Submission Rotation – May 2017

Right now, until I put the finishing touches on a few works in progress, I have five short stories in my submission rotation. Most of these stories have been around the block a few times with varying levels of success. Of course, none of them have been published yet, but the responses they have received are an interesting study on what you might expect when you begin submitting your work.

Here are the stories and the responses they’ve received to date.

Title Length Genre Form Rejections Higher Tier Form Rejections Personal Rejections Short List
After Birth Short Horror 4 2 2 2
Akuma Short Horror 3 2 1  
Fair Play Short Urban Fantasy 2      
Red Season Flash Horror 5 1   1
Set in Stone Short Urban Fantasy 8 1 4 2

Here’s a quick summation of each story in the rotation and their performance so far.

After Birth: This is one of my few “extreme” horror stories, though I think it makes that definition by the skin of its teeth, mostly because of the premise more than the content. The responses I’ve received for this one have been good, and it is currently on the short list for one market and awaiting a final decision. Unlike many of my stories, I feel pretty confident about this one, and I think it’ll find a home soon.

Akuma: Fairly good responses so far for this one. The personal rejection included some very good feedback, and I’ll be revising the story soon. It might also get a title change in that revision.

Fair Play: This one is very new, and I’ve only submitted it twice. It’s gotten a couple of form rejection, but that’s a very small sample size, so it’ll be going out again.

Red Season: An older flash story that has received fairly good responses, making a short list and missing publication by an eyelash. It’s one of those stories that requires a pretty specific market, so I don’t submit it as often as I normally would.

Set in Stone: Ah, my lovable loser, and a story that is vying for the title of most-rejected. This story has gotten a lot of feedback, mostly praise, and has made two short lists. It feels a lot like the current rejection record-holder “Paper Cut,” which received sixteen rejections before it was published. Like I said, this story has received a lot of feedback, but most of it has been positive and nothing I could hang my hat on and say, “Ah, here’s what I need to revise.” Like “Paper Cut,” I think this story might be suffering from a rampaging case of right story, wrong market/editor. So, I’m gonna let it continue its historic run, and see if it can hit twenty rejections before all is said an done. After that, maybe I’ll overhaul it or self-publish.

To sum up, I think these stories illustrate the many different responses a story can receive and that rejections don’t always mean there’s something wrong with the story. If my story is making short lists and getting positive personal rejections in the vein of “good story but not right for us,” that’s an indication I need to keep sending it out. Perseverance is key to getting published, and you shouldn’t let three or four, or, hell, even sixteen rejections stop you from sending a story out until it finds a home. This is not to say that some stories don’t need to be revised along the way or even canned altogether, but I think it’s important to get a sizeable sample from multiple markets before you make that decision. In other words, you probably don’t need t go back to the drawing board after a couple of form rejections. What’s right for one publisher may be dead wrong for another.

How many stories are in your submission rotation? Tell me about it in the comments.

Swings & Misses: The Submission Slump

If you were to look at my acceptance ratio at Duotrope a few months ago, you’d have seen a number of around 20%, meaning, very roughly, that for every ten submission I sent, two would be accepted. In baseball terms, that’s a batting average of .200, which, admittedly, ain’t great for the MLB (the infamous Mendoza line), but from what I understand, it’s not a terrible number for writers.

Well, just like a baseball player, a writer can see his or her average plummet from too many swings and misses in a row, and that’s what’s happened to me of late. I’ve watched my acceptance ratio plummet to 11.3% (I’m hitting like a pitcher now) over the last couple of months. This is due to an extended string of rejections without the respite of an occasional acceptance. I’ve gone 0 for 17 since my last hit . . . uh, I mean acceptance. So, to amuse myself (mostly) and hopefully a few of you, I’m going to liken some of the rejections I’ve received in my slump to the various hitting woes a baseball player might experience over the course of the season.

Here we go.

1) The Routine Play Rejection – The player hits a medium-depth fly ball or a nice Sunday-hop grounder that even a little leaguer could field cleanly. It’s so common, it’s, yep, routine.

This is the vanilla form rejection that arrives by the publisher’s expected response time. No surprises here, just routine rejection.

2) The At ‘Em Ball Rejection – In baseball, the “at ‘em” ball is a ball hit straight at an infielder that results in a quick out. The player sometimes doesn’t even make it halfway down the line before the out is recorded.

In rejection terms, this is the fast, sometimes same-day form rejection you can get from some top-tier markets. You hit send and you don’t even have time to fantasize about selling a story to that one market you’ve been trying to crack for five years before the rejection arrives in your inbox.

3) The Can of Corn Rejection – The can of corn in baseball parlance is a high, lazy fly ball that gives the outfield plenty of time to settle under it and make an easy catch. It’s one of the more ho-hum outs you can make.

The rejection version of this particular baseball play is the form rejection that comes after months and months of waiting (6 months in this case). The editor has had all the time they need to make a decision, and that decision was “nope.”

4) The Circus Catch or Highway Robbery Rejection – The batter has done everything right. He’s made good contact and hit the ball hard, but the fielder makes a spectacular play, even leaping high over the wall to take away what should have been a homerun.

In rejection terms, this is that story the editor professes his or her love for but decides not to publish after a few months of deliberation because they have another story just like it, one they like a bit better, or a dozen other perfectly viable reasons beyond your control. You wrote a good story, sent it to a market that liked it, but despite all that, you still get a rejection.

5) The Swinging Bunt Rejection – Sometimes a baseball player will take a mighty hack at the ball, barely touch it, and hit a little dribbler out in from of home plate. Often, he won’t even realize he’s hit the ball fair until the catcher picks up the ball and throws him out at first while he stands there staring at the umpire like an idiot.

The rejection version of this particularly embarrassing situation is when you send out a story and realize, to your everlasting horror, you’ve sent an older, error-riddled version instead of the polished, properly formatted, and, you know, SPELL CHECKED, version you slaved over for hours. The rejection doesn’t say, “Hey, dumbass, you sent us something that looks your 7th-grade book report,” but in your heart of hearts, you know the truth.


Well, that’s a hopefully amusing look at my current submission slump. Maybe I’ll break out of it in April and hit for the cycle, which would be placing a story with a free market, a token market, a semi-pro market, and a pro-market in the same month. Hell, at this point I’d take a seeing-eye single through the infield because the second baseman got his spikes caught on the turf and fell flat on his face. Not sure what the literary equivalent of that would be, though.

I’d love to hear about your own submission streaks or slumps in the comments.

Submission Protocol: Should You Respond to Rejections?

This is a question I see in writing groups and forums fairly often, and here’s the Rejectomancy take on the subject.

Short Answer: No

The vast majority of the time you shouldn’t respond to a rejection letter, and here are the two primary reasons why:

  1. You don’t need to respond. Especially in the case of a form rejection, which a publisher might send out by the hundreds, no response is expected. It’s understood that your communication with the editor/publisher is over once they send a rejection and does not begin again until you send them something else. I’d say the same goes for personal rejections in that a response is not expected. If they ask to see more of your work in the personal rejection, THAT is the response they’re looking for.
  2. Many publishers specifically ask you not to respond. It’s not uncommon to see something in the submission guidelines discouraging responses to rejection letters. This is probably because of reason one, and it clutters up the editor’s inbox (especially with large publications who receive hundreds of submission a month).

Long Answer: Rarely

Okay, now that I’ve told you why you shouldn’t respond to a rejection letter, I think there are cases where it is okay. In fact, I recently did respond to a rejection to thank an editor for providing very useful feedback. The advice he offered will greatly improve the story, and I was exceedingly grateful for it. Since this particular market has published me before, and I’ve worked directly with the editor during that process, I felt a quick “thank you” wasn’t out of line. Of course, I couldn’t help starting my email with “I know you’re not supposed to respond to rejection letters.” Anyway, the editor sent me a polite note in reply, letting me know they usually don’t mind responses to rejection letters, as long as the author isn’t telling them how wrong they are for rejecting the story (more on that in a sec), and that it was nice to hear the feedback was well received.

Okay, with my little anecdote in mind, here are some things to consider if you’re thinking about responding to a rejection letter:

  1. Does the publication specifically ask authors NOT to respond to rejection letters? If so, then you should consider that part of the submission guidelines, and we always follow the submission guidelines, right folks?
  2. Is it a personal rejection? As I said earlier, there’s really no reason to respond to a form rejection, but a sincere, helpful personal rejection might warrant a response.
  3. Have they published you? If that’s a yes, then some kind of working relationship has been established. I’m not saying you are colleagues or best buds or anything, but you’ve likely communicated with the editor enough that a short note in reply isn’t out of line.
  4. What are you saying? If it’s a short “thank you for the very helpful feedback,” that’s fine. If it’s a pages-long diatribe that can be summed up as “how dare you not recognize my brilliance, you talentless hack,” then you need to step away from your keyboard and a) grow a thicker skin and b) remember that every writer, great and small, gets rejected. A lot.  The editor rejected your story because he or she didn’t like it, didn’t feel it was a good fit, or a hundred other perfectly valid reasons. Accept it, move on, and send them something else. I think the fact that the editor in my example felt the need to mention this bit of bad author behavior speaks volumes, i.e., it probably happens pretty regularly.

In summary, there’s usually no need to respond to rejection letters, but there might be occasions when it’s acceptable as long as you follow some common sense guidelines. Of course, like everything else on this blog, this is simply my opinion and shouldn’t be considered absolute fact.

What are your thoughts on responding to rejection letters? Tell me all about it in the comments.

Submission Statement: February 2017

February was a busy month submission-wise, though a somewhat frustrating one as well. Here’s how I did.

February 2017 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 9
  • Rejections: 7
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0

Yep, no acceptances or publications this month. In fact, this is the first month I’ve been “skunked” since I started keeping track this way.

Rejections

Seven rejections this month, three of which could be categorized as “good” rejections.

Rejection 1: Submitted 2/6/17; Rejected 2/13/2017

Thanks for considering XXX for your Reprint submission, “XXX.”

Unfortunately we have decided not to accept it.

We wish you the best of luck with your writing career and hope to see your name often (new stories, too!) in our slush pile.

This is a higher-tier form rejection from a pro-market that exclusively published flash fiction. How do I know it’s a higher-tier form rejection? Because they allow multiple submission, and I sent them three stories in February, two of which received standard form rejections. I like this market a lot. They accept multiple and reprint submissions, and they respond quickly. What’s not to love?

Rejection 2: Submitted 2/6/17; Rejected 2/15/2017

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.

This is the standard form rejection from the same market that sent rejection number one. Not much to see here, as this is pretty run-of-the-mill form rejection fare.

Rejection 3: Submitted 2/16/17; Rejected 2/18/2017

Thanks for submitting “XXX,” but I’m going to pass on it. It didn’t quite work for me, I’m afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way.

One of the top-flight horror magazines opened up for submissions in mid-February, so I sent them a couple of stories. This is the first, and it resulted in a two-day form rejection. If you write horror, I’m sure you know which market I’m talking about, and I’d be willing to bet you’ve seen this rejection a few times yourself.

Rejection 4: Submitted 11/8/16; Rejected 2/19/2017

Thank you for your submission and patience. However, we’ve decided to pass on this one. It was a very tough decision to make.

We’ve received over 720 submissions, and your story made it to the final ballot. The main reason for rejections is that we had to find the best ghost/creature/human-horror/literary/fantastical story out of the bunch. We didn’t want to print too many stories with the same theme/sub-genre.

Since you made it to the final ballot please know that we sincerely look forward to reading more fiction—short or long—from you in the future.

Oh, man, this one was a heart-breaker. The editor really liked the story–he said as much in a further consideration letter in November–but they ultimately decided to pass on it. It’s a good rejection in that they want to see more work, and I’ll definitely send some their way. I talk more about this rejection and others like it in this post: Rejections: The Bad Beats.

Rejection 5: Submitted 2/16/17; Rejected 2/19/2017

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.  

This is another form rejection from the same market as rejections one and two. Nothing significant other than it arrived the same day as rejection number four, making it a multi-rejection day.

Rejection 6: Submitted 2/22/16; Rejected 2/23/2017

Thank you for sending us “XXX”. We appreciate the chance to review your story, but don’t feel that it will work for us. Best of luck finding it a home elsewhere.

This is a very standard form rejection from a new market. Not much to see here.

Rejection 7: Submitted 2/25/16; Rejected 2/25/2017

Thanks for submitting “XXX,” but I’m going to pass on it. It’s nicely written and I enjoyed reading it, but overall it didn’t quite win me over, I’m afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way. I look forward to seeing your next submission.

A bright spot for the month is this higher-tier form rejection from a pro horror market I’ve been trying to crack for years. This is the first time I’ve received the “next level” form rejection, so that’s a good sign. Coincidentally, this is the same story as the heart-breaker rejection from 2/19/2017 and the same publisher as the standard form rejection that arrived 2/18/2017. This particular story is currently under consideration at another pro horror market, so I’ll likely have an update for the March submission statement.


And that was February. Tell me about your February adventures in submission land in the comments.

Rejections: The Bad Beats

A question I’m often asked with regards to my blog is: Do rejections still bother you? The answer is largely no, they don’t. Form rejections, especially, barely register anymore, and at this point, they are little more than a notification to send the story somewhere else. That said, I’m not immune to rejection woes, it just takes a particular kind of rejection to pierce my thick rejecotmancer hide.

These more potent rejections I call “bad beats,” a term you often hear in poker to describe a situation where a player has a good hand but still loses. Bad-beat rejections typically follow the same pattern: you submit a story, receive a further consideration letter, often with positive feedback attached, wait weeks to months for a decision, then, ultimately, get a rejection. More often than not, the rejection will mention that your story made it to the final round of voting or something of that nature.

Here’s an example of a bad-beat rejection I recently received.

Thank you for your submission and patience. However, we’ve decided to pass on this one. It was a very tough decision to make.

We’ve received over XXX submissions, and your story made it to the final ballot. The main reason for rejections is that we had to find the best ghost/creature/human-horror/literary/fantastical story out of the bunch. We didn’t want to print too many stories with the same theme/sub-genre.

Since you made it to the final ballot please know that we sincerely look forward to reading more fiction—short or long—from you in the future.

This rejection was preceded by a further consideration letter where the editor expressed how much he liked the story, so, as you can guess, I had my hopes up a bit more than usual. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not angry (because that would be silly) nor do I believe the editor made a “bad” decision. When you edit a magazine or anthology, you have to make tough choices, and that often means rejecting stories you like. It’s disappointing, but it’s the kind of disappointment that comes with a narrow miss, not the soul-crushing despair that makes you question whether you have any business calling yourself a writer to begin with. I’ve left that kind of disappointment behind. Well, you know, mostly.

Of course, in many ways, this is a good rejection. I’ve got a story I feel confident about submitting elsewhere, and this particular publisher wants to see more work. All that is entirely positive. Still, I wanted this one pretty bad because it’s a story I like a lot, and this would have been a great vehicle to share it with the world. Bad beat or no, it’s time to send that story out again.

Got any bad beats you’d like to share? Tell me about them in the comments.

January 2017 Submission Statement

The first month of the new year has come and gone, and it was a fairly average submission month for me. I always feel like I should send more submission out, you know, because I totally should, but half a dozen ain’t terrible. Let’s dive in.

January 2017 Report Card

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

Rejections

Five rejections this month. Two of them are for “Story X1,” a story whose journey through the submission process I’m documenting in the series Real-Time Rejection II: The Saga of “Story X1.”

Rejection 1: Submitted 12/5/16; Rejected 1/6/2017

Thank you for submitting “Story X1” 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.

Super standard form rejection from a top-tier market. Not much to see here, but I discuss this particular rejection in more detail in this post.

Rejection 2: Submitted 1/6/17; Rejected 1/6/2017

Thank you so much for thinking of XXX. Unfortunately “Story X1” is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

Another rejection for “Story X1.” Yep, this one is a same-day rejection and also was part of a multi-day rejection with the last letter. I admit, that shit used to bother me a lot more. Now? Not so much. My toughened rejectomancer hide is all but numb to the form rejection at this point. 🙂 Anyway, I discuss this rejection in more detail here.

Rejection 3: Submitted 1/14/17; Rejected 1/19/2017

Thank you for submitting “XXX” to our Flash Doom contest. We were very happy to see such high-quality submissions. The judging process is never easy, but this one was tougher than most.

Unfortunately, “XXX” was not selected for our Top 10, but we very much enjoyed the chance to read it.

Thanks so much for your participation. We couldn’t do these contests without you. 

This is a standard form rejection from The Molotov Cocktail for one of my three submissions to the Flash Doom contest. And, yes, they’re totally cool with me naming the publication here. They’re a great zine, and I have nothin’ but love for Molotov.

Rejection 4: Submitted 1/14/17; Rejected 1/19/2017

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

Unfortunately, your entry “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 last stages of judging. As a result, we’ve given you a “Close But No Cigar” shout-out on our Flash Doom results page (https://themolotovcocktail.com/).

We encourage folks who didn’t quite make the cut to think about submitting those pieces for consideration in our regular issues (free to submit). We’ve published a good number of them that way in the past.

Thanks again for your participation, and for writing such an entertaining story.

Another rejection from The Molotov Cocktail for the Flash Doom contest. This one fell into the “close but no cigar” category, which makes this a higher-tier rejection, I suppose. I submit a lot of stuff to The Molotov Cocktail, and they publish a fair amount of it. How much? Ten stories so far.

Rejection 5: Submitted 1/21/17; Rejected 1/28/2017

Thank you for the opportunity to read “XXX”.  Unfortunately, the story didn’t fit our current needs.  Best of luck placing it elsewhere.  

This is a form rejection from a new market, one I hadn’t tried before. They’re an audio market that publish writers from the Pacific Northwest, so I figured I’d send them a reprint as an opening bid. Most audio markets are cool with reprints since they publish in an entirely different format, so they’re not really reprints to them. Anyway, I’ll send these guys more stuff in the future.

Rejection 6: Submitted 12/7/16; Rejected 1/31/2017

Thank you for the opportunity to read your story! Though “XXX” did make our final voting round, unfortunately we’ve found it is not a good fit for our upcoming issue.  We wish you the best of luck finding a home for your story elsewhere. We would love to see more from you in the future!

What we have hear is a nice, encouraging personal rejection from a pro-paying market. It’s always a bit of a bummer to know you got close to an acceptance but didn’t make the final cut. Still, this tells me the story might have legs and that I should send it out again as is, which I’m totally gonna do. I’ll also be sending this publication more of my work. Hey, they said they wanted to see more, right?

Acceptances

One acceptance in January from my old pals at The Molotov Cocktail.

Acceptance 1: Submitted 1/15/17; Accepted 1/19/2017

Congratulations! Your Flash Doom entry, “An Incident on Dover Street,” has made our Top 10 as an honorable mention. This means that it will be published in our upcoming Flash Doom mega-issue (to run on January 20th) and it will be included in our third annual Prize Winners Anthology print edition this fall.

You can check out where your entry specifically placed by visiting the site: https://themolotovcocktail.com/

Thanks so much for your participation in the Flash Doom contest and for writing such a kick-ass story. We’re honored to be able to feature it.

An honorable mention and a publication is good stuff, and this makes ten stories The Molotov Cocktail has published. I’m already gearing up for the next flash contest, Flash Rage.

Publications

One publications this month, the aforementioned Flash Doom entry “An Incident on Dover Street.”

Publication 1: 1/20/17

“An Incident on Dover Street” – The Molotov Cocktail

Another trunk story that started out as a flash fiction piece, was expanded into a short story (and rejected a few times), then shrunk down again into a flash piece again and submitted, accepted, and published with The Molotov Cocktail. A bit if weird path to publication for this one, but I’m thrilled it has found a home.


Well, that’s my January. How has the new year been treating you? Tell me about it in the comments.

4 Reasons for the Same-Day Rejection

Here’s the scenario. You fire off a short story submission, fully prepared to wait the two weeks or one month or however long it takes for them to read your story and make a decision.  You check your email a couple hours later and BAM! They’ve already sent you a form rejection. Yep, it didn’t take months, weeks, or even days for the editors to decide your story wasn’t a good fit. It took mere hours.

Cue the alarm bells.

Was your story that bad? Are you a terrible writer whose work is such monumental garbage the reek of it nearly caused the editor to blow chunks all over his or her computer after reading a single sentence? Well, probably not to both questions, but let’s unpack this a bit.

Normally, I don’t like to spend a lot of time on form letters because they just don’t tell you much other than the publisher isn’t going to publish your story. The same-day rejection, however, can be jarring because, hey, you kind of expect a mulling-over process with your submission and not instantaneous rejection. So let’s talk about four possible reasons for the same-day rejection based on my own experiences. Remember, this isn’t absolute fact, it’s hypothesizing based on anecdotal evidence; in other words, we’re gonna rejectomance this motherfucker.

  1. You didn’t follow the submission guidelines. Pretty self-explanatory, right? This is the only reason on the list that isn’t rejectomancy; it’s cold, hard fact. If they asked for your manuscript in Courier New and you sent them Times New Roman, you’re gonna get rejected, and fast. If they asked you to put your story in the body of the email and you sent it as an attachment, you might get a rejection in minutes instead of hours. In other words, and say it with me, kids: ALWAYS FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.
  2. They’re just that fast. Yep, there are a couple of spec-fic markets that are well known for same-day rejections. If you routinely submit horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, then you likely know the ones I’m talking about. But how are they so fast? The possible answers to that question could fill their own blog post, but the two most likely reasons are they have a sizeable staff of first readers who read submissions the instant they come in, and/or they can tell from the first few paragraphs that a story is not for them. I can’t say for sure those are the reason these markets respond so quickly, but they make the most sense to me. To sum up, if you get a same-day rejection from one of these markets, don’t worry about it. For them, it’s just SOP.
  3. First in line. Sometimes when you send in a story right when a market opens the flood gates on their submission period you get lucky and end up at the front of the line. It’s just luck of the draw that your story happened to be one of the first the editors read, and if it’s not for them, then a same-day rejection could be the result. One thing to keep in mind is that for many markets the reason it takes weeks or months for them to get back to you is there are dozens even hundreds of submissions to read before yours. It really doesn’t take an editor too long to read and make a decision on a short story, so if you get read first, your chances of a lightning-fast rejection are pretty high.
  4. They like your stuff. One thing I’ve noticed is that markets that have previously published my work generally get back to me quicker with subsequent submissions. Sometimes they even get back to me in the same day. This could be because they recognize my name, remember they liked and published something I wrote, and move my submission to the front of the line. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more likely to publish what I’ve sent them, but it might mean they’re more likely to read it first. And if they read it first, well, then my chances of a fast or even same-day rejection increase dramatically. I’ve received form rejections and personal rejections in the same day under this scenario.

So, as alarming as a same-day rejection can be, you probably shouldn’t view the the speed of the response as a measure of the quality of your work. As with any rejection, there are lots of things happening behind the scenes you’ll never know, and few of them have anything to do with the how good or bad your story might be. Take a deep breath, and send that story out again.

Do you have any experience with the same-day rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.