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 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

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 Tin
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 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).

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 pitiful 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 nos, 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 multiple rejection letters in the same week, which is 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 disappointment. Form rejection letters bounce off their scaly hide without a scratch, and they weather multiple rejections in the same week with relative ease. The 10th-level rejectomancer can still be wounded by multiple rejections in the same day or long periods between publications.
  • 15th Level: The rejectomancer at fifteenth level is one tough motherfucker. They barely notice form rejections, understand even the bluntest feedback is a chance to improve, and have likely weathered rejections numbering in the triple digits. 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 and strike their vitals. Maybe it’s sensitivity about dialog skills or writing combat scenes. Maybe they’re trying a different genre for the first time and uncertain if they can pull it off. Whatever the vulnerability, a well-placed bit of feedback can 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, make an actual living at writing, or had so many acceptances that rejections no longer even register. The master rejectomancer has proven they’re tough enough to survive everything the industry can throw at them.

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. 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.

Event XP
Common Form Rejection 1
Improved Form Rejection 2
Further Consideration Letter1 3
Personal Rejection 3
Shortlist Letter1 3
Revision Request Letter  5
Acceptance Letter 10
Withdrawal2 1

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.

Event XP Modifier
Multi-Rejection Day1 Total x1.5
Rejection – 62 months x1.5
Rejection – 12 months x2
Contest Cash3 +1
Contest Win +3
Every 100 rejections +25
500 rejections +100
1,000 rejections +500

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. .

18 Comments 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. 😉

  2. Pingback: Be a Rejectomancer | Moonlight and Thorns

  3. Pingback: I want this. - Shoegnome

  4. Pingback: How to Deal with Rejection – Corey J. Goldberg

    • 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. )

  5. THIS. IS. AWESOME! (that’s coming from both an editor AND a writer)

  6. Pingback: Rejection Poker | Space&Aliens

  7. 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. 😉

  8. Pingback: Latesummer Rejectomancy – Chris Napier

  9. Pingback: Taking the Shortest Day to Reflect on a Long Year – Chris Napier

  10. Pingback: Acceptance – Afthead

Leave a Reply to Rose Blackthorn Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: