A friend wrote me and asked the following:

“Hope you don’t mind a submitter-type question. There are a couple of journals that I’ve been rejected by more than once. I’d like to keep submitting there because these are journals I admire and where I think my work (in general) kind of fits, but I wonder if journals have an “oh no not her again pile” for folks who submit more than once with no success. I mean my submissions are normal — I don’t put anything about the story in the cover letter and I don’t send peanut butter sandwiches — but I still wonder if there is an “auto reject” pile that someone might go in, at say, The ____ Review, after a couple of rejections. What are your thoughts? Thanks for your perspective on this….”

I asked her if I could post her question, since I hear variations on this a lot.  Here’s my response:

“In short: I wouldn’t worry too hard. We get so many submissions that we mostly only remember the crazies. I do know a couple of names of frequent submitters who aren’t crazy; those are people who have new stories or poems in within 48 hours of their most recent rejection. I think that constitutes “a bit much” (though, being the softie I am, I’m still rooting for them to land one).

Journals that use electronic submissions can track all your old submissions when you send them stuff, and can even go back and read comments on your previous stories to see if you’re coming along or if your stories are getting worse.

I’d say a good rule of thumb is that unless the magazine has a policy to the contrary, waiting 3-4 months after your most recent rejection to send again is the most appropriate course of action. (Unless they’re sending personal rejections encouraging another submission.)”

So, what do you think?  Comments welcome.

Comments (3)

  1. Matt P.

    As the person who logs all submissions electronically for a literary magazine, I can say that there’s little harm in continuing to submit. Recently, I saw where a writer who gets rejected from the magazine I work with at least 10 times a year got multiple poems in a Big Literary Magazine, where I can only assume he submits a dozen of times each year. As long as a writer isn’t breaking one of the written rules (like simultaneous submissions, for example) of a magazine, or sending in material that is obviously not a good match, then they should be fine.

  2. I only remember the crazies and the ones who repeatedly submit outside of guidelines. Well and also people who were close to getting in. I’m gonna be rioting for them 🙂

  3. I’m too timid to submit too terribly often, but this is good info to read. If you’re game for a related post, I’d be eager to hear an editor’s perspective on what a cover letter should look like. E.g. how much bio info ought one to include, and how much ought one to go on about his admiration for the publication in question, etc.?

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