We need to keep our minds right about response times. It’s easy to get cranky about long waits, but we actually WANT it to take some time.
Our goal is to get submissions into the Silver Window of 100-200 days since submission. Inside this window, we have the highest chance of getting something published.
We’re using a story in this example. In most journals, certainly not all, when your story is finally picked up out of the long queue of submissions, it will go through a first reader. If that reader likes it, it is passed to a second reader. (“likes it” means worth of being published in that particular journal)
If the second reader likes it, it will go on to an Assistant Editor or Managing Editor.
If the Managing Editor likes it, it will be passed on to the Editor.
If the Editor likes it absolutely, you might hear from her straight away.
It might also take some time for lots of other reasons. She has to think about layout and space in the book, if your piece should go in the fall issue or the spring, and tons of other considerations that don’t have much to do with the quality of your piece (which has already been vetted), but rather how your art will fit in with all the other art she has to consider for an issue.
All of that takes time. She needs to think about it. It is an unlikely situation that a story would go through all of those various readers in a day, let alone a month. Plus, rare is the occasion when there are no stories waiting in front of yours.
The takeaway is that we kinda need this to take some time because editors need some time to get the story through the gauntlet and prove its worth before determining its spot in an issue. Fear not: they have deadlines, too. They are going to press at dates that have already been set and are difficult to move. Plus, if your story is that good, it’s likely under consideration elsewhere.
Once your story is determined to be of the quality and species that they accept, the clock is now working in your favor.
The Missouri Review has a submission logic where your piece is given a sequential number. I can tell from previous submissions that they are receiving around 12,000 submissions per year. Let’s assume at least 4,000 of those are short stories. Which means that they are getting 350 short stories every month. They are not going to read your story the day it is submitted. More than likely, it will take a couple of months just to get to its first read.
We Don’t Want Rejections, but We Want Them Faster
If we know that rejection response rate averages 87 days, then what we need to do is get our submissions past this threshold.
It’s an average, so 87 isn’t 87 for each magazine. However, once we get passed this 87 days, we consider this piece pretty much in the Silver Window.
From here, we don’t want it to take TOO long, because too long is very unlikely to be good news. Certainly, it could be the case that yours got lost somewhere, or they just couldn’t decide or whatever, but after 12 months, we are even less likely to have good news coming. What’s more likely is that they just aren’t going to respond. So this is the top end of the Silver Window. We don’t want our submissions to pass through this side of the frame.
We consider the Silver Window to be 100-200 days. 100 gives us a couple of extra weeks on the 87 day rejection. The 200 on the top end gives three weeks past 6 months. 6 months is important because that is plenty of time for a journal to make a decision, so it is well within your rights (and encouraged) to query them about the status of your piece after 6 months, or even before. If it is still in the hopper and your rejection somehow hasn’t been misplaced, give it another 3 months. But if they are communicating with you after this long, it’s likely, truly, still under consideration.