Miscellaneous · Writing Tips

#WW Rejected? How to Keep Submitting

Rejected? How to Keep Submitting

Lately, I’ve been trying to help a lot of fellow writers find publishers, literary journals, and websites where they can share their work. The market is HUGE (hence the giant, capital letters), but for many, this is both a positive and a negative description of the industry. With so many options, how does someone know where to submit? And with so many opportunities, why do I keep getting rejected?

rejectThere are so many answers for this, and none of them are accurate. It’s all guesswork. I can’t tell someone why their manuscript was denied by so-and-so, and I can’t explain why someone else’s poetry made it into The Gettysburg Review over someone else. Only the judgers could, for certain, say why, but even then, it often comes down to their mood that day or their theme that month or how well it would fit in with the other work they already accepted. Again, guesswork.

That being said, this is when I see too many writers give up hope. They’ve submitted to 20 or so places and either received rejections or nothing at all, so they stop. Now, I want to take this moment to clarify that I’m talking about submitting to places today. I’m not discussing self-publishing. While I completely support (and often suggest) self-publishing, it isn’t for everyone, and many people do give up when submitting starts to overwhelm them, so this post is more for them – this post is for those writers who have specific journals they want to see their name in, to see a certain label on their work, to be among the voices of their favorite journal. That’s their goal and their decision, and I see nothing wrong with it. So, again, while I support self-publishing, this post is directed at writers who are submitting to places who might feel discouraged by the process. Below, I’m outlining a few steps to keep your pen up and your ink flowing while also submitting and submitting and submitting until that rejection pile becomes an acceptance pile.

Here are ways to keep submitting: (I’m going to use poems for the example)

Keep a Submission Journal

Set a goal for submitting a certain number of times during a specific timeframe. Ex. I will submit three poems to three journals every month. Now, here’s the tricky part – keep track of that goal. Write down what poems, what journals, and what dates you submitted. This will help remind you that you are currently submitting, and even if you get rejected, I guarantee you’ll already feel better because – chances are – you’ll already have other poems circulating for submission. Many journals, for instance, take months to get back to someone, so submitting different poems in different places will prevent you from getting that “I’m never submitting again” feeling because you’ll already have other submissions pending.

Keep Writing

While I believe it’s okay to have a specific poem you definitely want to get published, try submitting other ones too, and definitely keep writing new ones. A story I like to tell everyone involves my poetry publications. When I started submitting them, it was almost always the poems I NEVER thought they’d pick that were chosen in the end. My “best” poems in my mind are not my “best” poems in someone else’s mind. Remember that one reader won’t like everything, so send out more than just one piece of work. Send out a variety. And then write some more. And keep writing.

Keep Reading

One mistake I see many writers make is the lack of reading, especially of the journals and/or publishers they’re submitting to. I, myself, have made that mistake by accidentally submitting a controversial piece to a journal that no longer accepted controversy. Despite the fact that I kept reading the journal, I never noticed the theme change – so it’s important to read the journal and also take notes on the journal’s overall voice and goals. Sometimes writers think they can go around this by just reading the submission guidelines, but it isn’t rare to see “to get a feel for what we accept, read our latest edition….” at the top of submission pages. Even better, many literary journals offer a free copy for you to review, so read, and read a lot. You might even find a new writer you love.

Make a Mentor List

You know you have them. Your favorite novelist. Your favorite poet. A TED speaker. We all look up to someone, and it’s great to figure out where that someone came from. Even better, find someone with similar topics and/or voice, and check out where they came from and how they got their start. That famous writer wasn’t born a famous writer. They had to submit too. And you know what? I bet they even received rejections. But they never gave up, and you shouldn’t either.

Keep on submitting!


32 thoughts on “#WW Rejected? How to Keep Submitting

  1. This is really inspirational. I’ve never tried to publish anything, but this gives me the motivation to not give up right away when the time comes.

  2. Inspiring post! I was lucky to start publishing in an academic setting, where submissions of completed papers for journals or edited volumes, as well as abstracts for conferences, were part of my life as a Ph.D. student. While I ended quitting the Ph.D., I retained many lessons, including how perseverance pays, even when you get several rejections. 🙂

    1. Perseverance definitely pays! Thank you for sharing your story on how you learned that through your Ph.D. program. I think it’s important to show different examples and stories for aspiring writers.

  3. I’ve only attempted sending in query letters for books. Think I tried a short story once, but never heard back. It’s definitely a test of endurance unless you’re lucky and get a bite within the first pack of submissions. Great advice.

    1. It can be very disheartening and draining, but that endurance pays off when you get an acceptance that is now energizing and exciting. 😀 Thank you for reading and commenting and sharing your story about submissions.

  4. Excellent advice! I hate to hear about someone quitting, but it happens all too often. Hopefully this post will inspire them to keep going. Nothing could make me stop. I’m stubborn that way. 🙂

    1. I’m stubborn too. 😀 We have that in common, and I also agree with everything you just said. It is so sad to see writers give up, and I do think happens too often. What saddens me more are the articles I read by authors and writers who say people who give up publishing truly don’t love writing. First, I’ve also disagreed with that because (mainly) you don’t have to publish to love writing, but if publishing is important to someone, I don’t think they don’t love it because they keep up due to frustration. Sometimes, we all just need a little help and little extra direction to keep traveling the publishing journey, and why not encourage one another since we all love the same thing?

  5. It’s also important to find publications that fit you and your work, and to support them. Writers scratch each other’s backs. So if you just submit and don’t care about anything but a writing cred, you’ll get more rejections.

    1. I definitely agree! I think that’s what I was trying to outline in the “Keep Reading” section. Without supporting that certain journal or publisher or genre or anything, really, it will only get harder and harder to achieve a submission because it ultimately reflects in your work. Even if your work is well written, for example, it might not suit that particular house or journal well. Great addition! Thank you for reading and commenting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s