There are plenty of things in writing that don’t make sense. For example why is your favorite book not an international best seller? Or why is that book you just hate selling out in bookstores nationwide?
Those are questions we might not be able to answer. For some reason, some books, TV shows, or movies, are able to get the audience to make a connection with them. And once that connection is made, the product becomes a success.
This is true, regardless of the scale too. Whether it’s a major studio putting hundreds of millions of dollars into production, or a tiny indie film operating at a loss. If the target audience can connect with either the characters or the story, they’ll fall in love with the movie.
So this brings us to writing and publishing, short stories in particular. It doesn’t matter how original, thought out, or artistic, your story is when it come to getting an editor to accept it. What matters is whether or not your work can make a connection with person (or team) selecting the stories.
And it is totally subjective.
I have a story…let’s call it “Story A.” In my opinion, it is my best piece of fiction. I just received another rejection for it yesterday. And that was the thirtieth rejection for that piece. (Actually, the 29th, now that I think about it. It was accepted by a quarterly periodical a few years ago, but the magazine went out of business right before that issue was published.)
Either way, I just can’t get the dang story accepted anywhere. And I’ve tried pretty much everywhere, but for whatever reason that story (did I mention I consider it my best?) is just stuck in Form Letter City.
And while asking that question, let’s talk about “Story B.” This was a story that I was very certain wasn’t ready for prime time when I finished. But since I just couldn’t specifically identify the problems, I sent it out a couple of times. Much to my surprise, out of ten submissions, this story was shortlisted twice and received three personal rejections. And then it was accepted by a semi-pro site that accepts just under 1% of their unsolicited submissions.
So whatever it was about that story that connected with that particular editor was, I just don’t know. Obviously, I’m happen that connection was made, though.
That brings us to…
This is story that I don’t consider anywhere near my best work. It’s clearly not a terrible piece; it’s just not my best. I sent it to the publisher mentioned above, and it took them nearly six months to send the form letter. (The acceptance letter on my other story took five days.) After that, I sent it to a number of token sites and royalty-only anthologies. I just couldn’t get any love.
But then after 26 rejections, a semi-pro site I really respect (and one I figured I had no chance of ever getting published with) accepted it.
So what’s the moral of the story?
It’s just like I implied at the beginning of this post, everything is subjective. If you can just make the right connection with your target audience, they’ll buy what you’re selling. In writing, your initial target audience is an editor, publisher, or agent. The only thing you can do to hope you make that connection is research. If you can get a good sense of what type of work they accept and only send them that type of work, you can a least get a head start on the competition.
And for the record, I’m the same way when I’m on the other side of the screen. With my Theme of Absence submissions, I know what I like and what I don’t like. 90% of the things I accept fall within that “like” parameter. The other 10% are thing that shock me, such as an ending I didn’t see coming.
So if you’re going to take away anything from my rambling today, just remember this: Rejection is common and normal. It doesn’t mean anything other than that specific editor didn’t connect with your story and the best way to connect with your target audience (whether editor or agent) is to do the research and make sure that your story seems like a good fit.
What tips do you have for connecting to your target audience? Let us know in the comments section!