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I’ve been absent from the group for a while, so apologies if this has been covered elsewhere.

I recently submitted a short story to a magazine, where the majority (apparently all, in fact) of the writers are female. I used a new female pen name with a matching email address. However, being an honest sort of a chap, I did include my real name in the submission email. The submission was rejected.

Now – it may well be that the story just wasn’t good enough. However, I was careful to follow the mag’s guidelines and was fairly confident when I sent it off. Sadly (and somewhat annoyingly) there was no feedback. I’m now mithering about where I went wrong and whether, perhaps, I should have avoided ‘owning up’ in regard to my gender.

Any thoughts would be gratefully received.

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Comments (7)
    • I wouldn't have thought your gender was the reason for rejection, Peter, but I suppose it depends on the magazine. Romance stories aimed at a female readership are often or sometimes written by men with female pen names while - for example - experimental feminist stories perhaps aren't.

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      • Fair comment. Thanks Libby.

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      • It's frustrating not to get feedback. Maybe they already had a similar story to yours. Keep going. Persistence is key as I'm sure you already know. 

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        • It's hard to say for sure however, magazines get hundreds of submissions every week, which makes it impossible to give specific feedback to everybody. There is as much competition for short story submission as for published books i.e. only a handful of slots available for a hundred or more submissions, so the success rate is slim.

          I don't know how much you've been submitting that story around but when I used to write short stories for every short story I got published I had at least a dozen rejections from other publications. I had stories I submitted around for over a year before it got accepted somewhere, etc... There are a few writers on here who have had short stories published and they pretty much all have the same experience.

          I doubt that you were rejected because you owned up to using a pen name, more likely that it was good but maybe they had better that week, or another story fitted more closely with what they were looking for, or it didn't completely win over the editor, etc...

          My advice is just keep submitting and if you still keep getting rejection then re-evaluate and edit some more before submitting to more publications.

          Good luck!

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          • Hi Peter. I've written a fair bit for a weekly women's magazine and although it's mainly women authors, there are certainly more men writing for them than you might think and the publication in question would definitely not reject your story just because you were male.

            Many mags have very specific house style and can be hard nuts to crack. I was very fortunate in that the editor I worked with really liked my stories but I know people who've submitted countless times and have had no luck for whatever reason.

            As Laure says, the short story market is really tough and I've had soooo many more rejections than acceptances. 

            Good luck with the next sub. 

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            • I agree with everyone above. Aside from the matter of your pen name, which would only be an issue if you had effectively confessed to breaching a gender-specific submission rule, I think your experience is quite normal in a very competitive area/market. Having gone to the length of a pen name and matching email address, I can't help but feel then confessing to your true gender was rather defeating the object of it all. It is rather like a superhero handing out their true identity on business cards. Stick to your pens (the pen is after all mightier than the gun) and good luck in your next round of submissions. 

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              • Thanks Erin. That's really helpful. 

                Thanks, too, to others who've responded.

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