2020 Writing Review Part 2: Rejections

This is part two of my year-end writing review. You can find part one here. Today, I’m going to be looking at all the rejections I received last year and try to live up to the name of this blog. 🙂

Let’s get to it. Basic rejection numbers first.

  • Total Rejections: 68*
  • Form Rejections: 43
  • Higher-Tier Rejections: 10
  • Personal Rejections: 15
  • Shortlists: 7

Some quick definitions. A form rejection is simply a boilerplate no without feedback or any of the signs of a higher-tier rejection. A higher-tier rejection, which some markets use and some don’t, is still a form letter but features language that lets you know your story was considered more seriously. I find the bigger markets are more likely to use higher-tier form rejections. Personal rejections are just that. The editor adds some personal note, generally encouraging feedback about the story. Shortlists are when the publisher notifies you that your story is being held for consideration or lets you know that it made it to the final round of consideration in the rejection. The shortlist rejection is tacked on to another type of rejection, usually a personal rejection but it can be a form letter too.

These numbers aren’t too surprising. I focused primarily on pro and semi-pro markets and, well, they generally send form letters. I did get some higher-tier and personal rejections from some of the big markets I submitted to, and that’s always encouraging.

Okay, we have the basic rejection numbers, now lets look at who was rejecting me.

  • Unique Markets: 34
  • Pro Markets: 20
  • Semi-Pro Markets: 13
  • Token Markets: 1

Nothing too surprising here. I’ve been focusing my submission efforts on pro markets and some of the bigger semi-pro. The numbers certainly bear that out. I did submit to more token markets in 2020, but they were one-offs, and I was fortunate enough to publish the stories I sent them. The most rejections I received from a single market was 7, and two other markets rejected me 6 times. The good news is each of those markets also accepted at least one piece.

Now that we’ve looked at who was rejecting me, let’s look at what they were rejecting.

  • Unique Stories: 35
  • Flash Fiction: 25
  • Short Story: 10
  • Rejected Stories Sold: 12

Again, pretty much what I expected. I write and submit flash fiction at about a three to one ration to short stories. I did manage to sell a dozen stories this year that also received at least one rejection, a good number

Finally, let’s look at my three most-rejected stories and see if that tells us anything.

  • What Binds Us: 8
  • Story X: 8
  • The Past, History: 5

Of the three stories, I did manage to sell “The Past, History” this year and to a pro-paying market. I should also note it received three rejections last year for a total of eight before it sold.  “What Binds Us” is the only flash story of the three, and it did get two shortlist rejections this year. That said, it’s pretty weird, and while I do think I’ll sell it eventually, it’ll likely take some time to find the right fit. “Story X,” on the other hand, is maybe the best piece of fiction I wrote last year (if I do say so myself), and it got close a couple of times with some very good markets. I’m confident it will find a home soon. Of course, it’s not actually titled “Story X,” but I need to keep the title secret for the moment.

And that was my year in rejections for 2020. It was fun to dive back in and read each no and not for us I received last year. I know that sounds depressing, but there was a lot of encouraging stuff in those rejections, stuff I can build on in the new year.

I’d love to hear about your rejections if you’d like to share in the comments.


5 Comments on “2020 Writing Review Part 2: Rejections

  1. *Four of these rejections were for stories submitted in 2019. I will account for that in upcoming analytics in this series of posts.

  2. Could you expand on this with a time taken to reject analysis? I know you’ve touched on this before, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who would appreciate your thoughts on what is a reasonable time. For instance, to me, 6 months seems far too long.

    • I might do another post about wait times, but for now, here’s the basic numbers on the rejections for 2020.

      Longest Wait: 148 days
      Average Wait: 33 days

      I think those numbers are pretty good, and almost all my longer waits were for stories that were shortlisted (so a longer wait is to be expected). The vast majority of the rejections (58) came in under 60 days.

  3. My numbers for 2020 were: 215 rejections. 6 personal. No acceptances.

    A lot of failure but also a lot of experience.

    • Sounds like you had a very busy year. Rejections are great teachers, and we can learn a lot from them. Here’s to putting what we’ve learned to use in 2021. 🙂

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