Publishing, Writing Life


Screen Shot 2018-03-01 at 2.55.08 PM

Last semester, I wrote a story titled “Hunger” about the end of life. I took a chance and submitted the story to three top markets that were open at the time:

  • The Paris Review
  • AGNI
  • The New Yorker

I didn’t expect to get an acceptance from any of them, and in fact, have received rejections from the first two. These days, The New Yorker is so inundated that they don’t even guarantee a rejection anymore, form or personal. Rather, they ask that after 90 days, if you haven’t heard from them, you assume a rejection.

That day is tomorrow, and I’ve still heard nothing. It’s pretty safe, I think, to presume a rejection.

The Nature of Rejections

I’m not bothered by this, especially as I didn’t really expect these markets to accept a story from someone they would consider an unknown. Even with the publishing credits I have, I’d be surprised if my story was even read. So, why, you might wonder, did I bother sending it to them?

I think it’s almost as honorable to get a rejection from top markets as it is to get an acceptance because it’s proof that you tried. The trick is not to let rejections bog you down. For the stories I’ve had published, there were at least ten rejections on average before they were accepted.

Editors (and their assistants) might reject a story for a number of reasons:

  • It’s just not strong enough
  • It doesn’t fit their publication
  • They’ve recently published something similar or are planning to soon

None of these reasons are personal–not even the first. I’m going to prove it to you, so sit tight and keep reading.

Your Story Isn’t Strong Enough

“Hunger” is a pretty big tear-jerker, I think. Of course, I’m likely biased considering how close I am to the events of the story, but I’ve been told this by others who are unrelated. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. I haven’t looked at it since late November, but I’m sure I’ve learned new things that I could use to strengthen the text.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Then, I’m going to submit it to another market (or selection of markets depending on who is open for submissions at that time). Would I re-send it to the three markets above that don’t want it? No. Because their rejections are form or presumed, I don’t have the insight to know why “Hunger” didn’t grab their attention. I certainly don’t want a rep for wasting editors’ time–better to move on to other markets.

It Doesn’t Fit Their Publication

Okay, if this is the case, on your own head be it. If you’ve never read a publication you’re submitting to, then you shouldn’t submit to them unless they’re brand new and you have no access to their previous issues. Of course, sometimes it’s prohibitively expensive to get back issues of every publication you want to submit your own work to, but there are forums out there where you can get used copies from other folks.

Learn about what editors want, and then try to send them that. You might not always be on the same page, but don’t leave this up to guesswork.

The Editorial Calendar is Not Your Friend

If a publication has recently published a story just like yours and you missed it, well, that happens. Try to get your hands on more recent back issues if that’s feasible to determine if you’re sending them something fresh.

That said, sometimes stories are set for publication down the line and they’re of a similar topic to yours. The editorial team might not tell you if this is the case, so you might not know until months later you see that a story with the same theme as yours is printed in their publication.

There’s absolutely nothing you can do about this. Sorry, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Why Bother Submitting to Top Markets?

Why not? No pitchfork mob is going to show up at your door for doing such a thing. Besides, why not take pride in your work? I used to submit to smaller publications first and thought that someday, when I got good enough at writing, I’d be ready to submit to the larger, more well-known publications.

We call that fear, folks. Or at least a lack of confidence.

But here’s the thing–submitting to these publications probably lit a fire under me to make this story as strong as I could possibly make it. As I said, I might be able to strengthen it now, but when I sent it out in November, it was my best quality work. I could not have produced anything stronger with the knowledge and skill I possessed at that time.

You can always submit a story to other markets if it doesn’t get in with the big kids, and you’ll probably have a better chance of acceptance because you aimed high.

What Next?

I had a professor who recommended submitting a rejected story to another market within three days of receiving the rejection. This is a fantastic suggestion that, when I was actively writing and submitting before my MFA, I followed with strict adherence.

Now that I’m in school and working on so many projects, it may take more than three days to revisit “Hunger.” But, I will be submitting it elsewhere until someone accepts it. Some stories just have to be told.

Who Has Rejected Your Work?

If you’re an artist of any kind, you’re probably deeply familiar with rejections. Maybe you’ve received so many that they fill you with pride instead of shame (how it should be). So…who has said no to your work?



Book Cover of the Week: The King by Skye Warren

I love the damask-like pattern, and the compositional flow created by the chess piece. The gold pattern with the crimson title also conveys a regal quality. Click on the book cover to get the book. (I haven’t read it; I just like the cover.)

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 8.10.44 PM


Agency of the Month: The Aponte Literary Agency

The Aponte Literary Agency seems to seek, among other manuscripts, historical fiction. You can check out the agency at:

Reminder: I have not worked with or spoken with anyone at this agency. I’m sharing because it seems like a worthwhile agency to research if you have a manuscript to submit.


Book Cover of the Week: The Bones of Grace

I like this cover because of its colors, and the subtle flower and leaves detail on the left side. Overall, it has both an organic and inorganic feel to it, with a mixture of soft shapes and straight lines and boxes. Click on the picture to learn more about the book.


The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam


Fiction, Publishing

Moving Hybrid


In February 2017, my friend Ann Winters and I published the first installment of a serial work of science fiction called Hybrid. We had a lot of fun writing it and were eager to get it out into the world. But recently, Amazon made some changes to their treatment of authors that will make it necessary, come this October, to move Hybrid to another platform.

Chasing Authors Away

Why exactly are we leaving Amazon?

Before I answer that question, I want to give you an idea of how Amazon’s royalty schedule works here in the US. When you publish on Amazon–and I’m talking self-publishing here–you’re given the option to enroll in Kindle Unlimited, which allows users who subscribe to the service to read for free.

When you enroll, there are some stipulations:

  • You are then eligible for 70% royalties on sales of your item
  • You are eligible to receive a portion of royalties from the Kindle Unlimited fund
  • Your item must be published exclusively on Amazon for the entirety of the enrollment period (90 days)
  • You can renew or cancel your enrollment once the contract period ends

If you don’t enroll, you only get 35% royalties on sales of your item, and you’re not eligible to receive royalties from the Kindle Unlimited fund. You can publish your item anywhere you want, but you give up half of your royalties to do it.

Recently, Amazon changed the way they pay authors from the Kindle Unlimited fund so that authors receive a percentage based on the number of pages subscribers read, and how many of those pages are published by the author.

This means that if someone elects to read Hybrid, and they read everything but the last page, Ann and I might get $0.10 for that read instead of the $0.70 we’d get if they just bought our $0.99 short story. If we’re not enrolled in the program, we’d get $0.35, which is still better than $0.10. (That figure is an example; some months it could be more, some less. It’s calculated as a ratio dependent on how many pages are read in any given month.)

So what’s the problem? Amazon is getting the lion’s share of the money for Kindle Unlimited, and authors are doing the work to produce the product.

But wait, you might say, it’s Amazon’s website. They’re publishing it for you, providing you an ASIN, and handling all the sales and distribution. This is true. But if a user pays $9.99 a month and only reads Hybrid in that month, Ann and I might still only get the $0.10. So in that hypothetical example, Amazon is getting $9.89 off of our work and we’re getting $0.10.

See the problem?

Forget the fact that Ann and I then have to subtract taxes (that brings it down to $0.07), and then split that in two after any overhead such as cover design or social media ads. Basically, we’re paying to have people read our work.

We’d be better off publishing it on a free WordPress blog and letting folks read it for free. We’re not against sharing, and we’re not against just writing Hybrid to enjoy producing a series of short stories together.

What we are against is lining Amazon’s pockets with our hard work.

Disclaimer: Traditionally publishing and distributing to Amazon is a different beast altogether. I love Amazon for certain things. I have a Kindle (though I don’t subscribe to Kindle Unlimited because I’d rather support the authors. This is about independent and self-published authors getting hosed by a giant company.

Where do we go from here?

Hybrid: Part II is written, edited, designed, and ready to go. But we’re not publishing it yet because Hybrid: Part I is stuck in that 90-day contract with Amazon until early October. This isn’t a bad thing because it gives Ann and I time to decide where to go from here.

One option popular, especially for serial fiction, is Wattpad. The downside to Wattpad as I understand it is that you don’t get paid. As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t our primary goal, and we wouldn’t mind sharing the Hybrid stories for free, especially if it starts to build a readership. But it’s definitely worth considering.

Another option is to self-publish on other platforms, like B&N and iBooks. This could potentially get sales for us but I’m hesitant. What’s to stop them behaving as Amazon did and making money off of our creation while we effectively pay people to read it?

There are some publishing sites friendly to serial fiction, such as LeanPub. If we want to earn money and reach a broad audience, this is probably our best bet.

We can always make our own website and sell copies of the serialized short stories. This allows us to earn money, but we’d be reaching a potentially limited audience. While we’re grateful to friends and family who bought, read, and reviewed Hybrid: Part I, I’m not entirely certain this is our best bet.

Where I would consider our own website to be a boon would be if we were publishing installments on a blog. But again, that might result in a limited audience. Other sites might give us a broader reach for free distribution.

So, here’s what we need to consider:

  • Is making money on the Hybrid short story series important?
  • Do we want to reach a larger, broader audience?
  • Logistically, which option best suits multiple authors working together?
  • What are the costs, if any, incurred with publishing via these platforms? Do we need an ISBN, for instance?
  • Do we want to keep writing in short stories that are about 8,000 to 9,000 words long, or would we rather break it into smaller chapter-size chunks?

Another option not discussed here is to go the literary magazine route. However, I am leaning away from this myself because of how many parts there are to this serialized story. While each part is meant to stand alone, it might be confusing for readers to have to track through different literary mags.

Discuss it!

Which of these options would appeal most to you as a writer? As a reader? Have you tried any of these in either role? What did you like about it/them?

Let me know in comments! You might just sway Ann and me.