Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Short Story Rejection System

My fourth rejection from People’s Friend landed on my doormat today. I posted it Wednesday, and it was back with me this morning (Saturday) with a brief letter telling me the storyline was too weak.

This got me thinking about my experiences with short story rejections - and there's been a fair few, I can tell you!

I considered how rejection letters and emails are worded, and the length of time the magazines took to respond. Crumbs, it sounds like a science experiment. Well here are the results...

People’s Friend
People’s Friend, as I’ve said above, are pretty quick off the mark with their rejections – often by return. I’ve never sold to them so have no experience of an acceptance – but I know they can take several months before an acceptance is finally received.

They tend to send a standard reply with their quick rejections, often saying the story is too weak for their readers.

Out of all the magazines, they are probably the only one to let people know about a rejection at such a fast speed – which is great in lots of ways. The only thing I find with such a quick rejection is it doesn't give us time to forget the hours and hours we've spent on the story, so can sting when it plops back through our letterbox.

Woman’s Weekly
Again, I’ve never had any success with Woman’s Weekly. I’ve had an *almost* letter after four months, which I treasure and cling to. But boy can I report on rejections. Always standard, in my experience, and can take as long as 7 months to come through. My average rejection time is around 90 days. (Once you've cracked Woman's Weekly, acceptances and rejections are dealt with by email, I believe)

That’s Life! Australia
I’ve never had a rejection from That’s Life Australia – which isn’t as GREAT as it sounds. It’s because they don’t send any. It’s simply a case of waiting six months, and then assuming they don’t want your story. I actually like this – which may make me a little odd – but I don’t feel quite so rejected if nobody’s actually said I am.

The Weekly News
Now Jill Finley sends emails – lovely rejection emails that almost make you feel like you’ve been accepted. I’ve actually received rejections from Jill after four weeks and four months.

My Weekly
Just like Jill Finley, Liz Smith at My Weekly words her rejection emails in such a way, you feel quite uplifted after reading them. She does take a fair while to respond, but she is on her own, and gives all her writers heaps of attention once she gets to them. Sadly, she still only buys from those who have already sold, and only one a month.

Take A Break, Fiction Feast
I’ve only ever received standard rejections letters on especially lovely paper from TAB. The rejections have ranged from 15 – 85 days. I’d like to think the one that took 85 days to wing its way back was getting close. But you can’t really tell, as all replies are the same. I have sent a fair few stories to TAB that have gone on to sell elsewhere, which implies, for me, TAB are a really hard nut to crack.

Yours respond by email, which is always nicely worded. I’ve only ever submitted two stories to them. One was rejected after 3 months the other 6 weeks.


Yikes! All this talk of rejection is making me miserable. Let's end on a positive, shall we? I have a story in this week’s The Weekly News. It’s my first sale to them – so I’m especially chuffed.


Cathy said...

This is really interesting Mandy. As you know I rarely submit short stories to magazines and up to now have only tried Women's Weekly and, a long time ago, My Weekly, both with no success. But it is an area of writing I may well attempt again when time permits.

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Thank you for this. I've only had a piece about my shed accepted by My Weekly and they telephoned me, which was a bit of a surprise but very pleasant.

Karen said...

PF use that excuse EVERY time they reject, so it officially doesn't mean anything! Just get it back out there and I'm sure it'll find a home :o)

I bought a copy of TWN today - great to see your story in there.

Colette McCormick said...

Eon's ago I sent a story to Yours which came back with the standard postcard rejection but the editor had handwritten on it that it was "close" and that I should kkep trying. I treasure that postcard. You are right about Jill's emails - they are lovely.

Abigail said...

As an aspiring short-story writer, who has had a first attempt boomeranged from People's Friend, this was, bizarrely, really encouraging to read! Thank you!

Susan Wright said...

I really enjoyed your story in the Weekly News, Mandy. I thought it was very clever...didn't see the twist coming at all.

And I totally agree with you on the That's Life rejections. When the six months are up, I just look at the story and decide if it's worth trying elsewhere. Doesn't seem like a rejection. Good job because I get plenty of the other sort of rejections, believe me.

Sheila Norton said...

This was a really interesting piece of research - thank you! I think the main point we have to bear in mind is that, once we've 'cracked' a market, as you say, the editors do deal with us entirely differently. PF is my most successful market these days (something to do with my increasing age, maybe?!) and my editor there now sends lovely encouraging rejections. (And some nice acceptances!). With other mags like TAB where I've never had a 'hit' in my life, I still get the good old standard letters.

Amanda said...

Hi Cathy - good luck with giving it a shot, I’m sure you’ll do well.

Ooh, that’s exciting getting a call from My Weekly, Debs. I’ve heard TAB phone with their first acceptance, which must be a great call to receive!

Awh, thank you, Karen! Yes, PF seem to use that line – which in the past has made me ditch my story. But when I realised it seems to be the same rejection response every time, it made me feel a little better.

It’s always nice to get that bit extra from an editor, isn’t it Colette?

Glad it helped, Abigail. I think it’s always good to know there are others (lots of us, in fact)in the same boat!

Thank you, Sue – that’s very kind. And glad I’m not the only one who prefers TL!'s ways.

You are so right, Olivia. I’ve heard all the editors are lovely once you get an acceptance.

Flowerpot said...

I'm glad you ended on an up Mandy. You might think about writing a piee for one of the writing magazines about this topic - make some money out of it!

Maria said...

Great post as usual Mandy.

I have an award for you over at (one of) mine. Please accept it, with or without the meme. Here's the link:

Amanda said...

That's a good idea, FP ... although perhaps I shouldn't be shouting too loud about ALL my rejections - hee hee!

Awh, thank you, Maria - I'll pop over!


DAB said...

Hope you've had some success this week m'dear with the old submissions :) TFx

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Congratulations on your story in TWN, Mandy.

And thank you for this post - very interesting.


Amanda said...

Thank you, TF! I'm getting a fair few out there! I guess time will only tell if they come winging back clamped to a horrid rejection letter. :-) x

Thank you, Suz x

David said...

Congratulations on your first TWN sale, Mandy. This will be the first of many, I am sure!

You're so right that a personal word or two from an editor make the dreaded Rs all more palatable. When I got my last rejected story back from Jill at TWN, it was worded in such a lovely way, I didn't really mind at all.


Amanda said...

Thank you, David.

I've got a few with Jill at the moment - so expecting one of those friendly emails in the near future! :-)

Carol said...

Blimey, it all sounds like such a minefield!! I have to say that I am really glad that I can't write for toffee!!

Congrats on the sale and Pffft to the rejections

C x

Amanda said...

It is Carol! And thank you x

D..J. Kirkby said...

Congrats on your sale and I'm sure more will follow because you write beautifully. Thanks for all the info about these mags, I don;t send off many short stories but I do find this kind of info interesting. x

Amanda said...

Thanks DJ x

suzy doodling said...

Hi Mandy,
Congratulations on your story in TWN. I keep sending to People's Friend, I've also sent an article idea this week as well. I'm adding your blog to my list for stylish blog awards. Hope that's o.k. Just ignore it if not. Still working on the post, but it should be there later.

Amanda said...

Welcome, Suzy, and thank you so much for the award, that's very kind x

Frances Garrood said...

Have you thought of an agent, Amanda? They have the contacts, sort out the rejections, and sell stuff abroad if not in the UK. It somehow softens the blow a bit!

Cheryl said...

Thanks for this great (you know what I mean) post. I know what you mean about TLA - still wish the waiting time wasnt so long.

Amanda said...

Hi Frances, thanks for dropping by. I've never really considered an agent for short stories, as we are lucky enough to be able to approach the magazine publishers directly. Plus, I think I'm toughening up the more rejections I get! :-)

Yes, I agree Lily - I think TLA once said you could assume rejection after 4 months, which was't too bad - but 6 months is a long wait, really. Although some magazines are EVEN longer!

Diane Fordham said...

I'm sitting here on a rainy Saturday afternoon enjoying your blog very much. thank you.
I remember when I used to feel gutted when I received a rejection. Unfortunately the supply of good stories, I feel anyway, well and truly exceeds the demand - but we must continue to plod on, because it is something we are passionate about, and that's what we do! These days I believe that rejection is all part of the writing process (thinking this way makes me feel a little better anyway.) I nearly fell off my chair last week when That's Life Fast Fiction here in Australia accepted two stories in the one email for the winter issue. (I guess even writing has its miracles, lol)... keep writing :)

Amanda said...

Thanks for popping over to comment, Diane. I agree with what you say entirely and I'm pretty good at taking rejections on the chin these days. Apart from the one I got today- HA :-)

Congratulations on your sales to TL! :-)

CekaTB said...

Bloomin' eck! I've been waiting for some replies for MONTHS from PF. They used to be really quick (six weeks max) but nowadays it's taking forever and My Weekly have work from July last year. Nudge time, I think ...
Never Give Up! Your time will come.

Amanda said...

Hi Celia

I think (could be wrong, of course!) that if you have already sold to PF the replies take longer to come back with a yay or a nay! But if like me - you never rocked their boat - the rejections are VERY fast indeedy!

Diane Fordham said...

Hello again Amanda, I just read your short story, THE GHOST WALK, in That's Life Issue 13. I really enjoyed it. Well done! Have you been able to obtain a copy of your story? If not please let me know and I can scan and email to you if you like. Did you end up obtaining copies of your other stories that you were looking for?
Keep up the good work. Happy writing.... Diane Fordham

Amanda said...

Thank you, Diane :-) said...

Interesting to hear how many rejections you've also had. I thought you sold more than you had rejected. I'm feeling really uninspired to write them at the moment, the rejections have squashed my mojo and my thyroid tiredness. I hope it comes back soon. Good luck for more successes :O)

Amanda said...

Even the best sellers have lots and lots of rejections, Madeleine - it goes with the territory, sadly. :-( You just have to get up, brush yourself down, and keep on going.

I do hope this inspires you to keep on going - despite the rejections - because you will get there in the end! :-)