Be a Rejectomancer

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 receive the literary equivalent of a kick in the junk, 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 endurance and perseverance against a relentless assault on your pride, self-worth, and even your very identity. The rejectomancer has developed a toughened skin that can turn aside the sting of rejection letters, the pain of bad reviews, and the emotional trauma of harsh criticism. The rejectomancer learns from rejection and grows stronger from it.

How do you become a rejectomancer? You submit work and get rejected. Each rejection earns you vital experience that propels you down the path of rejectomancy, allowing you to stand up to more and more abuse, until, finally, only the most brutal of critics wielding the most lethal of rejections can touch you.

Since I’m a giant nerd who has worked in the tabletop gaming industry for the better part of his 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 then try to follow along.

And a quick disclaimer:

Of course, I do not mean to imply that your rejectomancy level is, in any way, a real measure of your writing ability. This whole thing is just a way to have a bit of fun with the often painful reality of literary rejection. So, please, don’t take this seriously or anything.

Rejectomancer Advancement

Level XP Resistance
1 Baby Bunny
2 5 Paper
3 10 Glass
4 25 Ceramic
5 65 Denim
6 140 Leather
7 225 Bark
8 325 Wood
9 500 Lead
10 650 Stone
11 850 Lead
12 1000 Copper
13 1250 Brass
14 1500 Bronze
15 1750 Iron
16 2000 Steel
17 2250 Titanium
18 2650 Tungsten
19 3050 Diamond
20 3550 Adamantium

If you’re familiar with tabletop roleplaying games, the table above is going to look pretty familiar to you; if you’re not, let me break it down:

Level: This number indicates your general rejectomancy skill, a quick way to gauge how much rejection you’ve endured over your career.

XP: You gain rejectomancer experience points for surviving rejection. Things like rejection letters, bad reviews, and other types of criticism add to your point total. Awesome things like acceptance letters and good reviews also add to your point total (because nothing makes you stronger like success). Making stupid mistakes, like not following submission guidelines or publicly responding to a negative review  (maybe the biggest mistake an author can make) deduct rejectomancy points, possibly undoing all your hard work.

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.

  • 1st Level: A 1st-level rejectomancer is a pathetic creature with skin so thin you can see their delicate organs squirming beneath it. The barest hint of rejection can utterly destroy the neophyte rejectomancer, but if they survive those first few rejections, they’ll get tougher.
  • 5th Level: By fifth level, the rejectomancer has a few calluses, and their skin is tough enough to turn aside the odd form rejection. They can still be devastated by even a mild bad review, and multiple rejection letters in the same week are sure to shred their meager protective covering like a chainsaw through kittens.
  • 10th Level: The 10th-level rejectomancer is a true veteran, and they have developed a high level or resistance to literary abuse. Form rejection letters bounce off their scaly hide without a scratch, and they can weather multiple rejections in the same week with relative ease. The 10th-level rejectomancer can still be wounded by a particularly harsh review, a rejection from an agent, or long periods between publications.
  • 15th Level: The rejectomancer at fifteenth level is one tough son-of-a-bitch. They barely notice form rejections, sees bad reviews as a chance to improve (madness), and can weather scores of negative comments without so much as flinching. They are not invulnerable, but a modicum of success has made their weaknesses more specific. The 15th-level rejectomancer has hidden doubts that allow certain criticisms to bypass their armored skin completely and strike their vitals. Maybe it’s sensitivity about dialog skills or writing combat scenes. Maybe their trying a different genre for the first time and uncertain if they can pull it off. Whatever the vulnerability, a well-placed comment or review can still wound the high-level rejectomancer, though, if they’ve made it this far, they’re likely to refocus and carry on.
  • 20th Level: At twentieth level, the rejectomancer has mastered the art. They are an unassailable juggernaut whose impenetrable confidence defies rejection of all types. They’ve probably attained some real success at this point: sold multiple novels, gathered a large following of readers, makes an actual living at writing, or has so many good reviews the bad ones don’t even register. The master rejectomancer has proven they’re tough enough to survive the worst the industry has to offer.

So, how do you get that precious rejectomancer XP? By doing things that writers do: submitting your work, getting rejection letters, getting acceptance letters, and so on. But hold on there; you can also lose rejectomancer XP for FTFFD (failure to follow fucking directions) and SSD (special snowflake disorder) when it comes to things like submission guidelines. Here’s a short list of way to gain and lose points with links to the posts covering each topic. I’ll be updating this table as I add more posts.

Event XP
Common Form Rejection 1
Improved Form Rejection 2
Further Consideration Letter 3
Personal Rejection 3
Shortlist Letter 3*
Revision Request Letter  5
Acceptance Letter  10
Multi-Rejection Day Total x1.5*

*If a rejection comes after the shortlist letter, add the shortlist 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.

*On a multiple rejection day, take the total points from all rejections for the day and multiply by 1.5. For example, if I received a common form rejection (1 pt) and personal rejection (3 pts), my total points for the day would be 6 (4 x 1.5).

Event XP
FTFFD or SSD on the Cover Letter -5
FTFFD or SSD on Formatting  -5
FTFFD or SSD on a Status Query  -5
FTFFD or SSD on a Withdrawal Letter  -5
FTFFD or SSD on Story Length -10
FTFFD or SSD on What We Want -15

There are other special abilities available to rejectomancers. Keep an eye on this page for future power-ups.

18 thoughts on “Be a Rejectomancer

  1. 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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    • 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. )

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  6. 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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