Rejection Letters

I’ve recently received rejection letters from two different erotica anthologies that I submitted to. While it’s always disappointing to be rejected, I wasn’t surprised about the first letter (technically, it was an email). While the story I submitted is pretty good, it’s not my best work. The story I was trying to tell was bigger than the number of words that I was limited to, and the story suffered from having some corners cut. It also wasn’t the ideal fit for that anthology, but I hoped that it would get in anyway.

The other rejection letter did come as a surprise. It was for a story that I hammered out just under the deadline, but that I thought turned out very well. Like the other story, I had to condense the tale I was trying to convey significantly to fit the word count limit, but I truly felt that I had accomplished that without compromising the heart of the story. I was proud of that one, and I was confident that it would be accepted.

Ah, well.

While I’m suffering from a bit of mild rejection dejection, I’m mostly left wondering why specifically that second story didn’t make it into the antho. Was it not good enough? Or was it just not the right fit? Was the story not as good as I think it was? Or was it simply the wrong fit for the anthology that the editor was envisioning?

One key difference between writing for classes in college, and writing for submission in the real world, is that there was absolutely no vacuum of feedback in the classroom. I miss that. With this kind of thing, I’m left guessing. The rejection emails were very nicely worded, but in some ways I would have preferred harsher wording that gave me more indication why my work wasn’t accepted.

A response of “No way; you suck!” or “WTF? Did you even READ the submission guidelines?” would at least let me know what the problem was, and what I would need to work on harder for my next submission (i.e., not sucking). Of course, it’s obvious why no business could succeed with that kind of interaction with their authors.

The only thing I can really do is to take my best guesses, and to try harder or better next time.

I’ll start with what I know was wrong with both stories: I had to shrink them to fit the word limit. Since the stories have already been rejected, word-count isn’t an issue any more. I’ll go back, look at each story, and flesh them out more until I feel they’re the right size. I’ll probably self-publish them at some point, because there aren’t a lot of submission calls for stories longer than 5k words. That’s one of the nice things about self-publishing: you can spend as many or as few words on a story as it requires.

The next thing that I know was wrong with both stories is that they were written and submitted very close to the deadline. If I’d had more time, I might have figured out how to polish them a bit more. That first story could have used it, I admit, and as good as I believe the second story to be, it could have perhaps been even better (while still constrained by the word count). So next time I need to submit, I’ll try to focus harder on finishing the stories early, leaving more time to tinker with them.

Also–while I think that it’s entirely unlikely–some editors might read submissions in the order they were received, and simply reject everything else once they’ve found enough stories that they like. Writers aren’t the only people who can cut corners, nor the only ones who are pressed for time. On the slight off chance that this kind of thing is a factor, I might do better getting my submissions in a lot earlier in the future.

When these anthologies do eventually come out, I’m going to get copies, and read them carefully to see what kind of stories did make the cut, and try to figure out why. If they’re all clearly better than my own efforts, that will clue me in. If some or all are not as good–to my eyes–as my rejected stories, then I’ll try to figure out why the editors thought that these lesser works were better or more appropriate to include.

Beyond that….? I’m not sure, so I guess I’ll ask my blog audience:

-If/when you get your submissions rejected, what steps do you take to change the outcome next time?
-What kind of post-game analysis do you do to figure out why you were rejected?
-Can you think of things that I should be doing in this area that I’m not?

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