Submissions: A Pair of Never Have I Evers

With over four hundred submissions you might think I’ve seen just about everything when it comes to editorial responses. I’ve certainly seen a lot, but there are a couple of anomalies in my submission record that stick out. Let’s talk about them.

1) Never have I ever received a revision request.

Yep, not once. I think I’ve received just about every other kind of response you can get from a publisher, but the revision request eludes me. I know authors who receive tons of them, to the point where it’s almost commonplace. So why not me? Here are two possible reasons.

  • The market. Some publishers just don’t send them. It’s either a yes or a no because they don’t have the time to work with an author to develop a maybe. This is certainly anecdotal, but the authors I know who receive revision requests on the regular write more lit-fic, so maybe it’s more common in that circle.
  • I’m a true outcome writer. Borrowing a term from baseball, a true outcome player is one who often generates one of three outcomes in an at bat: a home run, a walk, or a strikeout. So far, I tend to be that kind of writer. I either get an acceptance (a home run), a form rejection (a strike out), or a personal rejection (a, uh, walk, I guess). I’m not sure how much of that is what I write and how much is where I submit, probably a bit of both. It’s possible I’m a true outcome writer because my submission targeting needs work. That’s always worth reexamining.

2) Never have I ever received a rude rejection.

I hear tales of rude or mean-spirited rejections a lot, but I’ve never been on the receiving end of one. Unlike the first anomaly, I’m, uh, okay with that. I’ve received feedback I thought was wildly off base, but it wasn’t rude, just wrong for the story I wanted to tell. So, why haven’t I got one of these literary kicks to the teeth?

  • I’m just lucky. Totally plausible. Maybe, I’ve just managed to avoid the editors that send rude rejections, or I’ve managed not to do anything that would bring their ire down on my head.  *Knocks on wood.*
  • They’re pretty rare. When I do see an author talking about a rude rejection on social media it invariably gets a whole bunch of clicks, shares, and retweets. It’s the kind of salacious tidbit folks love to read and talk about. So, when it does happen, I think it gets magnified, and that might make it seem more common than it actually is. (My personal opinion is that rude rejections are rare as hen’s teeth, but see my last point.)
  • Rude is subjective. Sometimes, when I see an author talking about a rude rejection, it turns out to be what I’d consider a pretty standard form rejection. Yeah, these things can be short and to the point, and if you’re feeling salty about the rejection, it might come across as terse or dismissive. In other words, one author’s rude is another author’s shrug and move on. I’m not saying rude rejections don’t exist–I’ve seen conclusive evidence they do–but I think it’s best to get a little distance before using any rejectomancy to divine a rejection’s intent, good or bad.

Got anything to add to my submission anomalies? Or maybe you have some of your own. Tell me about them in the comments.

The Post-Rejection Process

Rejections are inevitable. You can’t avoid them, you can’t (and absolutely shouldn’t) argue with them, and though they lose some of their sting over time, they’ll always have some bite. What you can do is control how you deal with rejections. For me, that boils down to a specific four-step process that lets me put rejections in perspective and move on. Of course, this is going to be a very different process for each writer, but here’s what I do.

  1. Read and feel. You can’t avoid this part, so I just lean into it. Be disappointed, be angry, be sad. There’s nothing wrong with any of that . . . as long as you set some kind of time limit. If I need it, I’ll usually give myself anywhere from ten minutes to an hour just to deal with the emotions. I remind myself none of this is personal, that selling a story is all often about putting it in front of the right editor at the right time, and all the other little adages and affirmations I talk about on the blog. What I don’t want is to let those emotions overwhelm me and keep me from being productive, i.e., sending out more submissions. This is also a time I might reach out to other authors to commiserate, normalize the experience, and, hey, get a little sympathy from folks going through the same thing.
  2. Observe and report. The next thing I do is all the bookkeeping. It’s a clinical process that removes me from the emotional aspect of rejection. First thing I do is move the rejection email from my inbox into a rejection folder. It’s kind of an out of sight, out of mind thing, but it’s also so I can put the rejection where it belongs. There’s something vaguely comforting in that. The next thing I do is head out to Duotrope and report the rejection there. I want to keep accurate records because I need them for my blog, and I want to make sure I don’t make stupid mistakes like sending a rejected story to the same publisher. I can’t let a disappointing rejection hurt my chances at future publication.
  3. Get analytical. Okay, now that I’ve let my emotions have their moment and I’ve done all the necessary accounting, I’m usually in a pretty objective place. If I’ve received a personal rejection with feedback, I’ll pull up the email and really try and absorb it. Is it useful to me? Do I need to revise the story based on the feedback? More importantly, does the feedback possibly pinpoint a larger issue in my writing? If the feedback resonates with me, then I’ll revise the story. If I’ve received a form rejection, then I generally go straight to step four.
  4. Fire and forget. I often send out a rejected story right away if I received a standard form rejection and the story has only been submitted a few times (or if I can’t use the feedback I received from a personal rejection). It’s another process that has, I don’t know, kind of a cleansing element, especially after I’ve done all the stuff above. Sending that story out again feels like the final step in the process, one that allows me to put a rejection behind me and move forward.

So that’s my process, my ritual if you will. It keeps me sane and keeps me sending out more submissions, and that’s all I can hope for.

What do you do post-rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 5/13/19 to 5/19/19

A day late again, but here’s another writing week that was.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote is another from Stephen King.

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to makes speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

– Stephen King

This is a great quote, and in my experience it’s definitely true. I always feel like writing is done in a vacuum. You’re sealed away with all your doubts and fears while you create. Yes, you can seek out input from folks you trust after you have a draft finished, but that initial act of creation? That’s all you. Alone. So, yes, having someone who believes in you and your ability, be it a spouse, a good friend, or supportive people in your writing group, can often be the difference between those previously mentioned doubts and fears eating you alive and actually getting something finished. Like Mr. King says, they don’t need to make speeches, just knowing they’re there and rooting for you means an awful lot.

The Novel

The novel is on a temporary back-burner while I complete the next Privateer Press novella I’m contracted to write. I should polish off the first draft this week, though, and then get back to the novel shortly thereafter.

Short Stories

Another slow week for submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 1
  • Rejections: 5
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Yeah, not great. Better than the week before, but that’s only because I didn’t send a single submission. Three of the five rejections were personal rejections, and one was a bit of a heart-breaker, but that’s all part of the gig. Rejections hurt sometimes, but you gotta roll with it and never take it personally.

I now have 40 submissions for the year, which is off my pace of 100 for 2019. If I can send 5 more submissions this month, that’ll put me back on track. I’m not gonna make any promises, though. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

5/14/19: A Week of Writing: 5/6/19 to 5/12/19

The usual weekly writing update.

5/17/19: One-Hour Flash – Blood Sport 

Another installment of flash fiction that wasn’t quite up-to-snuff for submission.

Goals

I’ve got a deadline to hit for the Privateer Press novella, so that is my number one goal. In between pounding out the words, I’ll try to send a submission or two, but, that’s probably more wishful thinking than actual priority.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 5/6/19 to 5/12/19

One more week of writerly endeavors.

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from Robert Hass.

“It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written.”

– Robert Hass

This one sounds severe; I know. That said, I do feel like this a fair amount of the time. When I’m writing, it’s often an exercise of sheer will to keep writing, keep putting those words on the page no matter how much self-doubt and fear eat away at my resolve. It’s so easy to quit, to say “I’ll write tomorrow or the next day,” than it is to push past your own bullshit and get the work done. Is it hell? Maybe not quite that bad, but it’s often challenging. Now, not writing carries it’s own price. It’s called guilt. If I don’t work on the novel or a short story or whatever for a day or two, that guilt creeps in and can be just as destructive as fear and self-doubt. Finally, the best state of mind is having written, the golden panacea for all writing woes. When I complete a first draft or send that final revision to my editor or agent, that feeling of accomplishment is so grand it makes all the other shit fade into the background for a while. So, yes, this quote is tough, and it may not be that way for all writers, but for many, myself included, it’s can often be the reality.

The Novel

I made excellent progress last week. I finished the last bit of completely new material I needed to add (about three thousand words) and then pieced the first act back together. I was expecting a wild mismatch of tone and style and plot points that would require hours more revision, but, as these things often go, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. In fact, the first act is pretty cohesive and now the pacing is better. I’ll need to do some minor tweaks to match everything up, but it’s not that impossible task I feared. That feeling of starting downhill after a steep climb is definitely there. That feels pretty good.

Short Stories

Big fat goose egg of a submission week.

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

Yep, zero submissions last week. Hell, I didn’t even get a rejection. The only thing of note was a further consideration letter for a story that has really been around the block (to the tune of like fifteen rejections). I’m crossing my fingers it’s found it’s forever home at last.

The Blog

Not only did I send no submissions last week, I barely blogged too.

5/7/19: A Week of Writing: 4/29/19 to 5/5/19

The usual weekly writing update.

Goals

The novel revision is on hold for a bit as I turn my attention to the next Privateer Press novella I’m contracted to write. I’ve already got an approved outline, and I’ll knock out the first draft this week and next. Beyond that, I’ve got some new stories near completion, so it would be great to get those done and get three or four submissions out this week.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 4/29/19 to 5/5/19

A day late, but here’s another week of writing wins and woes.

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from Ernest Hemingway.

“Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”

– Ernest Hemingway

I’m featuring this quote not because I think it’s how everyone should write, but because it’s how I tend to approach writing. Hemingway is famous for spare, unadorned prose, and I tend to write in a similar fashion (note, I am not making any kind of qualitative comparison between my own writing and Hemingway’s). I certainly look at my prose as a means to and end rather than anything approaching the end product itself. What does that mean, though? Generally, it means I don’t spend a lot of time describing people, places, and things; I rely heavily on dialog to express plot points and develop characters; and I weed out passive voice, most adverbs, and try not to get too complex with my sentence structure. If I do it right, I end up with lean, fast-paced prose that conveys a story efficiently and is, hopefully, compelling. So, why do I write this way? Simple. It’s a style that tends to highlight things I’m good at, like action and dialog, and downplays things I’m not so good at, like truly stylish prose and expansive descriptions. Once more, this is not the best way to write (there’s no such thing), but it’s how I write. Looking at my prose like architecture, as Hemingway suggests, has helped me do what all authors must–finish stories and novels.

The Novel

I was out for a few days last week for a badly needed vacation, but I did manage to get a fair amount done on the current revision of Late Risers. I’m confident things will speed up once I get out of the first act where the bulk of the heavy revisions are taking place. This week, I’m working on the last bit of completely new material, and my goal is to finish that, integrate it into the manuscript, and get beyond the halfway point in the revision.

Short Stories

Finally, a respectable submission week.

  • Submissions Sent: 4
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

I got 4 submissions out last week. That’s solid, and it’s a good start to May. That gives me 39 for the year and puts me back on track for 100 for 2019. I’d like to end up somewhere around 10 to 12 submissions for the month.

The Blog

Three blog posts last week.

4/29/19: A Week of Writing: 4/22/19 to 4/28/19

The usual weekly writing update.

5/1/19: Submission Protocol: For the Record

In this post I discuss why it’s important to keep detailed records of all your submissions.

5/3/19: Submission Statement: April 2019

A detailed account of my submission endeavors for the month of April.

Goals

Keep revising the novel and chugging toward that finish line. As usual, I’d like a side dish of short story submissions to go with my revision main course.


That was my week. How was yours?

Submission Statement: April 2019

April is in the books, and here are all my submissions, rejections, and acceptances for the month.

April 2019 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 8
  • Rejections: 6
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 3
  • Submission Withdrawal: 0

That’s a decent month submission-wise. A reasonable amount of rejections against one acceptance and three publications. I give this month a solid B. April’s numbers give me thirty-six submissions for the year. A little off my pace for one-hundred submissions, but I’ve already fired off three subs in May, so I should turn things around this month.

Rejections

Six rejections for April.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 3
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 3
  • Personal Rejections: 0

Nothing really exciting or new in the rejection department this month. All six rejections were form rejections and likely ones you’d recognize. That gives me twenty-six total rejections for the year. I got one-hundred right on the nose last year, and I’m on pace for a paltry seventy-eight this year. I’m okay with that. 🙂

Acceptances

Just one tiny little acceptance this month, a microfiction story called “His True Name” at 50-Word Stories. I’m two for two with microfiction subs so far, and I might send a few more this month to some other markets. That’s six total acceptances for the year. I’d really liked to beat last year’s total of nineteen. I’m more or less on pace for that same number, but hopefully May will be a multi-acceptance month to let me pull ahead.

Publications

Three publications this month, the aforementioned “His True Name” at 50-Word Stories, a flash piece called “Big Problems” at Jersey Devil Press, and a short story titled “Paint-Eater” at The Arcanist. All three are free to read by clicking the links below.

“His True Name”

Published by 50-Word Stories (free to read)

“Big Problems”

Published by Jersey Devil Press (free to read)

“Paint-Eater”

Published by The Arcanist (free to read)


And that was April. Tell me about your month.

Submission Protocol: For the Record

No doubt you’ve seen me post copious amounts of stats and analysis on this blog relating to my submissions, rejections, and acceptances. I’m able to do that because I keep track of every single submission I send and its outcome (plus a bunch of other details). You don’t have to be a stat wonk like me, but you should keep track of all your submissions. Here’s why.

  1. Avoid dumb submission mistakes. Once you get into triple digits with submissions that comprise dozens of stories, it can be pretty easy to forget where you sent each one. So one of the things I do before I send out a story, especially one that’s racked up a fair number of rejections, is to check my database. That way I can make sure I’m not sending it to a publisher that’s already rejected it. Full disclosure: I’ve actually made this mistake a few times. Wanna know why? I didn’t check my fucking database before I hit send. (Let’s call that a cautionary tale.)
  2. Submission analysis & targeting. Look, you don’t have to get all crazy with the data like I do, but having some data at hand can be useful to determine how your submissions are doing overall. You can look for trends and anomalies that might help you dial in your submission targeting. Are you only getting standard form rejections from that one magazine and then going on to sell those stories elsewhere? Yeah? Then maybe that market isn’t a good fit for your work. Are your horror stories landing at a market but they’re consistently rejecting your fantasy stories? Okay, then stop sending them fantasy stories. A submission database that keeps track of not just when and where, but also genre, length, and other details may slightly increase the likelihood of an acceptance.
  3. Big-picture progress. One of my favorite things about a robust database is it really lets me see how I’m doing month to month and year to year. I can see if my acceptance numbers (and rate) are improving, if I’m getting more higher-tier and personal rejections than standard rejections, and all sorts of other info that can be quite encouraging. Having a database can help you take a big-picture view of your work rather than the isolated snapshots that come with each rejection. That’s always a confidence booster for me.

I’ve told you why you should keep a submission database; now let me tell you how. My preferred method is to let someone else do the bulk of the work, which is why I track all my submissions through Duotrope. They keep that database for me, and I can filter by market, by story, by rejection (and type of rejection), and so on. I can also download all this data with the click of a button if I want to manipulate it further. Yes, Duotrope is five bucks a month, but if you submit as often as I do, I think that’s a bargain. The Submission Grinder (which is free) has similar functionality, but since I don’t use that service I can’t give you the exact details.

What if you don’t want to use Duotrope or the Submission Grinder to track your submissions? No problem. It’s super easy to set up an Excel spreadsheet that’ll do the trick. If you’re Excel savvy, you can even get a lot of the same functionality you get at Duotrope with a little work. What should your submission database track? Here are the basics you should include: story title, genre, length, market, date sent, date received, and response. That might look like this.

This is a cobbled-together snapshot of some of my own submissions as an example of how you might track your own (No, I don’t generally rock a 50% acceptance rate; I just grabbed a bunch of old submissions for variety). Pretty simple, right? I can sort and parse this data in a number of ways to get all analytical if I want or just to make sure I don’t send a story to a market that’s already rejected it. If you want a more functionality, consider keeping tracking things like the days between submissions and responses and if the submission is a reprint or a sim-sub. That’s all great data. Whatever your database looks like the real key is to be consistent and diligent with keeping track of your submissions. Record every submissions and every response right away (if possible). Yeah, I know recording rejections kind of sucks, but trust me, it’ll serve you in the long run.


How do you keep track of your submissions? Tell me about it in the comments.