Selling Vacuums Door-to-Door, Part Two

The blog post, Selling Vacuums Door-to-Door, has been my most-often read page to date. Perhaps it is because rejection is a universal issue among writers or anyone who is trying to market anything.

One aspect of rejection in the businessman’s speech that I did not address was how he also came to dread too many acceptances in a row. Remember, on average, he recieved one “yes” to his sales pitch for every nine “no’s.” Here’s the downside to averages: The salesman also realized that if he got three “yes’s” one after the other, he knew, because of his average, that he was in for a long dry spell of no sales at all. He would, most likely, have to get rejected for a sale twenty seven times before he sold another vacuum.

In the heady, intoxicating moments that come with selling a story it is easy to forget that it may be a while before selling another one. It doesn’t mean that the quality of the product has changed, but for one reason or another (maybe just the law of averages) the next few get rejected.

I think I am in the “too many acceptances in row” doldrums right now. When I first began my writing career (with the ink on my Writer’s Digest School’s’ Certificate of Completion practically still wet) I came out swinging for the bleachers. Right away I started targeting national print magazines and Bam! got an acceptance on my first try. That story went to Angels On Earth a Guidepost’s publication. Well, that was easy I said to myself. This writing thing is a snap!

Next, I targeted Woman’s World. One story got rejected, but the next one, Bam! sold.  I was so green I didn’t even realize what I’d done. I had no idea that writers sometimes work to get into national magazines for years without success.

Next, a friend asked me to help her with an assignment from Pregnancy magazine. I did and as easy as that, I got my third byline, this time in a national glossy magazine.

Call it a personality flaw, a quirk or just plain nuttiness, but I’m the kind of person who if something comes easy to me, I tend to de-value it.  If writing for national magazines was easy (it isn’t; I know that now) , there had to be something wrong with that. In my mind, if it was easy then it wasn’t “serious” writing.  I wanted to write serious, thought-provoking, deep novels. (I’ve since changed my mind on that too.)

Long story short, (or is it too late for that already?) I decided to go back to college. My writing career was put on hold. Not that I wasn’t writing in college. I was. Essays, lots and lots of essays and research papers. I only had time to write a few short-short stories during those four years and one of them, Before Paphos, got published at Strange Horizons.

That was in 2007. 2007. The last four years have been humbling, to say the least. (Of course, I had a baby in 2006 and she and my other child did take up a good deal of that time.) I’ve now lost count of all the rejections I’ve gotten from small and large print magazines and webzines.

I’m not letting this long dry spell discourage me. I just have to keep knocking on doors and surely another “yes” will come. I’m hoping it has to average out eventually.


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