My first novel manuscript, produced on a manual typewriter and containing hand-written corrections (yes, honestly!) went to a number of publishers in Zimbabwe - where I wrote the book and where it is set - before I left the country. With no feedback, I submitted the manuscript for Rumours of Ophir to UK publishers - all to no avail.
Concluding I was not destined to be a writer, I forgot all about Rumours until College Press of Zimbabwe - an imprint of Macmillan - came metaphorically knocking on my door. Suffice to say that since then Rumours has been published in German translation, the English version is currently on the 'O' level set book list in Zimbabwe, and the book gained me entry to the Crime Writers' Association.
Of course not everything I write proves so successful, but persistence in submitting is paramount. My DI WIlliamson short story Blood and Sweat, set in Zimbabwe, seemed to be set for archiving until I sent it to You magazine of South Africa. In the subject line of the email I sent to the editor, I played up the fact that the action was set in southern Africa, and Bob's your uncle, it was accepted.
Persistence was equally important with the much rejected story The Matchmaker, which was short-listed for The National newspaper's annual short story competition (under the title A Day for Decisiveness) and saw publication throughout the United Arab Emirates in The National's 'M' magazine - see below.
On the same note, my story Harvest Season was rejected by a number of publications (probably because it was too morbid for the womag coterie) until it won the Global Short Story Competition one month. This just goes to prove that if a story isn't suitable for a particular publication's guidelines, there's no reason why you shouldn't submit it to a competition and see what a judge thinks.
Last month, at our Abu Dhabi Writers' Group meeting, I gave feedback on two members' short stories and recommended possible markets for the pieces. The authors are new writers, so it remains to be seen if they have acted on my suggestions. I hope they did, but that initial fear of rejection can be difficult for someone new to the game of writing to overcome.
On a similar note, the best short story writer I've ever come across - a shy and retiring lady in England - has a morbid fear of submitting her work to an editor and thereby facing the possibility of being rejected. I've encouraged her, I've given her lists of markets, but alas, her archive of unpublished short stories must be burgeoning.
My only advice to writers is to study possible markets, send your work out to editors and competitions, and if your work comes back again, send it out as soon as possible after a further edit.
Below is a link to my book Robin Hood and Friar Tuck - Zombie Killers: A Canterbury Tale by Paul A. Freeman. This novella was commissioned by Coscom Entertainment after I submitted a short narrative poem (Payback Time) to one of their anthologies - which makes me wonder what would have happened if I was too bashful to have submitted that short narrative poem in the first place.