I will admit that I still grapple with the submission process for short fiction.
I have a short story that I’ve been marketing around for a while, a twist on the superhero motif where the hero finds out he’s a pawn for a big corporation. It was awarded an Honorable Mention from Writers of the Future last year. I submitted it to one of the big anthology series (I won’t say which one here), and received a personal response from the editors, who said they loved the story and felt terrible when they decided to cut it. I received similar responses from a couple other editors in succession, which convinced me that the story didn’t need any further tweaking, and would find a home somewhere, eventually.
Six form-letter rejections later, I’m beginning to doubt myself.
I do my homework before I submit a story, like a professional writer should. I don’t just send off one of my soft SF or fantasy stories to Analog or a horror story to Beneath Ceaseless Skies; step one to submitting a story is to understand the market you’re sending it to. I actually read through the descriptions of what the editors are looking for and really consider if a story is appropriate before I send it. When I get a rejection, I figure that either a) I was wrong, and the story isn’t for them, or b) They liked it, but can only publish so much, or c) The story is actually shit, which will eventually be confirmed by more rejections. Experience has helped me figure out, I think, when a story is done, but getting a bunch of rejections is a useful tool for showing me when a piece might not actually work as well as I think it does. With a story that’s gotten as many form-letter rejections as this superhero piece, I’d be in the midst of that reconsideration. But with the equal number of positive responses it’s gotten, I’m not sure what to think.
Are a lot of editors disinterested in superhero stories? Is my twist not enough to really make the story stand out in a market that’s oversaturated with superheroes? Then how did it get that Honorable Mention? Is my research off, and I need to find some different magazines, ones that maybe I’ve never considered before? Am I overthinking all of this and maybe need some more tea? Or less? No, the answer is always more tea.
For any non-writers reading this post, this is a peek at the self-doubt that plagues many a writer. For the writers reading this, I hope you share my pain and that I’m not as crazy as I feel sometimes. None of this rambling changes what I’m going to do next, of course: submit the story to another market and pray once again that it finds a home. Cuz I really like this story (and I think it works) and I’d like some people to read it. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that some editor somewhere likes it enough to publish it before I worry myself into even more gray hairs. In the meantime, I’m going to go write another gods-damned story 🙂