WELCOME TO 2021! BUCKLE UP, THIS POST IS A LONG ONE
I bet a lot of you are here because you are hoping to do the 100 Rejection Challenge to level up your submissions game. So that’s why I’ll focus on, but there will be a personal update at the end for those of you that read each blog post anyway (hello, my dear frands, I see you).
For those of you who don’t know, the 100 Rejection Challenge started as a way to help writers through the fear and pain of rejection. By focusing on collecting rejections, not acceptances, writers take more risks and submit to more markets, ideally collecting more acceptances along the way.
I prefer to take it one step further by making it a SMARTY goal and adding “you” into the equation; after all you can’t control whether someone gets back to you with a rejection or an acceptance, or whether they get back to you at all (hi there, lit mag editors). But you can control how many submissions you send. I hope you will, and join me in the Challenge this year.
Why Do The 100 Submission Challenge
- Nothing, and I mean nothing, desensitizes you to something like repeated exposure, and that includes exposure to rejections. In 2017, I submitted 16 times, and each time a rejection came in, it was a day-ending catastrophe. In August of 2018, the first year I did the Challenge, I once received five rejections in one day and didn’t actually notice until I went to log those motherfuckers in. It had just become background noise. “Oh, okay, they don’t want that story, I’ll send it somewhere else on Monday.” Ho hum. This immunity can be yours.
- It forces you to research new markets, and possibly write new pieces, because inevitably your existing pieces will get tied up in places that don’t take sim-subs. So you will look for new places that do take sim-sums, or that response quickly, and/or you will write new pieces instead of waiting for inspiration to strike because you need more material to meet your weekly/monthly goals. In other words, you’ll branch out from your current comfort zone.
- I quickly learned to tell a nice form email from a bland personal rejection. Which markets seemed professional to work with (in the future) and which seemed like ones to avoid, all based purely on how they handled form rejections. Those markets that gave personal rejections–even bland ones–were the ones most interested in my voice, if not necessarily that particular story, which meant that I had a higher chance of acceptance if I submitted there again. You too, can learn to gauge rejections with a critical, professional eye.
- I realize this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but there is a certain satisfaction in telling the well-meaning-but-ignorant-of-publishing people in one’s life–you know, the ones with the stories about how that one person their hairdresser told them about uploaded a self-published book to Amazon and the next day was dining with Jeff Bezos while fighting off hordes of agents waving offers of representation–that, actually, you have sent out stories 100 times this year so you are already trying your best, okay. No one outside of writers wants a lecture on how publishing is the worst, but everyone understands how trying something 100 times is a lot of work.
- An uncomfortable truth to face: submitting something 100 times does not guarantee acceptance anywhere. I should know; I have submitted Curve of the Corridor 100+ times to no avail (yet). Ashes, 50 times. It took Blackout Odyssey 128 submissions to find a home. But along the way you will gather experience, advice, and data, which will make your next 100 that much better. Every personal rejection will come with a grain of wisdom (hopefully) that will grit the path moving forward. Of course, this is for novel queries; I am not suggesting you submit one (1) piece of fiction 100 times. If you are submitting a variety of fiction pieces to a variety of markets, you are much more likely to get acceptances. And if you keep track of data beyond response times (such as whether the response was personal or urged you to submit again), then next time you go to submit you are a little more likely to succeed. Everything is learning, even the sad stuff.
The 100 Submission Challenge is not for hobby writers, or for people who want to dip their toe in submitting, or for those who have a system that works for them already. It’s for those of us that needed a push out of our comfort zone into the deep end of the publishing pool. It is exhausting, but so is training of any stripe–and thus, depending on what your goals are–worth the effort.
Q. I don’t write fiction! Can I still do the challenge?
A. YES. Pitch one hundred times. Query one hundred times. Send out one hundred resumes. Write one hundred blog posts. Cutie is doing 100 3D models in a year. It’s about forcing you to put the work in.
Q. I write speculative fiction/mystery/romance/weird niche stuff, and my genre markets don’t allow simultaneous submissions. How will I reach 100?
A. I write SF, so I understand this problem, and my answer has two parts:
1) the marketplace standard is changing, and sim-subbing is becoming more and more common/accepted; with a little research you’ll find new markets that do allow sim-subs
2) Write more stories! The challenge is all about taking more chances, so maybe some of the pieces you’re not sure about need dusting off and revising. Or maybe you need focus on writing more pieces. Either way, the work is up to you.
Q. 100 sounds like so much! How can I possibly??!?
A. A year has 52 weeks. If you submit twice a week starting in January, you will be done mid-December; that’s math even I can do. And two submissions a week if you already have a stable of fiction ready to go out is nothing. It’s a bare minimum. Even easier if you research and submit to markets that have fast response times or allow sim-subs (try The Submission Grinder or Duotrope for this data).
Q. I think 100 submissions is an arbitrary number, and I’d prefer to submit following my own method/intuition/horoscope.
A. You do you.
Q. This sounds like a whole lot, bud. What can I do to make it less overwhelming?
A. It can sure be a whole lot. Try breaking it down into small steps: focus just on sending out two submissions every week (I recommend doing it at the same time every week so that it becomes habit). Log the info. Maybe make a spreadsheet or a journal layout to help keep track. If you need to build up your number of pieces, maybe try one new story a month while you submit old ones. Over on my Patreon I have created a printable worksheet to colour in as you submit, because we all know that colouring in a completed sub is very satisfying. One submission at a time, just like steps, to 100.
Q. What do I get if i complete the Challenge?
A. Satisfaction. Knowledge. Probably a couple of acceptances along the way. Oh, and I celebrate at the end of each year with a cake.
Q. YOU DID 200 SUBMISSIONS IN ONE YEAR ARE YOU MAD
A. Oh, for sure. But I was also querying two novels on top of all my fiction pieces. Even still, four submissions a week was a struggle some weeks and a breeze in others. Thank god for averages! Also thank god for having a good online community of people all doing the same thing. We were all in the same boat, and that boat was a party boat.
Q. I’m coming around on this whole challenge thing.
A. Good. I’m glad. If you’re looking for a community/party boat to join, you can always hang out with us in my Patreon Discord channel, or Twitter. I hope you do find some like-minded people to do the challenge with; it’ll make the experience more fun overall. But you do you. Either way I wish you the best of luck; I believe in you.
Here we are in January and… woof. I wish I could be more optimistic, but I doubt that things will swing around back to normal just because we flipped over a new calendar year. Instead of making new goals, I’m going to keep chugging away on old ones.
- Finish editing Fletcher & Cooper book 2
- start promoting Blackout Odyssey
- maybe start a new novel? Maybe?
- work on AQA2
- focus on growing my Patreon and the Discord community around it
- try to hit 100 subs.
I think that’s enough to chew on for one year. If I’m wrong and 2021 is the ｡.｡:∞♡*♥*°:⋆ₓₒBEST! YEAR! EVAR!ₓₒ⋆:°*♥*♡∞:｡.｡ I can always find more projects to do.
There are always more projects.
Speaking of A Quiet Afternoon 2, our submissions have officially closed. We received over 460 stories from people all over the globe. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement; AQA1 received only 75 in the same amount of time. So shout out to our Slush Goblin, the littlest Pillbug Laura DeHaan, for her amazing capabilities for consuming slush. Laura, you are a goddamn machine and we are lucky to have you. <3
It’s going to be a great anthology, and I’m excited to share it with you. But that’s a post for another time, this one’s long enough.
See you next week!