Saturday, June 13, 2009

Reading Periods: Think Before You Send

If you've researched places to submit your work in the last couple months––and aren't we all always researching markets––this scenario is probably familiar. You pick a publication from Duotrope's or another market listing to research further. After spending an hour or two reading a few issues of the zine or the samples a print journal provides online, you're feeling the excitement of a potential match for that story you just wrote. You click on the guidelines, and in big red letters at the top of the page you read:

Cool Zine will be closed to submissions from June 15 to September 30.


You check your calendar and breath a sigh of relief. It's still only June 12. They accept online submissions. You can get it in right under the wire. Better that than waiting. Who knows where you'll be by September 30.

Think again.

Some publications will explain that the break is due to a backlog. If so, then an extra story in the slush pile probably won't make much difference. However, college and university affiliated journals usually close down completely for summer break. Others close because they won't have enough readers or those readers want a vacation. In that case, they are planning to clear the desks before shutting down.

So let's say your story is dropped onto the slush pile on June 12 in the PM, and the readers plan to clear out by June 15 in the PM. They've been working for days to try to finish off the pile but each reviewed piece appears to spawn 10 more. The managing editor is leaving shortly for her beach house and reviewers feel a strong vibe not to send her anything that is not really, really worthy of her time.

Now think about submitting your work on September 30 in the AM. All the readers are fresh and rested. At universities, they may even be brand new readers all aquiver to dig in and get started. The pile is a lot smaller so readers have more time and less other work to measure your piece agaisnt.

Which of these situations is more likely to benefit a new or emerging writer with nothing in particular to make him or his work stand out?

Certainly it isn't a lock that your piece will be accepted at the beginning of the reading period or that it will be rejected too close to the end. But new writers need every advantage they can get. We writers can be an impatient lot when it comes to submitting, but this time of year you would do much better to mark your calendar (and you should have some reminder system as it is far too easy to forget and have to start all over again), and submit early on when submissions first open. In the meantime, let your piece rest, and re-read some of the stories that made you think it was a match. You may change your mind, or you may decide the story still needs a few revisions to make it fit.

There's no guaranty, but in the end you'll have improved your chances considerably.

4 comments:

Angie Ledbetter said...

Great advice, Nannette.

Barb said...

Excellent advice and so logical when you think about it. Problem is, excitement and haste don't seem to hang around much with logic!

Nannette Croce said...

So very true Barb. The inspiration for this post came to me when I submitted a piece in mid-May, a few days before the end of the reading period and received a rejection by May 30. That's not to say the piece would have been accepted under any circumstances, but I'm guessing far more rejections than acceptances went out in those two weeks.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I never thought of that! :)

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