Discussion in 'Publishing' started by deadrats, Aug 19, 2016.
And another one... 88-day form rejection from The New Yorker.
Funnily enough, I'm not a believer in simultaneous submissions and everything goes to one place at a time. I always state that in my cover letters too. I tend to carefully consider the average response times from some outlets and often I'll write specifically for a given market. If I have something I really don't want tied up I tend to look for the most suitable market with a quick turnaround. If it bounces back with a 'no' a few times I figure it can go into the timeless void while I write something else.
What benefit does an exclusive submission give to you?
I'm writing for a particular publisher at the moment but if they don't want it, I'll be subbing it (simultaneously) to anybody that might take it.
To be honest, I don't really get any benefit from exclusive submissions. I suppose having been on the other side of the fence I appreciate that sometimes it's a right pain to have someone pull a submission from under you when you're ready to go. Also, I'm disorganised as hell, so this way I find it easier to know where I'm up to. Also, sometimes I'll tweak things for specific submissions and I get confused if I have various versions dotted around.
In reality, I can't say there's any real reason why I do it; my writing probably has a very small niche audience compared to most peoples so there's not the wide pool to cast into (unless the New Yorker starts looking for stories about training sex robots to clean the windows or ladies who have skin made of bacon).
Even though I hate it, I think there can be a benefit to giving a publication an exclusive chance to consider a story. It's kind of like saying, "I believe this is totally right for you. I know your publication. I know the kind of stories you publish. Here's my best shot. Just for you." I have two publications that when I submit to them it's not a simultaneous submission even though they allow it. And one of them did buy a story from me once. It was totally worth the long wait. The other one I'm still trying to crack. But these two publications, I feel, put out work like mine. Or maybe it's me trying to put out work like what they publish. These publications are my favorite to read as well.
New story made it to the post office today. We'll see how this one does out in the world.
I don't think my cover letters are trying to get me an unearned advantage. I don't say how right my story is for them. If it's right, they'll know it. However, I have worked hard to be able to list a few publications that are (at least I believe) impressive. And I worked hard to earn an MFA. I think sometimes that's enough to make an editor look a little closer. And I do feel like these things are somewhat advantages that I've earned. Reading the publications you submit to also does give you an earned advantage, I believe. You know better what they want and hopefully you, as the writer, think you've got something they will go for. I don't think it ever hurts to mention something about a recent issue they've put out. Another advantage is the invite to submit directly to the editor. That's when I don't simultaneously submit regardless of their policy. And I do write that in my cover letter. I feel like it's fair. If they are letting my skip the slush pile, I'll give them an exclusive.
I used to read submissions for a journal, and I always read cover letters. Though places publish new writers all the time, known and proven writers do have an advantage because there's less risk involved and names people recognize sell and gain attention. A lot of what's published in the top (literary) places is solicited or people have connections. That's not how I broke in, but the first short story I sold for big money was not a simultaneous submission. I clearly stated that and what I liked about the publication. Did it help? I think so. It took several months to get a response. And my first response was maybe. They were seriously thinking about it. I wrote back to thank them for letting me know and told them that they could take all the time they wanted. They didn't have to worry about making a quick decision. If they had, it might not have been the same outcome.
I haven't had a ton of success (as you can clearly see by this long string of rejections), but I have had some or just gotten lucky. I believe the number one advantage a writer can have is knowing the publications you are submitting to. And there really isn't a good excuse for not giving yourself the best shot you can. And I don't really see any harm in slipping in a line about that in a cover letter. I think a lot of the time editors and submission readers can tell if the writer has even ever read the publication. I also think there are times when it doesn't matter at all. I'm still trying to figure all this out. I've been at this for years, but I'm just now getting in the game.
My latest rejection came for a few poems I submitted. It did include the reason. Apparently there's no place in poetry for overt sex and violence.
I wouldn't mention I've done a CW writing course. But I suppose that's a US/UK thing.
US, I'd imagine would be more 'and I studied MFA under Charles Bronowski, NY state pd.'
and UK, 'and after I failed by A levels, Dad paid for me to do a Open university writing degree.'
'You sad twat.'
I think a good way to know what to say in a cover letter is to look at the writer bios in the publication you are submitting to. When I started writing short stories and reading publications, it seemed like every writer had an MFA or taught in an MFA program. I was like, "What is this MFA thing and how do I get one?" LOL. But it was a little like that. And I didn't start selling fiction until after I had an MFA. Not that everyone needs one, but if you can get one, why not? It's not going to hurt anything and might actually help. I don't know. The degree debate is a whole other thing. I needed it to be able to write the way I write now. I do believe that. But that's me. Maybe other people have more natural talent and need less instruction.
I have a feeling you're just ahead of your time.
A 48-day form rejection from New England Review.
Hey @DR - I started a reply a couple of times...so you said...
I think a good way to know what to say in a cover letter is to look at the writer bios in the publication you are submitting to.
My goodness, last time I did that I became enraged. It was the Southampton Northampton Review (US), - [but there are many other examples possibly ]
...and I was incensed the way this/these literary reviews appeared like parodies with their mincing watercolour cover, the utterly humourless poetry, and the bios that were almost incestuous: the faraway look in the author's photograph, and every one of the contributors funded for a chap-book and did nothing else [no-one had a job except for CW Tutor] nothing else but write about forests and light, dust motes and cats sitting in their boring cabins preaching world peace to fellow contributors.
BUT...I suppose that's the point - you have to see things through their THEIR minds' eye. It was so disgustingly cerebral and wet. That, this is MARKET - I have to learn.
Likewise - urban mags where they bang on about social media, and all the stories are about drugs, no great shakes, eh..
Same with the winners for the Writers and Artists' Yearbook contest - all very similar stories. But that's a well-trodden crit of Bloombury lit - that we all like to read work that reflects ourselves, mm.
@matwoolf -- I haven't checked out the publication you mentioned, but I can see where you are coming from. However, don't be fooled by formulaic bios. I just meant it was a good way to see what sort of things might be important in a cover letter to journals. As @Carly Berg said earlier, not all places even read cover letters. But not all literary journals are created equal, regardless of the bios in the back often sounding similar. The Paris Review, which is pretty much the top of the top, is so edgy and unexpected when it comes to the fiction it puts out. It's still literary fiction, for sure, but it takes risks and, I believe, publishes very original and anything-but-boring content. The Gettysburg Review is another good one I would say that also breaks the mold. My bio and cover letters are pretty standard, but hopefully my stories are not.
I was indulging prejudice.
Just curious... What sort of things are you working on? I know you write poetry. Do you also write literary short stories? I know that the literary world can seem like an exclusive club that has no interest in new members, but if they let me in, they can't be all that exclusive. And even though so many of them have "Review" in their name, they are quite different. A great one you might want to check out is McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. They are by far more quirky and fun than a lot of other journals. They also regularly publish great writers like Roddy Doyle. I believe he's from your side of the pond. He's really great with humor. I've seen a few novellas by him in McSweeney's that have been super great and fun to read.
I do think it might be even harder to sell poetry to these places than fiction. I've dabbled in poetry, but I don't think I'm very good. I have poets I really enjoy, but I can't always tell a good poem from a bad one. Did you ever track down a photo of your bus stop poem? That's a pretty cool way to be published if you ask me.
I need to start something new.
Drew the last couple of years to a close with a collection - and entered it in a contest - thinking 'I will win, I have to win.'
So when I lose I'll hawk it out a half dozen times and then receiving six rejections I'll walk into the sea, or a factory.
After the compilation of the collection, I wrote some quite wacko 2000s - thinking they were incredible and posted them away to the powerhouses of lit. Looking now they are rather strange and under-baked. But there's some decent enough titbits in the pipe, apols. I would like at least one to strike gold.
Also, I spent an age on a life-write - turned it 3p, then tried to write it in Indian dialect to shift, loosen my mind-manacles - and became immersed in the treacle. I will have to ditch it. I've only done that two, three times before. The poetry is more hobby, I had a poetry submission rejected again, bleth...
Should have put this in a pm, mmm. We've moved house 100s of miles away from anywhere so it's a strange time for me.
87-day rejection from Boulevard. I thought this was a personal rejection only I got the same exact thing before. Oh, well. It's a nice form, and I will try them again.
A very nice, personal rejection from Splickety just came in. Judging by its tone, the only reason it was rejected was for lack of space. The editor even took the time to make some general edits and recommendations in the file itself, along with encouraging me to submit more in the future.
If I'm going to get rejected, this is the way I prefer it happen.
Sounds like it was a close one. Sometimes it hurts more to be so close, but if they liked your work once, they will probably like something else from you. Good luck!
Sometimes I send a story out once and then kind of forget about it or don't really think it's that great so it doesn't see much action. Then I have other stories I just refuse to give up on. I have one story that has been rejected more than 60 times. And I'm still trying with that one. Maybe a little crazy... However, I am yet to have a story accepted that hasn't been rejected a high number of times, though, 60 is the most I have tried with a story to date. What's the highest rejection count you've got with any of your stories? And what makes you or doesn't make you give up on a story?
And another one came in this afternoon. First time I've ever had two in the same day. On the up side, I can finally send that story out to places that don't take simultaneous submissions.
That must be quite restrictive in terms of making any headway in publishing.
Haha, interesting story.
Separate names with a comma.