What Happens Next: Submission Series

Once you’ve polished your manuscript, put together a brilliant cover letter, and made sure to mind your manners, there’s only one thing left to do: wait.


Waiting is the absolute worst. There’s nothing you can do but twiddle your thumbs and wonder until you hear back. It could be days, weeks, or even months. And if you’re anything like me, you immediately start thinking of how to improve the story or things that need changing.

And then you finally hear back. But, good news or bad news, what exactly are you supposed to do next?

We Want Your Story!

Congratulations, you’re story has been accepted! But that doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing. There are a few things you need to keep in mind as you get closer to publication.

1. The story will change.

I know you love your story and you probably think that you finally got it perfect. But there is almost no chance that your story will go to print exactly as you sent it in.

Now, it’s not because your story is bad. If it was bad, it wouldn’t have been purchased. But different publications have different style guidelines. For example, the magazines I work for don’t use the Oxford comma. Editors like to cut out extra words or reword things so they make more sense or are more concise. Editing is a part of publication.

Fortunately, editors are good at what they do. They will make changes, yes, but they will keep the integrity of your writing there. They only want to make it better.

2. The story probably won’t be published immediately.

This is true of both magazines and books. If you’re writing for a newspaper, it may be different. But most of the publishing world works on a longer schedule.

For example, the magazines I work for purchase stories several months in advance. Even if we bought a story as we were planning an issue, it would still be four or five months before it was printed. We’re currently working on our June issue, even though it’s only February. And we tend to buy stories even further in advance that that. So just be patient.

Sorry, but your story isn’t a fit.

Ah, the dreaded rejection. It’s not easy to deal with. So here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. It’s not you. Really.

Writers often have a hard time separating themselves from their work (believe me, I’m right there with you). We’ve poured a part of ourselves onto the page. For someone to say “Thanks but no thanks”, it can feel personal. It’s difficult to separate writer from writing sometimes. So just keep in mind, the editors don’t know you. They aren’t rejecting you personally. They just can’t accept everyone.

2. It’s not necessarily the story, either.

Our magazines get a lot of submissions. Much more than we have the space for. I’ve rejected several writers who are talented and have sent in solid stories. Sometimes it’s because we’ve recently published something similar. Sometimes it’s just that we don’t have a spot for the story. And sometimes it’s because it’s just not a good fit for our magazine and audience.

So remember that just because your story is rejected, it doesn’t mean it’s bad.

3. Keep trying.

It’s never easy to pick yourself up after a rejection. But you can’t let that hold you back. Try sending in a different story to the publication or sending a different story to the same publication. If the rejection came with any notes, take them into account. I reject a lot of writers who send us fiction because we often get more fiction submissions in a month than we could publish in a year.

Well, that wraps up all the posts I had planned for the Submission Series. But if you have any questions at all about the submission or publication process, let me know! I’d be more than happy to address them.

Until next time, word nerds!

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