Submission Top Ten: Shortest Waits

Last week I showed you my ten longest waits for submissions. This week, I’m gonna flip the script and show you the ten shortest waits. So, without further ado, here they are:

Time Elapsed Result Sold
1 10 minutes Rejection
2 17 minutes Acceptance Yes (2)
3 46 minutes Rejection
4 49 minutes Rejection Yes
5 1 hour, 37 minutes Rejection
6 1 hour, 52 minutes Higher-Tier Rejection
7 2 hours, 30 minutes Rejection
8 2 hours, 58 minutes Rejection
9 3 hours, 22 minutes Rejection Yes (3)
10 4 hours, 6 minutes Higher-Tier Rejection

Instead of going through each one of these (they’re all pretty similar), I’ll just give you the highlights.

  • Yep, 10 minutes is my record, and it’s one I’ll probably never break. You might be thinking, “Wow, they must really hate your work,” but that is apparently not the case, as they’ve since bought a story from me. This market is just one that rejects quickly, and they could likely tell within the first paragraph the story wasn’t going to work for them. You might also be wondering if I just really screwed up the formatting or missed some other crucial guideline. I thought the same thing, and I went back over the submission with a fine-toothed comb. As far as I can tell, the submission was formatted correctly.
  • My second shortest wait was an acceptance, which is another record I doubt I’ll ever break. They bought another story from me a few weeks later, but the response took almost THREE DAYS, an eternity compared to the first submission. ūüôā
  • There’s ten spots here, but they only cover four markets. One of the markets has five slots, and another has three. These are both well-known for rejecting (and accepting) very quickly.
  • Three of the stories here I’ve gone on to sell to other markets, sometimes multiple times as reprints. I’m only pointing that out because the speed of rejection often has a lot more to do with the market than your story.
  • Most of these are form rejections, but there’s a couple of higher-tier rejections, and I’ve even gotten full-blown personal rejections with tons of feedback on next-day responses. So, just because a market responds quickly doesn’t meant they didn’t read your story or gave it due consideration.
  • You might be wondering if these speedy rejections bother me. They don’t. I appreciate how quickly these markets respond, as it means I can send the story out again (or make revisions) almost right away.

That’s my top ten shortest waits. Tell me about some of yours, especially if you’ve beaten my record time for a rejection or an acceptance. ūüôā

The Rejectomantic Arts: Reading the Wait

As you know, rejectomancy is the practice of divining hidden meaning from rejection. This is the most commonly done with rejection letters, but rejectomancy is a broad tent sheltering many mystical writerly arts. You see, a writer looks for meaning, patterns, and validation in more than just rejection letters. They will attempt to apply other forms of literary prognostication to, well, just about everything related to the submission process. In this post we’ll examine the merits (or lack thereof) of one of these esoteric arts: reading the wait.

What is reading the wait? It is the rejectomantic practice of finding hidden meaning not in the rejections themselves but how long it takes for them to arrive. I’ve touched on this subject in past blog posts, but this time I have a sterling example of how it works (in my brain, at last).

There’s one pro publisher to whom I’ve submitted over a dozen times without an acceptance, though I’ve gotten close (and I’ll keep trying). I have enough data points on when they send rejections I think I¬†can see patterns and then apply a little rejectomancy. Here’s what I mean. According to Duotrope, this market rejects a story on an average of sixteen days and accepts a story on an average of thirty-eight days. So, if one of my stories is held beyond sixteen days, I may begin to hope. I have other data points too. I received a higher-tier rejection after twenty-nine days, so if a story is held longer than that, I may really begin to hope. Finally, I received a close-but-no-cigar rejections after forty-three days, which means if I start getting into the the mid-thirties, I think, “Hey, maybe I have a real chance.”

But is there any real information to be gained by my literary tea leaf reading? Maybe a little, depending on the market, but you shouldn’t hang your hat on it. The publisher above is pretty consistent, and most of my form rejections have come within a few days of their average response time, but a few have come as many as eleven days after. It’s possible the longer this market (or any market) holds a story the better, but there are so many factors that could influence the wait time that have nothing to do with your story (a large glut of submissions, editors or slush readers on vacation, when you send the submission, etc.). In other words, it can be misleading to read too much into it. This is especially true with markets that send further consideration letters. A market like Apex or Pseudopod, for example, will straight up tell you they’re holding your story for further consideration or kicking it up to the editors. No rejectomancy necessary (and, yes, I think it’s okay to hope a little at that point).

In summation, it’s fun to read into wait times, but, as hard as it may be, I wouldn’t put much stock in it. I’ve had a market with an average wait time for acceptances of seventy-five days accept my story in three, and a market with a rejection wait time of four days send me a form rejection in sixty. After three-hundred-some rejections, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s likely best to look at each submission in a vacuum with it’s own set of invisible parameters and wait times unknowable to even the most skilled rejectomancer. It might not be as fun, but it’ll be easier on your sanity. ūüôā


Thoughts on reading the wait? Tell me about it in the comments.

Charting the Rejection Progression

As I’ve discussed many times on the blog, there are different tiers of rejection letters that may indicate how close you might have came to an acceptance. Now, spread across multiple publishers, the differences in these rejections may not be so apparent, but when they come from the same¬†publisher you can often see the progress you’re making. As usual, I have examples!

I’m going to show you three rejections from the same pro market, and I think you’ll see the progression I’m talking about.

Rejection 1*

Thank you for considering [publisher] for your story, [story title]. 

Unfortunately we have decided not to accept it. We wish you the best of luck finding a home for your story elsewhere. 

A polite but unremarkable standard form rejection like you might see from a dozen different publishers. I racked up five or six more just like this, but I was undeterred. This is very tough market, and I knew I was gonna have to dial in my submission targeting to have a chance of getting through.

Rejection 2

Thank you for considering [publisher] for your story, [Story Title]. 

Though several of our staff members enjoyed the story, it did not receive enough votes to make it to the third and final round of voting. We wish you the best of luck finding a home for this story elsewhere and hope you will consider us for future submissions. 

Well, okay, now we’re getting somewhere. As they said in this very informative rejection, the story made some progress, but ultimately it wasn’t for them. I learned some things here. This story is a bit different from what I’d been sending, so in my next original fiction submissions to this publisher I tried to choose work closer in tone and voice to this one.

Rejection 3

Thank you for considering [publisher] for your story, [story title]

Unfortunately we have decided not to accept it. 

As much as we wish we could, we can’t publish every good story that comes our way. Truthfully, we’re forced to return a great many stories with merits that make them well worthy of publication, including yours.¬†

Your story did, however, reach the final stage of our selection process–one among an elite group. Less than 5% of stories make it this far. That is no small feat.¬†

We wish you the best of luck finding a home for your story elsewhere, feel confident of your success in doing so, and hope to receive submissions from you in the future. 

Now this is a good¬†rejection and it tells me so much. I know my story got close, so I learned a lot about the kind of stories they’re looking for. They also sent me detailed feedback, which was immensely helpful, and I’ve since revised the story based on the issues they called out. It’s a better story now, and I feel pretty confident it’ll find a home soon.

So, what conclusions can we draw from this progression? For one, don’t give up on a market, especially a tough one, just because you’re racking up rejections. This is even more important if you’re getting rejections like the last two examples. Sometimes rejections are like playing a game of Battleship– a few close misses can tell you an awful lot about where your target might be. Also, it’s important to understand when you get one of those higher-tier or close-but-no-cigar rejections from a market like this, you likely have a good and salable story on your hands. Yes, it wasn’t right for this publisher, but you can have some confidence the next one (or the one after that) might dig it.

*As I often do, I removed certain elements from these rejections that might identify the publisher or story in question. My goal, of course, is never to “call out” an editor or publication for a rejection (that’s stupid and immature) but to present informative examples like these so we can learn from them.


Thoughts on these rejections? Do you have a rejection progression of your own? Tell me about it in the comments.

300 Rejections or THIS. IS. NOT FOR US!

A few days ago I received my 300th rejection. Well, that’s not entirely true, but it’s the 300th since I started tracking my submissions diligently through Duotrope, so I’m gonna run with it for the cool 300 Spartans vibe.

How do I feel hitting this milestone? Pretty good, actually. It is a lot of rejections, but just about right, I think, for how long I’ve been submitting and for the markets I’ve been submitting to. I also think the numbers show some serious progress both in the amount I’m submitting and how many stories are getting through despite all those rejections. Now, what else can we learn from all those rejections? What rejectomantic secrets does the data hold? Let’s dive in and take a look.

Rejections by Year

Year Rejections
2012 5
2013 12
2014 27
2015 38
2016 42
2017 60
2018 100
2019 16 (so far)

At some point in 2012 I discovered Duotrope and started tracking my submissions there. I was still pretty tentative with submitting short fiction, as you can tell my the minuscule number of rejections. I had been writing and editing professionally (mostly in the tabletop gaming industry) for some time, but the world of short fiction submissions was still new to me. My submission rate (and rejections) went up every year after that, and last year I hit the vaunted 100-rejection mark. We’ll see what this year brings, but I’m currently on pace for roughly the same number of rejections as last year (but hopefully more acceptances).

Wait Times

Days Notes
Fastest 0 10 minutes
Slowest 419
Average 27

Yeah, that note on the fastest turn time is not a mistake. That rejection came ten minutes after I sent the submission. I don’t think that a record I’m gonna break any time soon.

The slowest rejection is also kind of a strange one. After about 90 days I sent a submission status query. I got no response, so I sent a withdrawal letter a few weeks later and began submitting the story elsewhere. Nearly a year later, I received a rejection, and a shortlist, we almost published you rejection at that.

As you can see, the average is about where you’d expect it, even with the two outliers. In my experience, most genre markets are going to get back to you in around a month or less.

Most Rejected Stories

Rejections Notes
23 No acceptances
17 Accepted
10-12 7 stories, 4 acceptances

Okay, so this one highlights my personal philosophy on submissions, namely that getting a story accepted has a lot to do with putting the right story in front of the right editor at the right time. So, yes, I do have a hard-luck loser twenty-three rejections, but that story has been short-listed three times and received a lot of good feedback, so I keep sending it out, and I believe it’ll find a home eventually.

The second story was rejected seventeen times before it was finally accepted, and it was similar to the first story in that it racked up short-lists and personal rejections, but I just needed to find the right market for it.

Finally, I have seven stories that have been rejected ten times or more, and I’ve sold four of them, and the other three are out for submission right now.

Most Rejected Markets

Rejections Notes
28 13 acceptances
16 no acceptances

Yep, twenty-eight rejections from a single market is a lot, but that number is a little deceiving since they’ve also published me thirteen times. I also tend to send them submissions in batches, so that inflates the numbers a bit.

The second market is a pro market that I’ve been trying to crack for a long time. My last submission got achingly close, and I hope to place a story with them soon.

Unique Stories/Markets

Total Accepted
Unique Stories 65 32
Unique Markets 95 13

My total rejections comprise sixty-five unique stories, roughly half of which I’ve managed to publish. That’s a pretty good ratio, I think, and it doesn’t count a number of stories that were one and done submissions (that’s becoming a little more common for me).

I have been rejected by ninety-five unique markets, thirteen of which have published me at some point. This number needs a little explanation. For one, it doesn’t include markets that I’ve submitted to and have not yet rejected me (there are a few). It also includes a number of publishers, twenty-six in fact, that went out of business after a single submission. Many of the remaining markets I don’t submit to any longer, and I’d say my core target publishers is probably about fifteen to twenty semi-pro and pro magazines/zines, with the occasional anthology or contest thrown in.


I won’t bore you with more stats, but I think these numbers give a pretty good snap shot of what 300 rejections means. We’ll talk again when I hit 400 rejections. ūüôā

Hit any rejection milestones of your own lately? Tell me about it in the comments.

The Rejection Archives: Rejection #84 (Personal)

Time to dive back into the Rejectomancy vault and fish out another rejection from my collection of nos and not for us’s. We’re gonna stick with the same theme as last week, and I’ll show you another detailed personal rejection. Here it is:

Rejection Number: 84
Story Sent: 12/20/2015
Rejection Received: 1/31/2016
Rejection Type: Personal Rejection

Thanks for letting us see [Story Title].¬† I regret to say that it’s just not right for [Publisher].

It’s a solid piece, with some good characters and good tension. Unfortunately, by the end, I’m afraid it just didn’t “grab” me the way it might have.¬† I’ve been sitting here thinking why not, and it occurs to me that I never really connected with [main character].¬† Maybe if it had been first-person instead of third-person.¬† That’s not a request for a rewrite (I don’t make too many of those).¬† It’s just a thought.

In any event, I’m sorry.¬† Best of luck with this one in other markets.

Last week I showed you a personal rejection from an editor where I largely rejected the feedback (mostly because I thought it came down to an issue of personal taste). This rejection, however, got me thinking, because the editor highlighted something that does pop up in my work–main characters that are difficult to connect with. The editor’s suggestion of making this a first-person POV instead of third-person turned out to be what the story needed. I made that change, which allowed me to dig deeper into the MC’s thoughts, motivations, and personality. Now, that wouldn’t work for every story, but this one in particular benefited from the closer POV. This is a great example of a helpful rejection, and I’m grateful to this editor for taking the time to point out what they thought needed to change in the story.

I’m still shopping this piece, but I’m confident it’s a better story than it was, and I think it’ll find a home soon.


Thoughts about this rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

If you’d like to read the other posts in this series, check out the links below:

  1. The Rejection Archives: Rejection #1 (Form)
  2. The Rejection Archives: Rejection #7 (Personal)

The Rejection Archives: Rejection #7 (Personal)

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 (Form)

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.