If you’ve been lucky enough to receive “ink” from an editor on a rejection slip – ink meaning a handwritten note saying something like “nice work, send us more” – what do you do? Do you immediately send the next manuscript you’re trying to get published?
I must confess I used to do this, following up right away on such a wonderful note of encouragement. I wanted to be prompt and professional. Then I heard an editor (I’m sorry I can’t remember who it was) say, on a publishing panel at an MFA alumni conference, that receiving another manuscript quickly was a letdown. What? we eager-to-be-published alumni groaned, you mean you don’t want us to send something else right away? No, he said. He wanted to feel special, like he was getting our best work, like we were toiling away to polish the next manuscript and weren’t just sending out the next one. In a way, he said, getting published was a lot like dating. You don’t want to seem desperate. You wait a day or two after the date before you call, or before you return a call. You’ve got other things to do, other people to see, you’re not waiting by the phone, and you’re not waiting by the mail box (for the rejection slip), and you’re not checking your emails every five minutes to hear back.
Aha, one of my friends, Brenda Wilson, said out loud, submitting is like dating without the dinner. We all roared with laughter. But ever since, that editor’s missive has stuck in my mind. I don’t send something else right away after I receive “ink.” I note the “ink” in my submissions log and put a reminder in my Outlook calendar one or two months in the future to submit to the publication again. Because, after all, I'm not that desperate.