Okay so you’ve done your research in finding what literary journals to submit to and you’re ready to take a step forth and submit your work. Your short stories, your poetry, the memoir that you’ve gushed your heart out for, thrown into the depthless voids of rejections to, hopefully, touch that one glimmer of acceptance. And for those you have tried and tried,wading through the shit-ton of rejections you’ve received like I have, I have three facts below for why you shouldn’t fret and cry and start beating on your self-worth as a writer. And for those who haven’t yet, don’t worry, it only gets better the more rejections you receive.
Hint: If you think that submitting to lit-journals is beneath you and you already got a manuscript for Random House or some other big name, know that publishers and most (read: all) established writing guilds would expect that you have been accepted roughly four times by any established magazine, journal to be someone who takes themselves seriously in the writing business.
Fact 1: There is on average a 1% acceptance rate among literary magazines. And even then most will only accept less than that. For this reason standards are high and there are three major reasons for why you were the 99%.
- Your work wasn’t up to snuff: Your competing not only with up and comers like yourself but also with already well-established authors, people who make a career in writing, magazine editors who already know the ins and outs of the business, so make sure your work is up to its highest standard.
- Your work doesn’t fit with the style: If you do start submitting you’ll eventually realize that something that might win the Lit Pop Award is going to be laughed out of Morpheus Tales. While good work carries the day, it’s style that ensures the win. (More information on style will be in part 2 of this overlong blog post).
- There were simply too many submissions: Truth of the matter is you could have memorized their style, your work could have Margaret Atwood weeping with emotion, but simply put there is only so much space that the magazine has for the sheer bulk of submissions. Truth of the Truth of the matter is your work that would have been accepted otherwise was probably rejected by a flip of the coin.
Hint: If you want to up your chances of getting accepted (notwithstanding the whole high-quality writing thing,) do your research. Read the damn magazine, if you want to get the ins on the style. Also GRAMMAR & PUNCTUATION!!!!
Fact 2: Rejections are often made by people who are quite unqualified
I was doing an internship at Descant magazine where I would say we had some of the best resources in manpower in comparison to other magazines. While most would have maybe 4-5 readers, we had around 5 interns and 5-7 part-time editors, all established authors, reading through the pile (not to mention a guest editor who would devote themselves to a single issue). But know that nearly all submissions had to go through the interns (including me) all in our 20s who were as wannabe writers like you with few, usually no, publications under our belt.
I for example would always reject roughly 50-60% of the work. If I had just accepted a piece then the next piece I read had as much chance of survival as a fish flopping on the pier. For poetry (which is submitted in groups, Always submit poetry in batches) I would always accept at least one or two, but never all of them.
Even then I had one of the more established “editors” reject a piece simply because he was an atheist and the piece had religion as one of its themes. I didn’t read it, so regardless if it was good or bad, into the slush pile. I rejected a piece simply because it was my last piece of the day and I couldn’t be bothered to finish it, beginning was good but didn’t matter, into the slush pile. So the turgid tuna fish sandwich the editor had for lunch just an hour before they’ve read your piece, is just as strong a factor as the actual words when determining your acceptance into the magazine. Point is that while literary journals mostly accept work that deserves to be in their magazine, human flaws, lack of resources, or simply bad luck will ensure that there will always be work rejected that doesn’t deserve rejecting and accepted work that doesn’t deserve accepting. It isn’t perfect but what is?
Hint: If you get rejected, take succor in the fact that you can’t do anything about it and it probably not your merits as a writer that was at fault, unless you sent in a first draft without revising it then yeah it totally is your fault and you should feel ashamed.
Fact 3: Simultaneous submission: It’s a dirty word among literary journals but do it.
If you don’t know what simultaneous submissions are it’s where you submit the same piece of work to more than one magazine. If you get around to reading submission/writing guidelines on websites (Please do so, some mags can be quite picky) know that most will be aversive (almost fascist) against simultaneous submissions. Do it anyways. The only way you’re going to keep abreast with the rest is if your pieces aren’t whittling its thumbs waiting for rejection, you make sure it work its keep with multiple tries so that you get accepted within the year and not in five. (For more specifics on how many per work, check out part 2 of my next blog post: Styles of submitting)
Hint: Do it
Writing exercise: It’s as simple as one two three really
One: Have a piece of submittable work
Two: follow the submission instructions of a literary journal
Repeat ad infinitum
By a North York Writer