A Question and a Good-Bye

Does it count as a rejection if a magazine to which you submitted a story closes down before they get back to you with an answer?

Atom Jack Magazine closed, which is a shame, as I thought they printed some dang good stories (and available for free, even). I was obviously not exactly a regular reader, though, seeing as they announced the closure in December and I didn’t notice until now. (I submitted my story in November… I just thought they were taking a while to respond!)

Rejection Part II: Why it Pays to Write Thank You Notes

So after I got my Very First Rejection LetterTM, which was really just a short e-mail, I decided to send a quick thank you note, to say thanks for considering my story. I also added that I’d submit again if I wrote something in the future more appropriate for their magazine. I’m glad I did, because the editor wrote back saying that I should do so, because she liked the way I looked at things.

Even my ultra-paranoid side has to admit that probably wasn’t a form response. So positive encouragement, yay!

Sending thank you notes to editors after a rejection will probably become common practice for me. Sure, it sounds semi-masochistic, but the editor who rejects your story today may be the same one who reads another story of yours six months from now. It’s just like how you always send thank you notes after a job interview, regardless of the outcome.

(You know, I probably shouldn’t admit here that I was usually too lazy to do that. I mean, umm… never mind.)

My First Rejection Letter!

I hit a major milestone in my writing career today: I got my first rejection letter from a professional publication.

Last month I mentioned in a post that I’ve written four short stories that I think are at or near a publishable level. Well, over the past couple weeks I finally submitted three of them to professional magazines: A general fiction piece that went to Story Quarterly, another one that went to 42 Magazine, and a science fiction/sort-of-humor piece that went to Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’m aiming high, especially with the sci-fi piece.

To my surprise, one of the general fiction pieces, which I had submitted via e-mail, got a rejection letter back the following day. The editor said it had made her smile, but it wasn’t what they were looking for. Which is fair enough, although the fragile-ego’d, paranoid side of me wondered what in particular had gotten it rejected in just a day, whereas the normal turnaround time is months. Maybe it was just chance that it happened across her desk, or maybe it was that it was short– only 1000 words. I’ll take solace in the fact that it made her smile, even though that could just be part of a form letter. (See, there’s that paranoia again.)

My plan is to print it off and start a file of rejection letters. Some day when I’m published I’ll be able to look back on them and smile, although I have to admit, they do sting when you get them.

Writing and Publication

Since this is ostensibly a blog about writing, I’d better post something related to that subject. I’m actually in between projects right now; I’m brainstorming and outlining for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November, getting ready for this crazy September, and setting up the blog. In between I’m thinking about submitting my stories for publication.

In the past year I’ve written four short stories that I consider to be at or near the publishable level, but I haven’t actually sent them anywhere yet. So I’m starting to do some research, which it turns out is more complicated than it looks. First off, different magazines pay different rates (if they pay rates at all), and while I’d be thrilled with almost any publication, it would be nice to get paid (after all, my ultimate goal is to do this professionally), and it doesn’t hurt to start with places near the upper end of the pay scale. These are, of course, more competitive… but might as well aim high.

Second, different publications have different genres. This seems pretty obvious… I shouldn’t submit my general fiction to a Fantasy magazine, and I shouldn’t submit my Science Fiction stories to a hunting magazine (unless maybe it’s about hunting cyborg deer… with lasers on their heads). It goes deeper than that, though… some publications prefer humor, some prefer darker stuff, some prefer action, some prefer character drama… and it may come down to the individual taste of the editor reading your story, which is something you have no control over, unless it’s an editor you personally met who agreed to take a look at your story.

Of course, the best way to get a sense of what kind of stories a magazine publishes is to read it. So that’s what this research largely consists of: reading. Once I’ve narrowed down a candidate publication for a story, then I have to double-check their submission guidelines, make sure everything is formatted correctly (some places are stricter than others), send it off, and wait maybe 5-6 months for what will likely be a “thanks but no thanks.”

Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t have written all that out. It was kind of discouraging. Of course, there are other avenues to consider as well… contests (just have to be wary of which contests are actually scams), or just posting my writing up on the web and seeing what happens. I’ll probably still do that occasionally, but at least for now my goal is publication.