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.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


This is something all short story writers can play at home. All you need, in true Blue Peter style, is an empty washing-up bottle, a wire coat hanger and - this is the important bit - a LONG list of rejected stories. If you haven’t got any you’re lucky. And I was going to say you can borrow one of mine as I’ve got hundreds of the little demons – well 38 to be exact. But it could get complicated, turn nasty, even. ‘I wrote that bit’ *punch* ‘No you didn’t, I wrote that bit’ *punch*.

And you don’t actually need the washing-up bottle or wire coat hanger either, unless you want to make a...a...well you decide.

I digress. Back to the challenge, then...

It’s so easy to think once a story has been rejected by one magazine it’s a no-go. You can feel totally deflated and, yes, upset. I admit, I cried when my early rejections came through. But I don’t anymore – because, to paraphrase somebody who says clever stuff, it’s all part of the rich pattern of writing. But, and it’s a big BUT, it isn’t always the end for our rejected tales. Sometimes it only needs a few tweaks, sometimes nothing at all, for it to get snapped up by another magazine or even a competition.

So here it is...


1. Type a table of your rejected stories. This shouldn’t include stories you haven’t attempted to send out there.

2. Add columns headers with various outlets e.g. Take A Break, Competition. The Weekly catch my drift. This should be different to the excel spreadsheet, or paper records you normally keep – you do keep a record, right? This is different, it’s your ‘CHALLENGE TABLE’

3. Now take your stories – (one at a time, or your head will whirr) and read them through carefully. You may decide the twist (if there is a twist) is too obvious – well worn (ooh, get me) – and it would be better to go with a more obscure idea. E.g. It isn’t his mother after all, it’s Mrs Jones from number six with the six poodles (I’m being silly). Or perhaps you’ve got far too many unnecessary words, or too many characters. Or the setting is all wrong. Or you need to give more explanation, or less explanation. Going back to a story after some time often highlights things that you didn’t spot first time round.


Right... I hereby announce MY challenge is to SELL at least one of my 38 rejected stories before the end of the year. I’ll keep you posted – or I may never blog again because I look darn silly.