My Submission Process

I can’t tell you how happy I am it’s October. It’s cooling down. My husband and I will possess our NEW and FIRST house on October 18th. In the meantime, I’m thinking of revising and sending my manuscript to The Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize (mostly because the winner has the option of an all-expenses-paid residency in a fifteenth-century castle in Italy) and maybe two or three others if I can scrounge together the money.

But, in the present time, I want to talk about submissions. I love reading how other poets/writers tackle the whole business of submitting, and anytime I read theirs, it makes me want to evaluate my own and decide whether it’s still working.

Here’s mine:

Frequency: I submit electronically maybe one or more times a week. I try, regularly, to send out work as soon as I get a rejection. This keeps me proactive and varies up my submitting enough that I’m usually not getting a slew of rejections all around the same time. I submit hard copy packets maybe once a year (I know, it’s awful.).

For the month of September, I sent out 7 submissions. Since I write poetry mostly, but also occasionally write fiction and creative nonfiction, I also try to vary what I’m submitting and to what journals. In September, I submitted poetry to four different journals, fiction to three, and creative nonfiction to one. Sometimes, I submit poems to a journal and then, once I get a rejection, send fiction to that same journal a month or two later.

Who I submit to: I have a running list of journals in my head that I’m in love with that I add to as I discover new ones. A lot of times, I might submit work to two or three journals I think my work is on par with and then one or two “star” journals just for the heck of it. Here’s my current running list: Gulf CoastHayden’s Ferry Review, Diagram, Crazyhorse, Painted Bride Quarterly, Ninth Letter, Agni, Linebreak, Prairie Schooner, Kenyon Review, West Branch, and Camera Obscura. 

I know some writers that only submit to journals that accept simultaneous submissions. I know others that only submit to journals that do NOT accept simultaneous submissions. I’ve been a die-hard simultaneous submitter for years now, but now I am trying to actively include non-SS journals on my list. Some of those journals are topper-tier, which means they usually have a super long response time (except for Beloit Poetry Journal, which is usually gloriously prompt in their responses), but it does mean less prep work since you’re only sending off to one journal. It’s hard for me to practice patience with non-SS journals. More often than not, I’ll withdraw my submission from them and send it to several SS journals instead. I’m trying to restrain myself from doing that today.

On Duotrope, you have the option to “Favorite a Listing” which means that you could keep a running list of journals you adore (you can even add notes to each one). Keeping your list up on there would also make it really easy to research the journal.

My process: To keep myself organized, I use Duotrope. Once I submit a piece (or packet of poems), I immediately log it. Once I get a rejection, I log it. For electronic submissions, I also keep copies of the e-mail acknowledging that they received my submission in a special inbox folder titled “Submissions”. All submissions I have yet to receive rejections for I keep as “unread” in that folder, so I know they’re still active. Once I receive a rejection, I go and “read” that e-mail to show that it’s now now not active.

What I do a lot to help with my submitting is put reminders to myself on my calendar. Let’s say a journal sent me a personalized rejection, but its submission period was closed at the time. I might put a reminder on my calendar to alert me on the day the journal’s submission period re-opens, so I know to go ahead and put work into them. If I know I want to submit to a journal but it’s submission period is a ways off, I’ll also put a reminder.

What my process looks like in bullet points:

  • Receive reminder on my calendar/feel like submitting/shamed into submitting by friend/acquaintance/person I Facebook-stalk getting an awesome publication or talking about how awesome submitting is/receive a rejection/receive a personalized rejection (I always want to submit work to a journal immediately after getting a personalized rejection from them since litmag staffs change so frequently and the person who may have liked my work may not be on staff a few months from now)
  • Look through my running list and see which ones I haven’t submitted to more than twice during a reading period (Duotrope also keeps record of this for you.).
  • Look at journal’s guidelines (5 or 6 poems allowed? need to include contact information only on the first page?). Journals hate you (or at least seriously think you have a reading comprehension problem) if you don’t follow their guidelines. For real.
  • Look at the last poems/story/essay I sent out. Maybe I want to take out some poems and add new ones based on my knowledge of the aesthetic of that journal. Maybe I want to tweak some lines to make sure the work is in top-top shape. Maybe I want to send a story instead of an essay.
  • Submit. Repeat.

What I need to change: Submitting more hard copy packets. Blah gag ack.

In the past, I’ve held “submission parties”: a bunch of us getting together and slogging through the printing and the stuffing and the licking and the adhering. Sounds like another one of those soon might be helpful…


What do the rest of you do to stay on top of submitting hard copy packets? Give me your wisdom!

8 thoughts on “My Submission Process

  1. I, too, balk at hard copy submissions, even though that used to be the bulk of what I sent. Lots of journals have gone to e-submissions, and it’s just so much easier that when I think of licking an envelope I feel a little sick inside (I know, I should just buy the self-adhesive ones and get on with it). Glad to know I’m not alone in this, but (synchronicity) just this week I decided to buckle back down with some hard copy submissions.
    Many congrats on your new home!

  2. you are so organized! i had fallen into only submitting maybe once a month, but i started submitting every time i heard back (rejection or acceptance), and my submissions have been much better lately! i too hate submitting via mail, but there are some great journals that only accept submissions that way. a submission party is a great idea, i need to suggest that to my writing buddy

  3. I also try to keep one or two non-simultaneous submissions out there, so I appreciate journals like Beloit Poetry Journal, who won’t tie up your work for too long. On the other hand, I recently had to wait 14 months for a decision from North American Review. They finally said it was because my work came very close, but sheesh. That’s an eternity to keep a handful of poems out of circulation.

    1. My goodness! That really is. Congrats on holding out that long. I would have given up /way/ before that. I’ve had an essay at Prairie Schooner for 10 days, and I’m already fighting wanting to withdraw it and submit it to 5 SS journals instead. I’m trying to restrain though. blah. Good luck on your future submissions! Thanks for commenting!

  4. Thanks for the tips! I’m going to begin adding reminders to my calendar so I’m more aware of reading periods.

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