The Rejection Archives: Rejection #7

Got another rejection from the vault to share with you. This is the seventh rejection I received after I started seriously tracking my submissions through Duotrope. Let’s have a look.

Rejection Number: 7
Story Sent: 2/2/2013
Rejection Received: 2/21/2013
Rejection Type: Personal Rejection

Aeryn,

Thanks for letting us see [story title].  I regret to say that it’s not right for [publisher].

I loved the incredible vividness of this story, and thought the ending was rather awesome.  [Redacted detail about the story] However, the long digressions into [theme of story], while interesting and well written, really slowed the pace for me.  It ended up feeling like there was too much internal monologue for the bit of action the story provided.

Best of luck with this in other markets.

Regards,*

This was one of the first detailed personal rejections I received when I got serious about submitting short fiction. The editor kindly explains exactly what their issue with the story was. I also liked how they included qualifiers like “for me” rather than using imperative statements. Though I did not change the story based on this feedback, it does NOT mean the editor was wrong. It means my story was not a good fit for this market and this editor. I went on to sell this story to another publisher shortly after this rejection. Again, I am not trying to show this editor was wrong for rejecting my story. Instead, this is a good example that a rejection from one market absolutely does not mean it won’t sell elsewhere. These kinds of rejections can also be very informative, and I managed to sell a story to this particular market the following year, partly because the feedback here gave me a good idea of what they might like.

*You’ll notice I pulled some details out of this rejection. I did that because it would give away which story I’m talking about and possibly identify the publisher. That’s something I always try to avoid.


Thoughts on this rejection or this type of rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

Also, check out the first post in this series below:

The Rejection Archives: Rejection #1

The Rejection Archives: Rejection #1

Something new on the ol’ blog today. I thought it might be fun to go through my extensive archive of rejections and share a few with you on a weekly basis. So let’s crack open the vault and have a look at some no’s, not for us’s, and we’re gonna pass’s.

Today I have the very first rejection I received in what I call the “Duotrope Era,” basically when I started seriously tracking my submissions.

Rejection Number: 1
Story Sent: 4/16/2012
Rejection Received: 5/5/2012
Rejection Type: Common Form Rejection

Thank you for submitting your story, [Story Title], to [Publisher]. Unfortunately, we have decided not to publish it. To date, we have reviewed many strong stories that we did not take. Either the fit was wrong or we’d just taken tales with a similar theme or any of a half dozen other reasons.

Best success selling this story elsewhere.

This is a pretty standard form rejection, but I like that the publishers lists some reasons why you’re story might have been rejected. As standard form rejections go, it’s a good one: polite, encouraging, and to the point. The publisher still uses this form rejection–I got one a few months back. If it ain’t broke, and all that. If you submit work in the same genres I do, you’ve likely seen this rejection a time or two.

The interesting thing about this rejection is when I received it, I hadn’t done much in the way of consistent story submissions, so despite this being a common form rejection, it stung. You see, I hadn’t developed that thick rejectomancer hide yet, and, like many authors, I read all kinds of things into this simple rejection. In the years since I’ve learned not to do that, that rejections are not personal, and the best medicine is to get back to work and submit the story somewhere else. Now I take rejections like this in stride because I know even if this publisher didn’t like the story, another might.


Thoughts on this rejection or this type of rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

Let’s Play Rejection Bingo

Today we’re returning to rejections, but we’re gonna have a little fun with it. If you’ve been submitting your work for any length of time, you’ve likely accumulated a bunch of form rejections, and you’ve no doubt recognized common phrases that appear in these rejections. So let’s play a little game, and see how long it takes to get a Rejection Bingo!

Before we get started, a little disclaimer/info. Editors use these phrases because they send out a lot of rejections, and they need a boilerplate template to save time. That’s a good thing because it generally means every writer gets a response to their submission. Plus, honestly, these phrases often are a good and gentle way to communicate the no. Keep in mind a boilerplate rejection does NOT mean the editor is not being sincere or they didn’t like the story. In fact, some of the phrases below often indicate a higher-tier rejection and/or even a short-list rejection.

Okay, with that out of the way, here’s the card (in standard manuscript format, of course). The card has 25 common form rejections phrases, so over the next week or month or whatever see if you can get a Rejection Bingo. Feel free to fudge the phrases a bit. For example, if you get a rejection that says “Elected not to publish,” go ahead and count that as a “Decided not to publish.” This is just for fun, after all. Finally, yes, it is absolutely possible to fill up more than one space on the card with a single rejection. In fact, I have one old rejection that would almost get me a bingo all by itself. 🙂


Did I miss any good/common phrases for my rejection bingo card? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll consider an edit.

100 Rejections: Achievement Unlocked

In 2018 I achieved a landmark (for me) literary achievement – 100 rejections in a single year. I know that might sound like a dubious goal. I mean, why would you want to get rejected 100 times? Let me see if I can explain.

  1. 100 rejections means at a minimum 100 submissions and probably more. In fact, I managed 120 for the year. So, basically, you have to write a lot and submit a lot to accumulate 100 rejections in a year. I did both, and that’s a good thing.
  2. 100 rejections means you (should) learn quite a bit about the markets you’re submitting to. That definitely happened, and with each rejection, especially the upper-tier and personal varieties, I learned more about what specific markets wanted. That data paid off, and last year I cracked a couple of markets that had rejected me more than ten times prior.
  3. 100 rejections (should) mean more acceptances. Why? Mostly because of the first two points. The more stories you submit, and the more you learn about the markets you’re submitting to, the better your chance of acceptance. So, yeah, I set a yearly record for rejections, but I also set a yearly record for acceptances at 19.

Okay, those are the broad reasons why I set a goal of 100 rejections, but let me break it down a bit further and really dig into the data.

1) Total Markets: 48

My rejections came from 48 distinct markets, most of which I’ve submitted to before. That said, I did get rejected by 15 new markets, some of which were established this year.

2) Total Stories: 29

I had 29 distinct stories rejected in 2018. I’d say around half were stories I started and finished in 2018. The others were a mix of reprints or stories I’d started or finished in 2017 (or earlier).

3) Form Rejections: 67; Upper Tier Form Rejections: 18; Personal Rejections: 15

So, 67% of my rejections were standard form rejections, which is about what I’d expect from the markets I focused on in 2018 (pro and semi-pro). The upper-tier and personal rejections include three short-list rejections.

4) Most Rejections for a Single Story: 10

That’s a lot, but nowhere near my record (21), and this story is out for submission again. I think the story is one of my better ones, and it’s gotten some decent feedback, so, hopefully, it’ll find a home in 2019.

5) Story with Most Rejections Before Acceptance: 8

The story “When the Lights Go On” is, I think, one of the best pieces of flash fiction I’ve written, and it was responsible for two of the short-list rejections I mentioned above (all from pro markets). So, why did it take so long to get published? It’s just part of the gig. Good stories get rejected all the time, but when you’re making short lists and getting good personal rejections, you gotta keep sending that sucker out because it WILL find a home.

6) Rejected Stories Published: 9

Nine of my 29 rejected stories did go on to get published. This does not count reprints that were published prior to 2018. The average number of rejections for these pieces is 5 (most of those coming in 2018).

7) Most Rejections from a Single Market: 8

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to crack this particular pro market in 2018, but I came close. I did, however, get published by the runner up, who had rejected me 7 times.


That’s how I got to 100 rejections in 2018. I’m gonna shoot for the same goal in 2019. Though I hope it will be harder to hit next year, I want to keep up the same level of production, just with a few more acceptances in the mix. 🙂

A New Rejection Record

I’ve written a couple of posts on my various rejections records, lists of dubious achievements in number, speed, and type of rejections. Because I send out so many submissions, it should come as no surprise that a lot of these records don’t stand for long. Today, I’d like to share a new rejection record with you and tell you why this particular record is a source of motivation rather than a source of frustration.

The record I recently broke (multiple times) was for most rejections from a single publisher. My old record was nine (9). Before I get to the new record, there are some honorable mentions I’d like to discuss.

  • Honorable Mention #1 – Rejections 8; Acceptances 1
  • Honorable Mention #2 – Rejections 10; Acceptances 1

As you can see, after a healthy number of rejections (even a short-lived record-setter) I finally broke through with these publishers. One is a pro market and the other is semi-pro. The reason I mention these two is to encourage folks not to give up on a market just because they’ve been rejected a bunch. Sometimes you have to keep trying until you find the right story. I managed to do that with these two markets, and it’s a highlight of my year.

Now, on to the record.

My new record for most rejections by a single publisher is . . . SIXTEEN (16).

I know, some of you are  thinking, goddamn, take a hint! I might think that too, but let me tell you why I keep trying.

First, this is a professional market with a very low acceptance rate. As with most top-tier markets, they’re tough to crack even with a good story. I know that kind of sounds like an excuse, but I’ve seen editors from similar markets publicly state they turn away quality stories all the time for a myriad of (good) reasons. (Another reason you shouldn’t give up on a market or story, but more on that below).

Second, my rejections from this publisher are getting “better.” Earlier in the year, after a bunch of standard form rejections, I received a second-round rejection (sort an upper-tier rejection), and my last rejection was a short-list rejection, which means I was at least within spitting distance of publication. I’d call that progress.

With these factors in mind, I’ll continue to submit to this market because I have a better idea of the type of story they want, and my chances at publication are better than they’ve ever been (still not great, but better). Again, I’m telling you this because rejections don’t necessarily mean you should give up on a market (or a story, for that matter). If you’re working on and refining your craft (and your submission targeting), then keep trying, keep submitting, and you might find the right story to crack that tough market.

If you’d like to see my other rejections records, check out these posts.

I’v broken a few more records this year, so look for an updated list of my rejectomantic achievements in 2019.


Got a rejection record you’d like to share? Tell me about it in the comments.

Submissions: No Accounting for Taste

The old saying goes one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. That’s applicable to a wide variety of creative endeavors, and writing is no exception. What I mean is that when you send out submissions, whether or not you get published is due to a number of factors. The two biggest are write a good story and make sure that story is appropriate for the market. Another important one, I think, is editorial preference. Even if you nail the first two elements (good story and good for the market), the person reading your story has to, you know, like it, and that is a pretty subjective thing. Let me see if I can illustrate the point with some of my own submissions.

The chart below includes eight stories and five markets – two pro markets, two semi-pro markets, and one token market. I send a lot of stories to these five publishers and they all generally publish the same type of material, namely speculative fiction that includes, fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. I also end up sending the same story to these markets after one or more of them rejects it. Take a look.

Pro 1 Pro 2 Semi-Pro  1 Semi-Pro 2 Token 1
Story 1 Accepted Rejected
Story 2 Rejected Rejected Accepted Rejected
Story 3 Accepted Rejected Rejected
Story 4 Rejected Accepted
Story 5 Accepted Rejected Rejected
Story 6 Accepted Rejected
Story 7 Accepted Rejected
Story 8 Rejected Accepted

I’m not using the names of the stories or the names of the markets because I don’t want to give the impression that any of these publishers are wrong for rejecting my stories or right for accepting them. This is just a sampling of my submissions to illustrate my point that editorial preference (which is neither right nor wrong) plays a role in getting published.

If editorial preference plays a significant role, how do you improve your chances of acceptance? Well, that’s where submission targeting comes in. For starters, you should read sample stories from the magazine, which’ll give you a good idea of the content the editors like. That said, I find once I start getting responses from editors in the form of rejections or acceptances, I can really drill down on their preferences (especially if they’re kind enough to give me some feedback).

Sometimes you hit the mark right off the bat. For example, pro market 1 and semi-pro market 2 accepted the first stories I sent them, and that helped me narrow down what to send them next. The result? I’ve been accepted by both markets a number of times. On the other side of that coin are pro market 2 and semi-pro market 1. I had seven and ten stories rejected by those markets respectively before I broke through. The stories they accepted had a very specific style and that told me A LOT about what I should be sending these publishers.

The take away here, for me at least, is there’s no exact formula, no foolproof plan to getting a story accepted. You have to commit to perfecting your style and craft, be diligent with your research, and, yes, accept a fair amount of trial and error. In addition, don’t give up on a market just because they’ve rejected you a bunch. It might be that you simply haven’t sent them the right story yet.


Thoughts on editorial preference? Tell me about them in the comments.

How Many Rejections Add up to an Acceptance?

I was perusing my Twitter feed recently, and I happened upon a tweet asking about the maximum number of rejections authors have received before they sold a story. My personal record is sixteen, and while I think that’s a bit of a fluke, I rarely have one-and-done submissions either. I find this subject fascinating because, for me, it’s one of the core principles in my submission philosophy. What I mean is, yes, you have to write a good story, but you also have to send that story to the right market at the right time.

To illustrate my point–and because I love charts and data and stuff–let’s take a look at my acceptances this year and see how many rejection each story racked up before it was accepted.

Story Rejections
Luck Be a Bullet 2
New Arrivals 2
The Food Bank 3
Scare Tactics 6
Simulacra 1
Two Legs 5
Burning Man 7
The Inside People 2
Do Me a Favor 0
Scar 6
What Kind of Hero 8
Far Shores and Ancient Graves 2
Bear Necessity 0
Old as the Trees 2
Time Waits for One Man 0
When the Lights Go On 9

That’s an average of about three and a half rejections per story. Not too bad. One of the stories “Scare Tactics” is interesting because it’s a reprint, and I’ve now sold it twice after it’s initial six rejections. Another interesting one is “Far Shores and Ancient Graves” because it’s my first acceptance from a market that has rejected me ten times prior. (I could write a whole blog post about not giving up on a market just because they’ve rejected you before, but I’ll save that for another time.) But let’s look at two stories at the extreme ends of my chart, “When the Lights Go On” and “Time Waits for One Man.” They were both ultimately accepted, but “Time Waits for One Man” sold on its first submission while it took ten submissions to find a home for “When the Lights Go On.” Why is that?

Could it be simple quality that determined the fates of these two stories? Though I’m hardly unbiased, I think these two stories represent some of the best flash pieces I’ve written, and “When the Lights Go On” was short listed three times by pro markets and received very positive feedback. Was it submission targeting that made the difference? That’s always a bit of a gamble, but I sent “When the Lights Go On” to markets with which I’m very familiar. Which leads me to genre. Could that be a factor? Maybe. “When the Lights Go On” is sci-fi with a strong horror element and “Time Waits for One Man” is firmly urban fantasy. Admittedly, horror can be a tough sell for some markets, even if the story is within the primary genres they publish, so that could have played a role.

Taking all the above into account, why was “Time Waits for One Man” accepted on its first submission while nine publishers passed on “When the Lights Go On?” Well, with the possible exception of the horror element, I’d chalk it up to two things. Editorial taste and dumb luck. Though a number of publishers liked “When the Lights Go On” and said as much, it wasn’t quite what they were looking for. Whereas “Time Waits for One Man” happened to be more or less exactly what one market (and editor) wanted. I just lucked out and sent the story to them first. I think that easily might have happened with “When the Lights Go On.”

To sum up, remember, good stories get rejected all the time, and nearly every story on my list was rejected by a market that ultimately accepted another story on my list. So don’t get discouraged because your story receives a couple of rejections (or nine). It might mean you just haven’t sent to the right market yet.


What’s your record for number of rejections before you sold a story? Tell me about it in the comments.