Monday, December 6, 2010

On Being Rejected

Aside from the one essay I've had accepted recently--the aforementioned "Last Days of the Frog Prince"--I'm currently in the midst of a string of rejections. My sci-fi story "A Very Small Child Called Eugene" can't seem to find a home, my essay "The Toad Garden" (yes, I like amphibians) just received its first rejection slip, and my short story "Scarecrow," a retelling of the Oz story from the Scarecrow's point of view, has pretty much exhausted the possibilities. (I might publish it here, just to give it a shot at being read by someone other than my wife!) Using the tools on Duotrope's Digest, I can chart my progress; the figure 17% popped up, meaning, I guess, that out of every 100 submissions, I'm garnering 17 acceptances. This is, once again according to Duotrope, a healthy number.

Which just shows how tough it is to get published. If that were my batting average, I'd be sent to the minors; if it were my score on course evaluations, I'd be in the Dean's office. But for the majority of us trying to publish our writing, rejection is by far the norm.

So how does it feel, being rejected? Really, not that bad. It might be different if I had aspirations to immortality; it would certainly be different if I had no compensating acceptances. But the fact is, there's an awful lot of good writing out there (as well as a good lot of awful writing), and if you're going to play the game, you have to live with the odds.

We all wish the rejections could be more personal, something to help us the next time around, something more than a preprinted quarter-page sheet saying, "We regret that your submission does not meet our needs at this time." (You could drive yourself crazy interpreting that: "Hey, maybe I'll send it again at another time when their needs have changed!") But I've received only one truly obnoxious rejection in the two years I've been sending stuff out, and I'll chalk that one up to the publisher having a bad day. So long as everyone is striving for the same outcome--the discovery and publication of truly deserving work--I can deal with the form responses.

Being rejected isn't so bad. Not trying for fear of being rejected is a whole lot worse.

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