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(Just out of curiousity, in Stephen King's book "On Writing" did he happen to mention how many rejection slips he got early in his career? Dozens? Hundreds?)

He talks fairly extensively about the rejection process, and from what I recall, he received a LOT of them -- enough to fill up one of those paper spikes and then some.

If I start with Analog and work my way down to Joe Blow, it'll take longer, but at least then I'll know it wasn't worthy/appropriate for the others.

That's a good point, and obviously it's up to you how you want to approach it, but my personal goal is to get some type of movement happening as soon as possible.

Momentum is your friend, and nothing can kill it quite like a flurry of writing then rejection slips and no publications for a year or two.

When I wrote my first magazine article, I submitted it on a Monday and got a call from the editor on Wednesday saying they wanted to publish it. It was with a smaller (now defunct) magazine called PC Techniques, but it paid well ($400 in 1993 for a 1200 word article).

The money was nice, but the important thing is that by starting at the lower rungs, I was heavily encouraged to continue writing. That was a huge boost to my self-confidence, and then I started writing a lot more prolifically once I realized that people liked my writing.

Granted, this is a lot of projection on my part, so obviously filter it through an anti-Hook polarization device, but I'm not sure I would have bothered writing a book if my first couple articles had been rejected and/or had been sat on for 4-6 months.

If you can maintain your enthusiasm through a lot of pink slips and slow editors, then by all means start from the top and work your way down. There is nothing wrong with that, but it means that it may take a couple _years_ before you see something accepted. If the average turnaround time is 8 weeks, that's 6 submissions a year. The first tier will consume your first year, and barring a lucky strike, it'll be into the second year before you hit the high-probability stuff.

Or do you mean once a publisher says, "Yeah, I like it. Just change the format to my guidelines."

Yes. And a good agent should know what each publisher will want, and they'll call you up and say "Hey, can you print this out like this so I can submit it to our next publisher?"

My book and one of the shorts are hard science.

Ah, okay, the snippets I saw were short enough that it looked more like space opera to me. Do you actually go into the real science of the subjects, or do you do a cursory examination? The depth of the real science is what differentiates hard sci-fi from lighter fare.

For example, Peter Hamilton's "Night's Dawn" trilogy has a lot of elements of hard sci-fi themes, but it is so lacking in any real science that it's clearly space opera.

(Playboy's includes "A little advice for the new writer", for example, so evidently they don't discard everything out of hand that doesn't come with a lengthy list of prior credits.)

Don't get me wrong, they don't discard this stuff out of hand-- I mean, this is how they make their living! They HAVE to foster a community of new writers just to ensure content for the future. But they do have a short leash when it comes to how much they're willing to tolerate improper adherence to submission guidelines.

Sure, I guess some places might actually throw away a manuscript, sight unseen, because it was 12 point courier instead of 14 point helvetica, but I doubt most places are quite that Draconian. Now, if you have a six page cover sheet, submit in long hand, it's too long, and don't include an SASE, yeah, it's probably going straight to the trash bin.

The guidelines are typically there to increase your chances of having your story looked at. When they say "new writers", they often mean people that write a story and then don't understand the process of submission and end up wasting everyone's time because they screw up the process.

As much research as you've done into this, I'm sure you're stories will be looked at. Also, very short pieces are popular because they help with printing constraints -- if they go a little under page count one month, they'll often look for a 900 word story to get in there, etc.

The first few rejection slips are always interesting, in my opinion. It lets you learn how much information they'll return to you.

A relative of mine submitted a story to Playboy once and got rejected, and it was the happiest moment of his life. Why? Because the rejection slip had a handwritten note on it that said:

"Not what we're looking for...do you have anything else by chance?"

That was enough encouragement to keep him going for a few more years =)

-Hook
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