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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2009-01-24 12:03
Subject: [writing] How many rejections have you had?
Security: Public
Tags:process, publishing, writing
Pursuant to a discussion on Twitter right now, I'll mention here that I had about 150 rejections before I made my first pro sale, and currently have had over 1,200 in my career. (1,225 as of this week.) By contrast, I personally know at least two writers who made a pro sale with their first ever submittal.

If you've sold a pro story, how many rejections did you receive before that point?

If you haven't sold a pro story yet, how many rejections have you received so far in your quest?

How many career rejections total?

I'm curious as to people's experiences and views on this.

Originally published at jlake.com.

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The Ferrett
User: theferrett
Date: 2009-01-24 20:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
For me, I've divided it up into pre-Clarion and post-Clarion. Pre-Clarion, I had probably 75 rejections without a single pro sale, but I wasn't trying that hard to sell stories. A large part of that is laziness.

In the five months since then, let's see, I've had:

1 Pro sale (which was, admittedly, a Clarion workshop piece)
1 Non-pro sale
12 rejections. I expect many more.

Honestly, I'm glad to see you stating your total rejections, because many have told me that since I write fast, I need to "follow the Jay Lake model" and write a lot to learn, and your earlier post about having a greater than 50% acceptance ratio last year made me wonder whether I needed to be at 50% (and this was before the sale).
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Jay Lake: writing-bookmobile
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-01-24 20:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:writing-bookmobile
Yah, it took a lot of years and a lot of work to get to a >50% acceptance rate. My lifetime acceptance rate is about 20% at this point.

Thanks for the data!
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User: elizaeffect
Date: 2009-01-24 20:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hmmm. I have sold exactly one pro story, but I've sold it twice, once in print and once in electronic form. ;)

It was rejected once before it found a home. I don't have a ton of rejections because I don't have a submittals to my name, something which I'm working on.
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User: elizaeffect
Date: 2009-01-24 20:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
a *lot of* submittals...internal editor fail.
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Christopher Kastensmidt
User: ckastens
Date: 2009-01-24 20:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
169 rejections and 3 1/2 years before my first pro sale.
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rahkan
User: rahkan
Date: 2009-01-24 20:23 (UTC)
Subject: I love the idea of this post
I made my first pro sale this summer, and, while I don't have an exact recollection of what the number was when it happened, it had to be somewhere between my 275th and 290th rejection. I'm at 332 rejections right now.
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User: mmerriam
Date: 2009-01-24 20:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Type
While I've done pretty well in the small-press and semi-pro magazines, I've yet to make a professional sale as defined by SFWA/HWA. So, the answer to the question would be 324 rejection total. If you mean rejection from just the professional markets, that number changes to 168 rejections from professional markets as determined by SFWA/HWA. As for how I feel about it: I'll make the pro sale when I write the right story and send it to the right magazine. In the meantime, all I can do is write the best story I can at this moment with the tools I have, polish and workshop it until it's the best I make it, and then send it out. I figure if I keep doing that, eventually I'll grow and improve and make the pro sale. But I'm not going to angst over it.
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Marshall Payne
User: marshall_payne
Date: 2009-01-24 20:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Over the past 3 1/2 years when I began subbing, I've had over 700 rejections. Took me 600 rejections to make my first pro sale. Not as bad as it sounds as I had made 28 smaller sales before the first pro one, and not all those subs were to pro markets. It probably took me around 130 subs to pro markets to make my first pro sale. And the second pro sale came right after that.
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Jennifer
User: gaaneden
Date: 2009-01-24 20:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh wow. That's a good one.

I know, last year alone, I had 26 agent rejections, 25 short story rejections and 13 novel rejections.

I suppose, if I wanted to, I could go back and add up all my score sheets but that would not be as accurate as I'd like. For a long time, I did not keep track of my rejections, tossing them like bits of shame.
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David D. Levine
User: davidlevine
Date: 2009-01-24 20:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I had 42 rejections before my first sale. Since then I've sold 35 stories and accumulated 220 rejections total.
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scarlettina: Writing
User: scarlettina
Date: 2009-01-24 20:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Writing
My sample pool is extremely small, but this is where I stand:

First submission ever: Made to a small press anthology and was my first sale.

First submission to a then-pro market: Made to a genre magazine and was my second sale.

First submission to a foreign market: Made to a Greek publication and was my first foreign acceptance.

Since then, I'm at less than 30 submissions, 3 pro sales; as I said, my sample pool is extremely small and is so because of laziness and my apparent difficulty in getting out of my own damn way.
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southernweirdo
User: southernweirdo
Date: 2009-01-24 21:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've still not made an "official" pro sale (some of my flash fiction sold for over $.05/word, but not in magazines defined "professional" by SFWA/HWA as far as I know), and so far I have racked up approximately 200 rejections over the last 2 years since I decided to start submitting with some regularity. I have around a 10% acceptance rate at the moment overall, but the majority of my sales have been in the token to semi-pro range. I racked up about 50 rejections over 3 months before my first sale to a paying market.

This game is all about persistence, the way I see it. I think it's probably a good thing I didn't make a pro sale with my first ever submission. I fear that could give a writer false expectations going forward, no matter how good their writing may be.

Besides, every rejection encourages improvement on my part.
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bram452
User: bram452
Date: 2009-01-24 21:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
With the caveat that I don't have good data, here's a best-guess:

If you've sold a pro story, how many rejections did you receive before that point?

at least 10 years with an average of two stories per year going to between seven and ten markets before giving up. So let's call it 150-175 range.

How many career rejections total?

Things got a *lot* better after Clarion West. the last few years, I haven't written many short stories, but the ones I have sell through pretty well, and if not to the first market, then the second. I don't know all the book submissions since that was mostly my agent's doing, and my foregin rights guy doesn't consult me about who he's sending it out to, just whether someone buys it. So call the full total ~200-225.
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mevennen
User: mevennen
Date: 2009-01-24 21:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't keep track, except of the ones that sold and the ones that I've retired. I don't think it would really tell me much if I kept that sort of data. But mileage varies.
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Erin Cashier
User: therinth
Date: 2009-01-24 21:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
600 rejections to get to one pro sale. (Some of those were book and agent rejections though, and i'm too lazy to pull the separate data out.)

Probably another 100 rejections since that pro sale.

I only keep post Clarion stories in the market, but i try to be very good about sending them out.
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ericjamesstone
User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2009-01-24 22:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
> If you've sold a pro story, how many rejections did you
> receive before that point?

Back in the early 1990s, I submitted one story to two markets, and it was rejected by both. I then gave up writing fiction for over ten years.

I started writing again in 2002, but didn't submit anything until 2003. I had two more rejections before my first pro sale (WOTF published finalist), which came in 2004.

> How many career rejections total?

I count 85 in my spreadsheet, but I'm sure I'm missing a few, so somewhere around 90-95. (That doesn't include novel queries. I've racked up at least a couple dozen of those.)

Edited at 2009-01-24 10:00 pm (UTC)
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manmela
User: manmela
Date: 2009-01-24 22:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've only really started keeping proper data this past 12 months, and go in phases (I sent a load of stories out yesterday because they were just sitting there doing nothing whilst I worked on other things). So 0 on Fiction (but did this week get a co-author credit on a non-fiction book I contributed to)

It's not the rejections I mind, it's the fact that they almost always come back with very nice personal comments and asking me to submit further stuff to them. They even mention how much they like my writing! You'd think I'd be happy but it's that "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" thing.

What I probably need is a mentor to whip me from being good into being great (especially as the UK has nothing like Clarion or Viable Paradise), but understandably, that's unrealistic, so perhaps I should just put out a call to any Fantasy writers in a similar situation and form our own Digital Inklings or something. Start our own literary movement or something
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