A Bad Request? 400 Rejections

Today I received my 400th rejection since I started tracking my submissions through Duotrope. Yeah, I received a few pre-Duotrope, in what amounts to my literary Dark Ages, but those rejections are lost to the sands of time and ancient Hotmail accounts, so we’ll work with the numbers we can verify. Anyway, what does 400 rejection look like? Let’s find out. πŸ™‚

Rejections by Year

Year Rejections
2012 4
2013 14
2014 31
2015 37
2016 43
2017 63
2018 100
2019 62
2020 46 (year to date)

As you can see in the table above, the number of rejections I’ve received increased steadily but has leveled off in recent years.Β  Obviously, 2018 was a banner year, where I set personal submission, rejection, and acceptance records. I haven’t managed to reach those lofty heights again, but they’re an excellent goal to shoot for.

Unique Stories/Markets

Total Accepted
Unique Stories 91 46
Unique Markets 108 18

Yep, I have had 91 stories receive a not for us, a we’re gonna pass, or a does not suit or needs at this time. It feels like a lot, but when I look deeper into the numbers, it’s not so bad. Of the 91 stories that have been rejected, I’ve gone on to publish 46 of them, which is a skosh over fifty percent. That’s not too shabby.

Now, unique markets paints a different picture. I’ve been rejected by 108 of them, 18 of which have gone on to publish me at some point (up 5 from when I last ran these numbers). It’s important to note that of the 108 markets that have rejected me 44 of them are now defunct or on indefinite hiatus, and a fair number of them are anthology projects, essentially one-and-done publications. Still, this is a number I’d like to improve, especially if I can add a few of my bucket-list pro markets to the accepted column.

Most Rejected Stories

Story Rejections Published Retired
What Kind of Hero 10 Y
When the Lights Go On 10 Y
A Point of Honor 10 Y
The Back-Off 10 Y
Teeth of the Lion Man 11 Y
Bites 12 Y
After Birth 12 Y
Caroline 15 Y
The Scars You Keep 15
Paper Cut 17 Y
Set in Stone 24 Y

The table above shows all my stories that have received 10 rejections or more. I’ve published 7 of the them and 3 are retired pending a complete rewrite. What you see here is sort of my overriding philosophy when it comes to submissions. Keep submitting until you get a yes or you are absolutely certain the story isn’t working. Now, you might be looking at “Set in Stone” and thinking, “Wait, you didn’t think a story with 15-plus rejections should have been retired?” I get it, but in my defense, “Paper Cut” received 15 rejections before it was published, and “Set in Stone” accumulated shortlist and personal rejections throughout its entire submission run. Still, the numbers are the numbers, and 24 rejections says it’s time to find some space in the trunk. The other stories I’ve retired are ones with good premises, but insightful beta readers have convinced me they could be better. I should note that “Caroline” and “Paper Cut” have received a few rejections as reprint submissions.

Most Rejected Markets

Rejections Acceptances
Market 1 44 16
Market 2 21
Market 3 21 10
Market 4 19
Market 5 17 1

Yes, I haven’t named the markets, but if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that’s just how I do things. Obviously, 44 rejections from one market is a lot, but since they’ve published 16 of my stories, I don’t take issue with the rejections. πŸ™‚ The other markets here are pro and semi-pro publications that I continue to submit to, sometimes with success. If I were to expand this list to all the markets that have rejected me 10 times or more, you’d see a veritable who’s who of professional and well-regarded genre publishers, some of which I’ve managed to crack and some of which I’m still trying to.

Wait Times

Days Notes
Fastest 0 10 minutes
Slowest 419
Average 29

Since I last ran these numbers–when I hit 300 rejections–not much has changed. My fastest and slowest rejections are the same, and the average wait time has ticked up a little from 27 to 29 days. I doubt I’ll ever get a quicker rejection than 10 minutes, and, to be honest, I won’t submit to markets where waiting longer than 419 days for a response is even a possibility.


And that’s a snapshot of 400 rejections. I won’t inflict any more stats on you, but I think this should give you a good idea of what my submission process looks like. We’ll talk again when I hit 500 rejections. πŸ™‚

Reached in rejections milestones of your own lately? Tell me about it in the comments.

2 Comments on “A Bad Request? 400 Rejections

  1. The data is insightful, as always. This inspired me to count my own, and I’m sitting at 298 in the rejection column. While I’m well on my way to catching up in this category, I’d prefer to make progress toward catching up in the acceptance category. Only sitting at 9 there.

    • Oh, I’d prefer to make progress in the acceptance column too. I especially want to crack new markets. Multiple sales to the same publisher are great, but I’d love to diversify a bit more.

      The prescription is the same for both our goals, though. Keep writing and keep submitting. πŸ™‚

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