Random Insomnia Post on submitting short stories

It’s somewhere after 2am, and I can’t sleep. After puttering around for a while, the logical thing to do, dear readers, is to write a blog post.

In the middle of the night, all sorts of things occur to you.  “Did I lock the door?” “Do I have milk in the house?”

Regardless of these random thoughts, my primary focus continues to be my writing and publishing opportunities so I think I will opine on that, if you will bear with me.

As of this writing I have my short stories out to 32 different small press magazines for their consideration.  4 of those submissions were sent in 2010, and the remaining 28 were sent this year.

My submissions number is highly variable because I submit my work around several times a month while I am waiting for my responses. My sub number goes up or down depending on who is getting back to me and at what pace.

Now, my rejection list is a whole other story.  I have about 42 small press magazines who have rejected my submissions (thusfar) – and that includes both 2010 and 2011, since I’ve been tracking these things (I used to not want to know them).

Finally, my acceptance rate. While small, I’m pleased to say I have 4 total acceptances. One acceptance from 2009 (published in 2010); one acceptance from late 2010 (published in 2011); two acceptances from 2011: one has already been published in First Stop Fiction, the other awaits a final publication date. Not too shabby, reader!

Whoever said that getting your work published is a matter of patience and persistence is right. The same stories that were rejected elsewhere are getting published eventually.

Each time I get critical feedback – or encouragement – from an editor in the form of a rejection, I use the opportunity to go back to the story and make changes and enhancements.  I don’t always change my story based on this feedback (particularly if the feedback seems random), but I always try to view the story with fresh eyes.

This particular strategy has worked for me, of course your mileage may vary.  But I think I should note that all of my works that have been published thusfar are flash fiction – under 1000 words.  It is relatively easier to tinker with endings or make minor edits when the story is so small.

Another thing I have noticed is that although I submit my work very widely across as broad a spectrum of small lit. magazines as I think is feasible, I am also beginning to notice that there are a small handful that I submit to repeatedly because I think my work would fit best with them. 

In many cases it is also because I have gotten encouraging feedback from the editorial staff!  Some of my nicest rejections are complimentary and personal.  It’s their way of saying, while we couldn’t publish this story, we like your writing and you should definitely come back to us with other work.

These are my observations from my experiences over the past 18-24 months of actively submitting my work. I’d like to think I do have some good stories to tell, and a handful of magazines have validated that thought by publishing my work, and a good many more have validated that thought by rejecting my work in a way that is encouraging and re-inforces the idea of continuing to submit.

Another way of saying it, for writers who might be reading this post, is – 1) don’t give up; 2) use feedback constructively; 3) yes, it’s a bit of a numbers game to get your work published, if the stories are at the right quality level; 4) everyone’s experiences really are different.

Keep sending your work into the world and keep on writing new stories. It’s the only way to get published.


One Response

  1. Makes a lot of sense, Carol. Especially at 2AM! Congratulations on being persistent. It would be ‘easy’ to give up, but that’s not you.

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