I have an account on Duotrope that keeps tabs on how frequently magazines and websites pick up my stories for publication. Depending on where I’ve sent stuff and how recently I’ve gotten a story accepted somewhere, my acceptance rate oscillates somewhere between 5% and 15%. Which is to say, from a glass-half-empty angle, that 17-19 out of every 20 submissions I make get rejected.
And that’s ok. It took me a while to understand that rejection is the typical outcome for submissions, even for writers much better than me. I know that every book and class on creative writing includes that warning early on: get used to rejection. But, like a lot of people, I saw those warnings (maybe 34 of those warnings) and yet still harbored the sneaking suspicion that my work was so special that somehow I wouldn’t need to get used to rejection.
I can say now that I have been used to rejection for a good long while. The part that I didn’t anticipate, though, is that you can get used to rejection and still find it painful. Having a story rejected is a little like being told “no, I will not go to prom with you.” The nineteenth time I hear that isn’t nearly as painful as the first time I heard it, but I still really hoped that the nineteenth person was going to say yes.
All of this is a long way of saying that I understand why people self-publish. I’ve sure considered self-publishing, too. But why not? What do I lose by forgoing the rejection process? What do I gain by sending work out to gatekeepers I don’t know and who are almost certain to reject it?
And you, reader? What do you lose? What do you gain?