February 15, 2013 by Nathaniel Tower
So, you’ve written a story. What now? Well, must be time to submit it for publication, right? Before you do, here’s some general advice on how to get that story rejected.
What makes me an expert? Well, I’ve written around 300 stories in the past 5 years. Over 200 have been published, but I’ve also received around 700 rejection notes. I’ve also had the painful duty of rejecting thousands of stories.
Here are some things I’ve learned about rejection (as both an editor and a writer)
Note: The following list reflects some actual reasons I’ve had stories rejected as well as reasons I’ve rejected stories. Other reasons are completely fabricated, but still possibly true. Astute readers will recognize that some of these things are trivial reasons for rejection.
1. Submit a first draft
2. Write about vampires. Especially sexy teen vampires.
3. Submit a story you never even proofread
4. Submit to a publisher without reading anything about that publisher
5. Submit something that goes way over the publisher’s word limit
6. Submit in some unappealing format, like a really big typeset or maybe one of those cursive fonts
7. Submit via mass email to a lot of publishers. Don’t bother blind copying the publishers. Let everyone know who you are submitting this story to.
8. Offer a list of demands to a publisher
9. Flagrantly write something the publisher doesn’t want to see and mention that you know the publisher doesn’t want to see it but that it’s really good
10. Write stories about child abuse that don’t have happy endings
11. Write stories about child abuse
12. Use nothing but clichés
13. Address your cover letter to a different magazine
14. Talk about how bad your story is in the cover letter
15. Talk about how great your story is in the cover letter
16. Resubmit a story when the publisher clearly doesn’t want to see it again
17. After being told to wait a week to submit another piece, submit another piece an hour later
18. Send previously published work to places that don’t accept previously published work. Be sure to mention that it was previously published
19. Send plagiarized work
20. Send your story in the wrong format, with the wrong margins, the wrong headings, etc.
21. Send the wrong story
22. Put contact info on your story when the publisher requests no contact info
23. Don’t put contact info on your story when the publisher requests contact info
24. Say in your cover letter that this story is better than stories the publisher released in the last issue
25. Write stories in which nothing happens
26. Write stories with lots of POV shifts
27. Submit a blank piece of paper and claim it is experimental
28. Submit an attachment to a publisher who doesn’t want attachments
29. Put “best story ever” in the subject line
30. Don’t put anything in the subject line
31. Admit that you’ve never read the magazine in the cover letter
32. Don’t include a cover letter
33. Include too much in a cover letter
34. Fill the story with pointless profanity (and don’t forget to follow up the rejection email with a profanity-filled email of your own)
35. Criticize the publisher’s taste after a rejection and then submit another story
36. Use margins that are too big
37. Use margins that are too small
38. Triple space
39. Double space
40. Single space
41. Add an extra space between periods
42. Don’t add any space between periods
43. Mention in your cover letter that the publisher will need to make some edits
44. Submit a story where everyone dies in the end
45. Ask for money from a non-paying publisher
46. Ask for more money from a paying publisher
47. Submit to The New Yorker
48. Use page numbers
49. Don’t use page numbers
50. Be too experimental
51. Don’t be experimental enough
52. Be too weird
53. Don’t be weird enough
54. Accuse the editor of being sexist
55. Submit a story about the exact same thing that was just published in the magazine
56. Submit multiple stories to a publisher who doesn’t want multiple submissions
57. Submit an unfinished story and say you’ll finish it if the editor likes the beginning
58. Submit when a publisher isn’t open to submissions
59. Submit an unagented submission to a place that only accepts agented subs.
60. Submit anything at all. To anywhere. Chances are, it’ll get rejected.
Disclaimer: Following all of these guidelines will not necessarily guarantee acceptance or rejection. Results may vary. Consult your agent.