April 9th, 2011


They Called My Baby Ugly!?!?

Shock Totem just sent me an email (7 days before their own self-imposed deadline which impresses me with their professionalism) and rejected my story, An Incident at a Carnival. Not unusual. Most stories can go through 20 rejections before finding a home. Not that I like people calling my baby ugly, but c'est la vie, c'est la guerre.

I'll polish it up and send it to the next magazine on the list.

Rejection is the price you pay to be a writer. You get used to it rather quickly.

Viewing Rejection As an Author

As I mentioned in my previous post, my story An Incident at a Carnival was rejected by Shock Totem.

When you have collected as many rejections as I have over the years, you have a tendency to go from "IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!" to "Okay, what's the next market on the list?" rather quickly, especially after you have a few sales under your belt.

Here's the actual rejection letter:

Dear Craig,

Thank you for submitting “An Incident at a Carnival” to Shock Totem.

Sadly, we regret to inform you that we are declining acceptance at this time. Good luck in placing this submission elsewhere.


The Shock Totem Team


Now I confess, some years ago, I would have viewed the letter like this:

Dear Hack,

We know how long it took you to birth this baby and when you put the words The End at the bottom of the manuscript, you dressed him in his finest and sent him out into the world surely, in your mind, shiny and new and full of potential and hope.

And we want to tell you now that your baby is the ugliest we've ever seen and we think you should destroy your computer and lobotomize yourself so the cosmos will never have to endure the fruit of your imagination ever again.

Bug off!

A Professional Market Forever Out of Your Reach

I learned rather quickly that a rejection letter should never be taken personally, especially if you're going to stay in the business of writing and I learned that there are two extremes you have to kill if you really want to be a writer:

  1. Your ego, and
  2. Your inner critic.
A rejection can come for several reasons:

  • Your baby may actually be ugly. In the manuscript I submitted, I did find one typo where I wrote "on" instead of "in." And, yes, a manuscript can be rejected for as miniscule a reason as that.
  • Editors are humans and they have to go through a HUGE slush pile. I have sometimes caught an editor on a bad day and they rejected the story because they had a fight with the spouse or got a traffic ticket the day before or they didn't like my bio ... Yes, it all sounds subjective because in many cases, it is.
  • But the majority of reasons a story gets rejected is because it doesn't mirror the genius loci (literally "the spirit of the place" or more simply, the atmosphere) of the market. There may not have been enough dialogue in the story or not enough gore (the story has none) or they just published a story with a similar theme the issue before.
I have no idea why the story has been rejected because the notice is a simple form letter and actually gives no reason. Whatever the reason, the only issue I have control over is the first and that of making sure my manuscript fits the guidelines perfectly and the story is the best writing I can offer.

On the average, my baby has to go through at least 18 more rejections before he finds a home. I'll polish him up a little more, correct that one typo, and send him on his way.

Somebody will ultimately adopt him and I'll have another publishing credit to my list.

Write on!