Swings & Misses III: The Rejection Streak Strikes Back

Back in late 2017, I suffered the longest rejection streak of my writing career. If you’re interested, I covered that streak in a post titled Swings & Misses II: The Rejection Streak. Well, friends, I am currently working on the second-longest rejection streak in my career, though in terms of actual duration, this one tops the charts. I thought it might be interesting to look at these two periods of, uh, unsuccess, and see if there are any similarities, any differences, and, well, anything that might give me a clue as to why I’m not seeing the ball very well (to use baseball parlance). First, lets take a look at the raw numbers for each period.

2017-2018 2020-2021
Rejections 27 18
Duration 12/9/17 to 2/18/18 12/27/20 to 3/12/21
Duration (Days) 74 76
Unique Stories 13 14
-Flash Fiction 8 9
-Short Stories 5 4
Markets 17 14
-Pro 12 10
-Semi-Pro 5 4
-Token 1 0

As you can see, there are quite a few similarities between the two streaks. They both occurred at almost the exact same part off the year, lasted roughly the same amount of time (though my current streak is ongoing), and included about the same number of stories. The ratio of flash to short stories is similar as are the types of markets I was submitting to. These numbers are interesting, but do they tell the story of why I’m missing more than hitting? I have some thoughts.

  • Dumb Luck: Gotta get this one out of the way. Whether we want to believe it or not, there is absolutely an element of luck involved in getting a story accepted. As I’ve said many, many times, selling a story is about putting the right story in front of the right editor at the right time. If you’re missing one of those elements, you get a rejection. There are going to be times when you just can’t get those three elements to align, and, well, see the numbers above.
  • Tough Markets: As you can see, the markets I was sending stories too during these periods are mostly pro and semi-pro publishers. It’s often harder to place stories with these markets, and they constitute some of the most difficult to crack in the industry. That’s certainly a factor in something like a rejection streak, but this and luck are factors outside of my control. What about things that are, for lack of a better word, my fault.
  • Submission Targeting: If there’s a hole in my submission game, it’s likely this, and I could be a bit better about sending the right stories to the right markets. In my (feeble) defense, my stories, especially lately, tend to mash-up genres that make them more difficult to sell to markets that specialize in one particular genre or another. Still, both periods of unsuccess feature a number of stories with double digit rejections. Now, some of those from 2017-18, I did manage to sell eventually, but had my submission targeting been a better, I might have ended that streak much sooner than I did. As you might have guessed, there are a couple of double-digit darlings in this current streak as well.
  • Tired Tales: If you were to look at the stories I submitted in these two periods, you might be surprised to see some of the same stories pop up in both. Yeah, I have a couple of stories, loveable losers if you will, that have been rejected more than 20 times each, yet I keep running them out there. I’m stubborn with these two because I think they have merit, and I think I will eventually sell them. Problem is, there is every chance I am just dead wrong, and every time I run these dogs out there, they’re gonna come back whining, tail between their legs. I often let these stories sit for months, even years, and then think, hey, maybe this is the year. Well, just about every time I get that in my head the rejections start rolling in. Maybe this time I’ll learn. 🙂

I will say that this current slump doesn’t have me quite as dejected as the last one. Back in 2017 I started to believe I’d never sell a story again, but then I went on to sell something like 50 stories over the next three years. I know I will break this current streak, just like I broke the last one. I have enough faith in my writing now that I am certain there is light at the end of this tunnel, even if I can’t quite see it yet.

Have you ever had a lengthy rejection streak? Feel free to share and commiserate in the comments.

(Fun fact: The 18th rejection in my current streak arrived between the writing and posting of this article.)

6 Comments on “Swings & Misses III: The Rejection Streak Strikes Back

  1. I hear you. I’ve had an additional two, “We’re deluged,” messages less than 24 hours after submitting. These responses are difficult to record on Duotrope. Logically, they’re rejections, but that doesn’t reflect the current circumstances. I wish the “markets” would close [earlier] instead, but that’s my preference for neatness.

    Additionally, although there is the “standard” response time for different markets these are [inevitably?] so much longer so we left in limbo–the one thing we’re trying to escape via writing.

    • Interesting. Do the “deluged” letters state that the editors will simply not read your story because that have too many submissions, or is it sort of “Hey, it’s gonna take us forever, so if you want to withdraw your story, go right ahead”?

  2. No worries, my friend. You’re just watching Part 2 right now, and everyone knows the good guys win at the end of the trilogy. 🙂 I get it about the trotting out that one story. I have one like that. Must’ve rewritten it at 4 different word counts by this point. I keep throwing a new shade of lipstick on it and hoping someone will finally think it’s pretty. In the end, I think it will turn out to be a reader magnet i give away free to my newsletter subscribers. To every story, there is a purpose… Hang in there!

  3. Though I’ve only been playing the submissions game since mid-2017, there is an 11 month stretch in there. That was painful. I just ended a fairly painful 6 month dry spell with an acceptance this week.

  4. I’m currently at one. I received 337 rejections in the last 11 months, when I started submitting stories in English. I’m still unpublished.

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