Showing posts with label rejections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rejections. Show all posts

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.



26 October 2018

More about Rejections ... again

More about Rejections ... again
by O'Neil De Noux

Got a polite rejection the other day from the editor of a publication inundated with submissions. In the rejection, the editor felt I would, "... soon sell the story elsewhere."

I have great affection and respect for this editor and well, that's how it goes. Sometimes you get accepted, sometimes you don't. I know the story I sent is a good story. As I read the rejection, it felt familiar, like going into my bedroom to take a nap. Somewhere I belong.

The editor has accepted many of my stories in the past and it is always a thrill when a story is accepted. Sometimes you get accepted, sometimes you don't.

Having a story rejected is never as bad as walking across the dance floor to ask a girl to dance and having to walk back alone across the dance floor because there are witnesses at the dance.

The best part of it all is being in the game, being able to send a good story to a good publication. So, I take a nap (naps come easily the older I get) then get back to writing.

The bottom line is to write a story too good to be rejected.

It has been a long, hot summer of writing and more writing and getting the work done. I'm thankful for that. This week we had a couple cool fronts roll through New Orleans and when that happens in October it means (to us) hurricane season might just be over. No matter what we do down here, from June to November we check the National Hurricane Center and local weather channels regularly because a monster can be out there over the warm waters of the South Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Bay of Campeche or Gulf of Mexico. The ghosts of Hurricanes Audrey, Betsy, Camille, Andrew, Katrina, Rita and so many lesser storms haunt us.

We were lucky this year, not even a tropical storm came our way, and we fell terrible for those who got hit by the big water-big wind monsters.


Just a photo of trees in Covington, LA

That's all for now.

http://www.oneildenoux.com

03 February 2016

Five Red Herrings, Numero 7.

by Robert Lopresti

1.  Thuglit.  You like mysteries?  You like short stories?  So, have you read Thuglit yet?  It is a good magazine, a paying market yet, and available in paper or electrons.  Eight stories per issue, very reasonable price.  I bring this up because editor Todd Robinson has announced that, barring an increase in sales, this will be its last year.  And that would be a shame.

How good is Thuglit?  It provided six of the Best Stories of the Week I reviewed at Little Big Crimes last year.  That's more than 10%.  Two of them made my Best of the Year; 15%. 

And we're going to lose it because you refuse to chip in two bucks an issue, 25 cents a story?  Buy it here.


2. The Big Squelch.  Imagine that you submit a story to a magazine and get any of these replies from the editor:

"Lots of suspense."

"A fascinating romp through primitive territory."


"Some beautiful moments here."

"Easy to read, had a good hook, kept me interested and I loved the characters -- all of them."


You would feel pretty good, wouldn't you?  But each of these was in a rejection note received by Eric Wilder.  And in his list he tells you which editor said what about which story.  Fascinating...

3.  Going Up.  And down.  A month ago I told you about my new desk which moves to a standing position at the touch of a button.  A few people asked me to report on how it has worked out - i.e. has it been sitting in the down position since the second day?

Well, I love it.  My goal is to use it standing up for half an hour and then switch, but often I am so comfortable standing up that I don't notice how much time has passed until one of my cats demands that I make a lap. So I highly recommend it for any middle aged backs out there.


4. Wuzza wooza buzzy fuzzy!  Chuck Wendig is a writer.  Apparently he often gives writing advice.  Last November he got a bit fed up with that routine.  The result is profane and hilarious.

That’s me yelling at the clouds and shaking my fist at trees, screaming: I EARNED THE RIGHT TO YELL AT YOU ABOUT WRITING. And then I hiss at birds. Stupid birds...

You should write in the morning unless you can’t or shouldn’t or won’t or whatever.

Be more literary! Be more genre! Be less this more that wait no the other thing.

This won’t sell until it does and then it sells a lot until it stops selling and nnngh.

You should do XYZ except unless ABC or 123 or wuzza wooza buzzy fuzzy.


Read it all.

5. The haunted bookshop?  I started this piece by inviting you to spend a few bucks on Thuglit.  Here is another suggestion for those suffering from too much moolah - especially if you live in my part of the country.

The Seattle Mystery Bookshop has been supporting readers and writers in our field for decades. (Attached is a photo of me at a signing  last fall with a couple of wonderful readers.)  Like a lot of small bookstores they need some help and happily they have the sense to say so.  There is a GoFundMe to raise some dough for them, and there are cool rewards for patrons.



10 January 2014

Interesting Rejections

OR:  If at first you don’t succeed…
 


by Dixon Hill

 Well, the holidays are over and we’re rapidly approaching that time when writers can, once again, open their mailboxes hoping to find responses from agents and editors.

 We all hope for acceptances. But, we all know there will undoubtedly also be rejections.

 John Floyd’s excellent post about rejections, on January 4th, evoked so many thoughts in my mind, I suffered a mental log-jam. I finally realized I’d be better off posting some of them as an article, instead of as a comment.

 Over time, I realized this article may probably be better suited to newer writers, because my thoughts are not really about how to handle the standard multi-xeroxed rejection letter a writer usually receives, but rather how to handle rejection letters that name names (or wish to!) and get specific. The more experienced writer, however, may wish to continue reading to get a kick out of foolish things I’ve done. (It won’t hurt my feelings.) And, though I’m usually long-winded, today I’ll include only three examples.

I love the last clause on this sign.  It just seems so appropriate.

Example 1 

 The first rejection I ever received was for my very first fiction submission, which I wrote on an electric typewriter while still in the army. I got a very nice hand-written letter from the fiction editor at Omni magazine, saying the piece wasn't right for their publication. She then went on to praise my writing, adding that she hoped I’d send more stories in the future.

 The editor was correct; the story wasn't right for Omni — it narrated the death of a young boy murdered by a satanic elevator in a post-nuclear-holocaust world. I should have sent it somewhere else, which is what that editor suggested. I, however, knew nothing about fiction markets and had no idea where else I might send it.

 My biggest mistake, of course, is that I thought the editor was “just being nice.” So, I tore up the manuscript and her letter (after reading her praise several times), then burned them in my fireplace, thinking I just wasn’t cut out to be a writer. Nearly a decade passed before I submitted another fiction story.

 (While the experienced writers go dispose of the clumps of hair they just pulled from their scalps, I’d like to take a moment to address newer writers, then we’ll move on to the next two examples.)

 Newer writers should be advised: Editors don’t send hand-written letters praising your work just to be nice. They’re far too busy. If you ever get a rejection like this:

1.   Do NOT destroy your manuscript! The editor actually liked it. A lot! Somebody else will almost surely buy it; you just have to find the right publication.

2.   Visit the website of the magazine that rejected you so kindly, and read their Writer Guidelines, then write a story that falls within those guidelines. There’s a very good chance they’ll buy it! After all, the fiction editor likes the way you write.

Example 2 

 I once submitted a speculative fiction piece and received a short note on my form rejection letter, which read: “Next time PLEASE GIVE YOUR MAIN CHARACTER A NAME!”

 A friend who saw this was very taken aback. She said, “Wow! That’s harsh!”

 I told her, “Hey, at least I know what they didn’t like about it. Some magazines don’t mind printing stories with unnamed protagonists. Now, however, I know this one doesn’t like it.”

 I consider such information to be quite valuable.

Example 3 

 I once wrote a story that concerned me quite a bit.

 The thing that bothered me was: men who read it tended to like it, but almost every woman who read it hated the thing. I had a pretty good idea why this was, but didn't feel I could do anything about it, because it was a central aspect of the story: remove the problem-causing aspect, and the story disappeared.

 Finally, deciding “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” I shipped it off.

 The rejection was very useful. The editor said she was sure I’d be able to find a venue which would publish the story. I can’t remember the precise words of the letter, but she then added something pretty close to:

 “Please never send us anything written in this voice ever again.” 

Strong words.

But, honest.

And, very useful. I’d been worried that women didn’t like the story. The editor’s response convinced me: This may be a powerful story — it certainly provoked powerful reactions from more than just the editor — but

 As a writer who’s still trying to build his name, I have no desire to alienate female readers who might confuse the protagonist’s voice (the story was first person) with mine.  Consequently, instead of trying to sell this piece elsewhere, I keep it in my computer’s memory bank.

 Perhaps, one day, if I ever gain a large following, I can afford to let it see the light of day. But, for now, I think I’ll sit on it and try not to alienate one of the only two genders on the planet.

 See you in two weeks!
--Dixon

04 January 2014

Reversals of Fortune



by John M. Floyd


Two weeks ago I posted about story sales in 2013 and tried to address some issues about the number of submissions that we writers make to short fiction markets. What I didn't address was the number of rejections I received for the stories I submitted in 2013. Counting those up is always about as enjoyable as eating a live frog with blue cheese and anchovies, but I did it--and discovered that I was given a thumbs-down 14 times last year. That's a lot.

We always hear and read about the fact that rejections are to be expected and not dreaded, and that writers have to learn not to dwell on them. Well, that advice may be true, but--as with most other pieces of advice--it's easier given than followed. Nobody likes to be rejected, whether the subject is manuscripts or salary increases or dates to the prom.

War stories

Allow me to digress a moment. Years ago, when I hired on with IBM, I went through an eighteen-month training period during which I--like all sales and systems-engineering rookies--shuttled back and forth between my local branch office and classroom courses at various IBM education centers across the country. In my case, I first spent a month at the branch office; then a month in class in San Jose, California; several more months in my home branch; two months in class in downtown Los Angeles; several more months back home; two more months in class in L.A.; several more months at home; and finally a month in class in Endicott, New York, to end my year-and-a-half. The time at the local office was always spent getting field experience and studying for the next trip to a course location, and the courses themselves were a marathon of lectures, case studies, presentations, and eighteen-hour days that made me wish I was back in military boot camp.

My point (there is a point here, believe it or not) is that those ed-center classes served a second purpose: they thinned the herd. On the morning of the first day of every course, we newly-arrived students were given an entrance exam covering the material that we'd studied for the past few months, and those who didn't pass were quietly approached during lunch, kicked out of the class, and flown back home at the expense of their branch. The rumor, and this was never verified, was that anyone who failed one of those exams never continued with the company. I do know that I stayed with IBM for thirty years and I never once saw any of those folks again.

That, my friends, is rejection. To me, it's on a par with being abandoned in your wedding dress at the altar, or turned down for a loan by the last bank in town. And though no one knew it back then, similar fates would await some of those who went through the widespread downsizing of the national workforce twenty years later, when so many large companies "restructured." Those were grim times. We used to joke (miserably) that the motto in Corporate America in the 1990s was "Beheadings will continue until morale improves."

On a lesser scale . . .

I realize I'm being a little extreme, here. Literary rejection, although certainly unpleasant, doesn't compare to any of that. The rejection of a story or novel manuscript is not only a rite of passage for new writers, it can be a regular occurrence to many fiction authors throughout their careers. Lawrence Block once said that rejection letters are membership cards to the universal fellowship of writers. But they're still no fun.

In a 2012 piece for Glimmer Train, author Katherine Ryan Hyde (who wrote Pay It Forward and many other novels) revealed that she was rejected 122 times before her first story sale, but was able to put it into the correct perspective. I especially liked one of her observations: "I think the most damaging misconception about rejection is that your work has been judged as 'bad.' . . . In reality, you don't know how it was received."

The following are some of her suggested (and paraphrased) reasons that an editor might have for rejecting a short story:

1. I just didn't like it.
2. I liked it but I didn't love it.
3. It was good, but suited to a different type of publication.
4. I short-listed eight stories and had space for only four.
5. I liked it but couldn't sell the other editors on it.

Good reasons. And there are probably many more, including "we ran a story similar to it last month," or "it's a bit too long," or "my back hurts, and I didn't get enough sleep last night." As Ms. Hyde mentioned, there's usually just no way to know the reason a story got rejected, and it does no good to worry about it. One point, though: if you've already sold a lot of stories to a particular editor, he or she will sometimes come right out and tell you why a story didn't make the cut. I know for sure that some of my stories have failed because of reason number 5, above. If the editor-in-chief vetoes it, it doesn't matter how many lesser editors okayed it. Does that knowledge make me feel any better, or make it any easier to make a sale to that market in the future? Not really. But, again, it's important to remember that not all rejected stores were rejected because they were poorly written.

Do you recall how many rejections you received (novel, short story, nonfiction) before the publication of your first work? Did you at any point find yourself discouraged or frustrated? Did you ever come close to quitting? I think all writers suffer some measure of self-doubt, and a long run of rejections is a frequent cause.

To paint all this in an brighter light,

Consider the following:

- Grisham's A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 agents and 12 publishers.

- 12 publishers rejected J. K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel.

- 20 publishers turned down Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki and William Paul Young's The Shack.

- 21 publishers rejected Richard Hooker's M*A*S*H.

Catch-22 was bought on its (?) 22nd try.

- 23 publishers rejected Frank Herbert's Dune.

- 24 agents turned down The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks). A week after the 25th accepted it, it sold to Time-Warner for a million dollars.

Carrie got 30 rejections.

Gone With the Wind got 38.

The Cat in the Hat got 46.

- Stephen King's early short story "The Glass Floor" received 60 rejections, before selling for $35.

- 60 agents rejected Kathryn Stockett's The Help. The 61st accepted it, and it was sold three weeks later.


And the REALLY big numbers . . .

- The Chicken Soup for the Soul series was rejected 140 times

- Louis L'Amour was rejected 200 times before Bantam published his work.

- It took Alex Haley eight years and 200 rejections to sell Roots.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have received more than 300 rejections before he sold a story, and Jack London received 600.

- John Creasey, the world's most prolific crime writer, wrote his first published novel on the backs of 743 rejection letters.


So the next time you get one of those cold, prissy little notes that says "We regret that your submission does not meet our requirements" (which, for me, will probably be tomorrow), go ahead and say a dirty word. I do. But remember this:

You're in pretty good company.



04 April 2012

Five Red Herrings

by Robert Lopresti

1.  Did anyone else notice something odd about the March/April issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine?  There were fifteen stories and I am going to summarize the plots of eight of them.  No major spoilers here....

    * A tourist faces danger in the Caribbean.
    * A city hunter disappears in the north woods
    * A wealthy woman visiting 18th century Bath meets a charming rogue
    * A camper faces danger in a mountain park.
    * City kids on a fishing trip here a rumor about a possible serial killer
    * A girl's odd boyfriend wants to take her on a boating trip
    * Suspicious circumstances abound at a family resort
    * An ancient Roman citizen encounters murder in Asia


The theme of the issue seems to be: Stay home.  It's freaking dangerous out there.

Maybe so.

2.  My nephew Chris Messineo is the director of the New Jersey Film School.  Undone is the latest crime short-short put together by him and his students.  The young lady is his daughter Joanna.  I can't get the video to embed here but you can find it here.


3.  Amazing article in the New York Times.    Nothing in it quite rises to the level of crime, unless you want to use words like negligence, I suppose, but boy, you could sure write half a dozen crime stories based on it.

Briefly, the University of California - Berkeley misplaced a piece of art that was in their care.  Worse, it arguably belonged to the federal government.

So what was this little doodad they lost track of?  Only a  23-foot long sculpture, worth over a million bucks.  How do you lose that, much less sell it as surplus - for a hundred and fifty bucks, plus tax?  (I'm glad they got the tax, to keep it all  legit).  Too bad they couldn't find an art expert to assess the piece for them - like, I don't know, maybe at the University of California- Berkeley?

Happy ending: it wound up in a library.


4.  On the Short Mystery Fiction List recently they were discussing framing versus flashbacks as ways of telling a story and I remembered that I had written about that on Criminal Brief.    What I did not recall was that the ornery story I complained about in that piece - because I was having trouble with figuring out a way to tell the opening scenes - was "Shanks Commences," currently appearing in the May issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.  So I guess I solved that problem.


5.   Ever hear of James Payn?  He was a Victorian novelist and I believe his books have been forgotten, but he has one eternal claim to fame.  True story: In 1886, as editor of Cornhill Magazine, he rejected A Study in Scarlet.  Yup, the first Sherlock Holmes novel wasn't good enough for his mag.  You have to wonder what he published in that issue instead, don't you?

In his honor, every time I get a rejection I say "What a Payn!"

Written apologies available on request.

01 February 2012

RSI

by Robert Lopresti

Envelope by augenbuch
Envelope, a photo by augenbuch on Flickr.
 
The office wasn't much like I expected.  The building itself was shabby and worn out, but the office was brightly lit and neat as a pin.

She opened the door herself, a short woman with sharp eyes, short hair, and a white lab jacket. She had a slight accent; vaguely eastern European.  

We introduced ourselves and she said: "Did you bring it with you?"

I nodded and pulled it out of my jacket pocket.  She winced and I sensed that this was not a good beginning. "A plastic bag would have been better.  Your finger prints and bodily oils..."

I suddenly felt grubby.  I muttered an apology.

"No matter, no matter.  Put it here."

I grasped the envelope by one edge  careful too late, and placed it gently on the black metal surface of the table in the center of her office.  She picked up two large pairs of tweezers and expertly removed the letter in less time than it would have taken me with my ten clumsy fingers.

She unfolded it and laid it gently on the table, using small magnets to hold it flat. Satisfied, she turned to me.  "And you brought another?  From...happier days?"

I had.  I pulled it from my jacket and we repeated the whole exercise so that the two pages were lying side by side.

To my surprise she then backed away.  She frowned at the two pages, first one and then the other."

"I think--" I said.

"Quiet!"

"But you're looking at them upside down!"

She sighed, rather dramatically, I thought.

"I am perfectly aware of that.  But there is much to consider before we get to the text itself,  and the text is distracting.  May I continue?"

I nodded.  She continued to peer at the pages from different angles; and then pulled  a magnifying class from her jacket and moved in for a close examination.

"Interesting," she muttered.

"What is it?"

"The gentleman who sent these items... does he have any staff?"

"A part-time assistant, I think."

"Part-time.  That's not very helpful.  If the same person had sent both letters, it would be more conclusive."

"What would be?  What have you figured out?"

She gestured with the magnifying glass.  "The older letter has crisp and even folds.  The more recent one is sloppy." 

I was impressed.  I hadn't noticed the difference, in all the time I had stared at that page.  "What does that suggest?"

"If the same person prepared both letters then he was clearly in a different mood.  Calm and controlled when he folded the first, agitated when he did the second."

"Agitated?  You mean, upset?"  I thought that might explain a lot.

She shrugged.  "Upset, angry, frightened, in despair.  There is a limit to what we can tell from a fold.  The watermark is the same in both pages, by the way."

I was feeling both impressed and baffled.   "What does that tell us?"

"Alas, not much.  If the quality of the paper had diminished that would suggest a change of fortune, yes?  But, who knows?  Paper supplies may last after luck runs out."

Again she used the glass.  "Interesting.  Notice that in the older letter the block of text is perfectly centered.  Proper office format, which you don't see all that often these days."

"And the new letter?"

"The text is up toward the letterhead, while the bottom third of the page is empty.  That suggests the message was shorter than the typist expected it to be."

I puzzled over that.  "You mean, he meant to add something and changed his mind?"

"Possibly.  Or perhaps he wrote less than he usually does in such cases."

I didn't like that idea at all.  "What else?"

"Time to examine the text.  Hmm.   He addresses you the same in both letters.  The closing is the same as well.  This indicates that the man himself hasn't changed much, nor have his essential feelings about you."

"Then what gives? " I asked, losing patience.  "Why did the editor reject this story after buying my last few?"

She straightened up.  "Ah.  I think that is clear.  He didn't like it."

"Didn't like it!"

She nodded.  "He says so.  See?"

"I know he says so!  I was hoping you could tell me why he didn't like it!"

Another shrugged.  "Perhaps it wasn't very good?  Where you going?"

I shoved my rejection slip and acceptance letter  back into my pockets, not giving a damn about fingerprints and bodily oils.  "We're done here."

"But my fee-"

"Send me a bill."

She did.  I sent her a rejection slip.  Let's see her investigate that.




26 October 2011

Hesitation Blues




by Robert Lopresti



Imagine, if you will, that I have been having a very bad day. Assume that the IRS has shown an unhealthy interest in my career, that the Klingons have fired disrupters at the starboard nacelle, and that Hittites are demanding apologies for my allegedly anti-Hittite rant at a nightclub. That sort of day.

Evening has fallen and I am checking my email. There is good news and bad news. Unfortunately the good news is all from strangers who want to improve my love life or want me to help them smuggle millions of dollars out of Nigeria. The bad news tend sto be from my nearer and dearer, and it is not improving my mood.

After reading and weeding the majority of correspondence I find a message from a familiar name. Specifically an editor. The subject line is YOUR STORY. My fingers reach for the Enter button, and then I hesitate. This is what you might call a binary dilemma. Either I am about to get an acceptance or a rejection. Good news or bad news.

And the way my day has been going there is no reason to expect good news, is there? I am really not in the mood for more gloom.

I know a lot of writers keep all their rejection slips. Do they print out the ones that come electronically, to add to the pile of misery? That seems above and beyond. I used to save mine, but it began to feel ridiculous. And the file was overwhelming my acceptances. (I got seventy-sox of the precious little beasts from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine before I collected one sale there.) So the rejection slips have gone away.

Nowadays when I get a paper rejection note I tend to crumble it, throw it across the room, and stomp on it before I throw it in the recycling bin. Call me Mr. Mature.

My favorite rejection note was from an agent, informing me that she had decided not to represent my diet book. Fair enough, but I had sent her a mystery novel. Perhaps she was making a helpful hint.

Of course, this current email might NOT be a rejection note. Perhaps the editor has seen the light and decided to share my masterpiece with her lucky readers. I DO keep all my acceptance notes, or contracts.

The first acceptance I ever got came with no letter or contract. I opened the envelope and out fluttered a check; there was nothing else. Fortunately the check had the title of my story on it or I might never have figured out what it was for.

Meanwhile the current email is still waiting for me to open it. I seem to be stalling.

Of course, the note doesn't HAVE to be a yes or no. Once an editor wrote to tell me she had lost the manuscript and would I please send another copy? I did, and she rejected it.

And once an editor wrote to say she liked part of the story and suggested that I rewrite the ending. I'm still thinking about that one.

Okay. I've run out of stalling techniques. Time to hit the button and see what there is to see. Cross your fingers.

Here goes...

Screw the Klingons. We're gonna party tonight.