Let me make one thing clear – I am an impatient man. When I take the effort to toil over a short story for weeks, be it a daft postmodern romp or a dark soul-bearing epic, I expect the publishers who reject me to be courteous, informative and helpful. Generally, generic no-nos smacks to me of laziness. This is a rough guide as to what I’ve learned so far from the land of rejections:
- Your story does not meet our needs at this time.
a) We have enough short stories, bozo – back away from the e-zine. Back away!
b) Our needs are a certain niche of fiction we have grown cosy reading and you do not fit that niche, you non-niche-fitting bastard.
c) We hated it. You’re terrible. We’re great. You’re not. The story’s a stinker and it stinks so much. Oh, how it stinks!
d) We have no time to read it. We’ve opened ourselves up to so much stuff that we can barely get through the day’s slushpile without losing five editors to cyanide poisoning. Help us!
- Not quite right for us.
a) We publish short, self-consciously literary pieces that say profound things about the desolation of the soul, that hold a mirror up to the barrenness of our times through stark, poetic language. Whereas you, my intellectually bug-brained friend, write fart jokes.
b) It’s not enough of a carbon copy of the writers we like, and we just don’t feel comfortable stepping out of our niche and trying something… no, I can’t say it… different!
c) Did you read every single word of our five-page, threatening and unfriendly guidelines? Well, did you, you gutless whore?
M.J.’s reassuring homily of the day: don’t take shit from poxy self-righteous e-zines. If you’re a great writer, there’s always a home for you at places you respect with people you respect. Generally, editors who take the time to give you a little line or two back about your piece are nice, and you want to make friends with them. But automaton rejectors – please. Don’t sell yourself as a caring and loving e-zine if you can’t be arsed with the workload.
My tip for me: calm down. Don’t take it personally if you get denied. Not everyone is evil. Just some people. Lots of them. OK, everyone. Some editors do go that extra mile and love you, but have lives. Some just love the power trip.
More to come, maybe.