Rejection Rebooted

A couple years ago I wrote a post on Rejection that I thought was pretty good. Today I want to talk about rejection again, and because I’m lazy I am going to do that by rebooting my original post. So, if you’ve been reading my blog for a few years, some of this is going to sound eerily familiar, but some of it is brand new too 🙂

Around and around we go...My acceptance ratio, according to Duotrope, for the past twelve months is about 10%.  That means my submissions get rejected 90% of the time. 90%! That’s nine times out of ten. Crazy!

You need to develop a “thick skin” or find a way to deal with rejection if you’re going to keep plugging away in the face of that. As if that weren’t bad enough, I’m told by Duotrope that my acceptance ratio is higher than the average for people submitting to the same markets as me. That means I’m stinking lucky to be accepted 10% of the time.


Compounding the number of rejections we, as writers, have to deal with is the way we perceive those rejections. We give them so much more weight than they deserve. Truly.

As an example, a couple years ago NaNoLJers did a group poetry project where we wrote a poem together. Eventually we placed the piece to Sorcerous Signals. When that happened, Arnold Emmanuel,  one of the people who worked on the poem blogged about it and said:

…Rhonda sent out submission requests and omg, lots of rejection letters.  I thought to myself “Oh well, it won’t be published, that’s okay, least we tried,” and then one day all of a sudden I get an email that says something like “Remember that poem Alone we worked on,” and I’m thinking oh, and another rejection letter, but no, we got published!

How many rejection letters did we collect on the poem before selling it? How many ‘nos’ did we get before he figured ‘Oh well…’ and gave up on that poem being published?



And not two markets that are easy to place work with either. I’m talking about Lone Star Stories and Goblin Fruit. I’m not picking on Arnold, I’m not. I’m just using his words to show how subjective our perception of rejection is. We give it too much power.

I’ve another friend who wrote a story with the intention of submitting it to a specific market, sent it to that market and got turned down. His reaction is to trunk the story. I was shocked. Really? All that work and you’re going to say ‘Oh well…’ and give up on it after one submission? See? Again, giving a rejection notice too much power.

As an editor I can tell you, someone passing on your submission does not mean the submission is bad. It really doesn’t. Honest, honest, honest.

Rejection is a part of writing for publication and it sucks. It really does. It’s something we all need to deal with and the better our coping skills are the more likely we are to succeed because, when it comes down to it, perseverance is a HUGE ingredient in the recipe for success.

Sometimes I feel so worn down by all the rejection letters and the ‘close but…’ letters. I begin to feel like I’m never going to break into my dream markets, or find the perfect agent* and I begin to wonder if it’s worth it. Is it time to give up? To move on? But I grit my teeth and keep grinding away, and then when an acceptance does come it’s all worth it… for an hour or two. Then it’s back to the grind.

One way I’ve found to deal with rejection is to dwell on it as little as possible. When one market passes on a story or poem I don’t waste any time sending it off to another. I figure that way instead of dwelling on how disappointed I am in the first rejection I can focus on how hopeful I am that work will find a home with the new market I’ve sent it to. It’s a little thing, but it helps, and dude, lemme tell you, I’ll take all the help I can get.

How about you? How do you deal with rejection? What sort of tricks do you use to keep yourself going?


This blog post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge over the month of April and was brought to you by the letter R. Check back tomorrow when I plan to be talking about some of my stories that begin with the letter S. Apparently I write a lot of them LOL Shades of Green, Shadows, Sister Margaret


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16 thoughts on “Rejection Rebooted”

  1. Rejection is tough and I don’t know that I developed any particular methods of dealing with it. If it’s a standard agent rejection at the start of a query flurry, I usually take it in stride, knowing that there are plenty of other queries out there. But, once the rejections start to pile up and I have to start seriously thinking about the possibility of shelving my MS, I get a little panicky. After a few days though, I always seem to be re-energized by a revision idea or a completely new idea for a new WiP.

    1. Oh, I agree that there are always extenuating factors that effect how well I take rejection LOL Somedays are better than others, but I feel like I’m getting better and better at it too.

  2. I give rejection way too much power. I am not a writer, but in life…you are right though, just one person/idiot OR publishing house/genre etc. You writers have to be determined, first to finish what you start and keep at it, second to find someone who loves it as much as you do and then third to market it to the world…Thank you! 🙂

    1. You make a very good point, Elisa. It’t not just writers who have to deal with rejection, and it sucks no matter what the circumstances 🙂

      And also, you’re welcome <3

  3. Back in my acting days, common wisdom said that if you get one callback in 20 auditions you were doing well. I keep that number in the back of my head and look at each writing rejection as a step toward something good. I’ve also accepted the fact that there is a huge uncontrollably luck factor in the submission process.

  4. Recently I polished two stories I’ve written before because I wanted to submit them to specific mags. They both got rejected by those publications and for a moment I wondered what to do, but like you said, all that work for nothing? No way. I’ve been sending them to more places and, so far, they’ve been rejected twice for one of them, and thrice for the other. I think I’ll keep trying for at least one more time each before I let them rest. Maybe a year from now I can read them again, make them prettier and get them published. A story is never dead, just sleeping.

    Nice post!
    From Diary of a Writer in Progress

    1. One of my favourite stories has collected thirteen rejections so far. Ugh. It sucks, but I’m going to keep at it. I hope your pieces find homes too (now, or after a rest, whatever works) 🙂

  5. I’ve been at this submitting for possible publication game continuously now for five years, and I still don’t deal with rejection all that well. There are still certain rejections that dash my hopes to pieces. There are still plenty of markets that seem completely out of my reach. It still gets me down, big time.

    And I have a pretty decent acceptance ratio. According to the very rough count of my submission spreadsheet, I’ve had 506 rejections and 377 acceptances out of 1,029 submissions. Of course, those numbers are far from accurate, because some of those 377 rejections are multiple rejections of multiple submissions sent to the same market at the same time. The list also contains accepted reprints. The numbers may be a bit skewed in my favour because I have been known to send material to “4 the luv” zines; some people don’t sub to “4 the luv” venues. The numbers are also skewed because I include everything on the same list, including art (for me, artwork is usually easier to place than written material). Still, I have been known to place poems, articles, and artwork at paying markets on the first try. Love those moments!

    Even so, those occasions when it takes me ten or more tries drive me bonkers. Then, I wonder if I should give it up. However, the next acceptance comes along, and I forget about throwing in the towel, at least for a little while.

    Oh, and the person that said luck plays a role – definitely! Contrary to what some writers say, luck does have something to do with it. I became convinced of that fairly early in the game.

    1. I started out submitting to ‘4 the luv’ markets in order to hone my skills and improve my confidence. Also, let’s face it, my earlier works likely wouldn’t have been accepted anywhere else. Now, however, I only send to ‘4 the luv’ markets when I really, really need to see something other than a rejection in my inbox LOL

    2. Also, I think you may be selling yourself a bit short. I mean, after all, you do have a poem on Ellen Datlow’s honorable mention list this year. That’s no small feat.

  6. Me again…looking over my lists, I realised that another way my numbers are skewed is because I also listed artwork sent in for use in the Flashing Swords Zazzle Store and then the Abandoned Towers Zazzle store. They no longer contain items featuring my art, but they once did, and I did make a little money from sales through those stores. So, even though they were a bit outside of the publication realm, I listed such things in my submissions records, to keep track of what was sent and used in the stores.

    (Didn’t want anyone wondering why the number I stated for acceptances doesn’t necessarily match my number of publications – for a while there was A LOT of my art in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store.)

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