You have to get rejected to get accepted.
Stephen King has already said this, in On Writing. Lots of other people have said it. I say it to people. But I thought that sharing the data and drawing conclusions might be useful. Something about looking at those numbers up there makes it real.
As you can see, the magic number to achieve my resolution was fifty. I hit it this morning, finally. I had hoped, when I made the resolution, to go through the finish line mid-year and just keep on running. Dad dying slowed me down, but there’s something else to consider too: so many markets say that simultaneously submitting a piece to others while they’re considering it is a no-no – and, some of those same markets take three or four months to get back to you.
That’s so much time, for a market that – just going by frequency of acceptance vs. frequency of rejection – probably isn’t going to take your work. And you’re trying to live as a writer. That is, one day you’d like it to be your living.
I bet potential employers would tell us not to simultaneously apply for other jobs while they consider our applications, too. The difference is that nobody asks them. Because, you know, bills.
I don’t mean to insult any publications that do take a hard line on simultaneous submissions. I think that hard line is probably a direct result of many writers with bad manners who, upon being accepted elsewhere, failed to notify other markets that they were withdrawing their work.
What I would say is that, generally, withdrawing one’s work is a thing. My hope is that after a certain point that feels too-long for you (and is too long by the market’s professed turn-around time) you will be brave and self-respectful enough to drop them a line that either says, “Hey, was a decision reached on this?” or “Hey, I’d like to take this story out of your queue.” Do it politely, but do it – because that’s what begins to change the landscape so that the publication can see that either a) oops, they never got back to somebody, or b) yikes, they’d better try to rearrange things a bit so they get through the slush-pile more efficiently.
And, since withdrawing one’s work is a thing that is done, if more of us do it (or query) dependably, maybe the hard yellow double-line on simultaneous submissions can become more of a dotted white line situation (you know, so we can change lanes or merge or whatever, as needed, because we’re using turn signals like adults).
Dragging us back to my fifty-submission situation, this year was also high in acceptances. I got TWO – which, while humble, is two more than in recent years, and it’s tripled my lifetime publications. That’s pretty cool.
And, if I look at all the rejections it took to get to those acceptances – not just by the numbers, but looking at the kind of rejection wording I got, from which markets and for which stories – I must admit that I have a better idea about what to send X market next, and who might like Y story better. So maybe the goal isn’t just to get published, as you submit yourself to this torture; maybe your other goal is to gather intel about the markets to which you make yourself vulnerable. Yes, you show them yours. But then they show you theirs! USE THAT. Even a form rejection, after twelve hours, tells you a lot. In English that’s either, “We have atypical submission requirements you forgot to read,” or “We don’t like Victorian space-opera, sorry.”
All this to say I’m pretty happy with all those numbers. The two acceptances are awesome, but I also love all those illuminating (and sometimes even encouraging) no-thank-yous. And I love the gaps in the numbers most of all – the difference between what has been sent out and what has been responded to. I must tend that gap, and never let it close, for it is full of hope.