|Shadow taking a rest from the submission flurry|
Literary journals are opening back up to submissions as the school year gets underway, and I’ve been pushing myself to submit each of my lit stories to at least two markets.
I think there’s great value in submitting early. Whether it is to a literary journal soon after they open to submissions, to a fiction contest, or to a themed issue, submitting early has some concrete advantages.
First of all, I’m much more likely to actually make the deadline if I submit early. I have a spreadsheet where I track deadlines, and sometimes I wait until the night before a market closes to look over the story that I had planned to submit. Most often when I wait until the last minute to submit, I realize that there were revisions I wanted to make to the story before sending it out. And that one night before the deadline is never enough time to revise. I find myself at 11:30PM, halfway through writing a scene that feels like it is finally pulling the story together, wishing I just had a few more days. I work on the story until after midnight, but it still isn’t finished. In the end I wind up putting the story aside and not submitting it at all.
By submitting in the fall, I’m also more attuned to different markets. I’ve signed up for Duotrope’s weekly newsletter for fiction markets, and each week I get an email with the fiction markets that have reopened to submissions. Going through the available markets chunk by chunk, as they open to submissions, is extremely helpful. I’ve already found several journals whose aesthetic I absolutely love, but whose name I had never heard before. There’s just so many journals out there, that even using Duotrope’s search subcategories returns an overwhelming number of possible journals.
When submitting to literary journals, I find that I get a much faster response when I submit early. Thanks to Submishmash, I can tell when my story is in-progress. That doesn’t tell me a lot about where my story is in the slush pile, but at least it lets me know that my story has moved forward a spot. Of my ten submissions that are currently open in Submishmash, half of those are marked “in-progress” instead of just “received.” The earliest submission I made was on August 22nd and the latest September 5th. I’ve already had one response that was incredibly fast – just a few days.
In the past few years when I’ve submitted stories in March, near the close of the literary journal reading period, it often takes months for journals to respond and sometimes a whole summer, or a year. I know these journals get an insane amount of submissions, and in most cases I am submitting to journals that do not require a reading fee. Response times are expected to be slow, and with good reason.
But submitting early seems like a good best practice. It’s kind of like introducing myself to an editor or agent on the first day of a convention, instead of the last. I have more time to make sure my submission is in perfect shape and that I’ve followed the journal’s particular rules, and the journal readers are fresh from their summer vacations and ready to read new stories. We’re meeting each other at our best to see if we’re a fit. And if we don’t fit, that’s ok – it’s part of the process. But I know I’ve met my half of the challenge with my best foot forward.