Acceptomancy?

I assume you’re all quite familiar with the term rejectomancy (or at least how I interpret it). I’ve spent years and a slightly embarrassing number of blog posts talking about what rejections mean, but what about acceptances? What if we turned our overly optimistic, high-powered literary microscopes on the yeses rather than the nos? Is acceptomancy a thing? Let’s talk about it.

Sure, if you get an acceptance for a story, then, uh, that market likes that story. Two points for Captain Obvious, right? But let’s dive deeper. What else can an acceptance tell you? Here’s three things they’ve told me.

  1. It’s often about timing. This is one of the best things about an acceptance. If you have a story that’s been rejected a bunch, and you finally get that acceptance, it validates the theory that publishing is all about right story + right market/editor + right time. I’ve had multiple pieces published after double digit rejections, some at pro markets, and I often haven’t changed a thing about the story. These acceptances have taught me to hang in there on a story even if it doesn’t land the first, second, or, um, the sixteenth try.
  2. Oh, so that’s what they want. I recently cracked a market after they’d rejected me ten times in a row. I sent them flash fiction, short stories, horror stories, fantasy stories, the works. Then, after ten nos I got a surprise yes on a story I didn’t think had a chance in hell. Of course I was thrilled to get the yes, but I also wanted to publish again with this market, so I took a very close look at the story they accepted, noting the style and tone, and sent them more of the same. I haven’t received another acceptance from them, but the next three rejections where either personal or short list rejections (I’d only received form letters before). Yeah, it’s kind of obvious, but an acceptance tells you pretty much exactly the kind of story the market wants, a discovery made even more profound after a bunch of rejections.
  3. Maybe this idea isn’t total shit. My most recent acceptance is an important one. It not only hits the first two points I mentioned, but it was one of the more validating acceptances I’ve received in a while. You see, I’ve been writing a lot of genre mashups, mostly a mix of horror, urban fantasy, and crime/noir stuff. I’d been getting really positive rejections on these stories, but they were all “not quite right for us.” They were either too horror for the fantasy markets or two fantasy for the horror markets. I started to think maybe this combo of genre, style, and tone was a dead end. Then I got an acceptance for one of those stories from a very tough market. I was shocked, eccastatic, sure, but shocked. So, sometimes an acceptance can be validating for more than “Hey, I’m good enough to get published.” It can be validating for “Hey, this crazy genre/style mashup might actually be marketable.”

Thoughts on acceptomancy? What have acceptances revealed to you? Tell me about it in the comments.

The Rejection Reversal with Michael Bracken

The accomplished and prolific Michael Bracken reached out to me recently to share a type of publisher response he’d never received before. If Michael Bracken, award-winning author of over 1,200 short stories and several novels, has never seen it, it’s probably pretty unique, right? Anyway, Michael gave me permission to blog about this rare occurrence, so let’s take a look at the letter he received.

Dear Michael,

Re: [story title]

We reluctantly rejected your story because we couldn’t find a place for it; however we liked it very much indeed, and have now created a place for this story in [our next issue], if it’s still available. Please let us know if that suits you.

Sincerely,

[editor’s name]

[publication name]

Michael said he received a rejection from this publisher about six weeks before he received the letter above, which is essentially an acceptance. Pretty cool, huh? Kind of a rejection reversal. If you follow my blog, you’ve heard me go on and on about how editors reject good stories for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the story or the writing. This is a sterling example. Michael’s story was originally rejected not because the editors didn’t like it, not because it wasn’t a good story, but simply because it wasn’t a good fit for the issue they were putting together. That story obviously resonated with the editors, so they made room for it in their next issue, reached out to Michael, and he’ll add this one to his impressive list of short story publications.

I’m not gonna hold my breath that any of my recent rejections will suddenly turn into acceptances, but it’s inspiring to know these things happen, and that good stories do eventually find a home–sometimes with the same markets that rejected them! 🙂


Michael Bracken is the author of several books and more than 1,200 short stories. Learn more at www.CrimeFictionWriter.com and follow his blog at CrimeFictionWriter.blogspot.com.

New Author Starter Kit – Acceptance Prep

Last week, I listed six things you need before you send out those first submissions in New Author Starter Kit – Submission Prep. Today, I’ve put together a few things you’ll need when one of those submissions is accepted for publication. From (much) experience I know rejections are a lot more common, but, hey, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be prepared for an acceptance. Here are four things you might need for the blessed event.

1) PayPal account. When you sell a story, one of the best parts is getting paid for that story. Many publishers prefer to pay through PayPal and some won’t pay any other way but PayPal. Often times a publisher will ask for your PayPal address in the acceptance email. So get an account. It’s free and easy to set up.

2) Author bio. Often a publisher will ask you to include a short author bio in the cover letter for your submission. If they don’t, they’ll almost certainly ask you for one upon acceptance of a story. They’ll usually give a max word count somewhere between 50 and 100 words, though the shorter end of that spectrum seems to be more common. It’s a good idea to have a short author bio of around 50 words ready to go. Here’s one of mine as an example:

Aeryn Rudel is a writer from Seattle, Washington. His second novel, Aftershock, was recently published by Privateer Press, and his short fiction has appeared in The Arcanist, Havok, and Pseudopod, among others. He occasionally offers dubious advice on writing and rejection (mostly rejection) at www.rejectomancy.com or on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

Of course, if you’re just starting out, you may not have publications to list, but there are lots of different things you can put in a bio. For more info about building a short author bio, check out Submission Protocol: Short Author Bio.

3) Author photo. Not every publisher asks for this, but it’s common enough I think you should have one on hand. That said, often times publishers will give you the option of not including an author photo if you don’t want to. IN my opinion, an author photo should conform to the following guidelines:

  • Format: A hi-res jpeg or TIF file. Personally, I think a head shot works best for the type of author photos that appear in magazines, but you could do a wider shot with you sitting at a desk, standing against a wall, and so on. Both color or black and white are acceptable. My preference is black and white, but that’s just me.
  • Expression: Depending on what genre of fiction you write this can vary, but my rule of thumb is to try to look like someone people might want to talk to. For me that’s usually a smile, but go with whatever makes you comfortable.
  • Professional: Basically, not a selfie. You don’t need to drop a bunch of cash on professional head shots if you’re just starting out, but I’ll bet you know someone who knows their way around a camera. Have that person take your photo against a neutral background or somewhere, you know, writerly.

4) Model contract. I mentioned this one in submission prep, but I’m gonna mention it again. When you get an acceptance, you should get a contract detailing what rights the publisher is acquiring to your work. Read the contract thoroughly and then compare it to something like the SFWA model contract, which is a fantastic indicator of industry standards. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your contract if something feels wrong. This is your work; make sure it’s protected.


Like the submission prep list, this doesn’t cover everything a publisher might ask for, but these are the most common in my experience. Did I leave anything off? Let me know in the comments.