this also is a thing that can happen
I got an acceptance letter. It would seem I have sold a story.
Without going into details that I am not yet at liberty to share, here are a few of the thoughts (and we are differentiating those mental processes we can dignify with the term "thoughts" from the wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering with incoherent delight) that occur on such an occasion.
Oh, yeah, this is also a thing that can happen. I opened the email fully expecting it to say something like "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read [STORY TITLE]. After careful consideration, we regret to say it does not meet our needs at this time. We wish you the best of luck finding it a home elsewhere." Because that is what emails with the subject header "Re: Story submission - '[TITLE]' - LeBoeuf" always say. I mean, once you boil it down to the practical effects. That is the only thing such emails ever say.
(See also: "Nothing good ever comes in self-addressed, stamped envelopes.")
That's a depressing habit of expectation to get into. I don't recommend it. But it's useful. It helps mitigate the disappointment around rejection letters, which I'm told will continue to outnumber the acceptances by a factor of oodles 'n oodles well into my career. It also makes the words "We love it and we want to publish it" that much more of a joyful surprise.
Still, a much more healthy habit is one of simply celebrating every rejection letter as a trophy, a tangible marker of having once more, despite all odds, gone forth and done the freelance writer thing. Every rejection letter is a response to a submission; every submission of fiction for publication is a victory. That's what's important to remember.
It's a numbers game. This is a submission that went out in August. My records tell me that I sent 13 submissions in August, kind of a high for me at that time. The more you submit, the more likely you are to get good news on the return post.
Actually, the odds are more complicated than that. It's like, number of submissions times quality of submitted work plus some modifier corresponding to how well-disposed the editor is toward liking your story on the day they read it plus also how free they are at this particular moment to say "yes." So it's kind of better and worse than a lottery.
It's really easy to diminish the accomplishment. As I write this, a little voice in the back of my head is saying, "Well, not that much wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering, right? I mean, it's only a reprint. It's not like it's a pro-paying sale of new fiction. You're just resting on your laurels, and pretty old and wilted laurels at that. I mean, you haven't written anything new, at least not that's good enough to submit anywhere, in ages. Don't give yourself airs."
And that little voice can shut its little mouth anytime now, yesterday for preference.
What do I do now? Again, all responses to submissions are expected to be rejections until proven otherwise. Which means I click on the email thinking, "Ah, [STORY TITLE] got rejected. Today my Submission Procedures activity will be to send it out again." Then the email opens up and... it's an acceptance? I'm not going to send the story elsewhere? Because it was accepted here? ...so now what do I do?"
Well, I went back through my early Fictionettes and selected another good candidate for polishing up and submitting to reprint-friendly markets, that's what I did. ("The Hound at the Heart of the Maze," if you really want to know. October 2014. Not a freebie, sorry. But $1/month gets you access to it and all the rest of the ebook archives, so there you go.)
There's always something.
If nothing else, there's more wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering, 'cause I seem to have sold a story! Woo-hoo!