Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Guest Post: Alex Shvartsman, W1S1 Participant

You found your way to, joined up, and are now writing more short stories than you have before. Congratulations!

But then all these pesky new stories begin to accumulate on your hard drive. They’re hanging out in the Documents folder like children who are all grown-up but couldn’t be bothered to move out of the house. It’s your job to crack the whip, and send the freeloaders out there, to look for homes.

When you are ready to submit a new story, make a list of the five markets you’d like to show it to. Having such a list will help remove ensure that you continue submitting your story right away if it doesn’t sell on the first try. Consider the guidelines, accepted lengths and genres when making your list. For example, a humorous fantasy story may have a chance at Andromeda Spaceways, but not at Apex.

Once you’ve sent out the submission, never keep tinkering with the story. Go write something else instead. If it’s rejected with some personal feedback that’s useful to you, then you might consider making changes – but it’s best to put the story out of your mind until then.

Don’t let the rejections phase you. Even the best short story authors collect more rejection slips than acceptances. As to the rest of us – let’s just say it’s a numbers game, and the numbers aren’t pretty. So when a story gets rejected, try to send it to the next market on the list within 24 hours. It’s efficient, and even takes some of the sting out of the rejection. Once you send it to the fifth market on your list, figure out your next five targets. Remember the Heinlein rule—keep submitting until the story sells, or until you’ve run out of viable markets.

And with new ‘zines popping up weekly, the latter may never happen.

I’m trying something different in 2012. In addition to my W1S1 goals, I have also set myself the goal of sending out at least 200 submissions this year. I arrived at this number by examining my 2011 submissions (150 total) and looking for a large but reasonable increase.

This metric has already been a boon to my process. I’m more aggressive about sending stories out into the cold, cold slush. I’m more active at researching new markets on Duotrope and elsewhere. But, most importantly, my mentality on receiving rejections has shifted from “Shucks, that form rejection means I should maybe sit on this story for a while and ponder whether it deserves to see the light of day again” to “Hey, sweet, I got my story back and can submit it somewhere else, adding to my total count!”

This is pure psychology. There’s no logical reason why I should feel differently about rejections by setting myself a tough submissions goal. But then, there’s no logical reason why joining a community like W1S1 helps you produce more short stories, and yet it does.

So, how many submissions would YOU like to commit to sending out this year?

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Alex Shvartsman is a writer and game designer. His adventures so far have included traveling to over 30 countries, playing a card game for a living, and building a successful business. Alex resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and son.


  1. After not even an honourable mention in a short story competition, your article has encouraged me to get back on track and submit to other outlets.

  2. I like your attitude, Alex, and agree wholeheartedly. Rejections don’t burn as bad if you can get your story out there again, and soon afterwards.

    Pesky, grown children...nice.


  3. The first time I began subbing--and this was with a novel, so simultaneous subs were part and parcel--I needed to force past that rejection sting. So I promised that for every "no" I got, I'd immediately send it to two new markets. (agents)

    While I never got the agent, I did get a house in the end, and probably even more significant, I learned how to ignore the reaction and push through it.

    Stubborn and determined is the game here.

  4. Great advice, Alex!

  5. Thanks, Alex.

    Very inspiring. Good luck with the 200!

  6. Alex - I love your post and I love your professional attitude. I have no submission targets myself this year (apart from W1S1), but I did briefly have more than 70 stories/poems on submission at one point last year. Perhaps I should try to hit 100 some time ...

  7. Sending stuff out then trying to forget about it while writing the next thing is excellent advice.

  8. Alex, I'll agree with all you said especially about those files growing on your hard drive. I use Sonar by Spacejock software - to track my subs (Sonar - get it). I've created some fake markets: idea, first draft, and critique group to track the story's status before subbing it. It also allows you to put in a link to the file on your system so you jump to editing very quickly. And it's free.

    I've heard that Duotrope will track things but I find it best to stay off the internet so there goes another hour.

  9. I think that's a fantastic way to keep yourself motivated. I think I'm going to have to add an X # of pieces submitted section when I set up my goals for next year :)

  10. Michelle makes a good point.

    Ah subs, you gotta love them. The more you get out the less the rejections wither your soul. I'm not sure how many I'm going to send out.

    I did around 300 last year. I like your immediate send out policy, Alex. I ought to do that.