For the most part, rejection is part of a writer's life. There are exceptions to the rule, but since I can't name name's and I don't want to sound like a whiny bitch, we'll go with that.
As writers, we work for weeks, months, years on a project, thinking it's the next big thing, then we send it out into the world only to get our souls torn out and stomped on by a cold rejection letter. Some throw in the towel and return to their 9-to-5s, never to pick up the pen again. But most of us, the real writers, the born writers, we gather up our battered souls, stuff them back in, and get back to pounding the keyboard for the next weeks, months and years, willing to endure countless rejections for that one sweet acceptance letter.
And remember when I said that all those "writing credits" you've accumulated over the years from small/indie houses and mags weren't worth shit to the big boys? Here's a rejection I got very recently from Memories of The Dead:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to consider Memories of The Dead. The story is well thought out and well written, the world-building deep and immaculate. Unfortunately, Memories of the Dead is far too long for mainstream publication. Previously unpublished authors should stick to a word count range between 80,000-100,000 words.
Previously unpublished???? Should I be offended by that? I kind of was, but I kind of get it. This Agent (name withheld) wasn't being snarky, they were just telling me like it is: there are writing credits and then there are writing credits....keep that in mind peeps. Still, I count that as a "good" rejection.
And believe it or not, there are good rejection and bad rejections. The bad ones are the callous form letters.
Thank you for submitting such and such but it's not a good for us at this time.
I've used a million of these as coffee coasters. The good ones are the those that give you feedback, good or bad, sometimes scathing. When I was starting out, I actually learned a lot from those early rejections. I learned what not to do, what editors prefer, and how to make my writing better in general. My ideas have always gotten positive critiques; it was the execution that was terrible.
Here's an example of a good rejection. This one for my unpublished story The Forever God, about a group of crabs living on an island during WW2:
Thank you for your patience while our readers reviewed your submission.
Unfortunately, The Forever God has not been accepted for publication in Aurealis. Following is some feedback from our readers, but please remember that all feedback is subjective.
- Well written piece with a nice variation on a common trope, but a not overly compelling read. Some of the elements such as the crab finding the newspaper fragment were important for contextualising the story but were a bit too obvious.
- There's a nice attempt at an interesting POV here and some neat ideas, but the storytelling comes off fairly muddied, and there's a bit too much in the telling of events, rather than the showing.
Here's another for the same story; not constructive, but still positive;
Thanks for allowing us to consider this one, but I'm going to pass.
Overall, it's just not a perfect fit with what we're currently publishing--as a reader, I liked this a lot, but it's simply not a fit for us. If you haven't already, I hope you'll come by the site and read our January issue--our March issue also lands next week.
Best of luck with this one.
Here's one for my sci-fi story, The Left Behind Problem, about class discrimination and artificial worlds.
Sorry, we have decided not to publish "The Left Behind Problem" in Encounters. Very imaginative story idea... but the character dialogue needs some work, and I think a third-person narrative would have been more effective.
Here's another for the same story and probably the best rejection I've ever gotten:
Thank you for submitting to Andromeda Spaceways.
Unfortunately, while we liked your submission, so far we
have not found a place for it ... and it is against
our policy to hold onto a story indefinitely. Much as we'd
like to, we just don't have the room to print all the stories
we get -- not even all the good ones. So sadly, I'm going
to have to very reluctantly let this one go.
If it got this far, you can rest assured that your story
is of high quality and you should be able to find a home
for it. I look forward to hearing from you again.
Better luck next time!
I have supplied some notes from the readers, in case you find them useful.
(All these are only the opinions of the readers.)
This is a good sci if story, although needs a little bit of editing work.
In some places it reads like a journal, a little removed and list-like. Also I can tell that the author can visualise the settings described, however at some points the descriptions were difficult for me, the reader, to picture.
A few more instances of dialogue would make the characters stronger.
This had a lot going for it, however I felt that there was a fair bit of non-essential material, particularly at the start of the story, which didn't add to the overall narrative, character development or setting (and a lot of the essential could be worked in where relevant later). This could be trimmed and the whole piece refined/streamlined - it feels a bit padded, at the moment. Additionally, I felt as though, while the storyline was compelling, the protagonist has everything pretty much handed to him in a linear way. Everyone nicely explains everything to him, when he needs it. I don't feel it's quite strong enough, right now, to be published, which is a shame.
This is an imaginative take on the creation of utopia, and its Inevitable distance from realisation.
The universe in this story is revealed without intrusive exposition. Your first-person point of view is consistent, and entwines us with Faber's perspective. Given the arc of the story, I don't believe any other viewpoint would have worked as effectively as the one you chose.
Description is handled deftly, and the scene of the first Disruptor attack is particularly cinematic.
If an energy rifle was levelled at my head and I was ordered to find fault with the story, I might splutter that there were a few lines I needed to read twice to understand, or that the names of the characters Dav and Dez, looked very similar on the page. But it would need to be a pretty scary looking gun.
What I enjoyed most about this, was that at its conclusion, it confounded my expectations. By spinning the idealistic Faber not just 180 degrees, but arguably twisting him 360, into an older and more cynical character, you made me question how I'd act in his boots.
And that's what creates a story which lingers after the last line is read.
And here's perhaps my most embarrassing rejection for my sci-fi novel Let Nature Decide...and if you're reading this post purely as a cautionary tale, then this is why you should NEVER simultaneously submit:
Thank you for submitting your manuscript. However, we were about to contact you regarding offering a contract when I saw that you had published Let Nature Decide on January 17th. Barbarian Books does not take published manuscripts, so unfortunately we must pass on this title. We would like to see more of your work, but please keep in mind that we will not consider any novel published in any format (including websites, blogs and critique sites such as Authonomy). (Publication of up to 30 percent for promotional or critique purposes is permitted.)
Face turns red. But at least you can see from the above examples what I meant by a "good" rejection. It was rejections like those that kept me going.
(ahem) Okay, so in my previous post, Getting Published...Ugh! (Part One: Submitting) I submitted my sci-fi novel The Vatters of Klon to DAW Books back in 2010, shortly after I finished writing it. The response time DAW gave was two months but I usually wait double or triple that before I start panicking. At about the seventh month mark I sent the editor an email, asking for an update. He promptly wrote back that Vatters was still under consideration. I wasn't sure if that was a good sign or not, but I kept my fingers crossed. Then twelve months had passed, more...I refrained from sending another email, wondering if I'd been forgotten, but I REALLY wanted to send one.
And then, eighteen months after submission, I got a response: (abridged)
Dear Mr. Sergi,
Thank you for considering DAW Books for your manuscript, and for your patience while the manuscript was under consideration.
Due to the volume of manuscripts in our backlog, we deeply regret we are unable to comment individually on all manuscripts that have reached second or third reading. However, please know that, because of the significant positive attributes of your manuscript, which the first reader enjoyed, it did reach the desk of a DAW editor. Unfortunately the editor did not find the manuscript right for DAW.
Best Wishes and Regards,
I didn't know whether to be happy or sad by that. My soul wasn't exactly battered, but it was still sore. Even so, I count the one from DAW to be the second best rejection I've ever gotten.
And that's my rejection experience in a nutshell: ignore the bad ones, forge on ahead with the good ones in mind. Of course, that wasn't the end of Vatters. For the next three years I shopped it around to editors and agents, piling on the rejections, desperately searching for a home for Vatters because I knew it was worthy of one, and then I found one. But that's for the final post in the series: Getting Published...Ugh! (Part Three: Published) Coming soon!