I get roughly 75 rejections for every sale. I really can’t say what other writers deal with. I’ve Heard Peter M. Ball actually sells more stories than he submits, but that could be rumor. Of course this means that in order to get published you must submit, submit, SUBMIT! I have friends that like to write stories yet find themselves terribly discouraged when they cannot get published. Yet when I ask about their submission rates they tell me that they have submitted to, “that one place that rejected me…” Well that won’t work. You push on, submit, write more so you have more to submit, rinse and repeat. Try not to let it get you down.
Nothing feels better than a sale. I mean really. The last time I made a sale I wore a grin that made my neighbors little girl cry and her little boy hide behind his mother’s leg. But you can’t live for that feeling. It is too elusive. Instead, you have to find other fixes to get you by. Workshop, blogging, honing your craft, reading- all good ways to survive the lean months (years) between the pure, unadulterated amphetamine that is, “We are happy to inform you that we would like to publish your story.” I have discovered another pleasant mediator- the good rejection.
I don’t get many of these. Good rejections are as rare as sales. Last night I got a really good one from none other than Tor.com. Tor.com is a really special place, a nexus of sci-fi/fantasy and mainstream culture. It is well written, well funded, and well… a lot of people visit the place. I put a sub in there about six months ago and forgot about it. Last night I received this:
Dear Mr. Porter,
Thanks so much for your patience while we evaluated “The Stone
Flowers,” which finally made it to the top of the long queue of the
very oldest stories in our Tor.com submissions pile. The good news is
that you were on that queue because you were in the second look pile.
The less good news is that you were moved there shortly after we
opened the market to the general public and got a huge influx of great
submissions, and I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. We very much
appreciate your patience during the process.
Unfortunately, now that I’ve had a chance to read the story, I
don’t think this one is quite right for us. As I mentioned, our first
readers all found things to admire, remarking, “This was a little slow
at first, but pretty soon I couldn’t look away. I may be biased
because I love octopuses, but this is also different than anything
else I’ve ever read, and it was strangely emotional for having such an
alien point of view,” “Very cool premise, and the ending is great. I
think the writing isn’t quite effortless enough,” and “Yeah, there are
points in the beginning when the writing feels totally clunky, but the
emotional journey is profound and the concepts interesting and
While I did find the alienness of this perspective intriguing, I’m
afraid it moved too slowly for my tastes and I found the prose to be
not quite interesting enough–at times it felt more like a synopsis of
a story than the story itself.
That said, despite my reservations about the story, it was a close
call for us, and we would be happy to look at anything you choose to
send us in the future, if you’re not well and truly fed up with us. I
do hope things will speed up considerably now that we’ve recovered
from the massive initial flood and have several more hands on deck to
do first reads.
So that is without a doubt my favorite rejection…EVER!
Now for the problems. I was explaining to Dear Maggie today that the story- so sweetly rejected -has made it to the finalist spot at about half a dozen top pro magazines. Intergalactic Medicine Show asked to hold it for nearly a year “trying to find a place for it,” or so they said. I love this story. I wrote it about my friend Dana in Nashville after she lost a parent and it contains some very genuine feeling. The biggest problem: I have submitted this story to just about every place I can think of and it just can’t find a home. What’s more, the six “bigguns” that rejected it all gave me very nice rejections with thoughtful advice on how to improve it… and the advice is almost entirely contradictory. I know better than to worry about it. The above rejection didn’t really offer advice so much as state why it didn’t quite make the grade (they were very fair with that and that’s why it’s my favorite rejection). I won’t give up. I love this story and I believe (with all my sugar coated heart) that it has a loving place waiting for it out there.
Thems the breaks.
So hats of to Tor.com for being awesome. One note, they were awesome before this rejection, now they’re just more so.
Science of Fiction.
I want some input from friends on their rejection ratios and how they get up in the morning. I will ask around and post.