You’ve decided you’re a writer, and you’re going to send your work out to publishers, hoping for the glories of publication and likely ill-prepared for the realities of rejection. You have taken your first step on the path of rejectomancy.
Like anything else, rejectomancy is a skill that must be practiced, and the only way to practice it is to be told “this is not for us” and “we’re going to pass” over and over and over again. You see, rejectomancy is not a measure of your talent or even your success—though, those things often come with the higher levels of rejectomancy—it is a measure of your perseverance against the relentless grind of the submission process. The rejectomancer has developed a toughened skin that can turn aside the sharp sting of rejection letters and the mental fortitude to endure the sometimes years-long wait for a response to a submission. The rejectomancer learns from rejection and grows stronger from it.
How do you become a rejectomancer? You submit work and get rejected (mostly). Each rejection earns you vital experience that propels you down the path of rejectomancy, allowing you to stand up to more and more disappointment, until, finally, rejections are no more than minor irritations along the path of writerly achievement.
Since I’m a giant nerd who has worked in the tabletop gaming industry for the better part of my professional career, I’ll be quantifying rejectomancy using the framework of an RPG character class. Yes, I know, that’s a little weird, but I have a feeling it’ll make sense to many of the folks who read my blog. If you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, think Dungeons & Dragons, and try to follow along.
And a quick disclaimer:
Of course I do not mean to imply your rejectomancy level is in any way a real measure of your writing ability. This whole thing is just a way to have a some fun with the often painful reality of literary rejection. So, please, don’t take this seriously or anything.
Rejectomancer Advancement & Powers
Level: This number indicates your general rejectomancy skill, a quick way to gauge how much rejection you’ve endured over your career.If you’re familiar with tabletop roleplaying games, the table above should look pretty familiar to you; if you’re not, let me break it down:
XP: You gain rejectomancer experience points by submitting work and surviving rejection. Rejection letters, long waits, and story withdrawals add to your point total. Awesome things like acceptance letters and contest wins also add to your total (because nothing makes you stronger like success).
Rejectomancer Spells (coming soon): As you advance along the path of rejectomancy, you gain access to the Rejectomancer’s Grimoire, a dread tome filled with enchantments and glamours that can aid you in your writing endeavors.
Resistance: This indicates the relative thickness of the rejectomancer defenses against rejection. Below is a more detailed summary of the rejectomancer at various milestone levels.
So, how do you get that precious rejectomancer experience points? By doing things that writers do: submitting your work, getting rejection letters, getting acceptance letters, and so on. Here’s a list of ways to gain XP with links to the posts covering most of these topics. I’ll update this table as I add more posts.
|Common Form Rejection||1|
|Improved Form Rejection||2|
|Further Consideration Letter1||3|
|Revision Request Letter||5|
1 If a rejection comes after a shortlist or further consideration letter, add the shortlist/further consideration total to the rejection total. For example, if you receive a shortlist letter (3 pts) followed by a personal rejection letter (3 pts), add 6 total points to your score. If you receive an acceptance after a short list letter, count only the 10 points for the acceptance.
2 If you send a withdrawal letter after sending a query letter with no response, then award yourself 1 XP for time spent and for handling the situation professionally. If you send a withdrawal letter because you sent a sim-sub and the story was accepted elsewhere, you don’t get the extra XP. (Hey, you still got an acceptance, right?)
In addition to the standard responses you might receive from a publisher worth rejectomancer XP, there are other events that can modify the XP earned.
|Multi-Rejection Day1||Total x1.5|
|Rejection – 62 months||x1.5|
|Rejection – 12 months||x2|
|Every 100 rejections||+25|
1 On a multiple rejection day, take the total points from all rejections for the day and multiply by 1.5. For example, if you receive a common form rejection (1 pt) and personal rejection (3 pts), the total points for the day would be 6 (4 x 1.5).
2 Getting a rejection after a very long wait can be, well, extra disappointing, so after a rejection taking six months or more multiply the rejection XP by 1.5. For a rejection taking over a year, multiply the rejection XP by a factor of 2.
3 Contests often add an additional factor of difficulty to getting an acceptance. There are generally fewer spots for more submissions than a typical zine or online market. So, if your story places in a contest and earns a cash prize, add 1 XP to the acceptance. If you actually win a contest, then add 3 XP to the acceptance. Placing in a contest that does not offer a cash prize still counts as an acceptance, of course (10 XP).
This is the new and improved Rectomancy class, which was featured in a blog post on 6/28/19. If you were using the old one, you might have noticed I removed the things that cost you rejectomancer XP. Why did I do that? There’s already enough negativity involved with rejections I don’t think I need to pile on for what might be simple mistakes. Of course, if you keep making mistakes like complaining to editors about rejections and whatnot, you’ll see very real consequences well beyond my silly little game. 🙂
Got any suggestions for how I can expand or improve the rejectomancer class? I’d love to hear about it. .
So, just out of curiosity – I logged into Duotrope, and pulled up my history. Since March of 2010 I have 212 submissions that didn’t end with an acceptance. If I remove the withdrawals, or never responded, or ‘lost/returned’ that leaves me with 196 actual rejections.
What level does that put me on? (I think I’m going to go get some chocolate now…)
I haven’t finished my series on rejection letters that codifies all the various point values of rejections and acceptances, but I’ll give you a summarized sneak peek: common form rejection +1, improved form rejection +2, personal rejection +3, informative personal rejection +5, and acceptance +10. Now, even if everyone of those 212 rejection were a common form rejection (which, I know they aren’t), you’d be sitting at around level 7. With all your publications and the many encouraging rejection letters you’ve no doubt received, you’ve got to be double digits. My guess would be somewhere between 12 and 15.
The rejectomancy is strong with this one. =)
Woohoo! Well, I also had 60 acceptances in that time (granted, this is only what was documented on Duotrope – I don’t keep very good track of the stuff that I can’t log in there). I’m bucking for Steel or Titanium 😀
Sixty acceptances! Nice. That’s 600 points right there. I might have to stop calling myself the High Rejectomancer . . . or just make the blog worth like 100,000 points. 😉
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But what experience do you get for ‘publisher confirmed receiving manuscript, then never bothered to formally reject it’?
Ah, the no-response rejection. I hate those. I need to add that one to the list here. For now, how about 1 XP plus 1 XP for every month past the expected response date? Up to a max of 5 XP.
Thanks for the comment. )
THIS. IS. AWESOME! (that’s coming from both an editor AND a writer)
Thanks. At some point I need to update it with more kewl rejectomancer powers. 🙂
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This newbie just achieved glass level and has her eyes set on ceramic! Reaching Level 5 seems like an epic journey though. I hope I make it. Thanks for adding a level of fun to my submission spreadsheet.
You’re very welcome. I really need to update this with more rejectomancer powers. A friend of mine recommended adding specific schools of rejectomancy. I might have to do that. 😉
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