You write the story, you edit it, you have someone else go over it, you polish more and more, and then you submit. If you get that far you’ve gotten further than a lot of self-proclaimed “writers.” But beyond that comes the waiting.
It’s difficult enough to find the right market for your work. There is a mecca of publications with numerous criteria and submission guidelines. Word counts, genres, audience age, and more make it exceedingly important to narrow down the field to send your piece to the best fit.
Like many writers, I utilize the wonderment that is Duotrope. For a minimal fee it tracks submissions and helps you search publications and so on. I like knowing the odds and seeing the numbers displayed clearly.
BUT there is the incidence of non-responses. Almost every publication has a slip up now and again. Your submission hits a junk mail folder, gets overlooked, or magically disappears in the tech world. Having the ability to filter through publications with high non-response rates and only submit to the ones that seem to be more organized will help cut down on the agony of being a writer.
Some days it’s like we’re expected to be dogs. We have to obey the guidelines and be a good little pup in order to get our treat-which of course is the magical acceptance. The hope that keeps us wagging our tails begins to run dry once we’ve waited for months and months and months.
I like the publications that respond within 6 months. I can wait half a year- a year. By month 12 I’m chasing my tail, but it’s acceptable.
On the flip side, if a publication clearly states in their criteria that they respond withing 3 months, don’t sit around waiting after moth 4. A lot of writers are introverts. It makes sense. Writing is a solitary sport where being social doesn’t have to be a part of the process. (I personally enjoy talking to other writers and getting out with my readers, but I’m me.) Despite whatever reservations an introverted writer may have, it is okay to send off a short, concise-and polite-email to a publication to inquiry about the status of a submission.
There seems to be this thick air of fear that holds writers back when dealing with publishers and agents. That fear can kill your career. It will slow you down at the very least.
Don’t annoy an editor by emailing twice a day from the moment you send out your submission, that will get you a HARD rejection and a possible black list note. Wait it out. Give it some time. Once things start to progress beyond typical submission response rates, wait a few more weeks, and THEN send out you inquiry.
Something as simple as:
My name is so-and-so and I submitted my story “blah blah blah” on-enter the date-. I would appreciate it if you could notify me of the status on my submission at your earliest convenience.
It’s not hard. Sometimes editors are so bogged down they forget to send something out, or they merely overlook your story. Either way a good publication will respond within a month or two and give you an update.
It’s gut wrenching. Most aspects of the publishing industry are at times, but you have to speak up.
I know the pain of never getting a response on a submission. It’s frustrating to wait over 500 days and receive nothing.
After years of working in the industry I try to be as understanding as possible. You have to realize that everyone has their own shit going on, and different workloads to handle, not to mention the multitude of people have to work day jobs.
A good rule that I put into practice a year or two ago is: Never submit to any publisher that has a non-response rate of more than 25%. between 15-25% is a case by case scenario for me. Pay and whether or not it’s in print is also a factor.
No matter how YOU do it, don’t be afraid to send out a status update inquiry. Know when to speak up. Know your worth and let it shine.