Swings & Misses III: The Rejection Streak Strikes Back

Back in late 2017, I suffered the longest rejection streak of my writing career. If you’re interested, I covered that streak in a post titled Swings & Misses II: The Rejection Streak. Well, friends, I am currently working on the second-longest rejection streak in my career, though in terms of actual duration, this one tops the charts. I thought it might be interesting to look at these two periods of, uh, unsuccess, and see if there are any similarities, any differences, and, well, anything that might give me a clue as to why I’m not seeing the ball very well (to use baseball parlance). First, lets take a look at the raw numbers for each period.

2017-2018 2020-2021
Rejections 27 18
Duration 12/9/17 to 2/18/18 12/27/20 to 3/12/21
Duration (Days) 74 76
Unique Stories 13 14
-Flash Fiction 8 9
-Short Stories 5 4
Markets 17 14
-Pro 12 10
-Semi-Pro 5 4
-Token 1 0

As you can see, there are quite a few similarities between the two streaks. They both occurred at almost the exact same part off the year, lasted roughly the same amount of time (though my current streak is ongoing), and included about the same number of stories. The ratio of flash to short stories is similar as are the types of markets I was submitting to. These numbers are interesting, but do they tell the story of why I’m missing more than hitting? I have some thoughts.

  • Dumb Luck: Gotta get this one out of the way. Whether we want to believe it or not, there is absolutely an element of luck involved in getting a story accepted. As I’ve said many, many times, selling a story is about putting the right story in front of the right editor at the right time. If you’re missing one of those elements, you get a rejection. There are going to be times when you just can’t get those three elements to align, and, well, see the numbers above.
  • Tough Markets: As you can see, the markets I was sending stories too during these periods are mostly pro and semi-pro publishers. It’s often harder to place stories with these markets, and they constitute some of the most difficult to crack in the industry. That’s certainly a factor in something like a rejection streak, but this and luck are factors outside of my control. What about things that are, for lack of a better word, my fault.
  • Submission Targeting: If there’s a hole in my submission game, it’s likely this, and I could be a bit better about sending the right stories to the right markets. In my (feeble) defense, my stories, especially lately, tend to mash-up genres that make them more difficult to sell to markets that specialize in one particular genre or another. Still, both periods of unsuccess feature a number of stories with double digit rejections. Now, some of those from 2017-18, I did manage to sell eventually, but had my submission targeting been a better, I might have ended that streak much sooner than I did. As you might have guessed, there are a couple of double-digit darlings in this current streak as well.
  • Tired Tales: If you were to look at the stories I submitted in these two periods, you might be surprised to see some of the same stories pop up in both. Yeah, I have a couple of stories, loveable losers if you will, that have been rejected more than 20 times each, yet I keep running them out there. I’m stubborn with these two because I think they have merit, and I think I will eventually sell them. Problem is, there is every chance I am just dead wrong, and every time I run these dogs out there, they’re gonna come back whining, tail between their legs. I often let these stories sit for months, even years, and then think, hey, maybe this is the year. Well, just about every time I get that in my head the rejections start rolling in. Maybe this time I’ll learn. 🙂

I will say that this current slump doesn’t have me quite as dejected as the last one. Back in 2017 I started to believe I’d never sell a story again, but then I went on to sell something like 50 stories over the next three years. I know I will break this current streak, just like I broke the last one. I have enough faith in my writing now that I am certain there is light at the end of this tunnel, even if I can’t quite see it yet.


Have you ever had a lengthy rejection streak? Feel free to share and commiserate in the comments.

(Fun fact: The 18th rejection in my current streak arrived between the writing and posting of this article.)

Weeks of Writing: 2/22/21 to 3/7/21

A couple more weeks of writing come and gone. Check it out.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from Joseph Heller.

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.”

~ Joseph Heller

I feel this one in my soul. Writing is rarely easy for me. I struggle to get started, I struggle to keep going, and I struggle to finish. I actually accomplish these things by gritting my teeth, steadfastly ignoring the demons of doubt and fear, and just getting on with it by sheer force of will. Maybe it’s not this way for some authors, but I’m with Joseph Heller. This shit is hard, and though it does get easier to some extent the more I do it, it has yet to get easy. But, you know, maybe it shouldn’t be easy. Maybe the struggle, and more importantly, overcoming that struggle, is how you produce your best work. There does seem to be a correlation between how hard a piece is for me to write and how good it is (or how quickly I sell it). So maybe I need to embrace the trouble and come to terms with the idea that it just means I’m on the right writerly path.

The Novel

Making excellent progress on Late Risers, and I’m nearly finished with revisions (like 95%). I’m also working on the synopsis, my author CV, and a few other things I need to start shopping it around. I received a third set of critique partner notes on my other novel Hell to Play, and with the other two sets, I now have a clear course charted on how to take the book to the next level. I hope to get Late Risers out the door this month, and then dive into Hell to Play in April.

Short Story Submissions

A few more submissions in the last couple of weeks. Not too bad.

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 1
  • Pending: 9

Three submissions in the last two weeks, which puts me at eighteen total for the year. More or less on track for one-hundred. I basically need an average of two per week, which, so far, I’m doing. Other than a couple of subs, I did have a story get shortlisted at a pro market I’ve been trying to crack for years. I’ve been shortlisted there before, though, so I’m not gonna get my hopes up too high. Only one rejection in the last couple of weeks and still no acceptances for 2021. This is a weird business. You can go gangbusters for months and then just run into a dry spell that’ll suck the confidence and motivation right out of you. The only thing you can do is keep writing, keep submitting, and keep trusting in your work.

I did make substantial progress last week on a new short story, which I should finish this week. That’ll give me more submission grist for the rejection mill. 🙂

Night Walk

We’re getting closer to the release of my first collection of flash fiction Night Walk and Other Dark paths. Last week we interviewed Valerie Herron, the artist responsible for the excellent cover and interior art for the anthology. We asked Valerie about her work, her influences, and how she got to be such a badass artist. You can check out her interview by clicking the full jacket art for Night Walk below.

Goals

Still working toward finishing the revision of Late Risers (I’m nearly there). Gonna try and finish the short story I worked on last week and maybe get a couple of submissions out.


And those were my weeks. How were yours?

Submission Statement: February 2021

Another month come and gone. Here’s how I did.

February 2021 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 5
  • Rejections: 6
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Further Consideration: 0

February was, well, not spectacular. I would have liked more submissions, fewer rejections, and, you know, maybe an acceptance. None of that was to be, unfortunately. The five submissions for the month give me sixteen for the year, and I sent one out this morning for seventeen. So I’m still on pace for one-hundred subs. No acceptances yet, which is a little disconcerting, though 2020 started off slow too, and it definitely picked up. I just need to be patient. The acceptances will come. (Oh, god, PLEASE the acceptances come.)

Rejections

Six rejections this month.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 4
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 2
  • Personal Rejections: 0

Six more rejection in February, all of the form variety. Not much to report there, honestly; they were all pretty run of the mill. One of the upper-tier rejections was from a pro market I’d never submitted to previously, so that’s mildly encouraging. I’ll definitely sub there again.

Publications

The only publication I had in February (which I didn’t tally above) is my monthly Rejectomancy article at Dark Matter Magazine. Also, my story “The Past, History” was published in their second issue, which came out today. I’ll count that one officially in the March tally. In the meantime, you can check out my article on submission wait times by clicking the link below.

The Long Game: Publisher Response Times


And that was my month. Hopefully, yours was better. 🙂

Write What You Know: I Just Work Here

One of my favorite books about the craft is Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s chocked full of interesting anecdotes and useful tidbits about King’s approach to the written word (definitely check it out if you haven’t already). Much of that book has stuck with me over the years, but one of my favorite bits is not one you might expect. Here it is:

People love to read about work. God knows why, but they do. If you’re a plumber who enjoys science fiction, you might well consider a novel about a plumber aboard a starship or on an alien planet.”

This jumped off the page at me, and not just because I want to read about a space plumber (and I totally do). It’s that I wholeheartedly agree, and I love to read about people’s work. If a novel or story goes into detail about a profession I know nothing about, be it carpentry or cattle ranching, I’m hooked. But why? King goes into a fair amount of detail about that, and here’s what I took away from it.

One, writing about something you know intimately–like your job–injects authenticity into your work. When an author knows the lingo and the ins and outs of a profession it increases immersion. Two, readers like characters they can relate to, especially if the story contains aliens, demons, or other fantastical things. If your story is written from the perspective of a recognizable profession, it gives the reader a familiar lens through which to view the more otherworldly elements of your story. It makes it easier to suspend disbelief.

I think this concept can also apply to a profession or activity you know a lot about (hobbies and the like) or one you have researched thoroughly. It doesn’t have to be your actual job. Also, if you’re passionate about the subject, that often comes through.

I make no bones about Stephen King being a huge influence on my work, so not surprisingly, I’ve written a number of stories about folks doing their jobs and running into something weird or horrific in the process. Here are some of my favorite examples.

“Night Games” – This short story is about a vampire that plays minor league baseball. The sport is a huge passion of mine, and I have pretty extensive knowledge of the rules and history of America’s Pastime. I used some of that knowledge and based the story loosely off one of the weirder incidents in baseball history (look up the name Tyler Colvin). Of course, the danger with injecting so much of one subject into a story is that, well, some folks (including editors) have no interest in that subject. “Night Games” received a couple of “Nope. Too much baseball” rejections before I sold it to Devilfish Review and then again to Pseudopod.

“The Back-Off” – I’m fascinated with gambling, especially cards, and I study poker and blackjack on a regular basis. (I only play rarely and not particularly well.) One thing that really interests me are card cheats, how they operate, and how casinos deal with them. “The Back-Off” is the story of a low-level mob boss who runs a casino and encounters what he thinks is a man cheating at blackjack. In the story, I go into a lot of detail about card counting, which is not technically cheating, but tell that to the casinos. Anyway, all the information I give the reader about card counting adds shape to the narrative and clues in both the main character and the reader that something far more dangerous is going on. Now, again, if you have no interest in blackjack or card counting, this story might not work for you, and it racked up more than a few rejections before I sold it to On Spec. 

“Outdoor Space” – My wife works in real estate and has done so for nearly two decades. To say that I’ve absorbed a bit of real estate knowledge over the years is an understatement. Now, real estate may not sound like the kind of job you want to base a story on, but if you add a little twist, well, you might have something. “Outdoor Space” is a humorous flash fiction story about a real estate agent in a post-apocalyptic world. Imagine Mad Max running an open house and you’ll get the idea. Admittedly, it’s a kooky concept, but it was a lot of fun to write, and folks seemed to dig it. I sold that one pretty quick. 🙂

Oddly, I’ve never written a story about an author or editor, which are two professions I’ve obviously done. Other writers–King among them–do a fine job writing about writers, but for some reason, I can never do it convincingly.


Have you used the relatable job + weird twist in your writing? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 2/15/21 to 2/21/21

Another week of writing, submitting, revising, the works.

Words to Write By

This week we return to the bottomless well of writerly wisdom that is Elmore Leonard.

“All the information you need can be given in dialogue.”

― Elmore Leonard

If you’re not particularly adept at describing people, places, and things and you don’t want to commit the sin of dropping massive chunks of exposition on your readers, well, then dialogue might be your best friend. My work is often dialogue heavy–it’s the first thing I hear when a story starts to take shape in my head–and I often use it to shore up some of my writerly weaknesses. Like Mr. Leonard says, you can give a lot of information in dialogue, and if you do it right, it doesn’t feel like you’re hitting folks over the head with the ol’ exposition hammer. My characters often move the story along by talking to each other, and the pacing of my longer works is dictated by dialogue. Of course, I can get a little self indulgent at times and write chapters that feel like two people nattering away without much purpose. That’s usually a sign that the chapter needs to be written in a manner I’m not comfortable with (those writerly weaknesses I mentioned) or that I just need to cut the whole thing. In my current novel revisions, I’ve done a bit of both.

The Novel

Had a good week with revisions, and I made it through some 120 pages of Late Risers, tightening the prose and cutting a fair bit of material to improve pacing. There’s still more to do, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My goal is to be finished with this revision by March 2nd, then start shopping the book soon thereafter. Then I’ll move on to an interim project–a novella I’ve been wanting to write. After that, it’s back to revision land with my other novel Hell to Play.

Short Story Submissions

Not exactly killing it with submissions in February

  • Submissions Sent: 1
  • Rejections: 0
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0
  • Pending: 8

Only a single submission for the second week in a row. No rejections is nice, but I should hear back on some of my pending submissions soon, and there’s bound to some no’s and not for us’s in there. I’m sitting at fifteen for the year, which is still on pace for 100 submissions, though I should get three more out by the end of the month if I want to start March on the right foot. The lack of submissions is largely due a lack of new stories, compounded by the fact that I’m spending a lot of my writing time on other projects. That’s not a bad thing, but it does have consequences. Once Late Risers is finished, I expect my submission pace to pick up.

Night Walk

In case you missed it or don’t follow me on social media, The Molotov Cocktail is publishing my first collection of flash fiction this spring, titled Night Walk. Recently, Josh Goller, the publisher at The Molotov Cocktail, interviewed me about the collection, my take on flash fiction, my writing process, and a bunch of other writerly musings. You can read the interview by clicking this link or the cover for Night Walk below.

Goals

The big goal is to finish the revision of Late Risers this week. If I get a couple of submissions out too, great, but the book will be my focus.


And that was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 2/8/21 to 2/14/21

A little late, but here’s one more week of authorly activities.

Words to Write By

This week it’s one of my favorite Hemingway quotes.

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

~ Ernest Hemingway

I don’t think there’s ever been a point in my writing career where I wasn’t keenly aware that I needed to get better and also striving to do just that. I believe in order to really get good at this whole writing thing, you have to embrace the fact that there’s no end point, no place where you can stop and say, okay, good enough. Yes, you may get to a point where you’re selling books and making a living and all those other dream scenarios, but I think that constant drive to improve, to make the next story or book just a little bit better is what makes for a “good” writer. I am still very much a work in progress, an apprentice in every sense of the word, and as Hemingway says, I will likely never become a master. That’s fine. Right now I’m setting my sights on accomplished journeyman. 🙂

The Novel

Made very good progress on the final revision of Late Risers last week, and I’m just about halfway through. A lot of what I’m doing is just tightening things up, but my critique partners suggested a few revisions that are more involved. Almost all of them are focused on improving the pacing in the middle of the novel, where the book gets bogged down with conversation and planning. A fair bit of that can be condensed, and I’ve already removed one entire chapter to speed thing sup. When I started revision, the book was at about 105,000 words. I think it’s gonna end up around 95,000, maybe a tad less when it’s all said and done. Anyway, getting there, and I think I’ll have a novel that’s ready to shop around by early March.

Short Story Submissions

Pretty slow week submission-wise.

  • Submissions Sent: 1
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0
  • Pending: 7

Just one submission last week along with one rejection. In other words, not much going on. I’m sitting on fourteen submissions for the year, which still puts me on track for my goal of one-hundred subs. I need to get a few more out this month, but that shouldn’t be difficult. I’m still hunting for that first acceptance of 2021, and I hope it’ll come this month. If not, I just have to keep writing, keep submitting, and cross my fingers.

Night Walk

If you haven’t heard, The Molotov Cocktail is publishing my first collection of flash fiction this spring. The collection, titled Night Walk and Other Dark Paths, contains forty pieces of my best flash fiction. We were lucky enough to get artist Valerie Herron to create an original piece for the cover, which you can check out below. More details on how the collection came together, plus interviews, and other sneak peeks are on the way.

Goals

Keep plowing ahead on the revision of Late Risers and keep writing and submitting short stories. You know, the usual?


And that was my week. How was yours?

First Draft vs. Revision: One Plotter’s Preference

Writing a novel is a process of many individual steps, but all those steps generally fall under two very broad stages: drafting and revising. Just about every author I know prefers one or the other, and I thought I’d share a little about my preference and the challenges I face with the other side.

Well, I prefer drafting by a fucking mile. Like, it’s not even close. I’d rather write the first draft of ten novels than revise one. But why is that? Let me see if I can explain. It’s important to note that everything I’m about to say is how drafting and revising are for ME. It’s different for other writers, but some of you might relate to my challenges and maybe get some ideas from my solutions. Okay, let’s dive in.

Drafting is awesome because . . .
  1. Clear goals. When I’m writing a first draft, I start with a detailed outline, and I know where the story is going. I know how it begins, I know what happens in the middle, and I know how it ends. Sure, things might change a little in the writing, but generally the overall plan doesn’t change that much. Having that well-defined goal leads to my next point.
  2. Momentum. I write at least 2,000 words per day when I’m drafting, and I track it all in a spreadsheet. I can see the novel taking shape as the words pile up, and it motivates me. I target 90,000 words for a novel, so I KNOW when I hit 30,000, I’m a third of the way there. When I hit 45,000, I’m halfway done. Those little benchmarks are the wind in my sails, and they really drive me on.
  3. Fix it in post. For some reason, when I’m writing a first draft, I can shove all the self-doubt and fear to the back of my mind with one simple phrase. Fix it in post. Yep, I essentially tell myself, don’t look back, keep going, finish the draft, and anything that’s wrong you can fix in revision. Yeah, you see the problem too, huh? 🙂 Anyway, that mantra or philosophy allows me to crank out a 90,000-word novel in a two or three months.
Revision sucks because . . .
  1. Where am I going? When I start revising, I always have this aimless feeling of not knowing where to begin. Now, of course, I have notes from my critique readers ,and I’m generally pretty certain on what needs to be fixed. For some reason, it’s harder for me to just start at the beginning and work through the revision. I always feel like I need to jump around, which only enhances that lost feeling.
  2. I’m gonna fuck it up. The other thing that plagues me during revision is this unshakable dread that I’m gonna make the draft much, much worse. Even if I fix glaring issues, I feel like the novel is still gonna end up being worse off for the changes. This is nonsense, of course; the novel is almost always better in revision (most novels are). Still, the feeling remains, and I think one of the main culprits is the exact thing that helps me write first drafts.
  3. Fix it in post. Let’s look closer at this phrase and what it is I’m actually doing. Essentially, I’m taking all that self-doubt and fear and pushing it ahead to the future. It’s like I’m buying the first draft on credit, and at some point, the bill is gonna come due. So what I’ve done is turn the revision into a place where problems and doubt live, which makes the whole process more difficult. Maybe it’s a necessary trade-off, but is there a way to make revision easier for me? I think there is.
Revisions Revised

How can I turn the revision process into a more positive experience? How can I take it from something that is a painful (though necessary) chore to something I might actually derive satisfaction from? I have some ideas.

  1. Outline it. One of the primary reasons I do so well with first drafts is that I am a dedicated plotter, and I feel like revision is this grand act of pantsing. But does it have to be? If I plot out the revisions on a spreadsheet the way I do my outlines and word count goals, I could see that clear ending and beginning and how to get there. That might alleviate some of that aimless feeling.
  2. Fix it in post (mostly). Though I do believe this philosophy helps me get first drafts done, and I don’t want to mess with that, sometimes I’ll write a scene that needs work. I’ll know that when I finish it, and I might even leave myself a note on how to fix it when I start revisions. I think I could probably take some of the pressure off myself if I occasionally just went ahead and fixed the scene or chapter right away. One less problem to solve in revision is gonna make the process easier.

I have actually started to institute the first solution, and on my next novel, I’m going to try the second. I don’t think I’m ever going to love revision, but these two fixes might make the process more tolerable and therefore faster.


To close this out, I’ll ask a question I’ve been thinking about for awhile. As I mentioned, I’m a plotter. I outline everything, and it helps keep me on track. Revision feels like pantsing, which is a wholly unnatural state for me, and it creates quite a bit of anxiety. So, in general, do plotters have more trouble with revisions while pantsers struggle with first drafts? I honestly don’t know, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments.

Weeks of Writing: 1/25/21 to 2/7/21

Missed a week, but I’m back with a double dose of writerly doings.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from author Joyce Carol Oates.

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”

—Joyce Carol Oates

I think I may have used this quote before, but it’s still a good one, and recently I’ve found it to be an absolute truism in my work. Now, sure, when I start writing a novel or story there IS a first sentence, but I’ve found nothing is more likely to change in subsequent drafts than the beginning. Be it a novel or a microfiction I dashed off in five minutes, the beginning almost always needs work. I think a lot of that is because the act of writing is an act of discovery. No matter how thorough my outline, no matter how much I think I know about the story, by the time I get to the end, I’ve learned all kinds of new things about the plot, the characters, the theme, you name it. So, when I go back and look at that first chapter or first paragraph or whatever, invariably where I started is not where I ended up.

The Novel(s)

Well, as I hinted at a few weeks ago, a certain situation that was hurting my productivity on my novels is now resolved, and I’m moving full steam ahead on revisions. I’m going over the notes from my critique partners, and I’ve started revising Late Risers with a goal of a final draft by the end of the month. The next revision of Hell to Play will begin after that. I’m feeling pretty positive about both books, and I’m already thinking about my next big project

Short Story Submissions

I’ve been fairly active with submission over the last couple of weeks.

  • Submissions Sent: 4
  • Rejections: 8
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0
  • Pending: 7

Four more submission gives me a total of thirteen for the year, though I did send a fourteenth this morning. My submission pace is right on target for one hundred submissions for the year. I am still hunting for that first acceptance of 2021, however, and, well, the rejections are rolling in. This kind of thing happens, and I’ve had much longer rejections streaks than the oh-for-thirteen I’m currently on. It’s certainly not time to panic, but if I don’t have at least one acceptance by the end of the month, THEN I’ll panic. 🙂

Night Walk

If you follow me on social media, you likely saw the announcement that The Molotov Cocktail is publishing a collection of my flash fiction titled Night Walk and other Dark Paths. Needless to say, I’m pretty damn excited about it. The collection will release in the spring of this year, but until then, there’ll  be all kinds of previews here on social media, including interviews, a sample story, and some sneak peeks at the gorgeous cover and interior art by artist Valerie Herron. In the meantime, here’s the official announcement (with some of that aforementioned gorgeous art) and a peek at the table of contents.

Goals

As usual, my focus is on getting more submissions out, continuing to revise the novel(s), and, now, promoting my upcoming flash fiction anthology. 🙂


And that was my week. How was yours?

Withdrawing a Withdrawal: A Submission Saga

I often encounter a general sense among authors that magazine editors are waiting to pounce on them if they make a mistake or need to ask for an appropriate allowance in the submission process. The belief is that an error or request will result in a scathing rebuke and maybe even inclusion on the dreaded “do not publish” list. In my experience, this simply isn’t true. The editors I’ve had the pleasure of communicating and working with have been polite, professional, and understanding. Most of them are or have been writers too, and are quite familiar with the rigors of the submission process from the author’s side of the fence.

Let me see if I can illustrate how accommodating an editor can be with a little tale and timeline of a story submission I made back in 2015. This timeline will also give you a good idea of when and how I send submission status queries and withdrawal letters.

Just a quick note, I have removed parts of the publisher responses below because they contain unimportant details or they might help identify the publisher. The latter isn’t too much of a concern since, sadly, the publisher folded some time ago, but that’s how I do things on the blog.

It Begins – 6/20/2015

Over five years ago, I had a little horror flash piece I was quite proud of, so I took a chance and fired it off to a pro markets dealing specifically with horror flash fiction. Here’s my cover letter.

Dear Fiction Editors,

Please consider my short story [Story Title] for publication at [publication]. The story is approximately 1,000 words in length.

Bio: I currently work as the acquisitions editor for Skull Island eXpeditions, a fiction imprint of Privateer Press, Inc. My short fiction has recently been published by Allegory, Devilfish Review, and The Molotov Cocktail.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Aeryn Rudel

What you see here is an ancient version of my cover letter. The one I use now is pretty much the same, and the only real change is the bio ( I’d actually left Privateer Press on June 1st of this year, but I’d forgotten to update my bio). Since this was a Submittable submission I received the following acknowledgement the same day.

Dear Aeryn,

Thank you for sending your submission to [publisher].

You can review your submission online by going here: [Submittable link]

Thanks!

I settled in to wait, knowing it might be a while. I believe the market had a 120-day average response time.

The Long Wait – 12/21/2015

After six months had passed without any response, I sent a submission status query.

Dear Fiction Editors,

I am writing to inquire about the status of my short story [story title] submitted to [publisher] on 6/20/15.

Thank you,

Aeryn Rudel

Six months is plenty long to wait for a response, and there’s nothing wrong with firing off a status query if you’ve exceeded both the stated and the expected wait times (and the publisher guidelines do not prohibit it). So that’s what I did.

No Response & Withdrawal – 1/15/2016

I waited for a response to my query for over three weeks, and then I sent a withdrawal letter.

Dear Editors,

I have not received a response to my query sent 12/21/15 regarding the status of my submission [story title]. At this time, I would like to withdraw the story from consideration at [publisher].

Thank you,

Aeryn Rudel

At this point I’d ben waiting for seven months, well beyond the response time for the market, so I just chalked this up to a) the submission was lost through a glitch in Submittable or b) the publisher had essentially issued a no-response rejection. I figured it was the former because I’d received a rejection from this publisher before. Little did I know there was a third option.

I should note I do not use this withdrawal letter any longer. The template I use now is better worded, I think. Looking back, this one feels too confrontational, which is not my intention.

An Unexpected Response – 1/22/2016

Exactly one week after my withdrawal letter, the publisher sent me this notification.

Hello!

Just a quick update to let you know that your story has made it to the final round of reviews for publication in [publisher] magazine and anthology series.

Thanks for your patience!

Whoops! As you can see, I was in kind of a pickle. To be clear, I don’t think I did anything wrong by sending a status query and withdrawal letter, but I really wanted my story to remain under consideration. What to do, huh?

The Un-Withdrawal Letter – 1/22/2016

On the same day the editor sent me the shortlist letter, I responded with the following email. I agonized over what to say, but, in the end, I figured I had nothing to lose by just being completely honest about the situation.

Dear Editors,

I recently withdrew this story after sending a status query letter. I have not submitted the story elsewhere, and in light of the recent note you sent regarding the story making it to the final round of reviews, I would, of course, like to keep it under consideration at [publisher]. However, since the story’s status is now withdrawn, I understand if that’s not possible.

Thank you for your consideration.

Aeryn Rudel

I would have completely understood if the publisher decided to let my story go. I did withdraw it after all, and I was essentially asking him to do more work on my behalf.

A Second Chance – 1/22/2016

Thankfully, the editor did not leave me hanging after sending my un-withdrawal letter and responded with the following short email.

Aeryn,

Ok, I’ve added it back into the final round of reviews. Thanks!

Whew! It was quite magnanimous (and much appreciated) for the editor to put my story back on the shortlist. Maybe he did it because he liked the story that much, or maybe, like most editors, he’s just an understanding human being. Either way, I was more than a little relieved.

A Happy Ending – 4/1/2016

A few months after the editor put my story back on the shortlist, I received this letter.

Thanks for sending [story title] to [publisher]. I have finished my review and have decided to accept it and offer you a contract. Please look for a contract to be issued through Docusign shortly.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Thanks again.

Needless to say, this was not the response I expected after withdrawing my withdrawal. I was quite pleased for the acceptance and that my persistence paid off.


The takeaway to my little tale is that polite, professional, and appropriate communication with an editor should never hurt your chances at future publication. So if you make a mistake or need to ask an editor to make an allowance for you, like I did, be honest and transparent and things will more than likely work out.

Submission Statement: January 2021

The first month of the new year is in the books. Here are all my submissions, rejections, and other writerly doings for January 2021

January 2021 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 11
  • Rejections: 7
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1
  • Further Consideration: 0

January was a good month for submissions, and eleven gets me off to a great start toward my goal of one-hundred for the year. The bad news is I got skunked, acceptance-wise, for the first time in twelve months. Yep, my acceptance streak is over. I think a combination of some slower responses and a dearth of new material contributed to me taking the L last month. Of course, the usual reasons also apply. Things like editorial taste and bad timing are ever-present. Hopefully, February will be better, though I still need to write more new material if I really want to get back on track.

Rejections

Seven rejections this month.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 4
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 1
  • Personal Rejections: 2

I actually thought I received fewer rejections in January, but, uh, nope. Seven isn’t a ton, but it’s more than I’d like without an acceptance to dull the pain. 🙂 Anyway, most of these rejections were standard form NOs, though I did get a couple of personal rejections. One of them was quite informative, as the editor let me know the rejection was largely a matter of taste (the story was a little too pessimistic for them). That’s incredibly useful information, as it lets me dial in future submissions to the same market. In fact, I’ve already sent them another story that’s more positive and uplifting in tone. We’ll see if it fares better.

Publications

I did have one publication in January. My story “The Night, Forever, and Us” was published at Love Letters to Poe. They’re a publisher of gothic horror, and though it’s not a subgenre I write in much, I did manage one a few years ago that fit the bill. You can read that story by clicking the link below.

Read “The Night, Forever, and Us”


And that was my January. How was your month?

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