Playing the Submission Game

Last Updated on: 17th August 2021, 03:54 pm

As of this writing, I’ve submitted Ghost of a Friend to three markets and received three rejections, each one quicker than the last.

After I received a rejection from Fireside, I looked for other places to submit, prioritizing markets that paid a pro rate (more than 5 cents a word) and had a quick average response time.

I definitely don’t want to submit somewhere that would keep it for months without responding. I also refuse to do any submissions by mail. The idea of mailing out a story feels like abandoning it to the mercies of a black hole.

The three markets I’ve submitted to so far all have acceptance rates of less than one percent according to Duotrope:

Those are some pretty long odds. Knowing that helped take away most of the sting of rejection, but after I heard back from Fantasy & Science Fiction, I did wonder if I really was sending out the best possible version of my story.

When I sent the story to Fireside, it was exactly 5000 words long – their maximum – but I felt like there were a few moments I cut short to stay under that limit. As soon as it was rejected, I added another 150 or so words to beef up those scenes. That’s the version I sent to Clarkesworld and F&SF.

Problem is, I’m starting to think that Ghost of a Friend might be a little bloated at 5000+ words. I’ve looked through submission requirements for a lot of markets, and it seems like very few places accept stories that length. 4000 or 3000 word limits are very common.

After my third draft, I swore that I wasn’t going to do any more major revisions because I don’t want to get stuck working on the same damn story forever. Putting all of my eggs into a single basket is not a great idea, especially because short stories aren’t particularly lucrative on their own. Even still, it seems like I might be doing myself a disservice if I keep submitting this version of the story.

My new goal is to get the story under 4000 words. I think I can tighten up the first few scenes and get to the good stuff much sooner.

That means I’m going to hold off on submitting for a fourth time until I’ve made yet another pass. Hopefully it won’t take too long to cut it down as much as possible.

As an aside, I just re-read Burning Love to try and remember how I managed to write and sell a short story four years ago on my very first attempt. The story definitely holds up, but I had completely forgotten that I named the main character Nate… which is also one of the names I used in Ghost of a Friend. I should probably change that, haha.