Last time, I talked about finding the little spiral-bound memo pad where I had recorded a large number (for me) of writing submissions. I decided to call the notepad My Little Notebook of Rejections, since a vast majority of what ended up being recorded there were, indeed, rejections. Not that I wouldn’t have loved for the notebook’s near-14-year history to have turned out much more weighted on the side of acceptances. But it’s a fascinating look back for me nonetheless.
Now, for the first time ever, and with the results recorded here in this very blog post, I am going to compile some of the statistics that can be garnered from this 14 year period of my writing life — from late 1981, when I was 21 years old, until mid-1995, my last entry in the little book.
You can see from the photos that somewhere I got hold of a nifty little vinyl cover for the memo pad. I evidently had some small degree of pride in the book, and wanted to confer upon it a status well above any plain old unadorned memo pad. You will also notice that I did not label the notepad in any fashion, inside or outside, with a title or purpose of any sort. I evidently did not want anyone except me to know what the book was for . . . without someone, at any rate, opening it up and pondering the contents. Interesting dialectic, there. What it means from a psychological perspective, however, I have absolutely no idea.
Let us dig in, now, shall we?
My Little Notebook of Rejections Stats:
Date Range: November 1981 — August 1995
Number of Written Works Represented: 33
Of these, the great majority were fantasy short stories. A few were soft science fiction. Two were children’s stories. One (which was actually my very first professional sale) was an article about helicopters, for children. One was a contemporary short story. And one was a fantasy novel.
Number of Rejections Recorded/Assumed: 139
Most times, I recorded both the date of submission and the date I received a rejection, but sometimes I have only a date of submission. In these cases, when I know I sent the piece in, I am assuming rejection if I have no other notations. I did not include a few instances where a publication went out of business, were no longer accepting submissions, or in the case of a few book publishers, when I mistakenly submitted directly when they had started only accepting agented submissions.
In some of the cases that I count as rejections, there were interspersed bright moments when a few of the publishers I queried for my novel then requested to see a partial (generally the first three chapters plus a synopsis of the rest of the story). That meant, at least, that I was doing something right with my queries, so it wasn’t like a total rejection. Not until I got back the big package, anyway.
Interestingly, I didn’t include in the notebook any of my queries or submissions to literary agents that occurred from about 1992 to 1994. Those would probably add another couple of dozen rejections to the total. But as with the book publishers themselves, I also had a number of positive query responses from agents. No takers once they saw the partial or complete manuscript, however. I may still have a bunch of those submissions packed away somewhere. Maybe they’re with the big over-stuffed 10×13 envelope of rejection slips I still have around. That would probably give me a cleaner and more accurate count, tallying those. Am I a glutton for punishment, or what?
Number of Paid Sales: 2
Number of Other Acceptances/Accolades: 2
I had another short story published in a small magazine called Mythic Circle (in 1990 or 1991 — I really need to find that issue) for which I was paid in contributor copies, and which I write a little bit about in this post. I also received Honorable Mention for another story, “Keepers of a Zoo Called Earth,” in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest in 1989.
Just for fun, I’d like to list some of the titles for stories I logged in My Little Notebook. Some of the titles I don’t remember at all. Some of them I now think are lame or sucky titles, and some I’m still rather proud of. I’ll let you decide for yourselves how you’d rate them. In many cases, by the way, I don’t even remember what the story was about. And many of the stories themselves, I suspect, for better or worse, are long lost to the ashes of time.
“The Boy Who Changed”
“The Nature of Dreams”
“A Time of Challenge”
“D.A.C.C.” (I have no idea what that stands for)
“A Child of Light, a Child of Darkness”
“Nobody Lives Forever”
“Sing to Them, They Can Hear You”
“The Grotesque Rabbit”
“Jef and the Spellcat”
“A New Song”
“Dancer in the Rain”
“A Soldier of the King”
Ah, the memories. Or lack thereof, in many cases. I’ve always been a sucker for a good title. Unfortunately, I think I miss the bullseye most of the time. There’s another story that came a few years after I stopped using the notebook, but for which I’m rather proud of the title. “The Wind and the Hunter.” The story never went anywhere, but I like the title enough that maybe I’ll use it again someday.
As always, I’m happy to hear your thoughts, and I enjoy reading your comments. In fact, I could probably use some cheering up right about now.