Every acceptance letter is exciting and uplifting, but the one I got last night was particularly gratifying. Apex Magazine, one of the best pro markets for dark speculative fiction, accepted my story “Gift for the Cutter Man.”
This one has been making the rounds since last May even though it’s only been to a couple of places. At each of those stops, it made it through the early cuts only to sit for months and months on the editor’s desk before getting a nice personal rejection. I don’t hold anything against those editors for seemingly sitting on a few stories—they’re busy and most likely underpaid for what they do—but come on, six months! Okay … calm down … water under the bridge and all that.
A couple of things make this sale gratifying. First, I think this is a really good story, and regardless of my gripe above, the fact that it was sitting for so long on the various editorial desks tells me I made it hard for the editors to pass it up. In my experience, good stories can often take a long time to sell. I believe the primary challenge is finding the right magazine and editor because stories that get through the first and second and third readers are all likely deserving of being published, but there are never enough slots to take them all. The ones that get rejected are more of an editorial preference, than an indictment of their quality. Second, it’s been over a year since I’ve made a short story sale. A little petty, sure, but that’s a long drought for me, and it feels great to finally break through again.
If your stories are getting through those first and second readers at the pro markets only to get a nice personal rejection, hang in there. Your stories are competitive, and it’s just a matter of time before you sell one. Pro markets are tough—according to the Submission Grinder, Apex has an acceptance rate below 0.5%, so fewer than 5 of every 1000 stories—so write another one and submit it, and in the meantime, that one they rejected? Send it somewhere else and somewhere else and somewhere else until you find the right editor and magazine for it. Publishing is as much determination as it is talent.