Your Work in the World
You did it! You put your work/self out there. And now...we wait. If you're an impatient person (like me), this is the hardest part. A lot of magazines work had=rd to get you a response within 90 days, but some of the older print magazines at universities (or other big well-paying monoliths like The New Yorker) can take close to a year (I've heard of a few places that have taken more, which is ABSURD).
The best antidote for the waiting? Work on something new! Never stop. And when you get a rejection, or a set of rejections, consider any notes, or look over the piece, revise (or don't), and send it out again! Talent is important, but being persistent is the name of the submitting game.
Ouch. I got a rejection. Now what?
Congratulations! You put your work out in the world! You just haven’t found the right home for it. Don’t be discouraged—even the best writers in the world get rejected (or have been rejected over and over again until they get their big break). And remember that writing is subjective, and often the work just isn't a good fit or not that particular reader's aesthetic. But you WILL find people who will champion you and your work. That's one of the joys of the process.
Most magazines receive so many submissions that they have to reply with an automated rejection letter that caters vaguely to everyone. But some magazines have an additional form letter between flat out rejection and acceptance. This letter often compliments the quality of the work (even though it was not a good fit) or asks the writer to submit again soon. The highlighted portion below is the only difference between this rejection and their form rejection (believe me, I know).
1. Dear Amanda,
Thank you for taking the time to submit to BWR. Unfortunately, after careful review, we have decided this submission is not a good fit for us. We were interested in your work and hope you continue to think of us as a potential home for your writing.
We wish you the best of luck placing your work elsewhere.
Black Warrior Review
In very rare cases—if a piece came super close to being accepted or if an editor was already familiar with you and your work—you may get an extremely personal response that offers praise but explanation for the rejection. Sometimes you may even be lucky enough to get a revision suggestion. Again, these are very rare but extremely valuable.
Thank you for your submission to SmokeLong Quarterly. We gave the story careful consideration, and though we are not accepting it for publication, we hope you find a better fit for it elsewhere.
This was a close one for us. There's so much to love here. It's wonderfully told throughout with such great detail. Honestly, one issue is just that we get so many stories about this topic! It's crazy. The other thing that I think a lot of our editors mentioned is that we felt like maybe the story could be tightened in places--maybe focus on just one of the guys/affairs here, and cut out some of the backstory of what's going on. These are all just suggestions, of course, and I think overall this is really close to done. Good luck with it, and please do keep trying us.
Best—Editor, Smokelong Quarterly
**Full disclosure: This was my 8th submission to Smokelong (with a mix of tiered, personal, and form rejections). And this is the piece later picked up by another great magazine (several months later). Moral of the story: this is why we send to more than one place! And it only takes one editor to love a story to get an acceptance.
Consider these notes to be hugely encouraging, even though they are rejections. These are people who admired your work enough to take the time to send you a personal note. These are often editors who will champion your work in the future.
And remember: a magazine does not ask you to submit again unless they really want you to submit again! I do recommend, as an editor, that you wait at least a week or two. When writers send something immediately after receiving a rejection, I get the feeling they haven’t sent a piece they really wanted us to publish, but just something they had lying around.
I feel like I’ve been waiting forever and still haven’t heard anything.
Ah, Submission Purgatory. Most magazines will give you an average response time and let you know that if they exceed a certain response time (usually six months, which feels like forever!), you can email them to check in. However, my recommendation is just to be patient. It is rare a submission gets lost, but it is very common that a literary magazine, made up of almost entirely volunteers, gets behind on their responses.
Yay, I got an acceptance—now what?
Congratulations! It’s amazing feeling to have an editor connect with your work and want to put it out into the world. This means you’re on the right track! Your piece is strong and you’ve submitted it somewhere that fits.
Often, the acceptance is a form email as well and editors will check in with you again closer to the time of publication with any revisions or requests for headshot/bio. If it is a paying venue (even more awesome!), there is likely a contract for you to sign.
Withdraw this story from other magazines if it is still in progress! Do this as soon as possible, preferably the day of the acceptance (if not in the hours immediately following the acceptance).
And then: Celebrate! And then: back to writing. And revising. And submitting.
Ask the Editor
Did I miss anything? Send me your additional questions: firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll share the responses with the class via email after the course is done.