WANTED: Real Stories From Our Readers
We want to publish YOUR stories about making submissions.
> Did you get an unusual/funny/unexpected rejection?
> Did a submission that was originally turned down suddenly receive an acceptance letter?
> What was your most meaningful acceptance so far? Your most meaningful rejection?
> In your opinion, what does it take to make successful submissions?
> Anything else you want to share about what it’s like to be a writer making submissions?
If you would like us to consider publishing YOUR true story on our blog, post it here as a comment!
Deadline: September 8
Length: 300 words MAX
CONTEST: We are going to compile our favorite stories to share with our followers. Leave a comment below by September 8th, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of our acclaimed book, THE HAPPY WRITER! U.S. residents only. This contest has ended. Thank you all who participated!
Submit your mini story as a blog comment on this post. Use the social share buttons at the top of this post to tell your writer friends about this opportunity!
This was the first summer I could truly remember; it was bright and me being the kid I was; the day was so much more beautiful. I was anxious to hear that annoying bell ring, the suspense seemed to lurk inside slowly draining my very soul.
Second after second the clock ticked away. The other kids in my class were growing as excited as I was. My friends behind me started giggling uncontrollably.
I glanced behind me to see my friend Jason making faces at the teacher as she turned he back to write on the chalkboard. I myself could not help but start giggling which in turn mad the rest of the class start laughing.
The teacher turned around and looked at us with indifference. Her stare pierced through us; Leaving us to feel as if we were a unworthy opponent.
Finally the time had come; the bell rang; that annoying high pitched sound that rattled through the entire school. I could see my fellow students trample through the school like a herd of wild animals. I worked my way frantically to the nearest exit and proceeded to wait for Jason and the others we walked home with.
Once we gathered our group we started on our way home. As we progressed the school bully zoomed passed us on his bike almost knocking me down. I heard Jason yell something at him and watched as he chased him down the hill.
My group and I kept walking knowing that we would find him at the bottom of the hill with the bully on the ground crying for his mommy.
As we neared the subdivisions of homes I watched as my friends slowly went to their houses; leaving Jason and I to finish up our route until we found our houses.
We made plans to meet later that night and went our separate ways.
I walked into my house to find my sisters excitement overwhelming the very whole of me.
I smiled, grabbed a tuna fish sandwich mom had made for an after school snack and walked to my bedroom to watch the time pass without end.
Finally after what seemed forever a knock came at my door and voices begging me to play. My mother called for me and I ran like hell toward my time outside.
That first summer we played well into the night with our parents out watching us. Oh the fun we had; enjoyment at its finest; and a neighborhood pizza party with the parents pitching in.
That was the first summer I remember; times of joy; times of hope; times of endless summer fun.
Two years ago, I secured agency representation for my YA novel, Shanty Gold. After 11 months of waiting for edit suggestions, I realized this agent wasn’t for me, so I resigned the contract.
The rejections I received after that were often form letters, and I understand the need for that. However, I would like to tell the literary agency community one thing. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE stop telling writers about the vast number of submissions you receive and that, “while your submission may be desirable to another agency, it’s just not for us.”
I think that’s just plain rude. And arrogant! That tells me that you are so very, very important and that I, the writer, am a peon, a low rung on the literary ladder. Just reword your form letter and leave that part out, I implore you.
Out of frustration, I quit querying, but a friend told me about one more agent. Her name is Jeanie Loiacono. She asked for the full and promised to get back to me in two months. Two days before two months were up, I received an offer of representation. I studied and signed the contract it, scanned it and sent it back to Jeanie. She’s as busy as anyone I know, but she is a professional.
I immediately received a thoughtfully edited manuscript from her. I accepted all but two of her edit suggestions and sent it back to her. She acquired a publisher for me in three weeks.
It’s hard being a writer and living every day with rejection. Please, agencies, realize that and try to be a little kinder. Just play nice. Thank you so much.
I honestly can’t wait to give mine; it’s not the traditional sense of acceptance here, but it is meaningful!
My most unusual, amusing, and encouraging rejection letter ever is from 2012:
“Subject: RE: Partially Counterfactual
Dear Mi West,
We appreciate your submission. Unfortunately, the editors felt your piece was too good for this particular issue. In short, we know you’re capable of much worse.
We don’t take the opportunity to read your work lightly. Please feel free to send more in the future.
Thanks for thinking of us.
Mixed Fruit ”
I love writing about liberty, from any angle, be external (like freedom of press) or inner (like yoga, Zazen, or Tantra.) I know from WR articles that submissons are all about selection and perseverance; therefore, I got it accepted in the Electronic Encyclopedia of Experimental Literature a few months later. In addition, they accepted another piece in January 2014, too.
I’m the first one? Okay!
Not your typical type of acceptance but the post did ask for the most meaningful, so here you are. My friend Brace has never been a school person, a book person, or prone to enjoying things of that nature. In our senior year of high school a few months back we were in his room doing what we normally did; playing Magic The Gathering. He’s a big tough guy, but Brace also carries his nerd certificate next to the dog tags in the wallet of his heart, and has made the remark numerous times that he might be a nerd, but he can beat up anyone who calls him such. So we were playing and I was explaining how I was on the fifth draft of my novella, going through the psychology of the characters and the plot and only semi-realizing that I was getting more of Brace’s attention than the cards.
When my voice finally wound down (true to Gemini form I talk constantly) Brace hummed, sorting through the cards as my heart bashed on my chest. Talking about my writing always turns my anxiety up a notch or five, and that I couldn’t decode his hum wasn’t helping. Turns passed, and finally the boy who never reads even for school, delights in saying bookworms need to stop getting high off words, and that he might be a nerd but at least he doesn’t live in the library, spoke. “That sounds pretty cool Jess…I like the mind stuff you’ve got going on there. I’d read that.” And that, bookworms and book nerds, is the best compliment and acceptance of my work I’ve ever gotten.
The best decision I have ever made was when I decided to make my life in Mexico. I was 19 years old . With this decision that time I didnt know it was just a step to discover all these wonderful things that came into my path, not knowing the consequences outcome for my future.At that time it was paved road for me as a traveler and adventures , it was good enough for me. I started this move and flow to understand this world and how we handle it. I remember like it was yesterday I wanted to seek like all of us the truth path. I continue with this opportunity with joy I started to realize I was making decisions , I discovered my career , my passions for life and of course this wonderful word love. I teacher I became . Teaching coaching others. My students were executives, children and well known people,some became friends and learned with time how much they taught me. Their rich culture , being a mexican american I found my roots and became another foriegner that fell in love with this country Mexico.Making decisions on realtions.I also made decision on business, and so on.As my joourney continued with decisions it made me who Iam now. Iam 60 years old still living in this great country Mexico. Iam those people that say that life gets better and I love myself better and all because of one decision I made many years ago.Yes Iam one of those that Iam thankful for that decision that took me to a journey, I never would had imagine living if I had stayed at my home town in Texas.Iam an amateur writer as you can see but I would like to continue writing short stories to inspire young and adults to encourage them and ease their lifes in this great journey we all have to enjoy the best of each one of us have to give. by: sandra orellana
Forty years ago I left Toronto, Ontario to escape from having to talk to my Family and Friends about the devastating news I received from my Wife. I took $10 and what I was wearing with a good friend of mine named Tom. We left Toronto and headed north in his car. We got about three klms. from Sudbury and walked into town. We were very hungry and thirsty and I spent the remaining money we had. With honesty, sincerity and determination we continued our journey across Canada. I would write notes to myself and kept them in a suitcase that I purchased on route to Vancouver.
Many adventures and very close calls were always happening around every corner. When I completed my healing and returned to Toronto I wrote my first book titled THE QUESTIONS I ASK MYSELF. This story is the true events that happened to me. I know God had to have watched every step I took for He alone was able to aid me and comfort me when I thought there was no hope of survival.
The title of this book is REACH FOR THE TOP
E VERY PERSON
A ND LIVING
C REATURE NEEDS
FOR THE TOP
I wanted to be alone as I opened the envelope from the magazine publisher to whom I had recently submitted a story. I tore it open and immediately burst into tears.
My husband must have heard the outburst and came rushing in to comfort me. He put his arms around me and said, “I’m so sorry. They’ll accept one someday.”
I smiled through my tears as I said, “It’s a check.”
My first actual payment for a piece I had written. Tears of joy.
I remember carefully packing a copy of Ruah literary Journal for a trip to Portland Maine a decade ago. I was looking forward to reading it and first glanced at it while on a ferry at sunset. My eyes got really (really) big when I scanned my own name in the table of contents. I will always be grateful for discovering my first accepted poem in print this way.
See that ancient typewriter on your graphic? Well that’s when I started writing. Just a kid in a shed in a tiny mining town, writing and tearing up. Now I’ve written about 8 books, six non-fiction about being alien abducted into national service and dumped back to earth; the police killing of a Vietnam Vet described as the ‘most important book in Australia’; a defiled justice system that sent an innocent doctor to prison while the real killer goes free; and diaries of SDA’s who hated humanity; a classic 120k word fox and hounds story and a works-in-progress sci-fi of a lonesome cynical journo who finds a see-all egg in a Tasmanian bush-block…and finds himself at the White House hugging the black American GI CIC whose arse he saved in a shit-fight with the Viet Cong in 1967. I’ve never had any rejection because I’ve never submitted. You know how hard it is being the perfect dad, perfect husband, perfect provider, perfect poppy? Sure you do. One day I’ll get a chance to write those dreadful, time-consuming, non-creative synopses, find an effing tell-us-everything in one-page agent or publisher and launch myself to the barren moon…or is it?
I wanted to covey my feelings about patriotism so well that they would make you cry. I wanted to explain I bleed red, white, and blue and that I am deeply and profoundly “proud to be an American”. But when USATODAY asked our opinion, all I could come up with were hackneyed expressions, predictable comments.
So I began to describe my granddaughter, Kiya, a real live Barbie, gone Goth. Instead of crafts with grandma, she prefers the company of her cell phone. Instead of natural red hair, she opts for black strings, chopped and possibly even diced. Rather than repeats of “High School Musical”, she digs “Dogma”.
Significant, I guess, because it illustrates how in America, we are free to look and act exactly as we please! This was, by far, my greatest acceptance from prestigious USATODAY!
So you want to hear from people about their real life experiences submitting their writings? Well let me say plainly that so far the only one who’s accepted my manuscripts has been the mailman. It’s not that my manuscripts don’t reach the publishers, I imagine some have, it’s just that I never hear back from them unless it’s to tell me to quit bothering them, and to let me know that ‘a copy of the restraining order will be forthcoming.’
Undaunted, I’m pretty sure that I could be a great writer someday, and my wife’s been encouraging me with her assurances that the only thing that I’m lacking is talent. However, once I overcome that obstacle you’ll probably be seeing my books on the bookstore shelves, or the thrift store shelves, we’ll have to wait and see how that vanity publishing turns out.
Thank you for allowing me to tell my side of the submission process… and any day now I expect to hear from my mailman with news that he’s ready to buy one of my books ;-}.
May The Gods Have Mercy
Tuesday, the day we “writers” gather to curse the gods and vow our defiance of editors and publishers who hold us in low esteem arrives. I search for my expensive scarf that readily identifies me as a mystery writer and slip into loafers with the fresh aroma of Italian cow poop that signals I am a romantic. My worn tweed coat with the leather elbow patches is back from the dry cleaners. The British green Lotus convertible with the Weber carburetors and Abarth exhaust languishes in the driveway with the top pushed back. I prepare to gather with my associates. A number 2 pencil is in one hand; the pages of my latest effort in the other.
I will not be denied. My prose has symmetry. The words are the result of anguishing revisions; the plot seduces the reader. My learned colleagues await me. So too, does my fate as a writer.
Sally, who works in a convenience store and composes poetry while sitting at her kitchen table, finds my syntax troubling. Harry Sims, a monster of a man who derives pleasure in constructing horror novels has difficulty understanding my “mixed illogical metaphors”. Bald headed Sam, who I trust, suggest it requires chopping.
I am not happy. I protest but when I glance around the table, I sense the others agree. I immediately take the adverbs out. The word count falls. I eliminate adjectives and lose another hundred words. I recognize the first paragraph as nothing more than a false start and rip it out. The thing takes on an undeniable majesty.
I submit it. The editor suggest that it is too wordy but offers to consider the thing if I chop an additional five hundred words. I tell her “not with liposuction” and guess what…
AT WRITERS RELIEF,
I RECEIVED A WARM WELCOME,A CONCERNED AND INTERESTED APPROACH,PLUS VALUABLE INFORMATION ABOUT THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY.THIS SEPTEMBER PUBLISHING RUSH,I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT IT.
I HAVE NEVER BOTHERED TO SUBMIT MY WORK ANYWHERE,THEREFORE I HAVE NO EXPERIENCE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE DO.
RONNIE L. SMITH,THE PRESIDENT OF WRITERS RELIEF SENDS NECESSARY INFORMATION TO HELP YOU MAKE A POSITIVE DESICION TOWARDS WORKING WITH THEM TO PROMOTE YOUR WORK.I LOVE THAT;YOU ARE LEFT WITH THE FEELING THAT SHE IS YOUR FAMILY IN THE U.S,WORKING TO SEE THAT YOUR WORK GETS THE ATTENTION IT NEEDS AND YOU GET THE CASH IT GENERATES!
MORE GREASE TO YOUR ELBOWS!!
SINCERELY YOURS, SAPPHIRE LYNE OGIDI-MAXWELL.
As a writer, I’ve been published over 35 times, but this number didn’t come easily. My Submittable account currently has 154 rejection records. If you do the math, that’s about a 23% acceptance rate, meaning there’s a 77% chance my writing will be rejected with each submission I make. It’s a high possibility, but it has never stopped me from submitting anyway because I know there’s still a 23% chance I will be published again. By defying the 77%, I’ve held public readings of my work, been interviewed by journals, appeared on television, given a speech for a Sigma Tau Delta induction ceremony, and won two fiction awards. Getting published is a lot like playing soccer – if you keep kicking, you will score a goal. Successful submissions require not only writing, but having determination. Stories and poems don’t have legs, so they can’t get up and walk journal to journal. It’s the writer’s responsibility to look up listings and submit. Of course, submitting is hard work. Every writer alive and dead knows rejection all too well. Rejection might hurt the first couple of times, but after a while, rejection becomes meaningless. Read the rejection letter and move on to the next journal. And if the next journal says no, there’s always another journal. It might take five submissions, it might take fifty submissions, but one day, publication will happen. Being a writer is difficult. It takes long hours, focused thinking, and tough skin. More than likely, there will always be a person or multiple people who doubt your writing. There will be people who say you’re not good enough or that you’ll never succeed. There is an easy solution for these individuals – stick up your middle finger and keep kicking towards the goalpost. Kick until you score.
Just penned my first book. Nobody is interested. Most publishing houses send me the “Thank you for your submission, but we are sorry to inform you that….”
So I self-publish on Amazon.
Here I am, all excited and proud of myself for having completed something that I devoted many months to, and I can’t even get my sister to buy one and give it a five star rating. I should be having this HUGE celebration with all my friends. Instead, I’m fumbling around like a teenager in the back seat of my old man’s Chevy, trying to add some kind of Pin to a Board on a site that I REALLY don’t care about, and then Googling one inactive “Will review your book for free” site after another. And it’s TWO O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING!
But I’ve checked my numbers and I’m 497,364 on Amazon’s Best Seller Rank. So I text and I tweet. I create a fan page. I blog. I Skype. I Pin, and I Tumble. I contact every “friend” I have, and have them contact every “friend” they have. “Yes,” they say, “I’ll get me a copy of that new book of yours. I’m gonna read it, review it, and give it a whole passel of stars.” Two days later and now I’m 798,621 on the list.
By nature I am not a tweeter or a texter, a Tumbler, or a Pinner, I don’t try to StumbleOnto anything. Don’t much care for Skyping, and I secretly hate all of my “friends” on Facebook.
So here I sit, trying to promote my book on one more site, and it’s now THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING. I just keep repeating to myself, “I’m a writer…, this will work…, I’m a writer, this will work…, I’m a writer…
Introducing Erin Lee: My Journey into the Publishing Industry
If I had to diagnose myself based on the first story I ever wrote, I’d go with narcissistic idealist, not otherwise specified; a personality disorder.
As a first grader, I wrote a book about an aardvark. Its title, a real grabber, was “Nire, the Purple Aardvark.” Always one to see the world backward, it doesn’t surprise me that I named my quirky protagonist after my own name, spelt in reverse. While I was sure Nire would make it to the best seller list, I quickly learned that the literary world can be a cold place with little room for purple aardvarks. Earning only an “honorable mention” for that book in a Young Author’s contest – something given to every kid who participated – I knew Nire and I had a long way to go.
I haven’t stopped writing since that first attempt at putting my words into print. My first teenage job was writing hometown “news” – aka lists of community events – for a free weekly newspaper. I was paid 10 cents an inch and thrilled with my bi-monthly $13 loot. The byline was priceless. Since, I’ve worked as a journalist, a marketing director, and now a therapist. I’ve written about everything from children’s books about rainbow cows and talking apples to exotica, suicide prevention literature, journal articles, memoir and poetry. When I stop and think about all the topics I’ve touched on, I realize I might want to add schizophrenia to that diagnosis.
For me, that’s what makes writing fun. Where else, but in art, can you wear such different hats so easily passed off with an “oh, well, she’s a writer?” Writing has made my world such a fuller place. For me, writing is a love affair: It’s allowed me to fall in love with hundreds of characters. Add love addict to that diagnosis.
While I’ve come a long way from my days with Nire, and apparently increased my pathologies, some things have not changed. My favorite color is still purple. I continue to write for the love of the art. I’m still attracted to writing about quirky characters. My mother, my first writing mentor and a retired English professor with a heavy red pen, is still my number one wordsmith coach.
But some things do change. As I hug my 40th birthday and brace to send my oldest son to college, I’m grateful for this exhilarating time in my life. I began writing this series as a graduate school student struggling to juggle a family, internship and fulltime clinical program. Katherine Murphy – the protagonist in this series, originally titled “Group Therapy” (I’m still awful with titles) – became not only my escape, but my friend. I do not regret the papers I pushed off until because Katherine had clients to see or a hot date with “Mr. Maybe.” Instead, I realize now that my life career choices have all lead to this one honor: to bring Katherine and her lovable clients to life. Katherine has taught me more than I could have asked for. She has taught me how to play. A character that started off autobiographical, she had the guts to take on a life of her own, and in doing so, helped me – at midlife – reclaim mine.
As a therapist who specializes in narrative therapy – the art of helping people define themselves, tell, and rewrite their own life stories – I feel privileged to tell Katherine’s. Nire will always live in Katherine’s heart the same way she lives in mine. If I had to diagnose myself now, I’d go with word addict, type A – a condition I never desire to change. There is no cure, treatment, or expectation for my recovery. Instead, my only hope is that you enjoy Katherine’s story as much as I do!
I was a regular reader of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Sunday Punch section in the late 80s. Punch was an eclectic compendium of columnists, feature stories, and essays on every topic under the sun—and what happened after sunset.
I’d published in small magazines, but Punch seemed so quintessentially San Franciscan; I longed to place some witty disquisition within its pages. But the ten-thousand-foot question mark loomed: what to write about?
A frolicsome piece on unusual skin conditions? A recipe for low-fat chocolate martinis? An imagined conversation between me, J. D. Salinger and Josephine Baker? I fretted, I fussed, I fumed. Nothing.
But then it came to me. Not an idea, but a letter. Actually the latest in a series of them, stretching 13 years, 5 cities and 2 states. I’d been receiving mail from the Jack Daniel’s Distillery over that course of years, and many of those mailings were doozies.
It began when I’d innocently replied to a little card attached to a Jack Daniel’s bottle soliciting comments. I told the distillery folks that old Jack’s product was a balm for any ailment: an ointment for aches and pains, a zesty substitute for toothpaste, and a wart remover in a pinch.
Over the years, the Distillery sent a sheaf of kooky epistles and odd objects, including sets of drinking glasses, a bag of black-eyed peas, a buckeye, a rubbing stone, a record of “indigenous ethnic folk songs,” a bag of sassafras root and the foulest plug of chewing tobacco this side of Satan’s farm.
Describing those 13 years of correspondence brought me two-thirds of a page in Punch, right below L. M. Boyd’s Grab Bag of whimsy and exotic facts. I had, as many writing teachers tell you, let the story come to me. Literally.
Once upon a time there was a mail system where paper was put into envelopes and men and women known as mail carriers wore uniforms and walked with sacks full of these envelopes from house to house, trudging through snow and rain, journeying over pebbled roads and cobble-stone paths in order to deliver these envelopes.
There was a girl who submitted a short story through this mail system. Optimistic, she stuffed and stamped envelopes, filling each one with a hard copy of her story, a cover letter and a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Every Saturday at noon the mail carrier would arrive at her home. As the metal mail slot on the door clanked against its frame, the girl would jump up from the kitchen table and run to the door hoping for yet another acceptance letter. Often, she was rejected.
One time while away for the summer, she forwarded her mail. The mail system had its flaws and her mail never arrived. Day after day, she waited. As time passed, she thought all was lost and she became despondent, wondering if an acceptance would ever come.
After two months, countless phone calls and visits to the post office, her mail was found and her husband lugged it home in a black trash bag.
Diligently, the girl opened the mail, hundreds of envelopes. She opened a response from a literary journal. It was a standard rejection letter, a flat out “no.” She took a deep breath and opened another. Red pen marks filled the page. “With a lot (and a lot was underlined) of revision, we would look at this story again.” And finally, she opened an acceptance letter. Not too hot, not too cold, the story was just right.
Scene 1. In the Beginning.
As I finished what I believed to be my last developmental edit (how wrong I was!), I decided to publish “The True Story of the Vortex. The Conception Files” – the first “true story” of the Sol Vortex project under the motto “All stories are true”.
I wanted to publish as soon as possible in order to test my muscles and to analyse the resonance. I wanted to get off my hands this boo-hoo-memoir of Gate Carson before she becomes Gatie Kirke, and surely before she is Agata Nolementar, not to mention that in the next potential series titled The Goddess of KADE she would be the Maria Dani character some of you had already met.
So, I started planning my publishing strategy, in line with my 10-year business plan draft for expanding Omnia Captum LLC, my little boutique language services agency, into Omnia Universum, Inc. I will tell you, dear reader, about this corporate embryo of mine, if you like, in another true story.
I was musing about various strategic ramifications like submissions to small presses or finding a lit agent, when I came across a certain site of a certain self-publishing outlet. In passing, I signed up for a Become a star brochure. You know, the kind of editing and publishing guides self-publishing outlets offer free-of-charge.
Hell, all I wanted was to learn more from the brochure; I didn’t even want to talk to anyone. But the entire enterprise turned into an extreme test drive on the glorified path to perdition fame. A sales genie from the SP outlet contacted me the next hour and started singing about the benefits of being a free agent and keeping all the rights.
Since May 2012, he had rhapsodized to me almost every day for the next five months. After I said I would publish the entire series with them, should this little trial “geschaft” turn into a success, he started signing off with forever yours.
.–the point where you say, “Oh, I know where this is going”—–
Yeah, the story is a textbook case… well, I personally would have been thankful if I could have bought this kind of textbook instead of writing it.
The sales genie became my best buddy – we talked for hours over the phone. I shared my plans with him. He called me “my General”. I told him I’d make him sales director in one of the Omnia outlets – which I still plan to do. When I had my next burnout – the one I swore would be my last – he wrote with sympathies; hell, if his commission had allowed for airfare, he would have shown up with candy and flowers. I told him I liked weightlifting and power sports that give me reasons to say “hey asshole, I’m not fat – I’m muscled, wanna check?” when necessary. He laughed at my jokes and told me about his leg volleyball hobby…
What he didn’t tell me was that he had exactly the kind of leg to kick someone out of the game for two years. Well, I was talking to him in business-to-business style, so no wonder. But I was looking for a long-term partner, not the cheapest ride to Hollywood.
Still, with all that, I was wary and doubtful – I am not a total idiot to start with a fart, excuse me. At the moment, I knew practically bupkes about the market, and I normally look before I leap. But I listened to him for five months because he knew I’ve been a free agent all my professional life, from translating personal letters after school to founding my own language services boutique, and he knew what songs to sing to me….
To be continued…
It must have been only several months ago that I received the most unexpected rejection email ever. Without having yet sent in my work. Yes, you heard that right. I had not even given them a synopsis.
Before publishing, I wanted to make sure my story would find a home with a good and reliable publishing company, which is why I sent in several preliminary questions. Mostly just about basic things, like rights and distribution. Well, I was flabbergasted when I found this in my inbox soon after:
Thank you for your interest in publishing with AP. Your project is not a good fit for AP’s current needs.
So, naturally, I replied, completely confused but willing to clear up this fogginess. I politely asked why my work had been rejected, as I had not yet sent in any information on the story, nor had I provided a sample. I received an incredibly odd email in return, being told that my questions were “insalting.” Not only was this reply rude and the spelling horrific, it was not made up of more than a single sentence, having no greetings in the beginning or regards at the end.
I wrote back a long email, explaining to the company that I am only seventeen years old and just embarking on the publishing journey. If I had indeed insulted them I was sorry, and I explained how I naturally was not yet as knowledgeable on the subject as she was. It was a long and apologetic email, and I received back a single sentence answer:
Stop quering you received a rejection letter.
The spelling, grammar, and brevity say it all. Well, I was happy I had done some preliminary questioning before sending off my work!
I’m not sure whether this qualifies as the “best” rejection. It certainly was a drawn out one. I submitted, per instructions, my query and the first five pages of my novel to a well known agency. Within a week, I’d gotten a response from the agent that made my heart beat faster:
“The story, described in your query, feels intriguing, layered, rich with the pain of life and suffering in the modern world. The query itself is well-crafted, giving me a sense of, not only the story but, the characters themselves. The writing itself doesn’t disappoint in the least. It’s lovely, engaging, compelling. Both characters draw me in quickly in your first five pages. There is [at least one character] I’d like to meet.
I’d love to see the first 50 pages on an exclusive basis. Let me know if that works. Looking forward to hearing from you.”
When I came down from Cloud 9, I sent the requested 50 pages. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. Six weeks later, the agent sent me the following response: “I loved your first 50! Would you send the full, please?”
Of course, I accommodated the request. More blood pressure rise, more rapid heartbeats, and then, after two more weeks, she sent the following:
“I loved your novel and would like to get a second read from a colleague. Before I do, I want to confirm that the MS is still available. Let me know. If it is, and if my colleague agrees the book is as wonderful as I think it is, I’ll give you a call soon.”
I let her know that I had abided by her request for an exclusive, and sat by my computer waiting for a response. I waited about two months. The last I heard from her was:
“Although I loved your work, my colleagues (curiously, in my opinion) didn’t share my enthusiasm. I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass on this lovely novel, which I’m sure I’ll regret. I know [your novel] will certainly find its home. Thank you so much for your patience, professionalism and talent, Rebecca.”
Of course, I was crushed! Now, I know all about rejection. And I understand that it’s the middle name of this business, and I’ve gotten some very good ones, really. I replied to her e-mail, thinking (mistakenly) that I had some sort of relationship with her, and asked if it would be all right for me to submit other things to her, given that she seemed to love my writing. I never heard another word back from her. So, what are the take-aways? Well, for one thing, I’ll never again give an agent an “exclusive” and let my work molder for 4+ months. That was my bad. And I will try not to get my hopes up when an agent oozes enthusiasm for my work. Of course I hope she’s right, and that my novel will find a home somewhere. But this just gives me even more determination to work harder to get published!
I would like to write my own story as a writer.
Every no is one step closer to a yes. A bit chirpy and blue-birdish, but I live by this adage. We had a house fire a year and a half ago, and lost almost everything but the frame of the house. It took a long time to write about this, and I did a mash up of the fire and my big birthday. I called it “Making a Fist of It,” and it was rejected. So I pulled out the birthday story and concentrated on the fire. “Mourning Doves” was just accepted by StoryTeller for their December 2014 issue.
MY PESSIMISTIC OPTIMISM
I have a Facebook Group, Faces of D*A*R*L*A (Damned Affliction, Ruined Legs, And …), where I post small bits of my manuscript and keep people apprised of my submissions to agents and their results. So far those results have not yet yielded any acceptances. I’ve been posting my rejections on that page and many of the comments are of the nature, “That’s too bad,” or “I’m sorry.”
The truth is that when I send out the queries and proposals, I do so with the idea that I will likely not get an acceptance; it’s a tough market for a first time writer. (Actually, I’m an “Author”… I know this because my very first rejection letter addressed me as “Dear Author”). I print out my email rejections and I post them on my closet door, which is where my optimistic view comes in. When people say that they are sorry I didn’t get accepted, I tell them, “No worries. It just means they weren’t the right agent for my book; I’d rather have an agent who believed in it than one who didn’t. Besides, if I don’t get rejected, I can’t build my ‘Rejection Collage’. It makes for a mighty poor piece of art if there are only four rejections so far.”
My collage is growing and for every rejection I send out two more, without reservation and without expectation, but that my collage will grow. But what if I should find an agent? I’ll be both surprised and excited and happy as hell, so I can take a picture of my collage, post it on my Facebook page, and enjoy the congratulations from those who read my D*A*R*L*A page.
I’ve received the usual unhelpful form letter rejections from over 100 agents counting all my novel submissions combined. The only one I ever received that was even remotely personal was from an agent in NYC who told me,
“Your main character has so much baggage he clanks when he walks.”
Said character was a recovering alcoholic, but otherwise a successful Navy attorney. Apparently, this agent is unfamiliar with complex characters who happen to be three dimensional.
I subsequently gained representation for another novel–that also made the rejection rounds. However, this particular rejection is a gem I pull out when I need a laugh.
Two years ago I applied to creative writing MFA programs. I was three years into a career with a degree in library science and miserable with how little time I had to write. When I applied, my writing was rusty at best. I also couldn’t decide whether I should apply to fiction, poetry, or non-fiction programs. For reasons I still can’t comprehend, I applied to fiction having only written poetry and non-fiction in recent years. I was bold and confident without much to back it. My references were strong, but my stories were sloppily put together. I applied to four schools and considered one of them my “backup” school.
Not surprising to me now, but shocking to me then, I was rejected by all four schools. I received a rejection letter from my backup school last. I was disheartened, a bit embarrassed, and definitely put in my place. Just as I was coming up from the defeat, a second rejection letter from my safety school came in. Feeling like this was another wound to my ego, I assured myself it was an unfortunate filing mistake. Two weeks later, a third rejection letter came.
I’m not sure what happened to earn me three rejection letters from one school, but it was the periodic reminder I needed during that time to teach me to be humble and work hard. Whenever I need that reminder, I pull out one of those three letters.
The first article I ever submitted to a magazine was too easily accepted. A new magazine started up in Charlotte, I made a phone query, and they accepted it. Later I found out that they paid a month AFTER publication. I thought about submitting another article, but decided it might not be worth waiting three months for a $25 check. The magazine folded a couple of months later. But that set me on a wrong course. I have had very little success outside of getting to know the editor of the local paper and publishing articles there. That started in 1979. I have had only one short story published since then on a web site that published short stories, and one magazine article–in The Futurist–when I wrote about what the office where I worked was doing to advance medical science. I have also had one poem published by a small lit mag that paid in copies the way the Futurist did. Otherwise, only rejections. Whoop-de-freakin’-do. I’m trying to land an agent for my novel now, but still accumulating rejections. That is, when they bother to reply at all. I’m getting discouraged.
How I got my first book published is a testament to the statement “never give up.”
In my early 20’s I penned a novel and took an adult education course at the local college on getting published. I was the only fiction writer, so the instructor convinced me to write nonfiction. My specialty—indoor cats.
I submitted out for 8 years with the same replies; “Too many cat care books on the market.” My last submission was to a friend’s editor (Ms X). My final hope before shelving the book.
I heard nothing after three months, so I contacted my friend. She informed me that Ms X had moved to a different publishing house. I contacted her and received the same reply as always.
“Would the new editor who replaced you like the book?” I asked. No, no one would buy that book.
I was heartbroken.
The next day I received a letter in the mail from the editor who had replaced Ms X. She had gone through the rejection pile (200 manuscripts) and found mine. It just happened she had indoor cats of her own and knew this book was needed.
In 1998, Housecat, How to Keep Your Indoor Cat Sane & Sound was published by a subsidiary of MacMillan. The first year it sold huge in Britain and won an award. After this, I was contacted by other editors who wanted me to write books on cat care for them (one of them won a huge award from Iams).
In 2005, I was asked to do a revised edition of the book. That edition was worldwide and even translated into Russian. The book has seen the change-over of many publishing companies, but it is still on the market to this day.
(and, as an aside, I had lunch with my editor shortly after the first publication. Ms X had come back and admitted to me she was wrong not to have accepted the book).
Writer’s Relief helped me get stories and poems out to journals and assisted me in finding an agent who for eight years tried to sell my novel, ‘Geechee Girls. She worked hard and well. I hired an editor who read it and gave me valuable suggestions. We tried again. No, no, no–no clear niche. How can we promote it? I decided to self-publish because I was tired of living with the manuscript in the house. I called several editors of journals who had published excerpts from ‘Geechee Girls, Allegheny Dream, and Thread to ask them to write endorsements. One of the editors who also has a small press said, Send me the book. I will take a look at it. I sent it. Now ‘Geechee Girls and Allegheny Dream are in print. The editor is honest and smart, and I met her through Writer’s Relief.
My first acceptance was in Knowonder magazine, (a non-paying new market at the time). I learned about it through the Institute of Children’s Literature newsletter and was taking courses with them at the time. The story called The Catnapper was an idea I got from a friend who had suggested that I enroll in the course and said I should write a story about a cat. I had three at one time. The plot of the story came to me years later and my friend had died by then, but if was not for those two suggestions he gave me, I probably would still be unpublished today. We never know how, or when inspiration with come to us and we need to be ready to consider all possibilities.
A short story I wrote for the course, but have not gotten published, was a result of a poem, pigeons that hatched on my porch and Pigeon Watch of Cornell University where I learned more interesting facts about the birds. That also took over a year to come together.
Through a Miami Dade College literary seminar on memoir writing, I paid $85 to spend 15 minutes with a literary agent. We had a choice of three agents and since the seminar was about memoir, each accepted memoir in their role as an agent. I read their biographies, scanned their successes, and in the end had to decide between two women. One was younger, edgier but she had been in the industry for several years. The other was older, perhaps more experienced but was she ready for my memoir that was a chronologically-based and went from a universally-relate-able story about being left behind by grown-ups, to a more bizarre tale, to back and forth normal and out-of-the ordinary adventures.
I was excited about meeting with an agent. I expected the hard truth. If she didn’t like the two chapters I had submitted to her, she could suggest a better start to my memoir or words of wisdom of a better formula that would attract a publisher faster and easier or other experienced-based advice.
Instead, she gave me two tidbits: create a website (which is necessary and goes without saying) and a suggestion to submit to a certain publisher in California. I had the distinct feeling she had not even read my submission. Thanks for nothing, edgy agent! Why oh why had I not chosen a more mature, harder-working agent?
What a waste of almost $100.
An acquaintance from my class went to see the older, staid and true agent and was elated with the feedback. She felt her money was well-spent.
After that huge disappointment, I wrote letters to two agencies seeking memoirs, and then self-published.
You can wait for the magic moment or make the magic happen yourself. You don’t need to waste money on an agent. Self-publish!
One morning I noticed my license plate was missing.
I visited the police station, bored the cops with my rant, and spent my next day off at the Department of Motor Vehicles getting a new plate, chafing at having to pay for someone else’s crime. A month later, a detective requested that I contact him to discuss my stolen car. *What* stolen car?
I phoned him. The detective told me a man had been apprehended attempting to steal an entire gas pump. The car he’d driven to the gas station was a Mercedes (not my car make), and the detective suspected both the plate and the car were stolen, so he ran the license plate number through the DMV database. He was right. There sat my stolen plate on a car that belonged to a woman who lived in Beverly Hills.
Talk about steel radial chutzpah.
I received my most meaningful acceptance from Guideposts Magazine. What made it even more special – I’d sent the story to them and received acceptance the SAME day. Here is the acceptance – “Thanks for sending us your story about your auto repair business. It’s not right just as it is, but maybe there’s a story here about spouses working together. You hinted that there were times when that was a real challenge! (I write you in admiration. My wife and I could never work together!) Think that might be a story that we can amplify on for Guideposts? What we’d do is have one of our editor’s work with you, call and pick your brain, etc.”
After a few months of steadfast submissions, I received an e-mail from an online literary magazine that said they would be “delighted” to include my short story in their next issue. My wife and I celebrated my first acceptance as if it was a Presidential nomination. And no sooner did I sit down in front of my e-mail than I got my second acceptance! As they say, when it rains it pours, and I stood face up in the storm that day, letting those two e-mails wash away my doubts about my credibility as a writer.
This occurred many years ago, when my only goal was getting just one, single short story accepted and published by any magazine. In those days everything was conducted through snail mail. You sent a copy of the manuscript to an editor, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) included so that your pages could be returned if (and usually when) they rejected it. Which editors so often did, with a stock, pre-printed rejection slip that gave no clue as to why the story didn’t pass muster.
I must have accrued dozens, perhaps even a hundred, of these slips, before one day receiving the dreaded SASE with my manuscript inside. But when I opened it, to my joyous surprise, the editor had jotted a few observations on the form rejection slip, praising sections of my story, and encouraging me to submit other work in the future. Oh happy days! A hand-written rejection notice!
My writing friends and I retired to a local pub that night and toasted my success until the bar closed. As an aside…I reworked that story and submitted it another literary magazine later. It was accepted for publication! Perseverance and arduous, calculating, unemotional re-writing works!
It was a moment when I do not have many options, which in my mind how can get a source of income as soon as possible. It is same with this weather. This weather is dry season, this atmosphere that mixes dry wind blowing and dust that is able to make people get respiratory diseases. My financial condition is like this weather.
So I do whatever I can do. In the essence, how to reach my dream becomes a great writer. When there was an opportunity to send something writing. I was ready for it. Even when i wanted to start submitting short stories I was getting many criticizes, that my writing would not be published.
I just pray in my heart that my writing could be published, while I reply to the criticism by continuing to write and send. I believe it is best to answer these criticisms. My first short story titled “Realize your ideas, my child” I sent to mom eggs review. A short story tells of the importance for the realization of an idea into reality. It is very important in my country. Because I believe with a very large number of people must have a lot of creative ideas that could emerge from the society of my country. The problem is how about creative ideas can be realized in the community. It can enable communities to more advanced and prosperous.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good day! I hope my message finds you well.
My true story:
I was born in USSR in 1980.
I was a nerd who bullied dummies.
Today, I live in Montreal.
Yesterday, I queried the Query Shark.
And if she’s a True Shark, she will not ignore a dead whale floating in the waters of San-Francisco… and there’s no sharkier shark in this ocean, I guess.
Oh, how I wish I had a cute acceptance story to tell, but I don’t even have a non-form rejection letter to show for it. And that includes the on I have a subscription to; I won’t say names, but (since I’ve bothered to track the ratings I’ve given their stories) I’ve been giving their stories mostly 3/7, and my 4/7, two 5/7, and 6/7 were rejected.
I know I probably sound like a sore loser, but some of those stories didn’t even qualify for the genre!
Hit the Jackpot
The first bit of writing advice I received were these three words, “Write. Submit. Persevere.” I did that along with editing, rewriting, market research and coping with the rejections that came via snail mail.
One day, my walk to the mailbox yielded yet another envelope from a magazine editor at The Young Crusader (now defunct). I had become so used to not selling. I learned to control my emotions. No excitement. No anticipation. No expectancy. I just opened the letter in a matter of fact way and began to read.
My 900ish word article: Stop, Look and Listen! Hidden Winter Hazards had been accepted for publication and payment was enclosed. I looked at the check and saw $300. WOW! I hit the jackpot! This was more than any other sale I had made to date which usually averaged $25.
My excitement exploded. I viewed this as a steppingstone and anticipated more of the same would follow! No, I expected it to be so! Who wouldn’t? After all, this was the writing coup for my new career…I believed I was on my way to becoming a publishing phenomenon.
After I recomposed myself a few minutes later, I re-read the letter. I smiled so hard you could hear it. I re-examined the check and gasped. All I did was stare at the small rectangular piece of paper. “Oh, no!” I shouted.
Seems amidst my giddiness I read the payment wrong; $300 wasn’t to be found anywhere, but
$3.00 was. I just didn’t see the decimal. UGH!
A financial let down…perhaps. I didn’t hit the jackpot, and maybe never would, but I acquired another writing credit, another step to building my writing resume and that wasn’t so bad after all.
I guess you could say that I have written all my life. Growing up as an only child of a teacher, does not allow one to have a limited imagination. I have written several poems, songs, and short stories. My attention span and schedule have never allowed me to complete a lengthy story. With that said, the very first story that I have ever written was accepted by an elementary honors society, and that was one of the few stories that I have ever completed.
Looking back on it, I can’t help but to laugh, because it was about a fish that kept on growing and outgrew his fish tank. I say that because that was fictional, but anyone who knows me, knows that my house was where fish went to die.
I have a binder full of rejection letters. How many are in there? I’ve lost count. While that may not seem like a great start, I know that these rejections have helped me grow as a writer. Sure, they hurt but you kind of become numb to the constant rejections time after time. There are definitely moments that I question myself: why do I keep trying? Why can everyone else get published and not me? What am I doing wrong? I’m sure there are answers to all of those questions but that doesn’t seem to help me.
One thing that keeps me going is the little victories that I get along the way to becoming a published author. Last year, I was hired as a freelance writer to a local community newspaper. I finally can say that I am a writer! Part of my job is to write about local businesses, organizations, etc. Whenever I doubt myself and my abilities, I look at the thank you letters that I have received from some of these people, expressing their gratitude for helping their businesses. Knowing that I can do good for others with my gift makes that binder full of rejections sit a little easier on my desk. I know that as I continue to hone my craft, I will see my books on a shelf in a store someday and think back on that binder and smile because I will have overcome all of the people that said no to my dream.
It’s the little things that keep you going in this long and sometimes fruitless path to becoming a writer.
I always finger the medal around my neck that says “Hope.”
Hope is what keeps me writing. It’s hope that one day an editor or agent will ask to read more of what I’ve written. It’s hope that someone (anyone in fact), will tell me that he or she has enjoyed what I’ve written and have even gotten a laugh or smile out of it. And, it’s not caffeine or cold showers that fuels my late-night, early-morning, and between-appointments writing. It’s hope.
Several months ago, I put together a list of agents open to submissions and began writing what I hoped to be the ideal query letter for my children’s humorous picture book entitled, “My Mother Only Makes Salsa.” To make my query stand out, I did something clever (or deceitful, depending whom you ask). I changed the name of my story’s protagonist (named Miguel) to the first name of the agent, so everywhere in the query, Miguel became John. Or Sam. Or Margaret. Or whatever. Several weeks went by until late one night, upon checking my emails, I saw a reply from one agent. She wanted to see the first chapter! Wasting no time, I gulped down a few red bulls and set to work reviewing and polishing up my first chapter.
Later the next day, I glanced through my emails, not expecting to see a response, but there it was. Apparently, in my haste to submit the first chapter, I had forgotten to go through and do a search to make sure I had changed every mention of the protagonist’s name to the agent’s name. Unfortunately, I only changed a few, resulting in the agent’s remarks of “confusing and deceitful.” Confusing? Absolutely. Deceitful? I prefer to think of it as, well, hopeful.
When I was a child and would write poems or do anything creative, my parents/family was so encouraging and supported of me. As and adult now living in SF, I found out I would get NO FEEDBACK from people which killed my confidence and made me think my material was not good. This however, caused me to keep writing and try to do better so people would like my writing. This non-response from people made me BETTER. I submitted a poem (one of my best works) to a contest just for fun. I received a letter from Eber & Wein saying my poem made the Semi-finalist and they called “ME” “a creative poet and an ARTIST! I broke down and cried.
My best rejection is today, I just receive an email from Author house that says: Christelle you are a great writer, you know how to make the readers want more and keep the story interesting. I must say not a lot of professional writers got that talent, but you do. I believe that you deserve a lot of credits for a being fifteen years old and capable of such great stories. As much as us here at Author house love your story, I’m afraid we won’t be able to get it published. You are a very talented young woman, I’m looking forward to have one of your books in my hands one day reading. Don’t you give up on your dreams, you might not make it with us but don’t worry when it’s the right now everything will work out just fine. Thank you for trusted us, we will always let you know when there’s any opportunity.
I’m hurt, disappointed right now and a little pissed at myself. But I do believe everything happens for a reason. Maybe my story was not that good. But anyways I’ll get over it, focus and work harder for next time. I just have to believe in me.
Two short ones for you here:
My first professional (i.e. paid) publication of a short story resulted from a contest win. I placed third in a local short story contest, and one of the editors of the newspaper that sponsored the contest, and which published the resulting SF story, started a new SF fanzine. He asked me to write the story that would appear in his premiere issue. I was over the moon. The magazine has now ceased publication and all rights have returned to me. I’ve been revising the story to find a new home.
It’s been many years since I published any of my short stories professionally. In the last couple of years, I’ve been targeting anthology calls and magazines that publish what I write (science fiction, fantasy, speculative). It’s been a steady stream of rejections, but several of them have been the “good” kind of rejection. I got to the second round in one anthology and was only cut because my piece didn’t really mesh with the rest of the stories accepted. I received a couple of responses in which the editors liked my stories, but found something lacking. The fact that they bothered to tell me what was missing allowed me to return to the stories in question and revise them. Guess what? One of those revised stories will be published in the Fall 2014 issue of On Spec. Rejections can be useful. This year, I have 2 professional sales, and another contest win.