After reading this post a long while ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own submission habits and how they have developed.
I used to be a diehard submitter. I submitted pretty much as soon as I had new work, and since I was in graduate school, I was generating new work all the time (at least 12 poems a semester). Each of my submission packets included at least one new poem and one old poem and a few other pieces that I may or may not have been entirely sure were ready. I pushed pieces out into the world way before they were ready because sometimes I got lucky (an editor saw something I didn’t see or asked for a revision) or sometimes the process of being rejected gave me the space I needed to look at a piece with fresh eyes and edit it fiercely and precisely.
My submitting process started as follows:
I’d hit the reach-for-the-stars journals (The New Yorker, Agni, etc.), but only if they took online submissions and were free.
I’d hit the just-right journals, journals I believed my work fit in just well.
I’d hit maybe-someday journals that were between the just-right and the reach-for-the-stars journals. These journals I more than likely found through combing the contributor notes of an author I felt my work aligned with in some journal I was reading at the time.
After getting rejected quite a few times from the reach-for-the-stars journals and the just-right journals and the maybe-someday journals, I kept closer to the vest. I submitted mostly to just-right journals and sometimes ventured out to include maybe-someday journals. Sometimes, I got lucky. Sometimes, I didn’t. When I got an encouraging rejection, I immediately sent them another submission. Having worked for a graduate-student run literary journal, I know that the person who liked your work in October will be gone in December, so I always tried to respond quickly.
After slowing down in my submitting considerably, I started mostly hitting only the maybe-someday journals and the reach-for-the-stars journals. I’d accumulated quite a few publications at this point, and I felt like it would be a good move in my career to try to focus on pairing my work with journals that carry a larger readership, especially now that I’m shopping my collection around.
In December of 2013, I submitted to The New Yorker, and I got an encouraging rejection back in late February 2014. Did I re-submit immediately?
Uh…no. One of the most prestigious literary journals in the country sending me an encouraging rejection? No no no. Can’t possibly be true.
I can’t tell if that reasoning came into my head because I’m a woman or a writer or a woman writer or a bookless writer or a bookless woman writer or just a defect of my personality, but I simply didn’t believe it. I kept re-reading it.
We are grateful for the opportunity to read and consider your new work. We very much regret that we are not able to carry it in the magazine. We do, however, look forward to reading more when the time comes.
I showed it to friends. I even confirmed it on Literary Journals and Rejections Wiki. It took me seven months to get over my, “You like me? You really like me?” insecure freak-out and re-submit in September. Eight months later in May 2015, I got the same encouraging rejection. I re-submitted within a week. They said they liked me twice. That’s not beating around the bush. That’s straight-up courtship.
Large prestigious journals are less likely to change their editors every 6 months, but editors of large prestigious journals also read a lot of work. They have to. So many of us are vying for those coveted spots. I shouldn’t have waited around seven months before re-submitting after that first encouraging rejection because those editors could have easily forgotten me or my work (and they may have, to be honest. I may have just gotten lucky to send them two submission packets they enjoyed.).
I’m better off, as a writing human, of being in a space of recognizing that I produce worthy work, and that an editor of a journal that encourages me to send more sees the merit in my work as well.