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.

Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 14 Update

Week fourteen has come and gone, and here’s your weekly update on Acts of War: Aftershock.

Progress: The first draft is still under review with Privateer Press, but this is not unusual for a couple or reasons. First, it’s a big book that a bunch of folks need to read, and that just takes time. Second, its July release date means there are books in the queue coming out well before it, like Orrin Grey’s Godless, which need editorial attention first. Truth be told, I finished the first draft of Aftershock well before the deadline, which is good for me, but it doesn’t necessarily speed up the editorial process. I still have to wait in line. 🙂

The Best Part: Sword nerdery. Writing this kind of fiction gives me plenty of opportunities to indulge my love of historical warfare. One of the things I like most is figuring out how different Iron Kingdoms weapons might be used in combat. Take Stryker’s mechanikal greatsword Quicksilver, for example. It’s meant to be used by a warcaster to crack open warjacks and other heavily armored targets. Though it can be wielded like a sword, to my mind, its use would often resemble certain types of polearms. On the other hand, Ashlynn d’Eleyse’s weapon Nemesis is a completely different story. She’s a renowned swordsman with a sword designed for dueling, and I can turn to various real-world techniques (from longsword to saber) to describe her fighting style.

The Hard Part: A little goes a long way. The last thing I want to do is turn the book into a treatise on sword-fighting. When I write a fight scene, I go back and read it, specifically looking to see if I’ve gone too far down the rabbit hole with my descriptions. I want to keep the action moving, and I don’t want to drop a paragraph of exposition on archaic fighting techniques into my battle. So, I work to show the techniques rather than just tell you about them. (I get to do the telling in a series of No Quarter articles.)

Mini Excerpt: Today’s excerpt focuses on Lord General Coleman Stryker, who has gotten himself in a bit of a pickle. He’s found himself without his trusty warcaster armor or Quicksilver and must rely on the skills he learned in the Cygnaran Royal Guard years ago.



It had been many years since Stryker had used a sword like the one he’d taken from the slain gun mage, but the weapon was similar to the straight double-edged blades of the Royal Guard where he’d received his initial martial training.

The principal guards came back to him in a rush.

Prong.

He held the sword high, point toward his enemy, and caught an axe blow on the strong of the blade. The heavier axe slid away from his sword, and with a quick twist of wrist and shoulder he opened the Winter Guard’s skull with a powerful overhand cut.

The next Khadoran came at him with a rifle bayonet, thrusting at his stomach.

Nail.

Stryker turned his sword, point-down, in front of his body and knocked the bayonet away with a sharp parry. He lunged forward, bringing the point of his weapon back up, and used his momentum to ram the blade through the Winter Guard’s throat.



Split a skull, stab a throat—it’s just like riding a bike, eh, Lord General? 🙂

If you have a question or comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the updates for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

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.

Acts of War: Aftershock – Week 11 Update

Eleven weeks and I have a true first draft, something I can show other human beings without shame or terror (well, maybe a little terror).

Progress: I’ve finished my read-through of the first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock, fixed the errors I found, and I have sent it off to Privateer Press for review. As usual, I removed a fair amount of text during my proofing pass, tightening up sentences or even outright removing entire passages that weren’t working or simply weren’t needed. I also fixed a metric ton of typos and formatting errors, wrangled a few plot holes, and came to terms with my unnatural love of semicolons (mostly).

The Best Part: Deep breath. The first draft is truly and completely done and out of my hands. That’s a nice feeling, and I can relax a little while I wait for Privateer Press to review the manuscript. It’ll be weeks before I get any feedback, and I can turn my attention to other projects (some for Privateer Press) and not worry about the novel for a little while. Okay, not worry about the novel as much for a little while.

The Hard Part: Holding pattern. Of course, part of finishing a novel is waiting for the inevitable feedback. The fear that what you’ve written is not what the publisher wants is very real, even if it’s a little unwarranted. With an approved and detailed outline, Privateer knows more or less what they’re going to get, and I certainly didn’t stray from the outline in a major way. There will always be elements of a first draft that don’t work or are simply not what the publisher wants, but the editors at Privateer are fantastic at communicating what they want in their feedback, and I’ve worked with them closely for that last seven years.

Mini Excerpt: Today’s mini-excerpt introduces a new character, Sergeant William Harcourt, a young soldier who is a bit more gifted than he (or anyone) first believed. The concept art for today features a journeyman warcaster, and I’m not saying Sergeant Harcourt looks like this guy, but I’m not saying he doesn’t look like this guy. 🙂

journeyman-concept-warcaster



Good; you’re in,” Stryker said. “Now give him an order. Tell him to walk ten paces away from you.”

“Rowdy, walk—“Harcourt began.

“No, with your mind,” Stryker said. “Think it at him.”

Harcourt was silent for a moment, and then Rowdy took a step and another. Stryker counted ten before the Ironclad stopped. The warjack turned back toward Harcourt and vented steam in a low whistle. The tone was unmistakable. Now what?

“Excellent,” Stryker said. “You have control of him, and you can give him orders, but you can do more than that. In combat, you can guide his attacks, make them more accurate or hit harder. You can also push him to charge an enemy, trample infantry, or grapple another warjack. Rowdy is special, though. He doesn’t take much coaxing to get into a fight.”

“Yes, I’ve seen that, sir,” Harcourt said and chuckled.



Nothing like a little Warjack 101, right? Wonder what else Stryker has imparted to our neophyte warcaster.

If you have a question or comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the updates for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

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Check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, if you haven’t already. You can get the e-book at 25% off from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at checkout.

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.