Today marks my hundred and first submission of something I wrote to some place I hope will pay me money for the privilege(?) of printing my words. I have a thing for palindromic numbers, so I’m choosing to view this particular goalpost as auspicious.
During the nearly two years since I started submitting my writing to magazines, anthologies, competitions, and more, I’ve found it both helpful and comforting when other submitting writers–emerging and established alike–shared their experiences. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who gets more rejections than acceptances! (I mean, of course I’m not, but when one is writing and submitting largely in isolation, without a community of peers with whom to discuss the experience and process, it’s great that social media (in particular, SFFH Twitter) allows one to get at least a little of a sense of what it might be like for other people.) So, in the spirit of what passing on some of what has helped me soldier on and keep hoping, here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve found the submitting life to be like:
I submitted my first story in October of 2019. It was rejected. I had only recently started writing again, after a drought of many years; that first story I submitted was written for a short fiction workshop class I’d signed up for on a whim during my last year of the undergraduate degree I had rather dubiously undertaken in my late twenties. I was very lucky to that the professor for that class encouraged me to keep submitting my work and to feel confident that sooner or later someone would publish some of it. I don’t know how well I’d have held up to all the rejections I received between that first submission and my first publication without that initial boost of having a published, award-winning writer whom I liked and respected immensely (I don’t know why the past tense there; I’m still in touch with that professor, and still like and respect him) tell me that he thought my work was worthwhile. I kept writing, revising, and research markets that might be a better fit for the kinds of weird little stories I had it in me to tell.
In 2020, I sent off 22 submissions. One of them–another I wrote for the workshop class–won third place and $100 in the university’s student short fiction competition. A second–the first story I wrote specifically for a themed submissions call–was accepted on its very first submission, by the anthology for which I wrote it, and is due to be published in early 2023. And a third–the first story I wrote on my own, after the workshop class had ended and no one was pushing me to have something finished by any particular date–was accepted at the start of 2021, and, a few months later, became my first publication.
In 2021 so far, I’ve made 78 submissions, mostly to a variety of CanLit and SFFH magazines. There are several reasons the number increased so dramatically from 2020 to 2021: for one, because I’ve been writing and revising steadily for the past two years, I have an ever-larger number of finished and polished pieces ready to send out; for another, I’ve learned about a great deal of new-to-me markets thanks in part to discovering SFFH Twitter and The Submission Grinder this year; for yet another, I’ve read a lot of blog posts that have helped me feel like I’m going about this all in pretty much the right way, which I find motivational; and, perhaps most crucially, I’ve lost my fear of sending out simultaneous submissions when the markets in question allow them.
I haven’t had anything accepted since January of this year, though I’ve started to receive more and more hold notes and personal rejections as I’ve gotten better at revising my work into states of reasonable polish and have also gotten better (mostly through reading a lot of magazines, partly through creeping editors on Twitter and their blogs) at matching particular stories to publications that might genuinely want them. I don’t know yet how many submissions I’ll make in total this year, though, based on current rates and upcoming opportunities, I’ll probably crack 100. I currently have 20 pending submissions, 2 of which are currently on hold at 2 of the 3 SFWA-qualifying SFFH magazines in which I most badly want to be published. Thanks to the stories held earlier in the year (all at SFFH prozines–so close, so many times!) I know that, even if these stories don’t ultimately sell this time, being seriously considered by the magazines I most enjoy reading is the kind of boost that keeps me motivated to write more stories, revise them more carefully, and never, ever stop submitting.