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[process] A few comments on acceptances and rejections - Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2009-10-06 06:00
Subject: [process] A few comments on acceptances and rejections
Security: Public
Tags:books, calendula, green, mainspring, personal, process, stories, trial, writing
Yesterday afternoon, I sent a story to market. Yesterday evening, it was accepted. (No formal announcement yet, because I don't have the all-clear from the editor, but I will soon.) I tweeted both events more or less in realtime, which sparked some questions.

Likewise, I mentioned recently on my blog that my acceptance rate was a function of the terrain of my career. That also sparked some questions.

So here's a little analysis from the point of view of an author who's transitioning from early career to mid-career. Since the beginning of 2008, I have sold 25 pieces of short fiction solo, and eight collaboratively, six with calendula_witch and two with kenscholes. In that same time, I have received 30 solo rejections, and four collaborative rejections.

A preliminary look at the data suggests my self-cited 1:3 ratio of acceptances to rejections was in fact pessimistic. Looking only at my solo work, my ratio is slightly worse than 1:1. 1:3, I now realize, is my lifetime ratio. Also, these days, with rare exceptions, almost everything I write sells by the second submittal.

However, these statistics are significantly colored by the fact that I largely write short fiction to invitation. I believe I only wrote two spec pieces in 2007 and 2008 combined. I've written more spec pieces this year, about four, but almost entirely as a function of doing exploratory backstory or character development for my several novel continuities — Green, Mainspring and Flowers have all seen spec shorts written. (The collaborative work tends more to being spec, because the impulse that drives it somewhat different.)

So even my 1:1.2 ratio of acceptances to rejections reflects the fact that relatively few of my stories enter open slush. I still get rejected from invited markets about 1 out of every 3 or 4 times, for the very same reasons open slush gets rejected. Suitability, level of craft, editorial/reader appeal, too close to other work already acquired, wrong length, phase of the moon, etc. On the flip side, sometimes I'll send an editor two, three or four stories on an invite, and suggest they pick the one they like. (I don't recommend doing that unless you know the editor's process rather well, or have queried that this is acceptable.) By definition, I'm creating rejections when I follow that pattern.

All of this is very different from five or six years ago, when the vast majority of my submittals were throwing it over the wall into open slush, and hoping to make a hit. The meaning of my rejections has changed considerably, along with the pattern and significance of my submittals. Of course, it has never hurt that my particular psychology is such that rejections don't stress me much in any case. They're just another form of editorial response, I note and file them, then do something else.
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manmela
User: manmela
Date: 2009-10-06 13:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I take the philosophical approach that the reason I got rejected was purely because, in that instance, I wasn't "Good Enough". That doesn't mean I don't have evenings when I get depressed, or want to just sit and eat ice cream wondering if I'll ever make it. I'm allowed to be upset I got rejected, but only with myself, never with the editor. It's not their fault I'm not good enough for what they need. And of course not "Good Enough" doesn't necessarily equate to "Not Good".

I'm lucky that I get a lot of comments back with my rejections. Of course nearly every comment evokes a reaction from me of "Ahh, why didn't I see that. They're so right" But that's the process of experience for you.

My big fault is that it makes me look at rejected stories and want to trunk them. I'm my own worst critic which has its benefits but I'm sure I've stopped sending out some rejected stories that could possibly sell. Still, when I've learned the skill of being able to effectively rework stuff, I'll be able to return to them.

The important thing is that I have seen incredible growth through the process of rejection (usually in the form of giant steps up). My stories are improving (and it's not just me saying that). The stuff I'm writing now is miles better than the stuff I wrote before the summer. Maybe this current batch which are nearing completion won't be good enough (although I truly feel they are - but then I always do before they get rejected) but I'll gain valuable insight even if I do get nice responses telling me they aren't "good enough".

Write > Reject > Learn > Improve
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-10-06 13:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Just remember, psychotic persistence is the key...
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The NewroticGirl
User: newroticgirl
Date: 2009-10-06 15:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in appreciating how open you are about ... well I was gonna say "writing" but really, you're pretty open about a lot of things. And it's appreciated.
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Adam Israel
User: stonetable
Date: 2009-10-06 18:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm also very grateful at how open you are with your submission process.

The statistics nerd in me wants to steal your submission data and make pretty, pretty graphs to visualize the progress you've made as a short story writer over time. Not that it's going to be indicative of the status anyone else's writing career but it would be interesting to see.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-10-06 20:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I can send the entire data set to you if you're serious. I don't consider it especially confidential, since that table is just dates and outcomes, not financial or sales info. Though I suppose I'd scrub first just in case.
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Adam Israel
User: stonetable
Date: 2009-10-06 20:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'd love to crunch your data. See also: things that sound dirty but aren't.

Scrub anything sensitive out. I wouldn't release of the results without your okay, either.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-10-06 20:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'll see if I can't get it out to you in the next few days. Email me with your contact info. (And ping me via comment when you do, so I can fish you out of the spam trap.)
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Adam Israel
User: stonetable
Date: 2009-10-06 20:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You've got mail from adam.israel [at] gmail.com

Thanks, Jay!
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-10-06 20:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thanks!
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