Thirty Reasons *YOUR* story was rejected

As the editor of a small press zine ten years ago, I naturally often get stopped in the street by people who ask me “Dear Ben, (people often inexplicably address me as though they’re writing letters), such-and-such editor has rejected my work. Why, Ben? Why???” Then they cry and run frantically from side to side.

I don’t have all the answers, of course. No, you’re too kind, really, I don’t have more than seventy-six percent. But I have spent a lot of time around well-known editors, eating their unfinished meals, going through their garbage, and so I thought I would share with you all some of my “tips” on what the common reasons for an editor to reject a story might be.

  • Your story is too long for the magazine.
  • Your story is too short for the magazine.
  • Your story is too much the right length for the magazine.
  • Your story begins with a consonant (this seemingly obvious one trips a lot of people up).
  • The editor is looking for more diversity
  • That’s too much diversity
  • Your story is great, but the editor has eleven stories on exactly that theme already, and twelve would be gauche.
  • You spelt your own name wrong
  • The magazine’s guidelines specify email-subs only, but you delivered your story as a thirty-seven-minute diatribe in an elevator at a convention.
  • Your story has no ending.
  • Your story has no beginning.
  • Your story has no ending, no beginning, and is filled with custard.
  • The editor has a sore foot and cannot concentrate.
  • The editor ate too much and is a little gassy and cannot concentrate.
  • The editor printed your manuscript out, but spilled honey on it and then a bear ate it and the editor is too embarrassed to tell you that they fed your manuscript to a bear.
  • Your story is exactly identical to a story the editor published last month, including font size, kerning, and magazine masthead.
  • You wrote an ill-advised blog post slagging off the editor’s mother.
  • You engaged in a lengthy debate in the comments about the editor’s mother.
  • You submitted your story in wingdings, because nobody puts baby in a corner.
  • The science in your story is implausible.
  • The science in your story is plausible, but the editor does not understand it.
  • The science in your story is plausible, the editor understands it, but they believe with scornful disdain that Joe Meat-Tray will not understand it and so advise you to write about lusty warlocks instead.
  • The warlocks in your story are implausible.
  • Your protagonist is unlikeable.
  • Really, the story was autobiographical? That’s unfortunate. 
  • No really, they’re so unlikeable. 
  • Maybe don’t write any more autobiographical stories.
  • Your story does not read the same forward as backward.
  • Your story was submitted as an attachment in a format the editor cannot open, such a link to a bizarre set of clues leading to a trapdoor and a boulder which chases the editor down a narrow tunnel to a set of poisoned darts and a monster with six arms and a pipe that blows smoke in their eyes.
  • Instead of sending your story to the magazine, you put it in a bag of rotting fish heads.

I trust this information has been of value.

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