Ranks of the Rejected – Josh Hrala (The Arcanist)

Time for another installment of Ranks of the Rejected. This time I interviewed Josh Hrala, the editor at The Arcanist, a new flash fiction market that focuses on fantasy and science fiction. I’m always excited when a new flash fiction market appears on the scene, especially a paying one, and Josh and The Arcanist are off to a great start. Josh has an extensive background as a professional writer, so he’s no stranger to rejection, and now that he’s working the other side of the literary fence, he has some great advice for writers looking to publish their fiction with The Arcanist or anywhere for that matter. Check it out.


1) Give us the short and sweet on The Arcanist. The description on the label if you will.

The Arcanist is a flash fiction publication that focuses on SFF stories that are 1,000 words or shorter. Our goal is to provide a place where people can get new SFF stories every week and devour them wherever they are. Alongside these stories we pepper in non-fiction pieces about SFF authors, news, and other things related to the genres.

2) You have an impressive writing background, so what made you decide to jump the fence and try your hand at the editorial side of things?

It’s really hard to nail down an exact moment. I’d say that I’ve always wanted to be an editor, and I’ve always loved the tasks I had to do in editorial at my various staff writer positions. Even while writing 2-3 articles per day, I enjoyed working on stories written by others, developing them into working pieces, and making them the best they could be. I even enjoyed the scheduling and formatting of the pieces. There’s just something to it, you get to put everything in place and give it a final polish.

As these thoughts started to sharpen in my mind, Andie, Patrick, and I started to write together and talk about stories. All three of us love SFF in all of its forms and originally started writing short films and mini-bibles for TV shows when we could. It turned out that almost everything we made worked better as fiction than it did for film, and we’re still developing stories right now. Eventually, The Arcanist was born out of the idea that we loved doing this, and we could use our collective fiction knowledge and my editorial background to make something new.

What really excites me about being on this side of the fence is giving SFF writers a new place to publish their work, a place where they get paid, a place that looks modern, isn’t behind a paywall, and presents their work in ways that other sites don’t. What we’re trying to do with The Arcanist is bring new readers and writers into the SFF fold by publishing solid stories in a new, easy-to-access way.

We are giant craft nerds, too. We all met at Point Park University where we were a part of the creative writing program. This formal writing education made us love well-crafted literary stories. So we want to use that know-how to elevate both SFF and flash fiction because both genres take a lot of heat. SFF often gets critiqued because it involves more world-building than plot, character development, and structure while flash fiction can be viewed as too short of a medium to be taken seriously. While those can obviously be true depending on the work itself, we want to show what can happen when craft is valued more than settings and ideas while also showing that great fiction – regardless of genre – can be accomplished in very few words.

3) Why flash fiction? How did you and The Arcanist land on that story length over more traditional short stories?

When we were coming up with what we wanted The Arcanist to be, we had a few goals in mind. The first was to find a way to spread our love for well-crafted SFF content to people who may not read it otherwise. While many hardcore SFF fans love a long, epic narrative, I know a lot of people in my life who would never sit down with something that big. However, they are the same people who don’t blink an eye when it comes to reading a bunch of long articles on Facebook. This gave way to the idea that flash fiction is a great ice breaker and – if presented in on the right platform – could inspire new readers and writers to give the genres a shot.

Of course, traditional short fiction was an option – one we might revisit later alongside flash – but we wanted something smaller, something that can be read on the bus ride home. A bite-sized bit of magic that people can read anywhere.

Secondly, as I mentioned above, we love craft and believe that short form content is a great way for writers to hone – or show off – those skills. When a SFF writer is forced to stay under a certain word count, especially when it’s as tiny as 1,000 words, things get interesting fast. Characters have to be active and making choices right from the start or even the best ideas can fall flat.

In short, it makes writers question what they need to tell a story, and that can lead to some really cool things that readers will love.

4) What advice can you give writers submitting to The Arcanist? Which stories have the best chance at publication? Which stories are absolute nonstarters?

The first rule of submitting your work to us is to please, please, please read the submission guidelines. They aren’t even that hard to nail down: a SFF story that is 1,000 words or less. It’s surprising how many people just scroll down until they see the submit link and send things off without actually knowing if it’s what we want.

If your story meets these requirements, you’re already in a good place. However, there are some tips that will really put your story over the top.

The biggest problem we see on a craft level is that the characters in the story are often more boring than the world they inhabit. You can have a great world, but your story will be ruined by a passive character who merely walks through it and doesn’t make a choice or have any agency.

Also, make sure that you aren’t starting your story at the wrong place. This happens with monster stories quite a bit. What’s more interesting: how the monster got out or what happens when the monster is already out and the character has to deal with it? It’s the latter 99 percent of the time. If you need to write the buildup to the monster getting loose to make sure you know how it happened, that’s fine, but then the submitted story should probably take place afterwards. We get many stories that end where they actually should have started.

So, as tips go, you want your story to start at the right place, to make sure your characters are active, and make sure you aren’t relying on a witty idea to push your narrative. Ideas are cheap, execution is hard. We are all about the execution here.

5) How about a glimpse behind the scenes at The Arcanist. What does the evaluation process for a story look like?

We have two ways to submit stories. You can either email them to us or use our form, which requires you to submit a Google Doc version of your story. We HIGHLY recommend using the form, it makes it way easier on our end and we end up getting to those ones first and the inbox second.

The stories are then divided up and assigned to either me, Andie, or Patrick. We do not use slush readers, so everything that is submitted goes straight to an editor. The assigned editor reads the story and makes sure it follows the rules. If the story flat-out doesn’t work for us, it is rejected. If the first editor reads it and is on the fence, we all talk about it. If an editor really likes it, we do the same.

The on-the-fence stories and the ones individual editors want to greenlight are talked about in person, and we break them down and see if they truly work. Personally, these discussions are my favorite part because we really dig in and make a decision.

After that, it’s all about either breaking the bad news or sending acceptance letters, setting up payments and publication dates, and finally unleashing the story into the world.

6) This blog is called Rejectomancy for a reason, so let’s get to the good stuff. What are the top three reasons The Arcanist rejects a story. Be blunt, even savage if you must.

The number one reason is that you didn’t follow the rules. They are there for a reason. They are meant to challenge writers and be a bit difficult. When you write “approx. 1,000 words” we know that typically means “I went a bit over, sorry.”

The second is not knowing what your story is about. This goes back to what I said earlier about ideas and narrative. A lot of the time, we love the ideas presented in a story. We often scratch our heads and wonder how someone came up with this, which is fantastic. It’s a great feeling to have. The worst feeling to have, though, is realizing that the story is merely that concept with no narrative, action, or anything to back it up. It’s hollow, and doesn’t work on a craft level because narrative took a backseat to a clever idea, making the story more about the idea than anything else.

The third is a simple question: does anything actually happen in the story? With our 1,000-word limit, you don’t have a lot of time to flesh out a world or describe tons of scenery, you have to get to the point. There’s not enough space to have a character walk around and take things in for longer than maybe a sentence before something has to push them to action. Just because it is short doesn’t mean the story doesn’t need to have a beginning, middle, and end. The best stories we see have active characters and twists that make us look at the whole thing differently. The “turn” is one of our favorite moments, but even these can fall flat without active characters.

Also, just as note, please don’t submit your story with weird colored fonts, large sections underlined, or any other strange formatting. We read a lot, and these attempts to get our attention only hurt our eyes. I don’t know why people do this, and we won’t outright reject stories for this, but it makes us sad and gives us a headache, which doesn’t help your chances.

7) You’re a writer too, so you understand that rejection comes with the gig. Any pro tips for dealing with it? 

I’m not sure there is way to actually prepare yourself for a rejection. You have to learn early on that you can’t get your hopes up even if you think your story is gold because, let’s face it, we all think all of our own stories are gold.

If you want to get your work published, you need to wrestle with the fact that rejection is likely in your future far more often than acceptance, but you have to also understand that just because one place rejects a piece doesn’t mean it won’t work elsewhere. Make a plan, send out your story, follow all of the rules the publication asked for, and see what happens because it’s always worth it in the end. Remember that rejections are nothing personal and that every rejection is a chance to make the story better.


Josh is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Arcanist. His work has appeared on Cracked, PopSci, ScienceAlert, Geek & Sundry, ModernNotion, and others. You can get The Arcanist’s stories delivered straight to your inbox every Friday by subscribing for free here.

AFSG (Always Follow the Submission Guidelines)

Recently, I committed the nigh-unforgivable writerly sin of failing to follow the submission guidelines. I will pause a moment to soak in your righteous and fully justified finger-wagging.

Ouch.

Okay, my particular sin was submitting a story that did not meet the word count requirements. This particular market wanted stories with a minimum length of 2,000 words, and I sent in a story that was a tad below that. They were gracious enough to let me resubmit the story after I revised it to fit their guidelines, but the shame of making such a mistake will haunt me. Like, seriously. I pride myself on following the guidelines, and I felt like such an asshole for missing one so glaringly obvious.

So, let’s call this post a PSA, a reminder to always, always, always double check the submission guidelines, even for the no-brainer stuff like story length. It can be easy to focus only on the maximum length for a story because, generally, the minimum doesn’t come into play. I did a quick bit of research on Duotrope and found that of the twenty-four pro and semi-pro horror markets, more than half had word count ranges for short stories between 1,000 and 7,500 words. Since most of us don’t write short stories around the 1,000-word mark (that’s generally considered flash fiction), that word count minimum is rarely an issue.

BUT.

There are plenty of markets that set their word count minimum at 2,000, 2,500, even as high as 4,000. That last number is likely to jump out at you, but the other two can fade into the background if you’re not paying attention. So pay attention! Read and reread those guidelines before you hit the send button. Write the acronym AFSG (always follow the submission guidelines) on a post-it note and put it on your computer (I clearly need to).

Okay, make me feel better about my little blunder. Tell me about a time you missed something in the submission guidelines (please).

Submission Protocol: Don’t Fear the Query

I’ve previously covered the submission status query letter, but I thought it was worth a revisit mostly because I’ve seen writers questioning if they should send a query letter and wondering if a publisher would be offended or angry if they did. Let me cut to the chase here. Unless a publisher specifically asks you not to query in the submission guidelines, there is no reason they should get upset if you send a query letter, provided you follow a few basic rules. What are those rules? Numbered list incoming! (Note, this post is NOT about initial queries to agents or publishers for novels. That’s a whole different beast.)

  1. Always check the guidelines. A lot of publishers deal with submission status queries in their guidelines and will give you very specific details on if and when you should send one. For example: Responses take 60-90 days on average. Feel free to send a follow-up query after that point. In this case, if you send a query on day 91, you are absolutely in the clear.
  2. Wait an appropriate amount of time. So what if the publisher doesn’t deal with submission queries in their guidelines? Easy. Most publishers will at least tell you when to expect a response, usually somewhere between 30 and 90 days. In my opinion, if you haven’t heard from the publisher after the stated response time, you should probably send a query letter. Again, there’s no reason for the publisher to get upset here. A polite query shouldn’t offend anyone in this business. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that a publisher’s stated response time and their actual response time can be very different. If you use a service like Duotrope, it’ll tell you how long, on average, a publisher takes to respond to submissions. If it’s longer than the stated response time, you could wait until then to send a query.
  3. Be polite and to the point. Your query letter should be short and polite. Tell them the name of your story, when you submitted it, and ask for an update. You don’t need to say anything else unless the publisher specifically requests it in the guidelines (for example, some publishers give every story an ID number and may want you to include that in a submission query).

So, let’s put this all together in a real-world example. I recently sent the following submission status query to a publisher:

Dear Editors,

I would like to inquire about the status of my short story “XXX” submitted for XXX on June 21st, 2017. 

Best,

Aeryn Rudel

In this case the publisher did not list an expected response time in their guidelines nor did they cover when/if to send queries. So I turned to Duotrope, which told me the publisher was responding to submissions in about 30 days, on average. I sent my query letter after 60 days. I might have sent it sooner, but 60 days felt like an appropriate amount of time to wait. I received a response (a rejection) two days after my query. So, did I follow the rules? I think so. I checked the guidelines, I waited an appropriate amount of time, and my letter was short, polite, and to the point. The result: I got a prompt response. The publisher did not send me an angry “how dare you” letter, just the form rejection I was going to get anyway.

To recap, if you follow the guidelines above, there’s no reason for a publisher to get upset if you send a query letter. Honestly, if something as simple and commonplace as a submission status query does upset a publisher, that’s likely a publisher you don’t want to work with. Just remember publishers are regular (and often very busy) folks who sometimes make mistakes, lose submissions, fall behind, and so on. Because of that, the query letter is often just as useful to the publisher as it is to the author. Hell, I’ve had publishers thank me for sending a query letter.

Of course, if you query and still don’t get a response after a reasonable amount of time, say two weeks, it might be time to consider a withdrawal letter so you can send your story somewhere else. For more info on withdrawal letters, check out this post.


Got a question or comment on submission status queries? I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Submission Statement: August 2017

August, the month of my birth, was pretty uneventful, submission-wise. I spent a lot of time working on a new novel, and I finished a novelette that will be part of my first foray into self-publishing (more on that soon). Anyway, here’s the down-and-dirty for the month.

August 2017 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 5
  • Rejections: 6
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1
  • Other: 0

I’m still hitting an average of one submission per week. I keep thinking I should do more, but that seems to be a comfortable pace when I’m working on big projects. Maybe I should just learn to live with it.

Rejections

Six rejections this month, and one of them is noteworthy because it represents a nigh-unforgivable brain fart.

Rejection 1: Submitted 8/2/17; Rejected 8/12/2017

Thank you for your interest in XXX.

Unfortunately, your short story has not been assessed as it does not meet our submission guidelines based on word count (it’s just a bit off the 2,000 word minimum at 1,980).

You are welcome to resubmit after reviewing the submission guidelines and ensuring your submission meets the guidelines. If you haven’t done so already, I would also suggest reading XXX to become familiar with the type of content we publish.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, then you’ve heard me lecture everyone about following submission guidelines to the letter. Well, sometimes that’s a do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do situation. How embarrassing. I mean, how hard is it to do a quick word count check, like I do FOR EVERY OTHER SUBMISSION? I am exceedingly grateful the publisher was a) very nice and professional when they pointed out my mistake and b) that I can resubmit the story. I did resubmit it, along with an apology for not following the guidelines the first time. Say it with me: ALWAYS FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.

Rejection 2: Submitted 7/29/17; Rejected 8/14/2017

Thank you for the opportunity to review your work. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite fit our needs at the time. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

This is a simple form rejection, but I should note that it came one day after I sent a submission status query letter to the publisher. Now, I do not for a second believe that I was rejected because I sent a query. I waited the appropriate amount of time, and my letter was polite and to the point. There’s a chance the query got my story read a bit sooner, but it’s not why it was rejected. There does seem to be this fear among some writers that sending a submission status query will anger a publisher, but I think that fear is misplaced as long as you wait an appropriate amount of time and follow any submission guidelines the publisher may have about queries.

Rejection 3: Submitted 6/21/17; Rejected 8/23/2017

 

Thanks so much for entering our Flash Worlds contest. As always, we had so many great entries.

Unfortunately, “XXX” did not make it into our Top 10. However, we are happy to report that the piece did make it through several rounds of cuts and was still in consideration until the later stages of judging. As a result, we’ve given you a shout-out on our “Close But No Cigar” short list, which can be found on our Flash Worlds results page (https://themolotovcocktail.com/).

Though it didn’t place in the contest, we’d be happy to consider this piece for one of our regular issues. Feel free to resubmit through our regular submissions portal (no submission fee, of course) on Submittable. We’ve published a good number of short-listed entries that way in the past.

Thanks again for your participation, and for sending us such great work.

A close-but-no-cigar rejection from one of my favorite publishers. These guys have published a ton of my work, and I got close to another publication here. If you have a chance, you should definitely check out the winning stories for the Flash Worlds contest. There’s some really good stuff in there. I have sent this story out again, and it’ll pop up in another rejection below. 🙂

Rejection 4: Submitted 8/16/17; Rejected 8/26/2017

Thank you for submitting your story, “XXX”, to XXX. 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.

A form rejection from a top-tier magazine that I have yet to crack. I’ve yet to even get a higher-tier form rejection from this market. That doesn’t discourage me, though. These pro markets have incredibly high standards, and they should be difficult to place a story with. I like to think I’ll eventually write something that appeals to this market and a bunch of others in the same category.

Rejection 5: Submitted 8/16/17; Rejected 8/30/2017

Thank you for considering XXX for your story, “XXX.”

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

Another form rejection from a pro market. I’ve gotten higher-tier rejections from this publisher in the past, but this isn’t one of those. Like the market in rejection 4, I’ll keep submitting until I crack or they do. 😉

Rejection 6: Submitted 8/30/17; Rejected 8/31/2017

Thank you for the opportunity to read “XXX.” Unfortunately, your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now.

In the past, we’ve provided detailed feedback on our rejections, but I’m afraid that due to time considerations, we’re no longer able to offer that service. I appreciate your interest in XXX and hope that you’ll keep us in mind in the future.

So, I shit you not, this rejection arrived as I was writing this blog post. How’s that for timing? Anyway, another form rejection from a pro market. Those of you who submit spec-fiction on a regular basis will no doubt recognize the publisher from this rejection. They’ve always had a super-quick turnaround (one day, in this case), which I appreciate, as it allows me to fire the story off to another publisher right away.

Publications

One publication in August. My flash fiction story “Cowtown” was published by The Arcanist. You can read it by clicking the link below.

Read “Cowtown” 


And that’s August. Tell me about your August in the comments.

Submission Statement: July 2017

July was a much better month mostly because I finally ended my six-month-long acceptance drought. That alone is enough to crown July as my best month of the year. Here’s the nitty-gritty on my submission endeavors in July.

July 2017 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 5
  • Rejections: 2
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 1
  • Other: 0

Again, I’m getting an average of one submission per week. I keep telling myself I need to double that.

Rejections

Only two rejections this month, but both are noteworthy.

Rejection 1: Submitted 4/19/17; Rejected 7/5/2017

Very sorry for the delay in getting back to you, but we just made our final decisions today. We are going to have to pass on the story, however. This is the hardest part of the job, having to decline stories that we enjoyed so much, simply because didn’t have the space to include them all. It was a real struggle choosing the final stories. I appreciate your patience and hope to see submissions from you in the future.

Another heartbreaker rejection for a story that was short-listed. This is the second rejection of this type for this particular story, and although it’s certainly a positive sign that it keeps making short lists, it’s frustrating to get so close and fall short again. Of course, my frustration is not in any way directed at the publication (that would be real silly and unprofessional). This was the first issue of this particular magazine, and I know they had some very tough decisions to make. I’ll definitely submit to them again when they reopen for their second issue, and I’m looking forward to reading the stories in issue number one.

Rejection 2: Submitted 7/5/17; Rejected 7/5/2017

Thank you so much for thinking of XXX. Unfortunately “XXX” is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

This is just a garden-variety form rejection, but what makes it noteworthy is how quickly I received it. This market has a very quick turnaround, usually rejecting submissions (mine, at least) in the same day, but this particular rejection came in less than thirty minutes. Now, it’s important not to read too much into that. I think it’s likely the editor was reading submissions when I submitted, read mine, decided it was a no, and fired off the rejection. I have no issues with that whatsoever. The quicker I get it back, the quicker I can send it out again.

Acceptances

One acceptance for July, and a welcome one, ending a six-month slump.

Acceptance 1: Submitted 6/22/17; Rejected 7/22/2017

Thanks for letting us read XXX! We would love to publish it in XXX.

There’s more to this acceptance letter, but it’s just the usual contract/legal stuff. This is a new market that pays solid semi-pro rates, and I’m glad to be among their initial bunch of published stories. They publish sci-fi and fantasy but under very broad definitions, so some horror is not out of the question (as evidenced by the story they accepted). The story is tentatively scheduled for publication on 8/5, and you’ll be able to read it on their site. I’ll announce it, of course, as soon as it’s live.

Publications

One BIG publication in July, my second novel for Privateer Press, Acts of War: Aftershock. Details below.

War Has Come Again to Llael

On the heels of inflicting defeat upon the Khadorans at Riversmet, Lord General Coleman Stryker marches deeper into enemy territory to prepare a major assault. But he is unprepared for the avalanche of a massive Khadoran counterstrike. Empress Ayn Vanar and Supreme Kommandant Irusk send their nation’s most fearsome warcasters to retaliate against the invaders and secure her conquered territories at any cost. Hope comes in the form of Ashlynn d’Elyse, warcaster and leader of the Llaelese Resistance, a woman with no love for Cygnar but who could make for a powerful ally if convinced to help. Along with Asheth Magnus, Stryker’s enemy-turned-ally, this unlikely team must fight to persevere despite being outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and cornered with only their wits and a few warjacks to save their cause from utter annihilation…

Get an eBook – $7.99:

Get it in Print $15.99:


And that’s it’s for July. Tell me about your submission adventures for the month in the comments.

The Rejection Scorecard

As some of you may know, my professional career with the written word (such as it is) started in the tabletop gaming industry, where I worked as an editor, a game designer, and a writer. With over a decade working in that environment, it should be no surprise that I derive great satisfaction from creating needlessly complex rule systems for just about everything. So, let’s take some of that game design philosophy and apply it to submissions and rejections!

Before I get into this, a quick disclaimer. What follows is for fun, an entertaining (and overly complex) way to take your rejections in stride and illustrate one simple idea: a story that gets rejected (even multiple times) is not necessarily a bad story.

Got it? Cool. Now on to the Rejection Scorecard!

Here’s the main premise of my “system.” Every story you write and submit accumulates rejection points based on the type of feedback it receives in the form of rejection letters. The total number of rejection points is a story’s rejection score. When the rejection score exceeds 10, called the rejection threshold, it is an indicator the story might need revision before it goes out again.

So, how does a story score rejection points? By getting rejected, of course. That said, not all rejections are created equal, and you get different points based on the type of rejection you receive, as follows. If you need a definition on a type of letter, just click the link; I’ve covered all these on my blog.

As you can probably guess, this is like golf, and the lower the rejection score the better. In the case of the further consideration letter and short list letter, the negative point values apply to the follow up rejection for a total score. So, for example, if I get a further consideration letter and then the story is rejected with a form letter, I add 1 point (2 + -1) to the rejection score for the story.

I separated further consideration letters and short list letters because they aren’t always the same thing, and in my reckoning, making a short list is closer to publication than getting, uh, further considered. Of course, opinions might vary there, so assign whatever points you feel appropriate.

Something to consider with personal rejections. If you get one that gives you excellent feedback about a possible revision AND you agree with that feedback, then, you know, don’t worry about how many points the story has collected (remember, this is for fun). Revise that sucker.

Now let’s look at some rejection score examples from my own stories.

Example 1: “After Birth”

Rejections Points
Form 4 8
HT 3 3
Personal 3 0
FC 0 0
SL 2 -4
Total 7

So, as you can see by the table above, “After Birth” has accumulated 4 form rejections, 3 higher-tier form rejections, 3 personal rejections, and it has made the short-list twice. Both short lists resulted in personal rejections. All of this activity gives “After Birth” a rejection score of 7, which is below the rejection threshold of 10. In other words, after 10 submissions and 10 rejections, the story has received fairly good feedback, and a couple of the higher-tier rejections came from top-tier markets. It’s come close to publication twice, and the personal rejections were basically “we liked this story, but in the end didn’t feel it was a perfect fit.”

Example 2: “Set in Stone”

Rejections Points
Form 9 18
HT 1 1
Personal 4 0
FC 0 0
SL 2 -4
Total 15

Man, has this one been round the block. It’s come within a whisker of getting published twice, and one of those short-lists didn’t come to fruition not because of a follow-up rejection but because the publication closed down. That said, despite some good feedback, this story has received enough no-thank-yous it’s time to make some changes. I still believe there’s a publishable story here, and I think I know what to do to give it a better shot.

Okay, a few more examples, and this time we’ll look at the three stories I’ve actually published, and their rejections scores before the acceptance.

Form Higher-Tier Personal Further Consideration Short List Total Rejections Rejection Points
“Caroline” 3 4 1 1 1 9 7
“Night Games” 3 3 6 6
“Paper Cut” 9 3 3 1 16 19

So, the first two stories were well under the rejection threshold of 10 before they were published, and the feedback they received was universally positive. I included the last story, “Paper Cut,” simply to illustrate that this whole system shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and if you have a gut feeling about a story, like I did with “Paper Cut,” stick with it.

Option Rule #1: Pro Markets

Remember when I said “needlessly complex” in the opening paragraph? Well, I’ve restrained myself for the most part . . . until now! Yep, here’s one more thing to consider if, like me, you just ache for more modifiers and statistical pedantry.

Some of you might be thinking, “Hey, a rejection, especially a ‘good’ rejection, from a magazine like Clarkesworld or Apex is a little more significant than the points suggest.” I think there’s some truth to that, so, if you like, use the following point values for pro-paying markets:

  • Form Rejection: 2 points
  • Higher-Tier Form Rejection: 0.5 point
  • Personal Rejection: -0.5 point
  • Further Consideration Letter: -2 points
  • Short List: -3 points

Keep in mind I’m talking about genre markets here, where payment tier and prestige often go hand-in-hand. I know that’s not always the case with the literary market, so if you’re a lit-fic writer, this optional system may not be as useful to you.

Option Rule #2: Other Modifiers

Of course, a system like this can’t account for every thing that could happen to a story out there, but here are a few other scenarios and some optional modifiers you could use if you like.

  • Honorable Mention: If you enter writing contests, then it’s possible the editors might formally recognize your story as one with merit without actually publishing it or really rejecting it. An honorable mention is kind of like a short list, but I think it’s slightly more significant. Go ahead and deduct 3 points from a stories rejections score if you get one of these.
  • Referral Rejection: Sometimes a market will send you a personal rejection that suggests you submit your story to another, usually related market because they think the story would be a better fit there. If you get one of these, deduct 1 point from the story’s rejection score.
  • Revision Request: Occasionally a market will request revisions to a story, usually with the often unspoken promise that if you make the revisions, they’ll accept the story. Sometimes, however, they’ll reject the story anyway (for a wide variety of reasons). If that happens, go ahead and deduct 2 points from the story’s rejections score (remember to add in the modifier for the rejection too).

Did I miss any rejection scenarios that should be on my list of modifiers? If so, please tell me in the comments. If I like your idea, I’ll update the post. Also, I’d love to see the rejections scores your stories have accumulated–published, not published, whatever.

Submission Statement: June 2017

My acceptance slump continued in June, though I did have one publication. I have two new stories I started sending out last month, so they’ve been piling up the rejections with all the usual suspects. Let’s have a look.

June 2017 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 5
  • Rejections: 4
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1
  • Other: 0

Roughly one submission per week in June. Not bad, but I’d like to double that in July.

Rejections

Four rejections this month, all of the form variety.

Rejection 1: Submitted 5/22/17; Rejected 6/19/2017

Thank you for submitting “XXX” to XXX. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it is a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

A form rejection from a top-tier magazine, one I’ve been trying to crack for a long time. I don’t find it particularly disheartening to receive a form rejection from this market (and others like it). The competition here is absolutely fierce, and they publish some of the best speculative fiction in the industry. In other words, I have to keep working to improve my craft and send them my very best. It’s a real challenge, and I dig that.

Rejection 2: Submitted 5/24/17; Rejected 6/19/2017

Thank you for submitting your story, “XXX”, to XXX. 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.

Another standard form rejection from a top-tier market. I have had no luck with this particular market after seven submissions, and some of that may be because they primarily publish sci-fi, and what I tend to send them is sci-fi-ish. There are, of course, other reasons for the rejections, as they state in their letter.

Rejection 3: Submitted 6/19/17; Rejected 6/19/2017

Thank you so much for thinking of XXX. Unfortunately “XXX” is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

You may have noticed that the receipt date for the last three rejections are all 6/19/17. Yep, three rejections in one day. It happens, and I’ve become sufficiently inured to rejections now that it doesn’t bother me overmuch. You might also notice this is a same-day rejection. I sent the story at 9:46 a.m. and it was rejected at 3:43 p.m. That’s just under six hours. That’s not too uncommon either, and it doesn’t even come close to my record of 45 minutes for same-day rejections.

Rejection 4: Submitted 6/19/17; Rejected 6/21/2017

Many thanks for sending “XXX”, but I’m sorry to say that it isn’t right for XXX. I wish you luck placing it elsewhere, and hope that you’ll send me something new soon.

Another form rejection from one of my go-to markets. Like the market in the first rejection, I submit just about every new story I write to this market (if it’s of the appropriate genre, of course). No luck yet, but I’ll keep trying.

Publications

One publication for this month, and it’s a fun one. My short story “Scare Tactics” was published by Dunesteef in an audio format. They really nail all the voices, and I was very pleased with how it turned out. You can listen to the story by clicking the link or photo below.

 

Episode 194: Scare Tactics by Aeryn Rudel


And that’s my June. Tell me about yours in the comments.