The Rejectonomicon

The Rejectonomicon

Join guest columnist and author, Aeryn Rudel, every other month right here for his cursed Q&A with writers just like you. Read more of Aeryn’s work over at his Rejectomancy blog.

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Rejectonomicon, Volume III, May 2022

Welcome to the third volume of The Rejectonomicon. This month’s questions cover submission targeting, how to respond to editor correspondences, the infamous and legendary do-not-publish list, and discussing whether or not writing skills translate from one industry to another. So, let’s light the black candles, summon forth the dark literary powers, and conjure up some answers.

How has your targeting and selection of publishers shifted as you’ve progressed in your writing? What are you looking for in an ideal publishing venue? —Colin

I think a lot of my selection process now comes down to the fact that I have a better understanding of the kind of writer I am. When I started out, I considered myself a horror writer, and so I exclusively targeted horror venues. As it turns out, I’m not so much a horror writer, as a writer who mashes up genres, including horror, crime, sci-fi, and the broadly speculative. So what I end up with are a lot of stories that are not horror enough for horror markets and not sci-fi enough for sci-fi markets. I learned that the hard way, as you tend to do in this business. Now I look for markets that are more broadly speculative. Markets that are not purely one genre or the other. An example of that would be On Spec, and I’ve managed to sell two stories to them, both genre mashups. One horror/crime and one supernatural thriller.

I look for markets that mention in their guidelines that they enjoy slipstream or that they are looking for speculative stories in general. I prefer paying venues, though there are some great non-paying markets. I also look at response times. I’m not keen on submitting to markets that regularly take six months or more to respond while also not allowing simultaneous submissions.

As writers, we’re (hopefully) trained not to respond to rejection letters, but what about other correspondences from a publisher? Should we respond to those if there is no clear indication a response is required? —Anonymous

Love this question. It comes up a lot in writer circles, and it can be difficult to know what to do. So, let me cover two common notices a publisher might send to an author that are not rejections and how I think you should respond.

Acceptances

I think you should always respond to an acceptance unless specifically asked not to (which I’ve yet to see). For one, the editor has probably asked you for more information, like a bio, a head shot, your PayPal address, and so on. So, of course, you should respond and send the requested items.

Some acceptances say no more than that they've accepted your story. In those instances, I still think you should respond. It’s the polite and professional thing to do. Just a quick note should suffice. Something like, “Thank you for accepting my story. I’ll be on the lookout for that contract.” The other reason to do this is to let the editor know that a) you received the email and b) the story is still available (if they accept sim-subs).

Shortlists

Many publishers will let an author know that a story is being held for further consideration or has made it to the next round of review. This notice means they’re going to keep the story a bit longer for consideration. You do not need to respond to these emails. They’re simply informative, no action required. If an editor asks you to respond, maybe to ensure the story is still available, then definitely do so.

I want to ask about the infamous do-not-publish list that editors may or may not share between them. Is there such a list? Should I worry about being added to it? If so, what practices could result in that happening? Álex

Ah, yes, the infamous do-not-publish list. Sort of an urban legend in writer circles that pops up from time to time. The simple answer is no, I do not think such a list exists. Editors are busy folks, and I can’t imagine them taking the time to record every infraction an author might commit and add it to some communal “bad writer” list. With that said, there are two things I recommend never doing as a writer, regardless of whether or not such a list exists. [DARK MATTER EDITOR'S NOTE: We don't believe such a list exists, and we would never take part in one.]

Abusive Behavior

If you send abusive screeds in response to a rejection, like taking the editor to task for not recognizing your genius or whatever, then, yeah, I expect a market to stop reading your submissions entirely. I have seen editors share the names of particularly abusive individuals on social media as a warning to other editors, but that’s about as close to a ban list as I’ve seen. [DARK MATTER EDITOR'S NOTE: Dark Matter has never and will never post names of writers online in any fashion outside of promoting or announcing the publication of their work.]

With that said, I recommend you not reply to rejections under any circumstances, even if the reply is polite.

Ignoring Guidelines

If you ignore guidelines on a regular basis, like sending novellas to publishers that have a hard limit of 3,000 words, or you completely ignore formatting guidelines, you might make an editor cranky. You’re proving that you can’t follow simple instructions. Now, if you make an honest mistake with formatting, most editors will happily overlook it. The obvious, willful violations of guidelines are what can leave a poor impression on editors.

To reiterate, I do not believe there’s a do-not-publish list floating around that all editors use. The thing is, it’s so easy to be polite and professional. If you are,  you'll never have to worry about getting banned or ending up on the fabled do-not-publish list.

Do you have some advice in translating skills between writing types? I've mostly written short stories, but I'd love to expand those skills for work in the games and tabletop industry. I was also wondering if using short story writing credits might help when applying for game/tabletop writing jobs. —Anonymous

Well, my friend, you have come to the right person to ask this question. I used to work in the tabletop gaming industry as an editor, and one who was regularly on the lookout for new writers. As to the first part of your question, writing skills are writing skills, and they often translate between industries, with a few exceptions. If you’re a fiction writer who wants to get into technical writing, for example, that’s not exactly a direct translation. But for fiction to tabletop gaming, I’d say the writing skills needed definitely translate.

As to the second part of your question, yes, short story writing credits do help when applying for game/tabletop writing jobs. When I was an editor at Privateer Press (both for their in-house magazine and their fiction imprint), I wanted to see writing credits of some kind on a resume. Previous work in the gaming industry was a plus, but I would also consider folks who had writing credentials in other mediums, especially fiction writing. So if it’s a writing job you’re applying for, then absolutely include any writing credits you might have.

 

Got a burning question about rejections, submissions, or writing? Fire it off to questions@rejectomancy.com, and maybe I’ll answer it on the next volume of The Rejectonomicon.

Submission guidelines:

  1. Put REJECTONOMICON in the subject line of the email.
  2. Write your question in the body of the email. Try to keep it relatively brief.
  3. Please let me know if you’d like your first name published along with your question or if you’d like to remain anonymous.
  4. Please restrict your questions to the subjects of writing, submissions, and rejections. Those are pretty broad categories, though, and I’d be happy to field questions about my past career as a TTRPG game designer/editor and media tie-in writer.