be successful with them.

Market B – 13 Rejections

Market B is another prestigious SFF market to which I have submitted many times, to the tune of thirteen total rejections. In contrast to Market A, however, I’ve received mostly form rejections with one hold, which was then rejected with another form letter. Let me reiterate, this post is not about trying to prove Market A is right and Market B is wrong (this isn’t a wrong or right situation to begin with). It’s about reading between the lines, taking a good hard look at your work, and possible redirecting your meager writing resources. Now, if I look deeper at the rejections from Market B, what might I learn? Three things.

  1. Good stories, wrong market. Of the thirteen stories I’ve sent to Market B, I’ve gone on to sell nine of them, seven at pro rates and two at semi-pro (one of those to a very good semi-pro market). Within this group of rejections is, in my opinion, the best short story I’ve written to date. I think it’s fair to say I have good evidence that the stories I sent were marketable, just not to this publisher. Again, that does NOT mean this market was wrong for rejecting my stories. It means my stories weren’t right for this publisher. This of course leads back to the initial question posed in this post. Is this market right for me? Based on the evidence I have at hand, I’m leaning toward no, but read on.
  2. Use the info you have. Like Market A, I have a lot of information on Market B. If I look closer at that information, I see I have largely sent them horror, which they do publish, but little else. This leads into my next point.
  3. Keep trying? Maybe, but based on the info I’ve gleaned from submitting here and from reading the recent works published by this market, it’s possible my style just isn’t what they’re looking for. If I do try here again, it will need to be something completely different than what I’ve previously sent.

So when the form rejections keep rolling in, it’s only natural to ask yourself, “Is this market for me?” The answer to that question could be, no, they aren’t a good fit for you, but make sure to do your research. You don’t want to give up on a Market A scenario. Remember, not all nos are created equal, and some, like the ones I’ve been getting from Market A, are what I’d call good nos. In my experience, good nos can and do sometimes lead to a yes in the end.

As usual, this post is drawn entirely from my own experience, which informs the opinions you see here. I’m sure there are folks who went on to publish at a prestigious market after many, many form rejections, and there is definitely merit to that kind of tenacity. Ultimately, every author needs to decide how best to utilize their writerly resources, and it’s never a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.

3 Comments on “Rejection Reflection: Is This Market for Me?

  1. Another thing to watch for when rejectomancing a particular market: Has there been a change in editorship? If the tenor of your rejections suddenly change—from positive to negative or from negative to positive—it may be the result of a change in editorship, and you’ll need to rethink your approach.

    Early in my career, a magazine paying $300 rejected a story of mine. A few years later, the magazine changed editorship (and raised their rates). I sent that rejected story to the new editor and sold it for $500.

    Similar occurrences have happened many times over the years. Markets to which I was a regular contributor stopped buying from me when a new editor took over. On the flip side, markets that weren’t buying anything of mine started buying when a new editor took over, and several times have purchased stories the previous editor rejected.

    So, always be aware of changes in editorship, and be prepared to adjust your approach if an editor does change.

    • Excellent point, Michael. Thanks for sharing that.

      I’d say when a market returns from a lengthy hiatus, it might be a good idea to check for a change in editorship. That’s been happening a fair bit lately.

  2. Pingback: Short walk #117 – A short walk down a dark street

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