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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dude is a Prince

Dear WR:

I confess that I am both highly flattered and somewhat dumbfounded to
be the subject of such literary interest. I assure you that I don't
think of myself as particularly successful, from a publishing
standpoint, and I have received far more rejections than acceptances.
Since I imagine some of your readers are interested in hard numbers, I
have received approximately 11,100 rejection letters over the past
fifteen years--as well as one phone rejection (from the late,
brilliant George Plimpton at the Paris Review); since I've published
eighty-two stories, that's a decidedly low acceptance to rejection
ratio. I suppose the key to the limted successes that I have had is
perseverence. And a great deal of good old-fashioned dumb luck. And
the reason I keep doing it so simple that it may disappoint some of
your readers: I love writing stories.

I do have one piece of advice for other writers: Don't take rejection
personally and never take it to heart. I've received a number of
strange, discouraging, and even provocative rejection letters over the
years, but my two favorite read as follows: The first letter stated:
"I imagine some editors find your work amusing, although I cannot
imagine why. Please don't send your work to XXXXX ever again."
Another, from a different journal, read in entirety: "Dear Mr. Appel:
Do not consider this note of rejection specific to this story.
Consider it a preemptive rejection of anything else that you are
thinking of sending our way. The Editors." The two letters hang on
my office wall. And I continue to submit to both journals in the hope
that their editors will have a change of heart or pass the editorial
baton to a more receptive audience.

I also hope that I will publish a book someday. I remain cautiously
optimistic. I suspect your readers will be among the first to
know--that they may even find out before I do.

All the best of luck with your fascinating website. I have only had
an opportunity to peruse it briefly, but I think it's one of the
cleverest sites on the internet. If there are any other specific
questions that you have, feel free to put them my way.

Jacob M. Appel


E. said...

Hah! Wow, thanks, Mr. Appel. I admire your tenacity and toast your success. More power to you.

And WR, thanks for bringing yet another hardworking writer to our collective attention; first Snyder, now Appel, and interesting insights from both. Nice work.

Anonymous said...

Classy guy, sounds deserving of his recent successes.

Writer, Rejected said...

I tried to program this to run tomorrow morning, but it ran as if it was posted this morning. Damn. I hate when I make mistakes like that.

Anyway, Jacob A is like my new hero.

Anonymous said...

Well good for Jacob Appel! Knowing he does what he does because he loves stories totally offsets the bad karma of that whole at whole weird Fence thing.

But he still hasn't answered the burning question: is it apple? Or lapel without the "l"?

Thomma Lyn said...

Thanks so much, Mr. Appel! Best of luck with your writing endeavors, and I found your post inspirational.

You rock! :)

Anonymous said...

I am newly in love. Who knew he'd be so nice? For those too lazy to do the math, that's a .75% acceptance rate--less than one percent. I am grateful that he shared his stats here. It gives me hope.

Anonymous said...

Ask him about his writing habits. How often? How much? Morning? Noon? Night? That kind of thing.

Kelly Luce said...


Anonymous said...

I like everything I've read about Mr. Appel. He sounds like a nice person and I hope he enjoys more success in the future.

Anonymous said...

Power and more power to you, Mr. Appel!

Anonymous said...

Appel I love you. Simple as.

Steve said...

Where's Angry-Anon to rain on this love parade? Won't anyone lambaste us all for getting gooey?

By the way: thank you, Mr. Appel. I have to ask. You've sent out 11,000 times? Do you work part time at the P.O.? My goodness, the work of keeping tracks of submissions alone!!

Anonymous said...

11,100 seems unrealistic. Even considering, the number of literary magazines are in the low-to-mid hundreds. Those that aren't listed on Duotrope are few. Once theme magazines and magazines from only certain people (certain races, genders, countries) are accounted for we are still in the low hundreds. Once we subtract from magazines that allow no more than 1-3 submissions per year from individuals, we are still left with very few publications.

Considering how great a writer he is, I have an even harder time believing it. The gifted, but humble, will always try to be encouraging and will often resort to falsehoods in order to inspire others. I'm not saying he did this, but 11,100 rejections is just questionable from someone so young.

Not saying he is lying. I'm just skeptical of a lot of things.

Anonymous said...

You're not saying he's lying? But that's what you're saying!

Anonymous said...

Oh, no, I didn't mean it like that. It's just that it so hard to believe.

1. The amount of stories he has written (I don't believe he said how many).

2. His age (clearly young)

3. 11,100 rejections (yet no mention of the magazines or how many magazines or where he found information about them even though the greatest internet aggregator doesn't have that many listings in total for literary/mainstream fiction. Even taking into account all genres including erotica, the total is only 2,000+ and Duotrope is only a few years old. If we take response times into account and lack of simultaneous submissions, then we have to consider the amount of years that would have to pass in some cases).

4. He is clearly a gifted writer and has gifted writer's typically don't get that many rejections with so few acceptances. There is a rumor that William Saroyan was rejected 7,000 times, but I've seen no confirmation of it, especially since that was the pre-internet era.

Writer, Rejected said...

Over the course of his life. Plus he clearly sends out a ton of work, which is why we know his name in the first place.

E. said...

I'm no mathlete but I'll give this a go:

Mr. Appel says he's received approximately 11,100 rejections over the last 15 years (plus a Plimpton poo-poo by phone!). That averages to just over two submissions per day.

Assuming no mail on Sundays, we'll round it up to a pace of three subs per day for 15 years. The longevity is impressive, but the numbers of envelopes going out per week doesn't seem that wild.

Too, he doesn't say where he's submitted. I imagine online pubs make up a substantial number in the last ten years.

I hope his 82 acceptances were from markets that paid in green money, enough at least to make a ping in those postage fees.

I'm in awe.

CKHB said...

How wonderful to hear how much hard work went into this man's accomplishments.

THANK YOU, Mr. Appel. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this post, I was almost ready to leave the scene after half a dozen rejections. I can see I have plenty to learn and pretty much of work to be done.