If you can’t stand the heat…

Posted on August 30, 2011


I recently came across something that disturbed me somewhat, and it left me wondering just how silly and naive some writers are.

An internet market for speculative fiction that is run from the USA, increased its rates for fiction up to professional rates. This is a bold step as it increases your ongoing operating costs. At the same time, it potentially elevates your publication into the stratosphere of being one of the ‘professional’ markets. The other side of the coin however is that any publication increasing its remuneration to authors, immediately starts receiving many more submissions, increasing turnaround times and workload.

It should be noted that increasing author payment rates does not mean there are more slots for stories opening up, just more money for those authors whose works are selected for publication. If more submissions are being received for the same number of slots, then there will be a corresponding increase in the number of pieces not selected for publication. One would hardly think it took Einstein to work that out.

It was very disappointed to find that this market now began receiving some very hostile ‘how dare you reject my work!’ responses to their ‘thank you but not for us at this time’ rejections. Hey – if you want to be an author, then I have news for you. Get ready for and used to rejection! It is just part of the game.

The writing world is full of stories of top-level writers whose works were rejected. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by something like eight or twelve publishers (depending on whose account it is) before being accepted. Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected so often that he famously threw it out. It took his wife retrieving it from the rubbish and insisting on he try again before King’s first novel was finally accepted by a publisher. The list goes on and on. Rejection is simply part of the game. If you cannot handle rejection of your work, then I’m sorry, writing isn’t for you.

I have to admit that I did not respond well to one rejection for a non-fiction piece, but in that case I had been lead to believe that they wanted the piece in question. That difficulty was smoothed over and I now have an excellent working relationship with that publication as an occassional freelance author for them. However if I had responded with ‘how dare you reject me, you scum-sucking pigs that wouldn’t know quality literature if it bit you on the arse’, do you really think they would want to be bothered with me now?

During a brief flirtation working in the visual arts in 2010, I found some aspiring visual artists responding in much the same manner because their work was not accepted for a particular exhibition. ‘But I submitted my work therefore you should have accepted it!’ seemed to be the attitude. However, like filling a fixed number of slots in a publication, a gallery has only so many places in which to exhibit artworks.

A professional takes these things on the chin, learns from them. I learned that from some of the best. Having a hissy fit because a publisher does not think your work is right for them at that time is not how a professional operates. Was it truly as good a piece as you could do? I was disappointed to receive a rejection for a story one time – until I later had another look at it. Oh dear Lord – how could I have possibly let something go out with THAT many mistakes etc in it! The human reaction is all too often: if it looks crap then it probably is crap. Getting past those errors to the story itself, now looking at it with fresh eyes I realised it was not nearly as good as I originally thought it was. Have you had others review the piece and critique it before you sent it out, by which I don’t mean having Mummy say ‘oh that looks wonderful, darling!’

Becoming a published author ain’t easy, at least in the majors. Having hissy fits that a particular publisher isn’t falling over themselves and breaking out the brass band for your short story, ain’t helping anyone. If you can’t stand the heat, get outta the kitchen.

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