06 February 2019

Smile! Your Story Has Been Rejected!

by Robert Lopresti

Here they are, folks.  The top ten reasons you should be grateful your latest short story was rejected.

10.  Unless you asked the editor out on a date, nobody rejected you. They rejected some pages with words on them. For example, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine rejected the first seventy-six stories I sent them, but that didn't stop them from buying the seventy-seventh, when I finally got the words on the pages that they wanted.

9. You have a new opportunity to look at the story, checking for flaws, typos, or new aspects.

8.  You have had a valuable reminder of the fact that rejection does not kill you.

7.  You have a new opportunity to examine available markets.    Of my seventy-plus published stories, fifteen eventually appeared in paying markets that did not exist when I first started submitting that story.

6. You just learned something about that market/editor.

5. Your skin just grew a millimeter thicker.

4.  Your story is closer to finding its proper home.   My stories have received some sort of honor ten times.   Eight of those were for stories that had been rejected by at least one market.

3.  Be proud that you are submitting.  As they say in basketball, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

2.  Be proud that you are finishing what you write.  That puts you light-years ahead of millions of wannabes.

1. Be proud that you are writing.  That's what you're doing it for, right?  Because if the goal is wealth, try buying lottery tickets instead.

And a Bonus Reason, for those who sell most of what they write: If your success rate is very high, maybe you need to experiment more, or try more ambitious markets.  Then you can have the satisfaction of failing sometimes, like the rest of us.

Other reasons?  Put 'em in the comments.


  1. Rejection allows me to use all those swear words in the privacy of my office that I'm not supposed to use in the presence of others. It's quite cathartic.

  2. I love this list, Rob.

    Another positive (maybe): it gives you the chance to come up with scorching comebacks, which help you write better dialogue.

    Only two of my stories were accepted the first place I sent them, and they were both written specifically for that market. One won the Black Orchid and the other was nominated for an Edgar. On the other end of the spectrum, two of my stories won Honorable Mention for the Al Blanchard award. One of them was rejected 21 times and the other 22.

    My average is about 8 rejections. And I'm now reworking a story I first sent out in 2004 because I've discovered a new market. I'm also discovering how much I've learned about writing since then. That story is old enough so I did a global edit to remove the double-space after end punctuation...274 times!

  3. When I was younger, rejection meant - check the story again then send it out right away. WIth the limited amount of paying markets it means check the story again and hope you can find another decent paying market. Some stories sit until ...

  4. Rob, sometimes I have to write a story just to get it out of my head, so I can write the next one. You've probably critiqued some of those.

    Save your rejection letters and notices. Besides some of them making for good stories to tell in the bar, they also remind you to keep learning as an author.

  5. Love this post--good points all!

  6. Hey Rob -- Great reasons!! Sometimes I feel I don't know a lot about writing, but I sure know a lot about rejections. Like you, I submitted dozens and dozens of stories to EQMM before they finally bought one, so I'm probably a slow learner, but what that did teach me is that you have to keep trying in spite of repeated failures. Now and then I'll sell a story right out of the chute, but many times my sales are a result of resubmitting stories that have already been rejected at least once.

    It took me a long time to realize that even good stories get rejected--for all kinds of reasons. All we can do is write the best stories we can and keep trying. As you said, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  7. I'm with Michael - it's an opportunity for me to use all the swear words I have acquired in the course of a varied and wildly improbable life.
    Also, all those rejection letters make excellent fire-starters, wallpaper, and gift wrap for enemies.

  8. Love this post and this blog. It has been a great resource for me. Thank you to all the contributors.

  9. I'm having these tattooed on my back, Roger — um, I mean Rob.

    My one additional thought is don't ever throw anything away. I've lost count of how many stories I've sold which were cannibalized from the decaying flesh of stories that had previously been rejected. Today reject may be the bones of tomorrow's sale.

  10. I don't have any to add, but my favorite is #4. It's what helps me keep going! Great list!!

  11. Great article filled with SO many truths!

  12. Great advice. Really enjoyed it.


  13. A great list, Rob. Every writer should read it after each rejection they get receive.

  14. Such a fun post! And it reminded me to try something different. I've been getting complacent. Will try something risky with words this month.

  15. Rejections create opportunities to set personal records. Three rejections in one day is mine. But I know records were made to be broken.

  16. Great advice Rob! I feel rejection would be easier if you didn't have to wait so long for it (sometimes).

  17. OMG - I am such a spineless wimp! Thank you for reminding us that perseverance really does pay off. Okay, here's my reason: when you finally do get accepted the victory will be all the more sweeter for having suffered and persevered through countless rejections.

  18. Great post...and particularly timely for me today!

  19. This a great list and an encouraging look at what can feel like a soul-destroying process. I think it is easier to be philosophical about rejections once you've had a few acceptances to put it all in perspective. I'm happy to say that I only submitted five stories to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine before they accepted one. And four of those five stories have found another home (although I love that fifth one and I wish someone would publish it.) I'm not sure I could have handled 76 rejections but I'm really impressed that you kept at it.

    I've tried to stop saying "I got rejected again today" and to just take another look at the story and send it out again.I think 1, 2, and 3 are the most important points. It's nice to affirm that just finishing something and submitting it is an important step. And I love writing short stories.

  20. Great list, thank you for this post.

    Re: #9 (a new opportunity to look at the story) – I think some of my rewritten rejects are much better than the original versions. Maybe a sign I submitted the originals before they were ready. (Or maybe I’m just scamming myself to soften the rejections.)

  21. THanks for the thoughtful responses.

    R.T., that's a great point about having to write a story to get it out of your head. I feel that way about a lot of the songs I write.

    Josh, so true about not throwing anything away (until it becomes TOO embarassing, I guess.) I sold a story to AHMM recently that was cannibalized from a story I didn't have enough faith in to submit anywhere. I changed the hero into my series character Shanks and voila...

    Melodie: "Will try something risky with words this month." Do it at a distance. It's safer.

    Bruce, two rejections in a day is my record. I do not want to compete with yours.

    Louise: "When you finally do get accepted the victory will be all the more sweeter for having suffered and persevered through countless rejections." So true!

  22. Thank you for this post. After I had a story rejected multiple times, I reworked it, going back to it every few months between other things. The published version (ten years after first submission) was much better than the one that got rejected, so rejection turned out to be a good thing. It didn't feel that way at the time though.

  23. I think it only fair to point out that the day after this piece went up I got a rejection. I'm feeling pretty chipper about it.

  24. I can't believe I didn't comment on this! I've told the story a zillion times: Back when I had to send an SASE with a note saying "Please send me a copy of your submission guidelines" to a prospective market and they mailed back my SASE with a form rejection! LOL! (I think I still have the rejection somewhere and I think I did later sell to that magazine!) Thanks for this, Rob!

    1. Classic. My favorite rejection was from an agent who said she didn't want to represent my diet book. I had sent her a mystery novel. I took that as a personal comment...


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