Our submission process is derived from various beliefs on statistics, the universe, art, barstool wisdom, and magic. We probably haven’t captured all of it here, but it should give you an impression of how we approach our own submission processes.
I had a professor whose own process manta back in the 60s-70s was: a story never spends a night in the house.
That quote and stance was from back when journals would return your story or poems and you would continue to send around the same physical copy. However, the meaning today is: one in, one out.
The average response rate of our journals for our rejections over the last six years is 87 days. This includes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.
We believe we (not the Royal We, but the people writing this) have about a 2.5% chance of getting a piece published every time out. This is a number we arrived at after logging and reading 1000s of submissions for a high quality journal and getting a good sense for what gets submitted.
Our modern take on never letting a story spend a night in the house, given the digital submission era, together with the knowledge of response times and publishing rates, is that we need to get 40 submissions out there, on average, to find a home.
We can do them one at a time and have it take 12 years.
We can submit 40 all at once X however many pieces we have and spend too much money.
Or we can do something structured in between.
Our Structured In Between
First, you’ll need to understand the Silver Window.
Second, you will need to keep some very, very accurate records, or else you will send multiple submissions or double submit or, in general, not behave optimally with your stable of pieces, which wastes time.
Bear in mind, we have jobs and pets, and travel, and partners, and parents, and so much Netflix to watch… so there is our plan and then there is what we actually do.
Our plan is to get between 5 and 10 submissions per piece in action to start. We aim toward the higher end if some of the journals are about to close a submission period before our personal next round starts.
We wait a month.
Then we submit another 5 to 10. It is usually closer to 5 this round because they are starting to accumulate.
Wait a month. Repeat. You get it.
What we are trying to get to is around 20 active submissions per piece. THEN, when one comes in, send another out.
This gives us a chance to pay less for all these submissions, and it gives us 20 chances per piece at any given moment, which is plenty.
Our practice is to be great at the beginning and then let some months slip without adding new pieces to the funnel. This will happen to you, too, because of the more pieces in the Silver Window the more confidence that you already have a winner in there somewhere. Then excuses about time become way more seductive.
Make sure this isn’t about money. You are a broke graduate student, for sure, but even at $3/submission, if it does take 40 subs, that’s $120. If you were asked to put a value on being published, it’s more than $120. It’s probably more than $5000. You’re getting a deal no matter what.
We Ride with the Top Down. Or, rather, we submit from the top down. Our approach is that we are confident in our work, and it’s more meaningful today to be published in quality journals than to just be published anywhere. Earlier in our careers, it was more important just to be published. Thus, we are submitting our pieces to the highest rated journals out there and then working our way down. It takes longer, but we have time.
Billy Joel’s Children. Billy Joel once said that his songs are like his children. Some are doctors and lawyers. Some are bums. Doesn’t mean you love them any less. If you want to be published quickly, be honest with who your children are. If you have five short stories, one of them is likely your best or your favorite. Great. Try to submit that one to the best places.
As you go down the list, think about submitting your less-great pieces to journals at lower tiers. They will get wherever they are heading faster if you can take an objective look at them. You by no means have to.