some more notes on rejection
January 31, 2014
The background: A few months ago Charles Coleman Finlay announced that he’d be guest editing an issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and opened up electronic submissions for the first time in the venue’s history.
Now that his process is over, he’s hashed out some statistics about the submissions and stories.
There’s some good info here, and it ought to make just about every aspiring writer feel better. The takeaway for me: 751 stories submitted. 473 from already pro-published authors. Around 150 ended up in the “maybe” pile. For a magazine that can only publish a handful of stories. Let’s be generous and say 10.
Sometimes, you don’t get published, and it’s not because you aren’t a good writer, or because your story sucked. It’s because you were competing with 150 other stories for 10 slots. Assuming you were one of the “maybes.” It’s odds and taste.
Yes, I submitted a story for this issue. The story was rejected, with some very good comments from Charlie. I’ve already tweaked the story and sent it to a new market, because I think he’s right: it’ll most likely sell somewhere. He’s certain that most of those 150 “maybe” stories will sell somewhere else. (An aside: Yes, I still get rejections! I’m glad of it. I would truly hate to learn that an editor bought my story just because of the perception that my name is popular. I want to publish good stories.)
Here’s the second takeaway: a lot of people will look at this and think it’s a great reason to self-publish. If you keep not getting into one of those ten spots, maybe you should go it alone. EXCEPT: when you’re first starting out, you don’t know if you’re in the “maybe” pile or one of the 600 “Nope, not good enough” stories. Chances are, early on, you’re one of the “Nope” stories. Editors are there to help bring good stories into the world. Let them help you.
In the meantime, when you get a rejection, remember that hundreds of other good stories also got rejected. And send the story out again.