I've just finished sending out fifty rejection notices for submissions to Fairly Wicked Tales. Yep. Fifty. That may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, especially if you're Ellen Datlow, who's going to have way more to send when subs close for her anthology. But for a small press, it's a lot. And it's not just exhausting for my fingers, it's soul-sucking. Why? Because I'm also an author and I know what getting those rejections is like. I don't enjoy knowing I've made fifty people unhappy today. In fact, I take no pleasure in it at all.
And the team that read these stories put a lot of thought into the Table of Contents for Fairly Wicked Tales. We discussed them, argued over them, and hashed out which ones to go with. Putting an anthology together isn't anything we take lightly. We owe it to ourselves, our readers, and our authors to only choose the best possible stories and put them in a cohesive collection. And that's what I feel we've done.
Unfortunately, rejection is a fact of life for writers and we all have to learn to accept it and move on. So here are a few reasons why you may have received a rejection for your story:
1. The story was good but we received ten of the same theme. Obviously with an anthology, you want a little variety, so I couldn't accept ten "Cinderella" stories. So choosing which one to keep comes down to the most original idea, the most well written, and the one who's tone fits best with the other stories chosen for the anthology.
2. The story had merit and was original, but the tone was off. Maybe the story was too light hearted to fit in amongst the darker stories already accepted. Maybe the story had too much humor, or too much gore, or was aimed at a different age group.
3. Setting. We only accepted stories set in the time period of the original piece. With most fairy tales, that's going to mean the middle ages not today.
4. Maybe it was a good story, but didn't do what the guidelines asked in reversing the characters.
5. And sometimes, well sometimes, its' because the story wasn't as good as it could have been. Perhaps the style wasn't fully developed, or it was too verbose without enough substance, or the writing was not up to the standard of the other stories selected.
There are many reasons for the rejection letters I wrote today, just as there are many reasons other editors write them. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off, go over that story again, and re-submit it elsewhere. Who knows where it's real home is?
Just be happy someone took the time to read it, discuss it, and write you a letter that wasn't purely form.