Rejection! (and the greatest resource for writers… ever)

16 12 2009

Got a rejection yesterday. The story was called Lovestory, and I have mixed feelings about it. For one, it’s very much a straight horror story and it was originally titled The Beast, but I started feeling sympathy for the foil. Watch how much abuse you heap on your villains, they may garner your own sympathy. I will move it down my submission list and send it off again. Someone out there wants to love it.

The rejection was nice. It was not an auto rejection, which is always a good thing. There are tiers to e-rejections (and paper rejections, but that is a story for another day). The auto rejection is standard. They suck. They often come when the slush wrangler chokes down two pages of your story and then hits send or enjoys your story but has fifty more to read before lunch; problem with auto rejection is: you will never know. I get six auto rejects for every one non-auto rejection. The non-auto rejection is still just a rejection, but will also do things like use your name in the body and give and encouraging word (could be a complex auto, but if it is, it works). My rejection from Black Matrix Publishing yesterday was this type. And it went as follows:

Andrew,

Close, but not quite. Sorry, it's a no to this one, but try again with
something else.

Guy Kenyon
Editor/Black Matrix

So, looking at it right now this looks more auto reject than I thought, but maybe not. I shot them something else more in the science fiction field.  I encourage you all to try this venue. They are an upstart, but having just gotten going the slush piles are small, so try try try.

The last type of rejection notice, and the one you most want to see, is the feedback rejection. This is a rejection where the Editor(s) like your story and want give you the benefit of their expertise by sharing the notes they generated upon reading it. I get one of these about one in twenty. Some magazines give these exclusively and they are generated by a reader-based reviewer process. Australian mag, Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine is one such outlet. These can be handy ways of generating free comments on your work, but you don’t know anything about who is commenting. An editor will have a record of their taste by what gets published. It’s an issue.

Well now, here we go. The most important resource you will find for shopping your work, and I don’t just mean genre work, any work. Friends, welcome to Duotrope’s Digest! Duotrope provides excellent searches and customizable lists with full links to paying markets. More importantly these links are rarely out of date. If  Duotrope says the market isn’t taking submissions, it isn’t. There are other helpful bits on the site as well. You will find breakdowns of how long the response times are, the rejection vs. the acceptance rate and the no-response stats. These are based on submitters responding so the accuracy is what it is, but I encourage you all to respond with your own experiences.

For many of us who began our writing prior to internet proliferation the resource that was the ‘go-to’ was the Writer’s Market. This tome was huge and cumbersome. It was also very often out of date. The best thing to do was to keep subscriptions to the markets you planned on submitting to, or at least buy the latest issue. Duotrope, and keeping a good list of outlets you submit to and like, make that dictionary sized epistle completely out of date.

Next time on The Science of Fiction, E-submissions and simultaneous submissions. Also, my thoughts on the Big Three.

o

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2 responses

25 08 2010
Colum Paget

Hiya,
It might not be an auto-rejection, but does that really mean anything? I’ve don’t get this belief that personal rejections count for anything, myself. I mean, if the editor is in a hurry that week, they’re not going to write a personal, whereas the week before, they might have. An editor at X magazine might have time and feel that not writing a personal is rude, and editor at Y magazine might be holding down 2 day jobs as well as the magazine, and not give a hoot about politesse. Should one, then, submit to X magazine because it’s nice to get chatty rejections?

Also, there are a lot of personal rejections don’t the rounds that aren’t really personal. For instance:

Dear Writer,
I read you story and enjoyed it. However, though it raises many salient and timely issues, I don’t think the treatment of them quite hits the mark. There is certainly room for a story that explores this territory at our publication, but I think that you could push the envelope further on this one.

Any personal rejection that doesn’t actually mention specific aspects of the rejected story is, I think, probably an ‘auto-rejection’ in disguise. It’s not at all beyond editors to make a bunch of ‘friendly’ auto-rejections that sound like they’re not auto, and rotate those around. I’m in a writers group, and we’ve seen signs of this where people have both gotten very, very similar ‘personal’ rejections.

At the end of the day, a rejection is a rejection. If you start believing the whole ‘oh, got a personal one!’ thing, then you’ll be more miserable when you get an auto-rejection. But in truth, the person who sent you the auto-rejection might have been close to publishing your story, but just too busy to say so, and the person who sent you the ‘personal’ rejection might have hated your story, but be feeling guilty about it (I know I’m running against popular consensus here, but I think editors do feel guilty sometimes. Yes, editors *feel*, I’m sure they do.)

Just chuck the rejection on the pile, don’t analyze it, send the story out elsewhere, and start writing another.

Colum

25 08 2010
silverstairs

You are correct in your thinking. In the end a rejection is a rejection is a rejection. At the end of the day if there is not specific feedback on the story then whether a machine sent you the message or the editor sent it- what’s the difference? When I suggest that having a personally (if still impersonal) written rejection is nicer than having an auto-response rejection, I am playing a sort of emotional game. Fifty rejections can rankle even the most seasoned of us and sometimes it’s nice to think that maybe, just possibly, the editor liked the story enough not to hit the auto-response button. It probably isn’t true, but I have learned how to savor these little fantasies of rejection. I think we can agree however that rejections with notes on the story are better than those with none. Also rejections that occur after the publication has held the story for further consideration are still a greater success than just a computerized “no.”

Again, it really doesn’t mean anything in the scheme of things to get a few keystrokes in place of an auto-reply, but when I haven’t sold a story in ten months and I am looking for any sense of progress to justify continuing this tilt at windmills I grab whatever I can. Realistically you are correct- not difference, but I spend a lot of time in fictions!

Thanks for the comment

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