Lessons Learnt from Submissions

I’ve been pushing myself to submit more this year, particularly poetry (since I write so much of it anyway). I’ve submitted to ten literary journals or competitions this half year (which is a big improvement to the 5 I did for all of 2013).

round-yes-no-buttonsAnd here’s what’s happened with these ten:

6 rejections

1 rejection with a very encouraging message

1 poem longlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize

1 acceptance (two out of the three poems I sent) – I am sure I will crow about it once they are published!

1 still waiting to hear

One good thing about this process is that I am starting to take rejections much more stoically. The first one back in March or so was like salt and pepper being rubbed into an open wound and knocked me out for 2 days (going on two weeks). The latest one arrived tonight and I just shrugged it off and said blithely to my husband: ‘Oh, look, darling, another rejection!’

Another discovery is that there is no such thing as a good or bad poem (well, other than the obviously dire ones, which I hope mine aren’t). It’s all a matter of personal taste, timing, fit with the journal’s philosophy etc. The poem that was rejected by one journal was the one that was longlisted by judge Ruth Padel. One of the poems that has now been accepted had been rejected elsewhere.

So the moral of the story is that the obvious sayings are still the best: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, tweak and try again!’


22 thoughts on “Lessons Learnt from Submissions”

  1. Marina Sofia – Learning to deal with both rejections and acceptances is so important. It’s something each writer has to learn for him/herself, too. One can read all the advice in the world, but in the end, each of has a unique way of coping. I wish you much success and lots more acceptances!!

  2. Go you! The road to publication is paved with rejection letters, or so they say. You’re absolutely right, the first few rejections are painful, but it does get easier, especially if there are some in between that are more encouraging (despite being ultimately a rejection). And you’re right again–a lot of the time, being accepted for publication will depend on the right time/right person/right content combo tempered with the mood of the day and the flavour of the month. That’s a lot of variables in play!

    So don’t take it personally (I know you don’t), keep writing, and keep your chin up. You’ll do great, and you know we’re right behind you every step (poem) of the way. XX

    1. Thank you, Nicky dear, for your constant support and encouragement. Like anything in life, with writing I suppose if success comes too easily, we don’t appreciate it enough!

  3. Congratulations on your acceptance and longlisting – that’s great news! I recall an interview with Donal Ryan where he mentioned receiving over 40 rejections from publishers before The Spinning Heart was finally accepted. Ryan was submitting a novel, but I guess the moral is similar – he knew he had to carry on trying…
    Wishing you every success for future submissions, and I look forward to reading your poems in print!

    1. Thank you, Jacqui. I also remember Stephen King’s story about papering his study with the rejection slips… Haven’t got that far yet, as it sounds rather dreary to me, but it’s a comfort!

  4. Those look like very good results from your submissions! Congratulations! Celebrate the good news and learn from the rest. We are all in this together!

  5. Congrats on your acceptance and for making the long list! It’s so true, what doesn’t work for one journal does work for another. It’s a matter of matching your work with the right place.

    1. I guess another lesson learnt is to read those journals more carefully to see exactly what type of poetry they publish. I’m a bit of a magpie and enjoy reading all sorts, so I don’t distinguish much between the different poetic styles and schools, but I suppose publishers do.

      1. Yes, very well, but in that case: who are you writing for if not for yourself. It might as well be a consignment for an advertising agent rather than a poem from the heart. One would be prostituting one’s mind and that even without a pre-arranged fee.

  6. This is wonderful. OK, some have been rejected but not all of them. Besides, you really hardly ever know why you’re not accepted. I admire you for doing it.

  7. The same is true for all publications. The variables are incredibly varied. Timing, mood of the reader, weather and oil prices, too. I am no longer upset my rejection. I actually laugh a little most of the time because I know it’s the antidote to complacency and the badge of honor for the writer. Persistence is the key to it all.

  8. How brave.
    I wouldn’t even know how to go about submitting nor where.
    Hope for a happy outcome.
    But we don’t always gt what we want .
    BTW, I hope you managed to read the post made I made especially for you, even though it got whipped away smartish πŸ™‚ If not, maybe you can still take a look? If you dare, that is πŸ™‚

    1. Is this the link for Shattered and Rebuilt prompt? I don’t know exactly what happened with Mr. Linky there, but very grateful that you connected anyway and wrote something on the topic.

  9. So glad to hear this. I have no experience in this area, but I do know from having friends submit written works that it is hard. Your attitude is good and that is important.

  10. Frankly, I take an issue with the phrase “getting published” because this turns the action onto the writer. Obviously, learning the craft is vital and you won’t sell a tale/poem without first learning to write well. The truth of the matter is that publishers are choosing which submissions to purchase, just the same way you or I would purchase a shirt. If you need a red camisole, you aren’t going to buy a crisp white button-down, no matter if it is a good tailor and fabric. You are going to find the red camisoles and pick which one you want. This doesn’t reflect badly on the white button-down. It just wasn’t right. In my opinion, rejection letters are simply a way to say “this wasn’t what I needed right now”. And, of course, it may be a case of who reads it or what their mood is.
    You’ve inspired me to tidy up some short stories and stick them out there. I’ve been preoccupied with longer pieces, but it’s exciting to think about someone saying ‘yes’, isn’t it?
    Congrats on your successes!

    1. Very wise words indeed – same goes for casting decisions for theatre/film. It’s not just about the talent, it’s also about the look, feel, fit etc.
      Glad I inspired you to dust off some stories and start submitting. I’m also working on a novel but it takes so long to finish, edit, find an agent, find a publisher etc. etc. that I wanted to have a bit of experience of rejection for shorter pieces first, where I don’t have so much invested.

      1. Yes, exactly the same thing for casting decisions. I recently heard about an actor who was rejected from his first big role because he was “too nice”. How crushing would that be to receive that phone call! Egads, it takes forever to polish up a novel. Not literally, but it feels like it. I think the wisest thing you can do is send out several shorter pieces while you’re working on your longer one, in the hopes that you’ll have a bit of a publication history by the time you need to find an agent. Basically, I think you’re on the path I would prefer to take, but I got sucked into a novel so I’m riding it out for now.

        1. Well, not sure that poetry acceptances will help very much with finding an agent for my crime novel… but… those are the two things I like to write!

        2. Maybe, maybe not? It’s so hard to set any real “rules” for publishing. In any case it really won’t hurt, and at least you’ll have a list of published works that you can look at when you have a “I feel down” day. Plus, just getting up the guts to send things out is major. As a poet you know how to feel the weight of each word, and what sort of reaction it invokes. Seems to me you could write a really slick crime novel.

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