Let’s talk about publishing: contracts

New small presses explicitly targeting the furry market have been springing up over the last few years, while some of our older presses have been producing more titles. Meanwhile, the number of furry authors has grown steadily. Submission calls that might have received only a couple dozen submissions even three years ago receive three or four times that in mid-2016.

As fantastic as this growth is, the furry publishing scene is still tiny. Not only do writers know each other, writers tend to know publishers and vice-versa. For the most part, we’re all friends with one another, and we’re all figuring out this “creating a market” thing as we go. As far as I know, all the editors and publishers in furrydom became editors and publishers by fiat; some of us might have worked at college presses, but I’m not aware of anyone who worked for a major fiction publishing house or periodical, even as a slush reader. A lot of business gets conducted in…let’s call it a relaxed fashion.

As it turns out, “handshake contracts” are surprisingly common in the literary small press world, particularly poetry journals that pay in contributors’ copies rather than money, to the point where there’s a de facto industry standard for it. But when money changes paws, it’s important for both parties to nail down exactly what they expect of one another.

So let’s talk about contracts. What a publishing contract should do is fairly straightforward:

  • Define the rights the author grants the publisher. In most cases, these are first publication rights—the story hasn’t been published anywhere else, including archive sites like Fur Affinity—with limited exclusivity: after an amount of time given in the contract passes, the author can publish the story somewhere else that accepts reprints. A six-month period of exclusivity is typical. (Note that magazines buy serial rights, but books and anthologies buy rights to a geographical region: North American rights, World rights, etc. You’re free to sell the book again to other publishers outside that geographical region; this is why novels often have different publishers in the US and Europe.)
  • Define the amount the publisher is paying for those rights, how they’re paying it (check, Paypal, doubloons, etc.), and when they’re paying it. If you’re being paid by the word, the total amount you’re being paid should be specified here. Some contracts specify payment on acceptance; many specify it on publication. In either case, the contract should give a window (“within 30 days of publication”).
  • Cover appropriate electronic and subsidiary rights. If the contract allows the publisher to archive your work indefinitely on a web site, do you have the right to withdraw it after a certain length of time? If this is a novel, are you granting the publisher rights to produce the ebook? (Some authors, like Kyell Gold, self-publish their ebooks.) What about any other subsidiary rights, like audiobooks?
  • Give the publisher a deadline, so they can’t sit on the work indefinitely (“if the publisher fails to produce Great Furry Stories within one year of the execution date of this contract, rights revert back to the author”).
  • Guarantee approval over content editing changes. The publisher should be able to fix spelling errors without running them by you, but not change your grizzled Vietnam vet protagonist to a twelve-year-old kid.
  • In furry, it’s not unheard of for authors to end up paying for art out of their own pocket and have the publisher repay them. If you do this, get the reimbursement amount of the art in the contract, too, even if it has to be a single-paragraph addendum.

What a publishing contract shouldn’t do is also straightforward: it shouldn’t take any more rights than necessary, and it shouldn’t leave anything significant undefined. If the answer to “when do I get paid” or “when can I sell reprint rights to this story or put it up for my fans on FA” isn’t answered by the contract, there’s a problem. And it shouldn’t ask you to assign exclusive rights in perpetuity. (Carefully consider assigning even non-exclusive rights in perpetuity, especially for a flat rate.)

The SFWA Model Magazine Contract runs 8 pages, but there’s extensive annotation explaining each clause—and a few somewhat unusual clauses. In practice, most publishing contracts, at least for magazines and anthologies, don’t need to run more than a couple pages.

If you’re concerned about a clause in a contract, ask. If you’d like a clause changed, bring it up with your publisher and explain why. Contracts are negotiations, not “take it or leave it” propositions. And if a publisher insists on a clause you’re worried about, bring it up with the Guild. We may not be able to negotiate on your behalf, but we can let other members know about potential issues.

And one more thing. Contracts should be signed before work starts. Before the publisher sends the author any money, before the publisher starts going back and forth with the author on editorial changes, and for the love of Judy Hopps, before the publication goes on sale. If your story is a month away from publication and you haven’t seen a contract, ask the publisher. Better yet, ask when it’s two months away.

I suspect the advice in this column may make some publishers tear their fur out, and I’m sorry. But I’ve been sent contracts when—or even after—books and magazines went on sale. Sometimes I’ve never received a contract. As far as I can tell, my experience isn’t unusual. The more the furry publishing scene grows, the greater chance being lackadaisical has of causing serious problems for publishers, writers, or both.

Because we are all friends with one another, this subject can be hard to talk about. But getting contracts right helps everyone, publishers and writers alike.

I’ll talk about other considerations for publishing in other articles, including marketing, production and editorial. These are good for writers to know—and it’s good for writers if publishers know them, too.

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Guest post: “Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors – Part 4: Twitter” by Patrick “Bahumat” Rochefort

Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors: Part 4

 

 

This week, we’re once again looking at major advertising channels I’ve used in promotion of my webserial “From Winter’s Ashes“, and analyzing them one by one for the ROI and needs of an author and publisher. Today’s focus is one of a kind, with 316 million active users, Twitter!
 

The first thing out of the gate that I REALLY liked about advertising with Twitter was the very comprehensible targeting. Of course you had your usual demographics analysis, but there was some spectacular other options, like: “Advertise to your followers” and “Advertise to the followers of the people you list here”, the latter option was FANTASTIC for targeting. If you know the twitter handles of, say, five or ten authors who write things like you do, targeting their followers means that you’re probably planting on fertile ground.

The next thing that I liked was that Twitter encouraged you to have more than one tweet as an advertisement. If you want a great experiment in honing your pitches to 140 characters and below, this is a fantastic exercise. I created four tweets that advertised the story, and saw some very different response rates from each of them, which I’ll detail further down this article.

 
We’ll begin this week with the raw statistics, this time provided in a big beautiful infographic here: http://i.imgur.com/0W9Abfz.png
 
Budget: $35.00
 
Days: 7 ($5.00/day)
 
Impressions: 43,800
 
Clicks: 27 / 92* –> 27 clicks directly through to site. Retweets, favorites, or clicking on the “WebCard” of From Winter’s Ashes resulted in upping that total to 92 interactions.
 
CTR: 0.06% / Engagement Rate: 0.22%
 
CPC: $1.30
 


Analysis:
 
 

Overall, $35.00 bought me 43.8k impressions, with (27/92)* clicks. Why the asterisk? 27 of those clicks were directly to the site, while the total of 92 included people who went to my Twitter, clicked on the website card, favorited, or retweeted. Twitter does some pretty good granularity that way, but they don’t always explain it well.

Overall click-through rate: 0.06%. Devastatingly low. This is one-fifth the rate that Reddit offered me. On the upside, I served a lot of impressions, but overall it’s clear that on Twitter, people generally don’t want to click ads, even less so than they want to on other sites.

Engagement rate: 0.22%. Not terrible, here, when we factor in people engaging with the tweet or otherwise interacting with it. As we’ve covered in prior entries, 0.2-0.4% is the average you’ll find most non-targeted advertisement fall into. The fact though that this was targeted advertisement, is another black mark on Twitter for adverts.

And finally, our almighty Cost-per-click: $1.30. Pricey. I’m paying Facebook cost-per-clicks for a response rate that’s considerably lower. The impression rate is pretty awesome, which is nice for building brand awareness, but overall if people aren’t clicking, they aren’t buying.

I wouldn’t use Twitter again unless my goal was new brand establishment, or to bring in a wave of new eyes and awareness on a story product.

 



By the tweet:

So this was a part of Twitter advertising that was really, really valuable for me. Finding out which tweet I wrote had the most engagement, and drew the most interested eyes to the story.

My top performer, at 0.25% engagement rate: “Does the necromancer who butchered her husband and son deserve a Detective’s justice, or a mother’s revenge?”

In retrospect, it’s an obvious choice. It’s powerful, engaging, leaves the reader with a compelling question, and people clicked through a little more there than any other one. As a result, I’ve included the line in other marketing and synopsis of the story since.

Tied for 2nd place, at 0.22%:

“Heather Blackthorne once hunted down necromancers, until one hunted down her family. Now he’s come hunting for far more.”
“From Winter’s Ashes – A Detective with nothing left to lose, against a Necromancer with the world to gain.”

And my last-place finisher, in 4th, at 0.19%:

“In a world where everyone possesses magic, a Detective seeks justice on the Necromancer that butchered her family.”

 


 

In conclusion:

Twitter, at this expense level per engagement, is probably prohibitively expensive for a webserial’s conversion rates. The ability to finely target other authors followers is very nice, but is countered by the fact that Twitter users are particularly ill-inclined to engage with advertisement there.

The only uses Twitter will have for a webserial’s and publishers economics may be starting up a new brand/story, getting people interested in a new book or e-book release, and generally getting your brand name out there. If so, I would recommend including your name in the tweet, so that even if the title doesn’t stick, your name hopefully does.

I won’t use Twitter again for From Winter’s Ashes, I think, but if nothing else, the $35.00 spent was valuable to see, in stark statistical payout, what one-line summaries of the story were more effective at hooking people.

Guest post: “Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors – Part 3: Facebook” by Patrick “Bahumat” Rochefort

Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors: Part 3

 


For the next few parts, we’re going to look at major advertising channels I’ve used for my webserial “From Winter’s Ashes” and analyze them one by one for the ROI and needs of an author and publisher. Today’s focus is one of the busiest sites in the world, Facebook!
 
Facebook advertising is extremely cagey about presenting its stats in a standard advertising way, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in me. However, the response results weren’t terrible:
 
My response rate was 32 interactions out of 1055 impressions, which translates into 3% CTR. Compared to Reddit and Google, there’s definitely a LOT more engagement per impression. 
 
Almost 90% of those engagements came from Mobile users, which means that if you’re going to use Facebook for a webserial or author’s, make *absolutely* sure that your site works well on mobile devices. Mobile devices are taking the internet by storm, make absolutely sure your website is presentable to them in mobile format.
 
User demographics were particularly revealing:
 
18–24
5 Likes
261 Impressions
$1.19 Cost per Like
$5.95 Total Spent
 
25–34
3 Likes
242 Impressions
$2.18 Cost per Like
$6.55 Total Spent
 
35–44
7 Likes
263 Impressions
$1.04 Cost per Like
$7.26 Total Spent
 
45–54
9 Likes
168 Impressions
$0.93 Cost per Like
$8.34 Total Spent
 
55–64
8 Likes
121 Impressions
$0.86 Cost per Like
$6.86 Total Spent
 
 
Gender Breakdown:
 
Female: 
22 Likes 
709 Impressions 
Cost per page like: $1.09 
Engagement 3.1%
 
Male: 
10 Likes 
336 Impressions 
Cost per page like: $1.08 
Engagement 2.9%
 
 
Country Breakdown:
 
Canada: 1 Like, 134 Impressions
United Kingdom: 3 Likes, 257 Impressions
United States: 28 Likes, 665 Impressions
 
 
Device Breakdown:
 
All 32 engagements were on mobile devices. No Likes at all occurred on PCs. 
 
25 of the 32 likes came from Android smartphones.
 

Analysis:

The numbers provided are of a limited and low-confidence sample base. As such, some interesting artifacts of data are easy to dismiss as error bars, while other insights provide reliable feedback on the performance of Facebook ads.

The biggest surprise to me was the gender disparity in engagement on Facebook. More than twice as many women as men are clicking on From Winter’s Ashes, despite the advertisement being deliberately as gender-neutral as possible. Facebook simply engages women much more than men.

Age of engagement wasn’t as surprising: Facebook appeals to an older demographic, and that shows. While they’re more likely to have disposable income, they are less likely to engage in modern payment methods, such as PayPal and Patreon. Of the 32 Likes, only two resulted in conversions to Patreon clicks. None of them became Patrons.

Of greater value in this advertisement, if not financially, was that 32 people with Likes on Facebook are 32 people who see each update notice posted to Facebook. (Ideally. As some have noted, Facebook is notoriously bad for playing silly buggers with this.)

Demographically, specific to the story itself, engagement was especially high with Christian women of color ages 40-65, with notable spikes in engagement in Alabama and Ohio. Facebook gives you some incredibly in-depth analysis of your advertisement successes. They know a LOT about you, and they’re not shy about sharing it (in aggregate).

Monetarily, the higher expense of a Facebook Like will only trade off if you’re using Facebook effectively to engage your audience. Your content will definitely matter; Facebook demographics overall are skewed towards women ages 35+. If you believe your content would appeal to that demographic, Facebook might work for you.

Overall, I’m not sure that Facebook’s high cost-per-engagement is a fit for From Winter’s Ashes, or most webserials. I’m wondering if most of my readers are, in fact, engaging the story with mobile devices. (If so, then designing for mobile presentation is critical.) The CPC is, of course, miles and miles too high for the business model of most publishing sites. But it’s a great way to get repeat engagements with customers down the line. I could see Facebook working if you’re already an established author with multiple titles for sale and more in the pipeline.

 

Guest post: “Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors – Part 2: Reddit” by Patrick “Bahumat” Rochefort

Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors: Part 2

 

 

For the next few parts, we’re going to look at major advertising channels I’ve used for my webserial “From Winter’s Ashes” and analyzing them one by one for the ROI and needs of an author and publisher. Today’s focus is the popular web 2.0 social/news aggregator, Reddit!
 
 
Advertising on Reddit:
 

Here’s what my marketing campaign on “From Winter’s Ashes” looks like on Reddit right now. I’m currently advertising in /r/Fantasy, and I’m at 89% of the campaign budget’s run as of today. I decided to see what gambling a modest $10.00 would look like advertising this way, and here’s my results.

Budget: $10.00 (the minimum)
Impressions Purchased: 10,000
CPM: (Cost per thousand impressions): $1.00
Impressions Delivered: (to date) 8890
Clicks: 17
CTR: 0.191%
CPC: $0.52
 
Analysis: The click-through rate of this advertising campaign is mildly disappointing, call it a C grade. More concerning, however, is the CPC. 
 
While $0.52 is, in fact, a very reasonable CPC for most advertising? I have to compare that against the performance of my website:
 
Conversion rate 0.02% (abysmal), average income per conversion $1.00. (That’s one conversion in 1823 unique visitors.)
 
I’d need a CPC of only $0.00055 right now just to break even. One THOUSAND times better performance just to break even.
 
If, however, I could add an ebook onto my website for sale, and turn that conversion rate to 2% and an average income of conversion of $4.85? My CPC break-even bar becomes $0.097. So anything below a $0.10 CPC and I’d be breaking even, really.  
 
What if I really went snazzy with my site, though, and brought it up to the standard like Tor.com or Amazon.com enjoyed, of 10% conversion rate, at the same cost? Then, and only then, would the CPC I’m paying begin to make sense, at a per-conversion income of $4.85 off of a $6.00 sale.
 
Thus, Reddit advertising is far too expensive for my current business, from an ROI standpoint. 
 
However, there are some nice advantages to Reddit advertising:
 
1. The CPC is very reasonable, and I can target my advertising to a particular subreddit, allowing me to target users in a meaningful way based on their interests.
2. The advertisement includes a little bit of graphical space, and is presented top-center on the page, which makes it hard to miss or ignore.
3. Interactivity. People can comment directly on your advertisements and engage you, as an author. Handy for starting conversations that convert the curious into the committed.
 
Disadvantages:
 
1. The AdBlock rate on Reddit is much higher than the general internet, with the average block rate being 55%, with some subreddits seeing 85-90%(!) of ads blocked.
2. Lead-in time. Unlike other websites, Reddit inventories advertisements by the subreddit. I had to wait 23 days until my advertisement began to show. Unless you’re planning well in advance of your event, Reddit might not fit well for your marketing plan.
 

Guest post: “Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors – Part 1” by Patrick “Bahumat” Rochefort

Advertising Statistics and ROI for Authors: Part 1

 
In a past career and under current contracts, I’m responsible for the advertising analysis of clients and customers. As a small business owner and operator, making sure that my dollars spent pay back in sales is critical for me. In this series, I’m going to dissect and analyze my paid advertising efforts for my current webserial, From Winter’s Ashes.
 
I advertised the WebSerial through three major channels of online targeted advertising: 
 
Reddit – 170 million users, offers targeted advertising by subreddit. In this case, /r/Fantasy with a user base of 83,750 readers, with a peak daily readership of ~1300.
Facebook – 1.5 billion users, 1.1 billion active users.
Twitter: 316 million active users.
 
My methodology on this analysis involved making minimum advertising commitments to each advertising channel. Each represents the minimum financial commitment through advertising on that channel:
 
Reddit: $10, for a month-long campaign on modestly populated subreddit.
Facebook: $35, at $5/day for a week. 
Twitter: $35, at $5/day for a week.
 

Understanding your key metrics for advertising your writing and determining the cost effectiveness:
 
1. Impressions. How many times was your advertisement served? Chances are good that actual human eyeballs didn’t see them. (Thanks, AdBlocker). Depending on the website, 35%-85% of users block ads. Young markets with tech-savvy users block ads much more.
2. Clicks / “Engagements”. How many times was one of your advertisements actually interacted with?
3. Engagement rate: What percentile of your ads served resulted in an interaction? (For Search advertising, 3% is a good target. For display advertising, 0.3% is a solid average.) So per thousand impressions, expect an average of 30 clicks on Search advertising like Google, and 0.3% on display advertising like Reddit/Facebook/Twitter.
4. Cost Per Click (CPC). The core metric in any advertising campaign: Divide the cost of your campaign by the number of times the ad was interacted with. That’s what you paid per click. 
5. Conversion rate: What percentage of visits to your website, overall, resulted in income?
6. Conversion income: What’s the average income that a conversion supplies you?
7. AIpV / Average Income Per Visitor: On average, how much money do you make per click on your website?
8. ROI-A: Return on investment on your advertising. Realistically, 10-20% is a good target. Most ads, if they’re profitable at all (most aren’t), will return only 10-20% more in additional sales than the advertising cost you. The best campaign I’ve ever run for a client returned a 310% ROI, but that was a finely tuned Google Search ad campaign for a regional, limited-supply professional service. 
 
Be aware that some advertisers (Facebook) will obfuscate their metrics or want you to use their own interaction metrics, which can make it very difficult to determine to industry standards some of these metrics. If you plan to make a serious advertising campaign on one of these advertisers, spend extra time learning what metrics will matter, and look to professional advertiser forums for appropriate targets for your campaign there.
 
 
How to determine if your advertising campaign for your writing will be profitable (MATH TIME):
 
1. Look up your own website’s conversion rate. (If you don’t know, divide your number of transactions on your site in a month by the number of unique visitors in a month. Google Analytics can help you determine this.)
2. Determine your conversion income. (Divide your monthly income from your site by the number of paying customers on your site.)
3. Divide your conversion rate by your conversion income. 
4. Look up the average CPC on the advertising channel. 
5. Compare that against your AIpV. 
 
Chances are distressingly good that your advertising campaign will not be profitable. Sorry. Just because it won’t be profitable doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be useful, however. When building a name or a brand, having a lot of Impressions hitting eyeballs consistently can help build your brand awareness, and get your name to stick in people’s minds.
 

A sample advertising campaign, using plausible numbers:
 
Author writes a book titled “FooDog Generic Fantasy”, and sells it directly from their own website as well as through other distribution channels. It’s a nice book! It’s got great cover art, a solid synopsis with plenty of hooks, and the pricing is well within market norms for a genre book.
 
Author decides they want to advertise their book. The Author has a choice between two fundamentally different kinds of online advertising: Search Advertising, and Display Advertising. Search advertising displays when someone searches for a related search term that the Author specifies. Display advertising shows to (potentially) just anyone visiting a site/network.
 
Because the product is a book with a specific title, Author wisely decides that people aren’t likely to be searching for their book by name if they don’t know about it. The title of their fabulous book is “FooDogs Generic Fantasy”, and Author rightly determines that almost nobody will do a Google Search for the nonsense term “FooDogs” unless they already know about the book anyway, and the words “generic” and “fantasy” aren’t going to be useful search terms. (Google will agree with them, and degrade or decline their advertising.)
 
So Author wisely decides to advertise FooDog Generic Fantasy on display ads, instead. Author is hopefully either decent with art design, or else they’ll be paying someone else for nice artwork for their ads. If Author is going to do it themselves, Author needs to know the technical specifications of the display advertising on their channel, such as resolution of image, size limits, file formats, and form factors. Author will also have to invest the time (10-30 minutes per channel) setting up their user accounts to advertise. 
 
It takes Author 1 hour to make their own art to their satisfaction, and Author spends 30 minutes setting up their first advertising campaign, researching, and implementing the ad, and another 30 minutes tuning it to their target: Readers who would plausibly enjoy and be interested in FooDog Generic Fantasy. Author knows not to waste their money advertising to people who would prefer to read Wartime Specific NonFiction, so they ensure their ads go where they’d be most effective.
 
Author makes a $35 investment in one weeks’ worth of advertising, and is down 2 hours of labour.
 
After week’s worth of waiting and tweaking, Author’s results come in:
 
Impressions: 35,000
Clicks: 105
Engagement Rate: 0.3%
Cost per Click: $0.33
 
Author’s results from this advertising campaign are firmly average for a Display ad campaign. So, the advertiser is delivering pretty average results on the internet. Not great, not terrible. 
 
Next, Author goes to their own website, to track their statistics:
 
Visitors last week: 105
Conversions: 3
Visitors this week: 210
Conversions: 7
 
Conversion Rate: 3%. (Firmly average for retail sales online. Not great. Not terrible.)
 
Author sells FooDog Generic Fantasy eBook for a retail price of $6.00. Of that $6.00, $4.85 is the Author’s profit after taxes and fees. 
 
Since this is all that the Author currently sells on their site, calculating the average income per conversion is easy: $4.85.
 
Author’s advertising campaign ostensibly brought in 4 additional customers, for a net benefit of $19.40. 
 
The ROI-A on this advertising campaign, therefor, is -45%. Ouch! 
 
BUT.
 
While it cost the author money out of pocket to commit to this advertising, it teaches the Author a few valuable lessons about their own website’s offerings: 
 
1. Author’s advertising campaign was average, it was middle of the road, it was unremarkable. It worked. It was not a failure. By every metric the professionals care about, the ad did what it was supposed to do.
2. Author’s website sucks at making them money. 
3. Author paid only $15.60 (net) to double their site traffic for a week, and put their name and brand awareness into the minds of 105 additional customers. That’s about $0.15 per potential customer, and that isn’t counting the number of people who saw Author’s name and advertising and had it stick in their minds.
 
If Author had, say, a second and third book to offer on their website for sale, that average income per conversion might rise from $4.85 to $7.50 as readers found interesting looking titles to buy. In this case, Author would still be losing money, but they would be losing only $5.00 for the same advertising and brand marketing benefit.
 
The better your website is at making conversions of visitors, the more effective your advertisement will be. We’ll see in part 2 my personal experiences with advertising channels, and why controlling your CPC (and, more importantly, improving your conversion rate and income-per-conversion) matters for an author.
 
 

Chat with a Big Five production editor this Saturday, July 25!

Mark your calendars and set your alarms! Thanks to one of our members, we’re going to be having a special chat in our forums this Saturday, July 25, at 6 PM Eastern with Jennifer Tait, a senior production editor at one of the Big Five publishers.

As a senior production editor, Ms. Tait deals with the book after it’s been accepted, so she doesn’t have anything to do with reviewing submissions. That said, this is a great opportunity to get a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at the traditional publishing world and the aspects of the publishing process that she handles, and I’m very grateful that she’s agreed to come chat with us.

Many thanks to FWG member Bill “Greyflank” Kieffer for suggesting and arranging this. I’m hoping this will be the first of many guest chats we’ll have in future months and years.

Again, the chat will be Saturday, July 25 at 6 PM Eastern, in the forum shoutbox as usual. (If you’re not registered on the forums, you’ll need to register in order to see the shoutbox.) With Ms. Tait’s permission, I’ll also see about posting a transcript in the forums afterward, for the benefit of those who aren’t able to be on at the time. And if you can’t be there and want to leave a question for her, you can ask it here.

See you in the shoutbox on Saturday!

Guest post: “A Tale of Two Rejections” by Ocean Tigrox

A Tale of Two Rejections

by Ocean Tigrox

 

Once upon a time, there were two aspiring writers, Stanza and Prose. Both had aspirations of someday being published, and together they began sending off submissions to various publishers. Stanza was successful, receiving an acceptance on their first story! They quickly began drafting up their second story to send off. Prose, unfortunately, was met with a kind rejection letter. Disappointment hit them hard as they took their lumps, pushed their chin up and tried again. The second round of letters came back with similar results. Once again, Stanza succeeded in having another work accepted. Clearly their first time hadn’t just been just a stroke of luck. Meanwhile, Prose found themself sighing at a second rejection letter. What went wrong this time?

This cycle repeated a few times. Stanza submitted more, being accepted each time; Prose became more disappointed with each new rejection. As this continued, Stanza became empowered, feeling invincible. Anything they wrote was gold and always came back with a happy congratulatory note from the editor. Prose continued to struggle through each deemed failure, learning how to improve with every submission’s iteration.

One day the cycle broke. Upon opening a letter from another editor, Stanza nearly choked on their coffee when they read words that they had never seen before: “We’re sorry, but your story was not selected.” Preposterous, they thought. An editor clearly made a mistake. But, no, that was their story in the explanation below about why it was not selected. The editors had found issues with the main character and decided against accepting the story.

Doubt filled Stanza’s mind. They were invincible. How could this happen? Unless, they thought, the other times really had been flukes. Maybe the accepted stories had just been filler or just barely squeaked in. Maybe Stanza wasn’t as talented a writer as they had originally believed. After all, talented writers don’t get rejected, do they? Lost and confused about their own skill as a writer, Stanza put away their writing, unsure if they should submit another story.

Things were quite the opposite with Prose. They awoke the next day to find their first acceptance letter. Tears overwhelmed them as they read the editor’s glowing notes about the submitted story. After wading through rejection after rejection, continuing to push through and not stop, their hard work and perseverance paid off. Their treasure was well deserved. After telling their friends and family, what better way to celebrate than to write another story?

Prose would go on to find more stories being accepted. Occasionally a rejection letter still found its way to their mailbox, but it never had the same effect on Prose that it once had. They took the criticism and moved on, just like they had done before. Stanza, on the other hand, struggled for a long time before picking the pen back up. It had taken a lot of willpower to pull themselves back together after falling so far. They found the motivation to write again, and although they had their share of rejection letters that still came, acceptance soon returned. Their confidence soon resumed, though this time with a small bit of humility.

Is this just a fairy tale? Some writing allegory? Not quite. This is actually based on a true story (though slightly exaggerated). If you’ve listened to the Fangs and Fonts podcast, you may already know that this happened to two writers in my writing group. Some of you may know them as FWG members Roland Jovaik and Tarl “Voice” Hoch. They both experienced acceptance and rejection, but both ended up handling them differently. Neither of them did anything wrong. Prose, like most new writers, had to struggle and climb higher with each new submission until they finally achieved victory. Stanza on the other side managed to knock it out of the park on the first try. This isn’t common, but it happens. Still, rejection found them both eventually, and they were forced to confront the inevitability that all writers experience. The moral of this story is that although they dealt with their rejections differently, they both pushed through and went back to writing.

The one thing missing from this story is the support of other writers. We need to be there for each other. Something I’ve seen lately is people congratulating new writers on their first rejection. This may be a weird event to see from the outside, but what we’re really saying is “Congrats on taking your first serious step in becoming published” or “Congrats on the achievement”. It takes guts to send your story out into the aether and have an editor you don’t know reject it. It hurts. And recently, I found it hurts being the editor having to reject people, too!

Rejection doesn’t feel good for anyone, but it’s inevitable within our craft. Be ready when it comes. Don’t worry, each one gets easier to take, and it’ll all be worth it when you get that glowing acceptance one day.