Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rejection City Rubble

These questions came up on Jay Lake's blog: How many rejections came to you before your first publication, and how many rejections have you accrued?


We don’t all keep track. I sure don’t. I just try to send at least two out for every one I get back. It’s a process for me rather than a reckoning or an accounting.

I’d submitted sporadically for six years, starting in 1974.

In 1980 I began submitting regularly. My first sale was “Weal & Woe” to MZB’s in Spring 1990. I’d had many near-misses, including almost snagging 3rd place in the first Twilight Zone contest, won by Dan Simmons.

So, if I had to estimate, I’d say maybe, what, 1000 - 1500 rejections before that first paying sale? Wow, I had no idea. If I had been keeping track I might have been discouraged.


I’m not counting unpaid publication or various other things, either. Face it, I just don’t pay attention to much beyond what I’m writing at the time, which explains my lack of business success. As you’ve said, Jay, the business part is what too many of us ignore to our detriment. So true.

I’ve never been able to internalize taking a more businesslike approach. And yes, I recognize this as a fatal flaw.

Once you're writing publishable prose, rejections are irrelevant to such things as talent or skill. I've long since concluded they are essentially random. Either an editor likes what you send in the few moments it slides under editorial gaze, or not. Same editor may later buy what has been previously rejected, or wonder what they ever saw in a work after they buy it.

This is why I don't bother with them. Sometimes there are good reasons for a rejection, sometimes not, but either way I have no control over that, beyond trying to conform to each publication's standards or to each editors expressed needs.

To me, rejections are noise, acceptances are signal, and payment is what the signal delivers.

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