A little over a year ago I made a post about getting rejections from job applications and short story submissions. This year I’m extremely content in my place of work (as a high school English teacher), though I am still sending out fiction. And mostly getting rejected. Also, in my last post where I talked about getting paid for a short story, I also mentioned that the same work had gotten me into an argument with a different editor. Which led me to wonder—how many times have I been rejected this year?
Well in 2019 I have so far had five stories accepted for publication. Of those five, one is a drabble (just 100 words, so it doesn’t count as much), and one is coming out in about two weeks—it’ll be the fourth thing I’ll have ever been paid for (excited!). As for that actual number, these four stories were rejected a total 74 times. This year I decided to only send stories to paying markets, which has made things harder, but I am pretty happy that the math shows I’m rocking a 6% acceptance rate!
A lot of authors don’t mention their rejections. I wish they did though, because as a teacher I often have students write creatively, and a lot of them are too scared to send things out—they’re afraid of rejection. But for the most part I think that’s pretty normal (just being a high school student can be scary), and this coming school year I’ll be sharing my statistics with them. We’ll make it a challenge to beat my rate—7% and up here we come! I think it might be a pretty good way of looking at things, especially as the benchmark seems low. That’s my plan, anyway, and I’ll be happy to report how it goes in the coming year.
Rejections from stories and rejections from jobs and rejections from peers are all a bit related. A good skill, I think, is to learn how to deal with failure and overcome it. In the educational field, Carol Dweck has gained quite a following around her concept of seeing failure as simply not getting things “yet.” This simple Ted Talk boils down reams of academic research into an extremely easy-to-understand and engaging ten minute summary, and for people who don’t want to delve into Dweck’s large body of research on “growth mindsets” it is very much worth your time.
And on the subject of fiction submissions, Rejectomancy is a website I love. The author really details things each week, to a level I don’t think I can get into, but for now how’s this: of those four paying stories I mentioned, one was rejected just two times before finding a market. And another was rejected 39 times. I think that probably puts that story in the “trunk” category, i.e. a story that is close to unpublishable so writers just “tuck it away in a trunk.” But when I look at that story, what got published is so much different than the original story I wrote in 2011. I hope the eight years of writing and re-writing was time well spent? At least, however, it was fun.
–Jeff and Leah