“We really like your story” followed by “but …”

So my latest rejection, for No One Can Slay Her, said a lot of nice things about the atmosphere, the magic, the characters, some of the 1950s period detail. But … there was a lot they didn’t like (though happily they didn’t find any flaws in the mystery plot, something I’d worried about). Mostly matters of taste — the details they disliked I think work for the story — but it still added up to a no.

Which is fair enough; actually more than fair, because taking the time to write a detailed critique is quite generous of them (I know the editor. They have a lot of demands on their time). But still it’s frustrating, like one I got a couple of months ago for The Schloss and the Switchblade (really liked the story but no room for it in the upcoming issues). Even when they like my work, there’s a but. And no sale.

Of course, pretty much every story I’ve ever written has gone through at least a half-dozen markets, often much more, before someone accepts it. Sometimes after rewriting based on feedback. Sometimes with no changes. So I’m not discouraged. On the other hand, pretty much every story I’ve ever written has gone through at least a half-dozen markets, even though the eventual acceptance means it’s good enough to get published. Why, oh why can’t I find the right market earlier?

It’s particularly frustrating this year where my only sales have been reprints. I’m seriously considering that when I finish with Questionable Minds and Undead Sexist Cliches I just take everything that isn’t sold and put them into a short story book with some of my published works. As I do a lot of historical fantasy, I could call it Magic and History — okay, I should call it something better than that but you get the idea. We have No One Can Slay Her from the 1950s, Glory That Was and Impossible Things Before Breakfast from the 1970s, Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates in the 1980s, plus published work from the 1930s, 1950s, 1960s, early 21st century and one from the 1600s.

The downside is that my self-published books don’t make me much money. The best sales have come from when I visited cons and handsold them and god knows when I’ll get to do that again. Short fiction is hardly a lucrative field but the money from magazine/anthology sales is usually better than self-publishing them. Then again, it’s also a great deal of time researching markets, submitting, researching and submitting again … at least I’d be done with that and the stories would be published, available for reading.

Well it’ll be a while before my current projects are done, so I’ll see how I feel by then. And until that point, I’ll keep submitting.

And I’ll close with a photo of Wisp sitting on top of the heated cat-house we bought for her, somewhat blurred by sunlight on the back window.



Filed under Personal, Short Stories, Writing

9 responses to ““We really like your story” followed by “but …”

  1. The factor of spending the time to research the markets and submitting is what drove me away from submitting short stories this summer. That, and opening my submission tracker to realize that 50% of my current stories ready for submission went to markets that either died while the piece was there or…fell through the cracks somehow. 50%. At that point I said “enough!”

    I may still send things to anthology calls, but at the moment…nah. Not sending out short stories. My perception is that the market has taken one of those drastic shifts again (that one only sees in retrospect) and it’s time to ride it out for a while. And…you’re not the only writer who is noticing this.

    • Had the “fell through the cracks” and “market died” experience. Sucks.
      I think what drives me the most notes is all the arbitrary format rules markets keep imposing. Some of them are simple, like a particular type face or removing my name, but some of them are “remove all italics and use proofreader marks to indicate them.” That’s a pain.

  2. I fell off of short story submissions and came to the conclusion that what I write now just isn’t what the SFF market wants anymore. And I also agree on the proliferation of idiosyncratic submission guidelines. It used to be you just formatted it using William Shunn’s guide and that was enough; the current trend feels condescending and doesn’t really achieve what I think the editors are aiming to do–it’s much more likely to irritate an author than weed out anyone from submitting who doesn’t read the guidelines.

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