Written by A Guest Author February 29th, 2024

9 Things I’ve Learned from 121 Rejections

Isha Jain

When I started submitting to publications, my work was published thrice. I was only submitting to a few publications while studying, and I didn’t bother researching the market for more opportunities.

Last year, I took it seriously and started tracking all my submissions in an Excel file. I have to say, it is disheartening to enter a no every time you receive a rejection, and I got around 121 of those.

But still, you have to move on. Here are some of the things I have learned along the way.

Read through the publication archives 
I know it sounds tedious. And some have their work behind a paywall. But it is always a good idea to read, even a piece or two for gauging if your work would fit with the publication. 

Submit to publications with set themes or prompts 
They will get limited entries, and you will get the opportunity to flex your creative muscles and try something new. My last published piece was exclusive to the theme that the publication had set in their call. But even though it is good to experiment, don’t force yourself to do something you won’t enjoy. For example, I am not fond of writing science fiction. I generally steer away from it. But last month, I got inspired by a prompt and submitted a piece to the publication.

Submit anyway if they say they are open to new things 
If you are unsure, submit anyway if the publication says so. Don’t self-reject. The editors are always looking for something new. As long as you are following the guidelines, and not going completely off the track, submit.

Submit to calls with extended deadlines 
I have been on both sides of the publication. It usually means they have not received the quantity or quality of the writing that they were aiming for. You have increased chances of acceptance if you submit your best writing possible to the place.

Send to the ones with quick response time 
Whenever I have written a genre piece, I always start with places that can let me know quickly whether they would publish it and then move on to the ones with longer response periods. My logic is simple. What if it gets rejected by the latter and then accepted by the former if I do the opposite? It would be time wasted and spent in agony by me.

Submit to places that send back reviews 
Writers often tend to work in isolation and lose objectivity over their pieces. I am one of those too. If a publication offers to send reviews, first be grateful because they have to send out a ton. And then submit to them. Taking the review into account is your prerogative, but it never hurts to have a second opinion. I have taken some and worked on them to make my story better. But I have also disregarded some that didn’t go well with my idea.

As attached as we are to our writing, it is hard to grasp it may not be best for the market the publications cater to. You need to know where some of your writing fits. Not every short story or article you write might be ready for publishing. Only send your best possible work to the publication because everyone else will.

Don’t lose hope 
You will get published. Just keep trying. I pitched to Authors Publish before, and got rejected. So, I tried again till I had something that worked for them. Similarly, I have a list of publications that I want my work to feature in. And I would keep trying with them till that happens.

There is one more tip for those who want to get their work out there and don’t particularly care to get published in an established magazine.

Build your own distribution 
This may mean putting out the work that has not found a place where it was intended for, or writing specifically for your platform. But you can take this route if you do not have the patience for submissions. There are many ways to do so, including starting your blog, or YouTube channel or simply sharing your stories on social media platforms like Instagram. You can find an audience for your stories everywhere.

In the end, the only thing that will help you is to keep reading, learning, and writing to make your stories better.

Bio: Isha Jain is a writer based in India. Her work has been published by Colorismhealing, riddlebird magazine and Goethe Institute. She runs a Substack newsletter named The Indian Story.


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