Thursday, June 16, 2011

Third Rule for Literary Magazine Submissions: Don’t Give Up

...or as the director of my MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte, Fred Leebron, likes to say:
“Writing is a game of attrition. Don’t attrish.”
This means don’t give up as you submit your writing for consideration at literary magazines. If you believe in your piece and are sure it’s the best it can be, keep sending it out as the rejections pour in. Follow the process I outlined in my post on having a system for submissions.
I just had another piece accepted for publication (It was, however, solicited, which is another nice milestone to reach.), and that prompted me to average how long it has taken my pieces to be accepted for publication. Take a deep breath, here’s the number: My average is 38 times. My lowest number is 17, my highest is 73. That means I sent a piece to 72 literary magazines before it got accepted by number 73. If that doesn’t prove that point that you shouldn’t give up and just keep going, I don’t know what does. I’m not counting freelance pieces here that I’ve pitched and been able to publish, that’s an entirely different process. I’m talking strictly about getting published in literary magazines.
It’s an arduous process, and takes a lot of persistence and patience, but thankfully there are a lot of literary magazines out there, and they are where new writers typically get a foothold in contemporary literature. They are the stepping stone to bigger national magazines like The New Yorker, and they are read by agents looking for talent. So get out there. Remember that all you need is one yes, and all the drudgery will be wiped away. By the way, if you have an average number, please share. It’s always good to hear what the parameters are.


  1. I just gulped hard. 72!

    Guess I'd better just put one foot in front of the other and not worry about too much else yet. Great post!

  2. Thanks for sharing this! You've been so open and truthful about the difficulties for writers. It inspires me. I'm not afraid of hard work, but I often need the reminder to not give up or be too easily frustrated. There's no reward if you don't put yourself out there.

  3. You should be called Princess Perseverance! I'm a firm believer of continuing to send a piece out again and again, but I usually stop after it doesn't make it by 5 or so times. Makes me think I better keep going. Thanks, Annette.

  4. *Thank you* for sharing that number, Annette! I knew a writer has to keep submitting and submitting, but I'm usually so disappointed by 3 or 4 that I stop, thinking my piece is totally unworthy. That may not be the case, though; I might just need to be more persistent and find that "right" magazine. Off I go to resubmit! ;-)

  5. Tara, Tia, Nancy, Lisa - glad you found my sharing of the average "number" helpful. I've been asking around my MFA buddies and in their experience it's more between 40 and 50. So get out there and just keep at it!

    And Nancy - thanks for the "Princess Perseverance" I love it! I mean people are called Temperance and Charity, why not Perseverance?

  6. Great post, Annette. I had a dear writer friend, far-far more talented than I, who quit writing after being rejected once. ONCE.

    And the rejection was from a small -- let me call it what it was -- TINY literary journal.

    So sad.

    My acceptance numbers vary with each piece. My "Facelift" piece was subbed to three, and accepted by 2 of those on the same day. Yikes, what a decision that was. Others have taken 10, 48, 70+ subs. I think subject matter counts significantly. If an editor's already working on a "facelift" article (I didn't have the facelift, folks...), then he/she isn't likely to accept another one for quite some time. Same thing about the death of a child or spouse, etc.

    Just saying...keep that good work circulating!

  7. Congratulations on getting another piece accepted!! Thanks for sharing about not giving up- this is so good. This is a lesson not only for writers- but people in general- it seems right about the time they want to give up...there is actually a victory around the corner. Great reminder! Thanks!!