How Math Makes Rejection Suck Less

paper-794329_1920Most writers submit something to a publisher at one point or another. Whether it’s flash fiction, a short story, or a fully-written book, we all split open our chests and bare our fragile, sensitive souls to complete strangers at some point during our journey.

And it sucks. No matter if your piece is accepted or not, the waiting, the wondering, and that moment you see an email in your inbox with the publisher’s name in it all make you want to puke when you think about it. The process of getting published is, if we’re being honest, pretty awful.

And that’s just on its own, leaving out the fact that everyone gets rejections, no matter how good their writing is. If you submit anything to anyone, there is a ridiculously high chance that you are going to receive, at one point or another, an email that inevitably starts with, “Unfortunately…”. And even for seasoned writers with hearts of stone, reading that word can make you doubt everything about yourself and your skill.

But it doesn’t end there. Often, even after you have waited months to hear whether or not your work was accepted, when they decline, they won’t offer any feedback as to why. How can you improve without knowing where you went wrong? How can you submit to them again if you don’t understand exactly why your story wasn’t a fit?

As you can see, it’s all one big awful experience that induces crippling anxiety, grows self-doubt, and chips away at your self-confidence.

But, in all its awful glory, there still lies a glimmer of hope. The faintest sparkle in the darkness when you finally get a letter that says your story was accepted. And that’s what makes it all worth it, right?

And who ever said finding the right publisher for your story was going to be easy? When you think about it, there are a limited number of quality publishers out there for your genre and type of story. Most of them accept international submissions. So you are competing with a very large pool of content from writers with varying degrees of experience. What are your chances of being published?

Let’s talk about that for a moment, and I’ll use a bit of simple (I promise) math to make my point.


 

In marketing, we determine the success or failure of an initiative by examining the conversion rate. For example, if we create a new landing page and the purpose is to get people to sign up for a newsletter, the conversion rate is determined by examining how many people come to the page versus how many sign up for the newsletter.

Say 100 people visit the page, and only 10 sign up (the other 90 visitors leave the page without taking any action). That would be a 10% conversion rate. Sounds pretty low, right? No! A 10% conversion rate is an indication of a highly successful landing page.

So, a 10% conversion rate is good in marketing, but what does that have to do with submitting stories? Everything.

If we scale it down, and apply it to a realistic submission process, we can say that to get a high conversion rate of 10% when sending in stories to publishers, we would have to get 1 acceptance for every 9 rejections. 9. NINE. Nine people saying, “Unfortunately, your story was not a fit…”. That’s a whole lot of rejections.

But that means it isn’t totally unrealistic to think that, even after getting 2 or 3 (or 8) rejections, you should keep going. Hell, even a 5% conversion rate is high, and that would mean that you would have to get rejected 19 times before getting published. And that’s only for one story.

So don’t stop. Don’t give up after you hear “No” once, twice, or even thrice. Make a list of publishers that you think are a fit for your piece before you even start sending out your work. Find at least 10, and work your way through it. Push for that 10%, because if you don’t, you might miss out on your chance.


 

One of the only things in the world that really has a 100% conversion rate is life to death, and it’s far to short to waste your time feeling bad because not all of your stories get accepted the first time, every time.

How many times would you submit a story before giving up? What rejection advice do you have for other writers?

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4 thoughts on “How Math Makes Rejection Suck Less

  1. I usually submit a short story or novelette three or four times before putting it aside for a while (or for another book). I can’t say anything about novels, seeing as I self-publish, but if I decide to go the traditional route again some day…who knows?

  2. I’ve been trying to publish a short story, and the only reason I’ve decided to retire it for now is when I finally did get feedback, there was a flaw I hadn’t noticed nor had my writing group noticed (has to do with the reader’s experience and perspective; the plot doesn’t make nearly as much sense if you lack a certain perspective) `and I’d have to do a major overhaul on the structure of the story to fix it. I don’t really feel up to it right now, particularly because I’m editing my novel and don’t have time for it.
    It’s my own belief that a reason like that, realizing that the story isn’t ready, doesn’t belong out yet, that you’re unhappy with it, is among the better reasons to stop submitting. Hopefully only temporarily. But I think an exceptionally low conversion rate, while not a good reason in itself for quitting, should be a flag to seriously look for flaws or other problems with the story.

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