Summer Rejects

This summer, I decided to send out two of my short stories to professional markets (i.e.: they pay professional rates of about .03 cents/word or higher).  One is a SF story and the other is Fantasy.  Both of these stories won me $500 in scholarship money for Seton Hill, and they were also critiqued by a variety of Seton Hill writers and professors. 

Now $500 is excellent for a short story in today’s market, but I’ve been wanting to see my short fiction published in a couple popular sf/f magazines because….well because I’ve been trying for years and still haven’t gotten an acceptance (well – I do have one coming out in Black Gate Magazine – but that’s not for a while…in fact, I don’t even know when it’s coming out). Plus it’s something I want on my writing resume, and let’s face it – saying you had a story published in Fantasy & Science Fiction gives you a lot of street cred ;>

So I revise my SF story and spend an afternoon formatting the file to fit the strict requirements of the magazine.  Even though it’s an email submission, I still write a professional cover letter (letterhead, career stats, signature - the whole 9 yards) and send it off.  I get a reply the next day (love the speed of the reply) and this is exactly what the message said: “Sorry, not right for COSMOS.”  I just had to laugh.

The Fantasy story goes out by snail mail with a self addressed, stamped envelope with enough postage to see the story returned to me.  The format requirements aren’t as strict – and I include a cover letter with the same info about me and my books and the story.  One week later (another fast reply – something that isn’t standard), my reject is in my mailbox with a nice little note that’s personal and signed by the editor – seems he is overwhelmed with high fantasy stories at the moment and buying very selectively. 

Are you wondering why I’m telling you all this?  Because no matter how many paragraphs I fill up in my cover letters with info about my books and how great and wonderful a writer I am. ;>  It’s the story that will sell or not.  Anyone has a chance – multi published author or not – award winning author or not – nice person with a great author photo or not (I’m using that photo forever!).

Which means, I actually have to work harder (jeez – no free rides) and send in better stories to those two magazine.  And those stories aren’t done yet – I’ll keep submitting them until I’ve run out of places to submit them to. Why – because I’m persistent and that’s what is needed in this business.  That, and a great freaking story……. sigh.

I know there are plenty of writers out there reading this – so what’s your worst rejection story?  Come on, tell me – we can commiserate and laugh together Now I’m off to sulk over a bowl of ice cream……….

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  1. 1. Cameron Lowe

    The first rejection letter was the biggest hurdle for me to cross. It was a very nicely written letter, with some great feedback and some good points made by the editor of the magazine (can’t remember the magazine name off-hand, as it’s now out of business).

    But was I disappointed? Let’s see – is there saltwater in the ocean? (Psst… the answer is “yes.”)

    But after the 2nd letter, it became easier to let my ego go. The only part now that gets my goat is when the story is sent back with no explanation, no matter how brief or formulaic that rejection letter may be.

  2. 2. Jenna Black

    I’m not sure which is my worst rejection story. It could be the ones where my own cover letter came back with a rubber stamp that said “not for us.” Or maybe it’s the one where the editor said she loved it, and passed it to the senior editor, who loved it, who passed it to the executive editor, who loved it, who passed it to the publisher . . . who vetoed it. That was a real ARGH moment for me. (But almost funny, now that I’ve got 6 books sold.)

  3. 3. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    I still remember getting a rejection letter (form) from a very famous editor/author (who is dead now), with a hand-written note on the bottom that said “oh, and by the way, if that is your real name, perhaps you should change it.” It is, and I didn’t.


  4. 4. Susan Isola


    Thank you for sharing this.

    I’m going to paste your quote to my laptop’s keyboard to remind me to persevere:

    “It’s the story that will sell or not. Anyone has a chance – multi published author or not – award winning author or not – nice person with a great author photo or not (I’m using that photo forever!).”

  5. 5. lyda morehouse

    My worst rejection was the first page of my short story with a note from the editor which said simply: “Never staple your manuscript.”

    Bounced on a technicality! :-)

  6. 6. Joyce Reynolds-Ward

    Worst rejection ever? Easy (and will remain nameless, for obvious reasons).

    The rejection contained an entire page of line edits, only….the story the editor was referring to was not mine. My story was a contemporary fantasy, and the story the editor talked about had dwarves, wizards, and other things that were definitely NOT in my story. As well as complaining that I was not following standard formatting rules–I went back and checked, everything that the editor was complaining about (em-dashes, 1″ margins)–was according to Hoyle, and I’d done everything correctly, so I was *very* confused as to why I was being criticized when I’d already eliminated the em-dashes and my margins are automatically set to 1″ margins.

    Sadly, this was a professional market with an allegedly highly regarded senior editor (this reject came from one of several junior editors).

    My reaction? I never submitted to that particular market again. A previous reject wasn’t so bad, but there had been several disconnects which had made me think it was a form reject masquerading as a personal reject. But that *second* reject burned me pretty badly.

  7. 7. Jim C. Hines

    Hm … mine would have been back in the late nineties. I had gotten an “Almost” letter from a fairly nice market, so I sent them my next story.

    The editor wrote back that my story was so bad he couldn’t believe it had come from the same person who wrote the previous story.

    Of course, I ended up selling that “awful” story to another pro market, so that helped take away some of the sting :-) But still . . . ouch.

  8. 8. Sarah Prineas

    I’m trying to think of the worst…

    I don’t save my rejections, so when I throw them away I sort-of throw away the memory of them, too.

    But maybe the one with my name spelled wrong and a note that I’d gotten a historical detail wrong–which I hadn’t.

    I once had a story rejected by a slush editor for one of the ‘big four’ and then heard later from the actual editor that she was buying the story. I’d already sold it elsewhere. What a mess.

  9. 9. Kelly McCullough

    No real worst, but 400+ of them, and selling novels hasn’t changed whether I occasionally get bounced or not, just how fast.

  10. 10. Maria V. Snyder

    Thanks to everyone for sharing your stories! My ice cream bowl is empty – time to send those two out again :)

Author Information

Maria V. Snyder

Maria V. Snyder has been writing fiction and nonfiction since 1995. She has published numerous freelance articles in magazines and newspapers. Her first published novel, Poison Study appeared on the shelves in 2005, and chronicles Yelena’s challenges in surviving her dangerous job as a food taster. Magic Study follows with Yelena’s efforts to learn about her magic while searching for a rogue magician turned serial killer. Fire Study chronicles Yelena's adventures with a Fire Warper and was released in March 2008. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Maria earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology at Penn State University. Much to Maria’s chagrin, forecasting the weather wasn’t one of her skills. Writing, however, proved to be more enjoyable and Maria earned a Master of Arts degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. As part of her research for her Study novels, Maria signed up for a glass blowing class to learn how to shape molten glass. The first thing she learned is it is considerably harder to sculpt glass than it looks. Maria now has an extensive collection of misshapened paperweights, tumblers, and bowls. When she’s not traveling, Maria lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, daughter and yellow Lab. She is working on her next MIRA novel, Storm Glass, due out Spring 2009. Readers are welcome to contact Maria by e-mail at, or they can find more information on her Web site at Visit site.



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