Earlier this week, I collected my 500th rejection since I’ve been tracking them through Duotrope. It took me almost ten years to amass that many, and, well I’ve certainly learned a fair bit in that time. In this post, I’ll break down what 500 rejections looks like, give you some raw numbers, and then talk a bit about what half a thousand not for us’s and we’re gonna pass’s has taught me.
First, let’s look at how many rejections I received each submission year.
Clearly, I didn’t start submitting in earnest until 2014. After that, you see a stead rise in the number of rejections, which is commensurate with the number of submissions I sent. My biggest rejection year was 2018, but I did send 120 submissions that year and collect 19 acceptances. *I have received a couple more rejections in 2021, but this post is about the first 500, so 2021 stops at 77 rejections. There will certainly be more before the years ends.
Here are a few other basic numbers.
Quickest and slowest rejection are two records that have stood for five years now, and I don’t foresee them changing. I generally don’t submit to markets that take over a year to respond anymore and, well, I think it’ll take some serious doing to get a faster rejection than ten minutes (I hope).
So that’s total rejections, but what kind of stories where getting rejected. Here’s some of that info.
My 500 rejections constituted 117 unique stories, most of which were flash fiction. Interestingly, though flash fiction stories outnumber short stories by almost four to one, short stories make up almost 44% of the total rejections and average 8.8 rejections per story. Flash fiction, on the other hand, average only 3.1 rejections per story. Long story short (hah!); I’ve found short stories more difficult to sell. My most rejected story received 25 rejections before I retired it. Though I think the story has merit, it will likely work better as a novella. Of the 117 unique stories I’ve had rejected, I’ve managed to sell 55 of them, nearly half. That’s not bad, and I expect that number to improve.
Okay, what about the publishers? How were they represented in my 500 rejections?
I submitted stories to 126 unique markets. I did combine imprints and contests held by a parent market into a single listing. For example, I counted The Arcanist and The Arcanist Flash Fiction Contests as a single market. When I was running these numbers, I was surprised at how many of these markets are now defunct or out of business. I counted 30, but there may be one or two more. The market that has rejected me most has also accepted me most, so as gaudy as that 47 rejections looks, it must be weighed against 16 acceptances. That’s not a bad ratio. The other market, however, has rejected me 32 times without an acceptance. That said, I’ve been final round shortlisted a number of times, so I keep trying.
But what have I learned from 500 rejections? What has half a thousand NOs taught me about submitting and publishing? A lot, honestly, but let me give you the three of the most important.
And that’s what 500 rejections look like. Thoughts on rejections? Tell me about it in the comments and share you own rejection total if you like.
I’ll see you again for rejection #600 (or maybe I’ll wait until 750). 🙂