I decided to write about some numbers about receiving rejections after I saw this tweet:
Writers don't share every rejection, only the acceptances, so I expect most of us probably have very skewed ideas about each other's levels of success.— Jonathan Louis Duckworth (@Joduckwo) April 6, 2022
I don’t have any problem showing how many rejections I get for the poems I’m submitting to journals, drawing on statistics I have available through Duotrope. When I tweet or post on Facebook about something of mine making it all the way to publication, it probably sounds as though I can just do anything and have an editor take it, just the way the tweet I quoted above says. I went through my submission records going back three years to produce some graphs to give you an idea of what things are like. Over this time I made 841 submissions (of course most pieces of writing were submitted multiple times) and had 117 of them accepted, either online or in print. All of the acceptances were first-time publications (nothing was reprinted).
Although I’d been submitting my work from long before this three year span, the last couple of years have been a lot more busy than previously. The first graph shows how the number of submissions has been growing from practically zero at the beginning to over forty a month. It has been a time when I was concentrating on my verse and mostly taking a break from prose.
Duotrope tells me that my overall acceptance rate, around 20% for the last twelve months, is higher than the average rate for other people submitting to the same places I’m targeting. Most of the places I submit work to are not paying markets, and the ones that have paid for a piece have all paid less than $20 US for the work. Last year the amount of cash my writing brought me was less than $100 US. Fortunately I don’t have to make a living this way.
I found a wide variation between different publications concerning how long you can expect to wait for an answer, which in some cases might be just a few days while others will take over a year. So those rejection numbers for the last few quarters can still go up as the grey bars shrink and the orange bars grow. In the first three months of this year, 77.8% of everything I sent out was rejected. Even when I was out repairing furniture, not attaining what I consider notable success, the negative response to what I was doing wasn’t that high. I don’t know what other writers find, but would not be surprised to find out that a lot of other active poets see something similar, and either push through it to get to those acceptances, or stop writing after a while. If you are a writer, does this seem like a lot? Is it something that you are prepared to accept, and what would you do to maintain a healthy image of what you are doing? I would really like to know, so if you could drop a comment in the Disqus box below, or contact me in another way, I’d like that very much.comments powered by Disqus