At some point in your writing career, someone somewhere will suggest you submit to literary magazines. You might tell them, “Oh, I’ve got no need for it. I just want to be an author and sit in a cabin by a fireplace and write novels all day.” But you’d be wrong.
“Why?” Because rejection is part of being a writer. That’s not to say your work won’t get accepted once in a while, but there will be more rejections than acceptances and more disappointment than excitement. Mixed in there, though, you’ll find momentary rays of happiness where a renowned literary magazine will accept your flash-fiction piece, your poem, or your spark of non-fiction, and you’ll feel like it hasn’t all been in vain.
“What makes rejection part of being a writer?” Good question. It hardens your shell. It’s different being rejected from a literary magazine than it is having your manuscript rejected from a publishing house. Even though the rejection stings (anywhere from a little prick to oh-my-god-i-was-hit-with-a-cinderblock), it’s easier to bounce back from a small-scale rejection than a bigger one. But no matter what way you look at it, you’re going to face rejection at some point or another. It’s ultimately up to you to decide when that will be.
“Have you ever been rejected?” Why, yes I have. Thank you for asking.
“How did you get through it?” I just… Did. Once it happens, it won’t change. You can hope and pray all you want but that “no” won’t magically become a “yes.” The editors rejected your piece for a reason. And if they give you those reasons, you take them and keep them in mind for next time. Maybe it’s a matter of polishing up the piece. Maybe it wasn’t the content they were looking for. Do whatever you need to do and move on to the next piece you’re going to submit.
“What if I don’t hear back from them?” Certain publications will specify the length of time it may take to get back to you. Depending on the popularity and how many submissions they get, it may take a few months for them to get back to you. The magazine that recently rejected me took four months to get back to me about the submission. I had completely forgotten that I had sent them something, honestly. So even though it was a rejection, it was a nice surprise.
“How will I know how long it’s been and what pieces I’ve submitted?” I recommend keeping a spreadsheet. I have a friend (who’s currently off enjoying herself in Ireland) who helped me set one up. You should have a column for:
- The name of the publication you’re interested in submitting to
- Whether you’ve submitted a piece yet or not
- The genre of work you submitted
- The title of your piece
- The date you submitted it
- The status of the submission
- The date you hear back
- Any notes or comments the editors had on your piece
You can set that up in whatever order makes sense to you. I find it’s especially helpful if you find a magazine you want to submit to but aren’t sure what piece you want to submit yet. You can enter in the name of the publication, hyperlink to it, and fill in the other columns as appropriate. That way, when you’re ready to submit to it, you can easily find it.
“When’s the right time to submit my work?” Whenever you’ve got a piece you’re comfortable tossing to the Gods and letting other people take it into their hands. Once you do it, it gets less intimidating each time. Good luck!