I probably haven't been doing this long enough to make sweeping generalizations, but damn the torpedoes: sweeping generalizations ahead.
When submitting stuff to various markets, I've come to believe that there are some markets that "get you" and some that don't, if you know what I mean. Markets that seem to understand what you're trying to say, that understand what core idea you are trying to impart. And even if they don't accept the story, you don't feel necessarily that you've wasted either their time or yours.
With admittedly limited data points to draw from, one market that seems to get me is Necrotic Tissue. The first story I submitted to them was not only accepted, but – if you'll forgive the shamelessness – they said wonderful things about it. Flattering things. Things they really didn't have to say . . . though I'll be forever grateful that they did.
Of course, Necrotic Tissue is well known for offering reasons why they did or did not accept your work. But seriously, the things they said were very kind. I suspect it was because of this I became determined to be published by them again.
Not being one who writes a whole lot of Flash Fiction, I thought I'd stretch my wings a bit and try my hand at one of their patented 100-word "bytes." Had a couple rejected before they recently picked up my story "Adagio," which is slated to appear in the January 2010 issue.
Again, I'm extremely grateful, though I can't say I'm really surprised. I confess to feeling when I wrote it that this would be the one.
It wasn't that I was certain I wrote it that well, or did the best job I could of getting across the horror. But I did know instinctively that the core idea for the story was good. I was also confident from my prior experience with them that even if they didn't accept it, they would absolutely "get it." I'm pleased and humbled to report they did.
Which brings me to this . . . other market I've been attempting to crack.
Sent something along to them not long ago and had it rejected, but the editor was profuse with both his praise and his reasons for not accepting the story. It was obvious to me that he "got it," and I felt really good about that, anyway. I hadn't wasted his time. So, like Necrotic Tissue, I was determined to keep at it. They'd break down eventually.
Now (and again, not to be too shameless) the next story I sent them might be the best story I've ever written, with a core idea I've never seen before. Unlike my accepted 100-worder from Necrotic, I had no doubt that this would be the story for them, that the editor who had been so kind in his rejection would absolutely "get" this one. I knew he and I were simpatico.
So there I was, this past Sunday afternoon, feeling very smug about myself.
"A Truck Story" was sitting at #14 on the Amazon bestseller list for the Sports genre. Names like P. G. Wodehouse, Dick Francis, Frank Deford, and Rick Reilly were ahead of me, but there I was. Earlier that same afternoon, someone left a wonderful review of the story on Amazon. Within the hour, someone else would tell me they thought one of my blog posts was "brilliant." So yeah, I was feeling really good about myself . . .
and then my e-mail bleeped. The market I'd been trying to crack would not be accepting my story after all.
Like Necrotic, they are known for offering criticism and advice about why they didn't accept the story. But this e-mail did not come from the editor who'd rejected me a few months ago, the one I'd felt so simpatico with. This one came from . . . another guy.
After beginning with some perhaps warranted, if somewhat nitpicky criticism about the writing style ("too much back and forthiness . . .") he went on to say his biggest problem was with the core idea for the story itself, the one I'd thought so brilliant (and frankly, that had blown trusted beta readers out of the water.)
And though I'm not in the least comparing my puny effort to these, it was as if he said:
"I'm sorry Mr. Stoker, but a half-human creature that sucks blood? Really?"
"Ms. Shelley, I'm afraid I simply cannot believe that lightning could resurrect a body . . ."
"Birds, Ms. Du Maurier?"
I'm smiling as I type this, but yeah, that's exactly what it read like. The guy (who apparently reads horror for a living) could not, for whatever reason, suspend his disbelief and simply go with it.
And thus ends my attempt to crack that particular market. I know now that they just don't "get" me.
But I know this much for certain . . . either he is very, very wrong or I simply have no idea what I'm doing.
The jury's still out.