Publication Proccess: Rejection and Rejectomancy

One of the less-than-fun aspects of the publication process is the inevitable rejection your work is going to get. Even the best authors get rejected. (No, I haven’t asked them all, but seriously…)

Different writers are going to take rejection differently. In fact, I’ve noticed that I take rejection differently….from rejection to rejection. Some hit really hard. On others, I’m just glad to ‘have the story back’. I’ve had reactions ranging from wanting to cry…all the way down to a shrug and “Oh, well.”

Rejection coming atop a hard day is worse. The three-rejection-day just stinks up a whole week when it happens. The rejection coming right after a big sale? Well that one’s just there to keep you humble.

Are novel rejections worse than short story rejection? Oddly, I think I’ve felt the same gamut of emotions. Some are bad, some don’t seem to matter. A lot of how bad it feels relates to:
1)How much you wanted that particular venue to purchase your story,
2)How long they’ve had the darned thing, and
3)What you thought your odds were.

If you’re submitting to a pro venue and they respond within two hours, you haven’t even had time to get your hopes up. If they’ve held your story for over 500 days…that’s far more ouchy. At 500 days you’re usually either crushed….or really annoyed at the editor for ‘wasting’ your time.

One of the tactics we writers use to take away a bit of the sting is Rejectomancy.

Rejectomancy is the magical art of trying to understand the editor’s hidden meaning by looking at the entrails of the rejection letter or e-mail. Witness below, my first rejection letter:

I didn’t know this when I got it, but there are ‘signs’ buried in this NO. The color of the paper is important. Who signed it is important. The fact that there’s a handwritten note is important. Even the wording of the NO is important. The red pen? I have no idea what that means. I spent some time trying to decide the significance of the fact that the name of the story isn’t right…but all that probably meant he’d just read something else with ‘touch’ in its name. (It was “Stains of the Past” not “Touch of the Past”).

The whole point being that we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what we did wrong. What we can do better next time. Why we don’t fit this particular venue or editor’s style.

And then we sit down and send it back out, which is probably the first step in healing. We stick the rejection letter into a file (or paper sections of our office wall) and we move on. We gripe a little to our friends, record the rejection in the RA-log, Duotrope, and whatever other reporting venue we like. (The RA-log could use fresh people reporting, BTW, so if you’re submitting a lot of short stories, it would be cool if you joined up.)

We get a rejection, we deal, and then we move on…

4 thoughts on “Publication Proccess: Rejection and Rejectomancy

  1. Ah, the Yellow Rejection of Promise! I kind of miss that existing.

    For me short story rejections are worse because it’s expected that you will SimSub novels, so when someone rejects it you’ve still got several irons in the fire. With short stories, it’s unusual if I can shop the story around to more than a half dozen markets in a year. So it bounces from market to market, getting older and less representative of my current writing ability, until I find myself wanting to trunk it after maybe ten rejections.

    1. Hi Joe :o)

      I actually found your page via Codex, just so you know. I expect you’re starting a new school year. Good luck with it!

      I often wonder about people who choose to continue to send out a story after 20+ rejections. For me, I’d think the same thing: that the story is no longer representative of my work. Also, after 20+ rejections, I feel like I’m getting down to markets not worth my efforts….which is kinda stuck up, I know, but time is short, as is my patience ;o)

      1. Your name looked familiar, so I assumed you were from Codex. 🙂 We teachers reported last Monday, and kids start the day after tomorrow. Let’s call it a mixed blessing. *g*

        You make a good point about the dearth of good markets for short stories. I do believe the standard no-sim-sub policy is inherently unfair, though. I follow it, because I can see that publishing is a small world, and that genres are small towns within that small world. But I can’t think of an analogous business model, whether selling products or applying for jobs, where the power is so concentrated in the hands of the buyer/employer. When I submit, I do it not in order of pay, but in order of timeliness of replies. (After weeding out the markets that are not worth my time, of course.)

  2. I’ve had a track history of those uber-long submissions, and I just have little interest in putting up with it any longer. Sad, but true. After 7 years, no patience!

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