Thursday, March 22, 2007

Q & A 105 Does No Mean Yes?

Last fall I spent some time researching literary magazines, both online and print. I sent the opening chapter of my novel, having revised it in places so it was capable of standing alone, to two print lit mags. From one, a very polite but note-free rejection. From the other, I received the following:

Thank you very much for submitting work to _____________. This piece isn’t right for the magazine, but please keep us in mind for other pieces. We are interested in reading more of your work.

I submitted a much shorter novel excerpt, reframed as a short-short story, to two online magazines. Same story, from one, a very polite but note-free rejection, and from the other:

Thank you for submitting ________ to __________. Though your story was given serious consideration, I ultimately decided not to select it for the upcoming issue of the magazine.

My question is, are these notes meaningful? Do they mean, straightforwardly, what they say?

The only way to know for sure is to send some truly horrible writing to the publications that sent you the encouraging notes, and see if you get the same responses. I've seen form rejections similar to the second note. "Your story was given serious consideration" doesn't mean it was given more serious consideration than other stories; literary magazines like to think they consider all submissions seriously. Note that they not only decided not to select it for the upcoming issue, but did not hint that they might want it for a future issue.

The first note, on the other hand, is unlikely to be something they say to everyone. The last thing Evil Editor would tell a writer is that he wants to see more of his work--unless he actually, inexplicably, did want to see more.

Of course they're hoping that if you send more, it'll be right for the magazine. Apparently it's up to you to figure out why the first submission wasn't.


Anonymous said...

At least they didn't include a subscription card with the rejection.

I've only known one litmag (I've been rejected by about a dozen) whose form rejections indicate how far through their selection process you've gotten. The rejections I've gotten from them say "you made it through the first [or second] round of cuts." Which is nice. (That magazine is THEMA.)

Cheryl said...

Google : "Name of Litmag"+rejections, and you'll find other people who post their rejection letters on their blog or what-have-you.

Both of those sound like form letters, but some mags send two different forms. One of them drops the line about sending future work. Google will help you determine whether this mag is one of the double-form folks.

Anonymous said...

Send those stories out by the dozen, if you're serious.

Don't get too neurotic about the reject notes and assume they're all generic unless they talk about something particular to your manuscript ["good but too short" or "Mr X was too scary"]. some places take forever to respond and others will lose your SASE to the homework dog's ravenous teeth and move to France.

Postage rates are going up in May so apply stamps accordingly as some places can't make up the difference.

Kanani said...

Not sure WHICH literary magazines/journals your talking about, but let me give you some insight that I received from a teacher, who was the editor of the Missouri Review.

Typically, they received 25k-30k submissions per year. They received everything from poetry, fiction and non fiction.

Because they were part of a university , they had 3 paid staff. The rest were volunteers, graduate students and students working on the BA's. There was no way they could get through everything, and given their limited publishing schedule (quarterly), they could only choose a handful each year.

So keep submitting. Rejection is part and parcel of being a writer. Someone wil eventuallyl say yes. You might want to go through Poetix, which often lists publications looking for work.

Dave Fragments said...

On sci-fi magazine sent a nice rejection a month after they sent a subscription letter beggin for a patron to make them solvent.
They owed two months printing and mailing fees and the printer wouldn't do a third issue without the money up front.

It was a rejection, and that's all it was.