The Rejection Streak: An Analysis

In the first quarter of 2021 (and a bit before), I endured 23 rejections in a row. One of the longest streaks of not for us’s and we’re gonna pass’s in my career. That streak has since ended, and I have two acceptances so far in April. Now that I have a little distance from the streak and a little success to soften the blow, I though I’d do a postmortem analysis and see what I can see. What I’m going to do is look at the 23 submission that made up the streak and compare them to the 23 submissions just prior to that. Here are those basic numbers.

Subs Duration (Days) Rejections Acceptances Accpt %
Rejection Streak 23 96 23 0 0
Pre-Streak 23 69 17 6 26%

Pretty big difference there, huh? Six acceptances in the 23 submissions prior to the streak and nada during. How does that happen? Well, here are some more numbers that thicken the plot.

Market Crossover Personal & Shortlisted Rejections
Rejection Streak 11 4
Pre-Streak 8 4

So during both the streak and the more successful period before it, I sent submissions to a lot of the same markets. Some of these markets had published me before, and two of them have published me since. I also received the same number of personal or shortlisted rejections. I think this last bit is important as far as what goes into a rejection streak. As I have said many times, publishing a story is about putting the right story in front of the right editor at the right time. I believe that a personal or shortlist rejection often occurs when you have two of those elements but not the third. It’s a matter of timing or even luck. So a shortlist or a personal rejection often could have been an acceptance if not for one of those factors. If you’re unlucky to run into that three or four times, well, you get a rejection streak.

Another interesting number is that three of the acceptances I received pre-streak were actually rejected in that same period. I was able to submit them, get a rejection quickly, and then resubmit them to another market that accepted them. There’s less of that during the streak. For example, the two stories I sold in April were rejected during the streak but were held long long enough that I couldn’t get them out in time to interrupt the rejection pile-up.

Am I just diving into the numbers to make myself feel better? Sure, a little, but I often find the stats tell a reassuring story. For example, if you’ve experienced success in the past, i.e., you’ve sold stories before, a streak of rejections is likely due more to the timing of your submissions rather than their quality. Of course, we can all improve our writing, submission targeting can be further dialed in, and a story that’s racking up rejections might need to be revised or even retired. Despite all that, I think you just need to be patient and keep doing the things that brought you success before. As April has already shown me, there are probably acceptances right around the corner. 🙂

Questions or opinions on my analysis? have you endured a rejection streak recently? Tell me about it in the comments.

2 Comments on “The Rejection Streak: An Analysis

  1. I like the data mining, as always, and hadn’t thought about the postulation that a personal/shortlist rejection could mean one of the three elements you listed is missing.

    • Yeah, it’s not an exact science, but you have to look at shortlist rejections especially as probably getting two of the three elements. For example, in one of the rejections during my streak, the editor straight up told me it was almost an acceptance. To sum up, it’s too many almosts and close but no cigars that, in my experience, lead to an acceptance slump.

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