2021: A summary of rejection

So it’s February and I’m sure that you’re all on the edge of your seats wondering how 2021 went.

You know how it went.

I didn’t reach 100 rejections. I didn’t submit 100 things to be rejected.  Overall I submitted 40 pieces, and of those ten were accepted.

That’s actually a pretty good rate.

When I started out the year, I was focusing on places that had quick turnaround times, because I didn’t want to have to wait forever. I thought that it would be better to send something around to as many places as possible in the shortest time frame. Turns out there are a few issues with that.

Lesson one: Don’t be in a rush, you only sell yourself short

One, I wasn’t looking for the best fit for the piece. I was assuming that things would be bounced around a bit and I wanted quick rejections (got to get those numbers up). Obviously this was stupid. One, it was trying to game my own goals, which is stupid. Worse though, it meant I didn’t have enough faith in some of my writing. Why would I submit something for quick rejection? Did I know it was a bad fit? If so, I just waste the time of two people.
Worse than that, there are no guarantees. Sometimes you’ll send something off expecting a quick rejection (let’s say under a week) and then reading/processing will take much longer than that. In that time, you could have sent it somewhere you actually cared about or wanted it publishing.

Lesson two: Sometimes waiting is a good thing

Something else to consider is that things can take a long time to come back if they’re held, or if they make it to the final round of editorial approval. I didn’t have this problem when I was submitting to publications that didn’t pay submitters. This is an easier process: either it fits with what they’re doing or it doesn’t. But if they’re paying, then there are a lot of factors in play. There’s usually limited space in a publication, and they want to make sure they use their resources on the best work that they can get. While it’s annoying to wait, it’s also a sign that you’re getting close. While a 24 hour rejection is definitely quicker, it does eventually hurt you that your story, which it took you a while to write and edit, can be dismissed that quickly.

Lesson three: Don’t assume that anyone knows what they’re doing, at all, ever

Mostly importantly, I worked out that most people have no idea what they’re doing. Submissions get lost (even when they’re sent via web form), and people don’t respond. People are unprofessional. It’s the Wild West out there, so you have to believe in yourself enough to blame them for their screw ups, not hold yourself responsible. They didn’t ignore you because your writing was so bad they thought it was a joke, they didn’t respond to you because they’re disorganised people who couldn’t organise a two-book library .
To keep these shenanigans in check, set a limit (I found three or four months was best). After that time has elapsed, contact people who haven’t sent you a confirmation email to say they’ve received your piece. Don’t feel bad for contacting them – you’ve been patient enough. If they can’t confirm your submission, or if they don’t have some kind of submission platform, they probably aren’t worth your time. You’re the talent: why should you have to be the only professional one in the relationship as well?

Concluding thoughts

There were two reasons why I didn’t meet my goal this year. Mostly it’s because I didn’t get 100 rejections (duh) but that’s mostly it’s because I didn’t write enough, and the stuff I was submitting was accepted (I was going to say ‘too quickly’, but that’s not really a thing). While it was almost annoying to have things accepted that quickly (given that I was chasing the rejections), finding the kinds of places that want to publish what you’re writing is a great feeling. It means that I never need to feel like I’m writing something that won’t see the light of day, because now I have a few places to submit them to.

All in all it was a great experiment. I learned a lot about submitting, and myself as a writer, and some great things have come from it. One, it gave me a reason to keep on updating this blog (and it forced me to organise myself a little better to share the things that I’m doing). Two, I was asked to submit a piece of writing about it to a publication (which I’ll link here soon), which feels like a huge win.

I’m going to keep going for 2022. This year I’m going to focus on submissions rather than rejections though, and my goal is to sell a story. It’s not that I don’t think there’s no value in just submitting for the fun of it, but it’s a completely different proposition to try and get money for your work so that’s the focus for 2022. I’ll put some numbers around it and get cracking soon.

When I was finishing my masters I said that I wasn’t fussed about being a writer. I think that by that I meant that I was never going to try and make it my day job. I still think that’s right, but spending even a year learning to critically evaluate my own work has made me realise that there are still some easy improvements that I could make, which is a good feeling. I finally feel more focused, so instead of just grabbing at everything and trying to get better at everything all at once, now I’m focusing on the things I want to get better at. That confidence that there are weaker areas rather than the entire thing being a weak area is a really subtle shift, but I’m sure it’s progress.

I was talking to a friend last year and she reminded me that writing really only gets as much time as you make for it, so it’s important to give it the time it needs. While I don’t ever expect to make a living out of writing, it would be nice to feel more capable of taking on some of the things that I want to put together. It’s nice to have something to focus on, anyway.

Onwards and upwards, always!

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