Rejection is part of writing for publication. Pro-rate magazines accept considerably less than one percent of all submissions. As a writer, you either grow a thick skin about it, or you stop submitting stories.
With all of the rejection inherent in the business, writers don’t need to self-reject themselves. Yet I know writers who don’t submit to some publications because their chances of getting accepted are so low. They self-reject their own work, usually by manufacturing a reason for which their story isn’t suitable for that publication—maybe the story is too long, too short, not the right theme, too dark, not dark enough. I’ve done it before. In fact I nearly did it today before I caught myself.
Ultimately, I think self-rejection is a symptom of low confidence in a particular story or in the writer’s own craft. Self-rejection is self-doubt. It’s the manifestation of that little voice in the head that says my writing isn’t good enough. But you know what, Stephen King wasn’t “good enough” when he started (he talks about it in his book On Writing). Neither was J.K. Rawlings, Joe Haldeman, Issac Asimov…and they turned out pretty well.
Here’s a secret—well, it’s not really a secret. A writer can never truly know what an editor is seeking. I can look for trends in published stories, but really, I can never say what story might catch an editor’s eye. Of course, if an editor specifically says they don’t published science fiction, then don’t send them a Golden-age space opera; that’s just wasting everyone’s time. But if it’s a science fiction publication in which you’d be proud to see your work? If you’re even asking the question, “Does this story really fit?” then submit it. Have confidence in your story and don’t self-reject it. Let the editor do that. A submitted story might have a less than one percent chance of being published, but an unsubmitted story has a zero chance. Submit it; you may find a pleasant (and profitable) surprise the next time you check your mail.