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Dealing With Rejection – It’s Not You, It’s Them!

I have, at the time of this writing, received 829 rejections.

I’ve also sold 59 stories, most of them to pro-paying magazines, with another 9 out on submission right now.

If you crunch the numbers, you’ll see that I’m getting a 93,4% rejection rate. Which is actually quite good.

Let me explain.

I write short stories. The pro magazines, especially the ones that have a short turn-around time, have humongous rejection rates. Clarkesworld has a 99,96% rejection rate (they accept 4 out of every 10 000 submitted stories.) Fantasy & Science Fiction had a 99,73% rejection rate last I checked (that’s reporting from Duotrope).

Rejection is the norm.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. When I got my first rejection (from Writers of the Future, where I sent a story and it ended up being a semi-finalists, meaning I came in the top-20 stories out of some 3-4 000 – but all I could see was that I didn’t win,) I stopped writing and submitting for over a year.

Because it hurt.

So did my next rejection, and my next, and my next. And then I sold a story. (Sold is a bit of a misnomer, I got it accepted by a for-the-love market, meaning a non-paying one.) And I thought my life as a successful, career writer had begun.


Or rather, it had begun the moment I sent out my first story with the goal of having it published. It’s just the money part that isn’t following along at quite the same pace.

But they key to overcoming this is twofold:

  1. Know that it hurts less with time. You get used to rejection. You get used to seeing your stories come back. Send them out to a new place when they do.
  2. Know that a rejection isn’t a reflection on the quality of your story, or your skills as a writer.

That last one is a bit difficult until you internalize it.

Basically, a story is rejected not because it’s bad, but because the editor/publisher/agent/other can’t use it at this particular time.

Maybe they’ve filled all their slots. Maybe they spent all their money. Maybe they bought a story that’s half as good as yours, but it has the same theme and they can’t have two stories like that in the same issue of their magazine, and they’ve already signed the contract with that first writer.

It happens.

More often than not, it happens.

No big deal. It’s not a reflection on you. It’s only a reflection on the fact that that particular story didn’t fit that particular market at that particular time.

Send it out again, and trust to luck. Sooner or later, you’ll get published.

Because that’s what a writing career is: luck and persistence. The luck to send a suitable story to a suitable market at a suitable time, and the persistence to keep sending your stories out, until luck has a chance to happen.

And with those words, I wish you:

Luck and Persistence!

Dreams of Futures Past Book Cover

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