Applying For A Job In the Writing World

I had a cool blog all figured out, based on a quote by Albert Einstein, but then something else came along. Let me explain.

On Facebook I always see people posting about their successes in the writing world. You know, things like ‘hey my story just got accepted at such and such anthology,’ or ‘I just signed with an agent,’ or even better, ‘my novel was just picked up by The Most Awesome Publisher In the World.’ These are all great things and I enjoy reading how people have had success in the business.

You know what I don’t see a lot of? Go ahead, guess. I’ll give you three chances, and your first two don’t count.

I don’t see a lot of the failures. People just don’t post about them. I don’t see much about the books not being picked up, the short stories being rejected, the agonizingly excruciating process of seeking out agents and sending out queries. It’s as if no one wants anyone to know something of theirs wasn’t good enough for someone else.

Let’s face it, we all have those stories that no matter how good we believe they are, folks just don’t pick them up. It’s just the way it is.

Sure there are some out there who post about their rejections, but not many. Again, it’s like no one wants anyone to know about their failures.

Not me. I want the world to know about my failures in writing. I want them to see that, ‘hey, I was rejected,’ and ‘guess what? I was rejected again.’ It happens, so I decided at the beginning of the year to post my failures—not my successes. Sure, I’ll post some of the successes when they happen, but I want to embrace those rejections.

Let me clarify something here: I do NOT like rejection letters. I hate them. I loathe them. But they are part of the business and part of being a writer. If you don’t get rejections, then you’re probably not sending out any work.

A little statistic for you:

Since 2008 (and not including 2013’s stats) I have submitted 337 stories to various markets around the world. In that time frame I have had 98 acceptances, 192 rejections and 47 stories where I either never heard from the publisher or the publication folded.

To extend these numbers:

Acceptance rate: 29%
Rejection rate: 57%
Other: 14%

An acceptance rate of almost 3 out of every ten isn’t too shabby, but that means 71% of the stories were not accepted.

I won’t lie and say that I’m okay with those numbers, but truth be told, it could be worse.

Stick with me a little longer.

Before the beginning of the year, I set some goals for myself. One of those goals was to submit at least 52 stories this year. At one a week, I would reach the goal easy enough. I’m well on the way to that number—I have already submitted 15 stories.

I have already been rejected 5 times. I have one acceptance. That’s not a very good percentage. Not even close to the 29% mark I managed for the previous five years. The math is easy enough to do: Six responses, five rejections, one acceptance equals an acceptance rate of 16.7%.

Rejection. It’s part of life. It’s part of writing.

A great analogy for you:

The other day, a young lady where I work mentioned that she saw my posts on Facebook about the submissions and rejections. She said something to the effect of:

Writing is like applying for a job. You can’t take it personally when you don’t get the job.

I’ve pondered this and, yes, she was right. You might be qualified for the job, but sometimes there are other folks that are more qualified than you are. There are also instances where the job you applied for you are not suited for. Sometimes you even have what the job is looking for, but you are missing one or more qualities in the type of employee being pursued. Sometimes you are overqualified for a position. There could also be hundreds of people applying for that ONE spot.

And, just like not taking it personal when you don’t get a job, you can’t take it personal when you get rejected by a publisher or agent. It’s going to happen. No one that I know of has ever had a perfect submission rate.

Sure, acceptances are great, and I look forward to them just like anyone else. Yet, rejections keep you grounded, keeps you working hard. If you don’t have to work hard, you get complacent and lazy.

For me, thanks to a friend at work, I have a different perspective on the process. Each submission is a job application. When you think about it, that’s not too far off. You fill out an application with all of the pertinent information in order to get a job—a paying job.

When you submit a story, you edit and clean it up and you send it out in hopes of getting an acceptance, generally an acceptance that pays you. Just like a job. Sometimes you get the job, sometimes you don’t. Celebrate those times with your friends, shout it out to the world and bask in the glow of the acceptance. On the same token, celebrate the jobs you don’t get, don’t be ashamed of the rejections. If you can celebrate them, it makes it easier to deal with and easier to stay optimistic during those dry spells where acceptances are few and far between.

Here’s the trick: when you don’t get a job you want, don’t give up. Keep applying. Keep going to interviews. Keep putting your best foot forward. Eventually, you’ll get the job you want.

Do you see the similarities? Write. Edit. Submit. When you get a rejection, write, edit and submit again. You can’t give up because you get a rejection. If you do, you’ll never get an acceptance.

Until we meet again, my friends…

5 thoughts on “Applying For A Job In the Writing World

  1. I think this is a great conversation to have, AJ. I often don’t post those kinds of “failures” because I’m scared people will think I’m whinging, or that they’ll HAVE to console me or something (like I’m fishing for sympathy).

    But you’re so right. It is like applying for jobs. And we learn something occasionally from rejections.

    I think your stats are outstanding. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Pete, it’s all in how you post about it. If you post it like you’re wining, then people will feel you are. However, i believe that if you just state, simply, that you were rejected, then you aren’t wining at all.

      My latest post to a rejection I received tonight: Hmmm… Rejection number 7, though this one from a story I submitted last January. At least the response was a personal note and a nice one at that…

      It’s simple and not wining. Keep applying, Pete. Eventually, we all break through.


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