Monday, May 08, 2006

Literary Magazines

Still Recovering from Vegas writes in:

I know you addressed literary magazines a little bit in the book, but I was hoping you could give me a little more advice. I have between 10-15 short stories that I think are publication worthy. As you know, when you submit to a lit mag it takes 3-6 months to hear back, and more often than not, when you do hear back it will be a rejection. So, I was wondering:

--What is the most efficient way to spread all my stories around so that I am getting the most work read by the most editors in the shortest amount of time?

--How many separate rejections should you take from one editor before you give up on him/her? (example; I've had four stories rejected by Glimmer Train, with nary a word of advice or criticism)

Vegas, I think I actually addressed the first question in the book, but here goes again. What I do: I send six copies of each story out at a given time. If they’re all rejected, I send it to six other places. If it’s rejected again, I send it to six more places. If it’s rejected at all of those places (18 now), then I think “That’s a lot of no’s. Maybe I need a rewrite.” This is not the perfect formula, but I think it’s manageable and efficient.

Most importantly: you MUST keep track of where you sent things and when you sent them. Do this on Excel or in a notebook, however you like, but be sure to do it. Otherwise you’ll have a huge headache later.

As far as the second question: When do you give up on an editor or a magazine? Well first of all, if you get a note back, then you never give up on that magazine. Or not for a long time anyways. If you just receive the typical rejection slip, then I’d say, man-facting, that four or five is the right number.

Of course, much of this is predicated on sending the right work to the right magazine. Glimmer Train and McSweeneys (for example) are not publishing the same type of work. Be sure to read and know the magazines before you send. Spending a Sunday morning in the magazine section of your best local bookstore is a smart investment for your publishing career. Send to magazines that publish the work that you like. Rock on, Vegas.

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