I got 3 rejection slips for Christmas

You know what I got for Christmas? 3 rejection slips from major short fiction publishers: two paper, one electronic. Oh, and I also got the rest of the DVD sets to complete my collection of Star Trek: The Next Generation — major happy dance, that — but I wanted to point out those rejection slips, along with a statistic, to drive home the point that even when you’re professionally published, rejection never stops.

The 2010 statistic: 68 rejection slips, 4 sales.

I know, I don’t want to think about it either. I used to subscribe to the fiction that once you broke in — got your foot in the door of the publishing world — the contracts and sales would fall on your head. You’d be able to sell everything and anything. Sadly, ‘taint so. Yes, those rejection slips will become more detailed and more nicely worded, with specifics as to why a story didn’t work for a particular editor, and best wishes on the next try.

But a rejection is a rejection is a rejection, and they don’t stop coming just because you have a bit of success. I think that’s worth noting, all of you out there in Aspirant Land who are still working hard for your first professional fiction sales. Please gird your loins for the truth: even after that break-in sale, you’re going to have to keep working, keep expecting rejection, and you absolutely must not let rejection slow you down, stop you, or fool you into thinking the first sale was a fluke.

2011 approacheth. That is all, carry on.

Oh, and get your gottdamned manuscripts in for Writers of the Future. Deadline is this Friday! There are 12 empty seats waiting for you in Los Angeles. Volume #28 awaits. Get to it. Miss no opportunity.

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About Brad R. Torgersen

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author - Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell award nominee
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13 Responses to I got 3 rejection slips for Christmas

  1. Already got my next submission in. Sent it a few weeks ago. I know, I know, way too early for me, but there it is.

    This post kind of reminds me of an old kid’s song. “I’m gettin’ nothin’ for Christmas. Mommy and Daddy are mad. I’m gettin’ nothin’ for Christmas cuz I ain’t been nothin’ but bad.” Hopefully, the scales will start to balance towards more sales than rejections eventually. But it’s a good point.

  2. Steve Lewis says:

    Great post, Brad, and I’ll be getting my manuscript in to WOTF tomorrow. I don’t know why but I always forget about them. I think it’s because I jump around from genre to genre and when I’m in a mystery or mainstream mindset, I forget about the deadlines. Maybe. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. (grin)

    Regarding rejections and what Amanda said about the scales balancing more towards sales at some point: This is the attitude that I’ve had for awhile (I think most reasonable aspirants do) as well but then I just thought of something. I’m sure everyone reading this is familiar with the Kevin J. Anderson quote about how he’s gotten something like 800 rejections since he became a pro. Also, Dean Wesley Smith has said that Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Katherine Rusch tend to sell everything that they write, eventually. I think the key part of that is the eventually.

    So, my thinking is that, unless your Stephen King or something, I don’t know if the scales ever tip more in the direction of sales, at least not for the midlist writer. I mean you’d have to sell everything you wrote to the first market you sent it to, otherwise your going to get more rejection letters than acceptance letters.

    Maybe everyone else already knew this but I just had a lightbulb moment.

  3. thomaskcarpenter says:

    I’m waiting for January 1st to send in my Q2 WOTF story. It helps to have a ton of stuff churning through the markets.

    As for rejections, your post reminded me to count mine for 2010:

    56 short story rejections
    15 novel rejections

    Ahh… the lovely grind continues. :)

  4. Ralph says:

    Brad,
    Rejection is a fact of life. We learn to deal better as we age. Out living the bastards, and exceeding anything they could conceive of, is even better.
    Cyborgs R’ Us.
    Ralph

  5. izanobu says:

    Heh. I gots you all beat six ways from Sunday ;)

    151 rejections (give or take few, I did a fairly rough count). Well… at least I’m submitting, right? Right? …. Right?

    (My very tiny consolation is the 3 sales- namely the checks from said sales, and that apparently about 93 of those 151 were personal rejections. What’s that they say about always a bridesmaid and never the bride?)

  6. Jim Johnson says:

    Congrats on the stats and the sales, Brad. May your 2011 increase both of those numbers!

  7. Healthy statistic you have there, but how does that break down by the story? 6 unsold and 4 sold stories? Just curious for the kids at home. It falls into the cliche “It was in the last place I looked for it.” Stories can generate dozens of rejections before the sale but not the other way around.

  8. As always, your productivity stuns me. Utterly. I think it must be that insomniac thing, as my wife always finds ways to get loads done — often at odd hours or when I am sawing logs into my pillow.

  9. Of the three sales, it breaks down like this. First sale — after WOTF — was rejected twice, before it sold. Second sale was rejected three times, before it got bought. And the third sale was bounced six times, before it got bought. And then I had ESLI come knocking, which ended up as a re-sale. All of these were written in 2009, with one of them being a re-write on something dating to 2002. So nothing I’ve written in 2010 has sold yet.

  10. izanobu says:

    Yeah, mine work out kinda the same. First sold to second market (but it was out for about 9 months between the two). Second had 9 rejections and had been out almost a year(my pro-rate sale). Third had 14 rejections and had been out over a year (and written two or three years ago).
    Nothing I’ve written in 2010 has sold either, and that is the bulk of my work since I was painfully slow before that.

  11. izanobu says:

    Not sleeping doesn’t hurt, though I get so tired sometimes that all I can do is read. But I get a lot read at least…

  12. Steve says:

    Well, I just ordered your Analog story off your website. I know it is not much but I figured I would give it a read.

  13. Steve, thanks so much! I will get that copy of ANALOG out to you today!

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