Let’s talk about rejection. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve already been rejected as an author numerous times. In fact, with the rejection I received today, everything I’ve submitted has been rejected at least once. One short story has been rejected eight times!
How should I take that? It depends on who you ask. One author I’ve read (and I will talk about who I’ve been reading in a later post) stated if a story is rejected five or six times, it means the story is not good enough for publication; and the writer should move on to other stories and possibly other careers. Another author advocated a writer keep submitting the story to different markets no matter the number of rejections. This author’s take was that there is a lot of luck involved in finding the right editor at the right time who will accept a new writer’s work. Though I read this advice elsewhere, it actually is #5 of Heinlein’s Five Rules.
I adopted the latter approach. Currently, there are around 35 SFWA-qualifying markets for short stories (generally not including anthologies). However, not all of these accept the same type of story or the same length of story, and not all are continuously open to unsolicited submissions. In other words, the actual number of markets available for submission of a particular short story are much fewer at any one time. And those markets likely are receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions. To paraphrase the reverse of the popular Hunger Games quote, the odds are forever not in my favor.
That is especially true when you understand that new writers don’t sell copies of an issue or subscriptions to that publication overall. Established writers, those whose names appear on the cover, do. New writers are lucky if there are a handful of slots in a year’s worth of publications reserved for their work.
The rejections haven’t been all bad. One of my stories was selected in the initial round of a writing contest, though it did not place in the final round. Another story received what I call a positive rejection. That is still a form rejection, but instead of just saying we won’t publish your story, it says we liked your story but we won’t publish it. And we encourage you to submit more stories for consideration. The rejection received today was from the same market and was my first personalized rejection. This rejection was the same as the position rejection, but it included an individual critique of the story from the editor. With the volume of submissions these days, my understanding is individualized feedback from an editor is almost unheard of. Needless to say, I plan to revise my story in response to that feedback before submitting it to another market. (The editor did not ask for revisions and re-submission. Maybe that will happen when I submit my next story to this market.) If you’re interested in the topic of tiered form rejections, there is an interesting post here.
Where does this leave me? To paraphrase another movie (and its predecessor play), always be writing and always be submitting.