Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Rejections of Short Stories

Oliver, the editor of Flash Fiction Online, wrote something in a post on Hatrack River Writers Workshop that I found interesting.

I've rejected quite a few things already that are pretty good, and that I wouldn't mind seeing in print. They just don't fit what I'm looking for (e.g., unlike many literary markets, we emphasize plot and character and clarity over beautiful writing and the "high idea"). It certainly wouldn't hurt some of these writers to submit to other markets, and they could submit to a dozen others before their perfectly good story was even considered. So while it feels terrible to be rejected..., it's at least in part a numbers game -- just keep submitting.

I've already come to realize this, that not all rejections are because the material sucks but also possibly because that particular editor (or agent) doesn't like it or can't use it. If I only read 1-5% of all published fantasy books because I don't like the writing style or subject matter of the rest, then surely editors have the same right even if the material is publishable. I thought it would be useful to hear this from an actual editor though.


Guy Hogan said...

I've had over thirty flash fiction publications. On my blog, Flash Fiction Tips & Short Stories About Pittsburgh, I'm constantly reminding aspiring writers to read the stories in the publications they're trying to break in to. This is the best way to gage what an editor is looking for. You don't send erotica, no matter how well written, to a church publication. At least no church publication that I know of.

Deborah K. White said...

Quite true. Thanks for taking the time to remind people here as well.

While I agree that a writer should read the publications they submit their work to, I can understand why some people don't. When the content (or a sample of the content) is free, then there's no excuse. However, when I've had to buy a print magazine through the mail and wait for it to arrive, I've been tempted to skip the research step and hope for the best.

While I wait, I've found it helpful to talk with people who have read and submitted stories to the publications I'm interested in. They can tell me that a certain magazine only really considers urban fantasy, while another one likes heroic fantasy with happy endings, and the third one takes any fantasy as long as the ending is sad.

In the end, it seems like a lot of writing is all about research. :)

Malrow said...

Hi Deborah.
I am a short story writer from Australia, Like you I got a lot of rejections until I found a site that is looking for a massive amount of short stories for a new series called pick a pocket book story. I got published. These are hard copy printed books and the stories are from 9000 words up to 30000 words. These are true short stories, not magazine articles.
We get paid for the the stories and the sales, we do pay to register but I have already made that back ten times over.
The site says something about American writers being welcome and they will except American spelling if the stories are US based.
Oh, and we don't use agents in Australia we deal direct with the publisher. It turns out this publisher was a frustrated short story writer herself. This was her way of helping us unknown writers get a break.
You should check this out

Deborah K. White said...

Since my blog is comment-deprived, I get excited about any comments left. I went to the website you listed and looked over the site. Some things about it concern me. First, you're the only person listed in the Author's Bio section. You're listed only as "Marlow" instead by a full name.

Second, there are only two books available at this time (and no author names are given for the four stories), yet the "About Us" section says, "Pocket Book Publishing was founded in 2006." It sounds like you're the only person they've published in two years.

Finally, it costs the writer $220.00 to register for the chance to get published. There's no guarantee that the writer will get published. Even if you are selected, I'm guessing very few people are buying these books beyond the website-suggested market of family and friends. Even then, you have to convince your family to pay $12 for the book.

Sorry, but this sounds like a tidy scam to me. I'd go to a vanity press before using this publisher.

marlene meier said...

Hi Deborah My name is Marlene Meier.
I am the Editor of Pocket Book Publishing. Our site is brand new we have been on air for 6 weeks. Give us a break.
Marlow is the first writer to submit 8 stories to us. We have published 4 of them. It takes approx 12 weeks to take a writer from start to the point of getting them on the net.
The next writer will be Kelly Weir and then an accomplished author named John Biggs will go into the catalogue after Kelly. You watch this site for at least to the end of February to see if I speak the truth.
And before you write comments if you had read the site properly you would have realised how new it is. We all have to start somewhere.
I am a member of the Women's Network Australia, I am also a member of the Victorian Writers' Centre and I have Federal Governemnt Support, please be carefull how you use the word scam.
The cost to become a member of the site is not a new think. Infact that is how most of the serious sites keep out the crazies who would sent all kinds of rubbish down the tube.It is also a way for me to make sure I get quality writers' and publishable stories.I like your site by the way, you have done a nice job of it. We will keep in touch with you.

Deborah K. White said...

In fact that is how most of the serious sites keep out the crazies who would sent all kinds of rubbish down the tube. It is also a way for me to make sure I get quality writers' and publishable stories.

Valid, big-time publishers here in the USA don't charge a cent for going through unsolicited manuscripts (if they accept them). Neither do reputable agents. Money should always flow to the author.

Also, just because a person has extra money doesn't mean they can write publishable stories. That's why many vanity presses are thriving right now. So are you a vanity press that will publish anything once the membership money has been paid? It doesn't sound like it from your website.

If you don't publish everyone that pays the membership fee, then I have problems with your method of doing business. Few people are an accurate judge of their own writing ability, and there are many frustrated would-be writers. Perhaps your business model is not a scam in the legal sense of the word, but you're still using the hopes of wannabe writers to make money knowing that most of them won't be good enough to publish.

Perhaps you use that money to publish those worthy few. However, if customers can only buy their books through your website and few people know about your website or mail catalog (or will be willing to pay $12 for two short stories), then what's the point? Unless a writer is 100% sure that she'll be accepted for publication (and she can't be), then it makes more sense to go to a real vanity press and make your own short-story book to sell. At least that way you can sell the book through and pick up a few extra customers.

P.S. I Just went back to your website to double-check something and noticed you've changed the membership terms. This guarantee (to refund the money of a person who has submitted five stories to you in a year and had them all rejected) is a distinct improvement over what you had before. However, now you've taken away the incentive for writers to only become members if they feel their work is publishable. Thus, what's the point of the fee? If you get rid of it, you'll get more writers who actually are publishable (and know it because they've been published and paid via normal routes).

Renata Hill said...


Not sure if you're familiar with the helpful website "Preditors and Editors," but they have a great page on spotting scam publishers (, plus a lot of other info and warnings.

Good luck to you in your writing and blogging!

Deborah K. White said...


Yes, I'm familiar with the Preditors and Editors website. I have a link to it under my blog's Writer's Resources sidebar. Maybe I need to move that sidebar up so those links are more noticeable. In any case, thank you for checking to make sure people knew about the site. It never hurts to point out useful sites more than once.