The Bare Knuckle Guide to Acquiring Rejection Letters

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Those rejections are in there somewhere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two scant weeks into the New Year, and I have it: the first rejection letter.* Count it, people. Twelve to go. Big thanks to Harper Voyager for their time, and for being the first on the list. Thanks for playing.

Submitting stuff is hard work. And, though I hate to put it this way, it’s not quite as….hm…rewarding as writing. Okay, it can be, when you get acceptances, but all that work is up front. With writing, you at least get the satisfaction of making something and then looking at it. Submitting is a whole other beast, and requires a different mind set.

Smile Scavenger asked about my first time getting published in the comments the other day, so I figured it would make an excellent post. Actually, it ended up making two posts, one about the process and one about my personal experience. Here’s part one, the process. Also known as the Guide to Acquiring Rejection Letters.
Your experience may vary, but most of the fiction writers I know started off the same way: with short stories. They’re short**, they’re easier to send out, and there’s usually a much shorter response time. Plus, they give you nifty writing credits that you can add to your cover letters. Always a bonus.

Short stories are how I started; I still do them. I’m doing a couple right now, as a matter of fact. They’re a nice palette cleanser after a long project. Here’s the approximate process I go through.

1. Write something. Or find a market for which you can write. Either one works. Sometimes I have stories that I just write, other times I write to a theme for a particular market. As always, write to the best of your ability and then edit that fucker. Polish it and make sure it’s ready to be seen by the judgemental public eye.

2. Find a market. If you wrote for something in particular, this is already done. If not, check the newest Writer’s Guide book or online listings. For speculative fiction, I’ve been making a use of Ralan, which has listings divided by type and pay. Make sure what you wrote fits the market. Just because you wrote a great werewolf erotica does not mean that it belongs in a hard sci-fi anthology. You’re just going to piss people off.
Sidebar: Before sending things out, I’d advise a visit to Preditors and Editors, a site that posts warnings about agents, markets, contests, and other things that have sketchy or downright bad policies. Check it out. Thank me later.

3. Write your cover letter, if you need one, and properly format your submission. All those things in the Submission Guidelines on those listings? They’re there for a reason. Someone, somewhere likes things that way, and since they’re reading your work, they get to decide. It’s not that hard to do the formatting, and you save your story from being read by someone you’ve already pissed off. You are not special. You cannot ignore the rules.

4. Check everything over. Should the submission be an attachment or pasted into the body of an email? SASE or postcard return? Response time? Still open? Did you get the editor’s name right?*** Double check it, then check it again, and then get someone else to fucking check it.

5. Send it out. Wish it luck. Mark a response time in your calendar or iPhone or whatever, so you know if you should send an e-mail at a certain point, or so you don’t forget where it went. You might also want to make a note of what story you sent and to what market, so you don’t accidentally submit to the same market twice. Awkward.

6. Wait. It’s helpful to do something else during this time. Write another story. Work on new ideas. Drink. Or, you know, just stare at the mailbox/hit refresh on your e-mail. Your call.

7. Get the response. If acceptance, celebrate and wait for further details or a contract. If rejection, shake it off, file it away, and get on with your life.

Rinse. Repeat.

Follow these steps, and soon you will be acquiring rejection letters of your very own.

*Actually, this wasn’t an official rejection letter, but the lack-of-response time has expired, which is a rejection. Still counts.
**No fucking kidding, Captain Obvious.
***Once again, why piss off someone before they read your story?

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2 thoughts on “The Bare Knuckle Guide to Acquiring Rejection Letters

  1. Thanks, Knuckles. I’m actually about to send a story to Tales of the Talisman (should be today if nothing comes up). Finding the right market can be a lengthy process. You’re right– don’t send the erotica werewolf story to a sci-fi mag. Its been my experience you have to read the mag before you can get the feel for what they want. I’ve seen Ralan and will definitely be checking it out some more. Great post. Thanks for the time!

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