Each time I get that reply email in my inbox; RE: Submission; story title goes here, my heart skips a beat. My email does not give me a little preview of what the body of text says, so for a moment it can go either way. Is it an acceptance, or a rejection? I won’t know until I open it.
As you can imagine more often it is the ‘we enjoyed reading your story, but felt it was not right for our publication’ version of email rather than the ‘we loved your story and we want to publish it’ type, but for every sub there is a moment where in my heart it has been accepted. Especially when the email is about a novel.
A perverse part of me enjoys that moment, and I have been known to put off opening the email so I can draw out the feeling a little bit longer. When I open it and get the bad news of rejection I used to feel hurt, but I’ve found a great way of getting over that is to have my next market picked out so that I can quickly crush the pain of rejection with the hope of a new submission (after re-reading the story, of course, to ensure I am still actually happy with it, it might be getting rejected for a reason).
Then there is the other side of rejection which is not so exciting, and that’s no response at all. If the market listing says they don’t respond but consider it rejected if they haven’t responded within a certain time frame, I’ll put a note in my submissions tracking spreadsheet so the date is flagged, then I take that as a rejection. But there are some places that just say nothing and give no hints about what they are thinking.
This is a bad position to be in. Do they like it and they are just finding the right time/place to publish it? Have they lost it? Was there a change in staff? Did they lose my contact details? Or have they dismissed it and just cheated me of the few seconds of hope with the response email?
Unfortunately this is all part of the process, and you need to have a plan. Mine is simple, for a short story; after three months query (unless their market listing says not to). If they don’t respond to the query, after six months consider it rejected (you may want to start sending it to other markets before you get to six months). I’ve never had a story accepted after six months with no contact from the publisher beforehand, so I think it is a safe to assume they don’t want it. For a novel I do the same, but query after six months, reject after twelve.
There is nothing wrong with being rejected, and generally you get a very generic rejection email, so you can come up with all your own excuses (didn’t fit in with the existing line-up, they already had a story with a similar theme, wasn’t genre enough etc.). But once you have had a story rejected a few times you would be wise to take a closer look at it, or give it to someone else to read and give you some hints as to why it was rejected.
Remember, each rejection is one step closer to that story’s acceptance! And I promise, even your favourite author has had good work rejected. Don’t let it get you down!