The Publication Blues: Desperate Writers

There are writers who have loads and loads of success. There are people who write quickly and find a publisher and “boom!” there’s their book on the shelves. (Virtual or otherwise.)

It is easy, sometimes, to get frustrated when the rejections roll in. (Yes, I came into the writing life with an understanding of the level of rejection I’d be facing. Understanding doesn’t always translate into the ability to shrug off rejection.) The literary history of the world is peppered with amazing writers who lined their office walls with rejections and then took great care to remind those who rejected their blockbuster, award-winning piece of literature that they royally screwed up by rejecting them. It is, I am guessing, easier to take a positive look back on all the rejection as you polish your Pulitzer or refine your Newbery acceptance speech. I hope some day, to know the joy of “looking back on these days” as the, “Remember back when those silly literary journals who are now soliciting new work rejected me! Ha-ha!!”

Rejection is part of the writing life. Some of our greatest writers, telling our greatest stories, have faced dozens, even hundreds, of rejections on their way to publication.

I had a couple more last week.

When I went into my Duotrope account and recorded these latest rejections, I noticed this line, printed below my submissions summary:

“Congratulations! Your acceptance ratio is higher than the average for users who have submitted to the same markets.”

That’s something to hang your hat on, right? That other writers who submitted to the same markets I did had less success than me? Something? Right?

What WAS that amazingly high acceptance rate?

5.6% (So far…)

That’s right. The half-empty kind of guy that lingers in my brain reminds you, fair reader, that a 5.6% acceptance rate means a REJECTION RATE of 94.4%. So, most of the other writers pecking away at the keyboard and sending stories to literary mags have a WORSE placement average than I do.

There was a guy in your high school or college, I’m betting, who asked out, literally, every girl he met, and his acceptance rate may have been better than mine. We didn’t call that guy a “great wordsmith”. We called him desperate.

As a writer, sometimes I feel like that desperate date-seeking dude. “Hey look! Another journal to publish in! Let’s see what THEY have to say!”

There are still six journals holding on to manuscripts they’ve had for an average of 250 days. The pessimist in me says, they’ve simply lost the file or didn’t even think enough of the story to bother to send a rejection. The optimist in me says, maybe I’ve made it through several layers of decision-making and the story is still in the running for publication. The realist in me says, there is no way to know WHY a story loiters in the virtual slush pile as long as it does. Instead of worrying much about it, I need to get on the ball and get the next round of stories (about eight, I think) ready to go. The fall submission window will be opening before long, and I’m going to send out even more submissions next year than the 86 I sent this year. I’ve become a rejection junkie.

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