Submitting short stories: the waiting period 5

The excellent John D asked on a previous writing nuts and bolts post:

On a related note, how soon is too soon to submit another story to a magazine after a rejection. One of them just rejected a story of mine (but included a nice note, which I do appreciate) and I have another story that I think might fit their guidelines. I don’t want to seem overly pushy or idiotic, so how long should I wait before submitting the new story to them?

And I figure that’s an important enough question that it deserves its own post. For more of the nitty-gritty stuff, see the writing advice category/tag.

The first thing here is everyone’s old favorite, read the submission guidelines. Quite a few markets specify in the guidelines if there’s a cooling-off period before you can submit again. For example, F&SF has a 15-day waiting period, which is only in effect if they answer your submission in less than 15 days. Lightspeed wants you to wait 7 days. So does Clarkesworld. And I’m sure there are more, those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head. But you don’t have to remember which ones off the top of your head, because the submission guidelines will tell you.

If there isn’t a specified waiting period between submissions, then that’s it. You can submit something again the second after you receive your rejection for the previous story. And I’d encourage you to do so, if you have something you think fits the market.

I know it does feel a bit pushy to be like, “Hey I know you just rejected my last story, but how do you like me now?” But this isn’t personal. You’re trying to sell a story to an editor, not date them. Especially if an editor takes the time to tell you that they liked what you sent and want to see more, send them more. Don’t wait.

Personal anecdote time: when I was querying my agent, the inimitable DongWon Song, he sent me an extremely nice “no thanks” on the first novel I sent him. I took about thirty seconds to run in circles and think oh god I’m going to sound like a pushy, desperate jerk and then I screwed my courage to the sticking point and asked him: “okay, but would you maybe be interested in this other novel I have stashed in my back pocket?” And I’m glad every day that past me had the guts to do that, because now that’s the thrilling conclusion to my “how I got an agent” story.

Editors, while I think they try as a matter of course to not destroy anyone’s soul, are not there to blow sunshine up your ass. If they say they want to see more, they’re not just saying that to make you feel better. Every personal note I sent with a rejection to tell someone that I wanted to see more from them if I did another anthology was from the heart.

And honestly? Even if you didn’t get a personal note or a “please send more” rejection, send more if what you have is polished and appropriate. The story that got rejected didn’t work out, but the next one might. You don’t know until you send it, and each story is a new chance. There’s no need to wait, and it’s definitely not being pushy.


5 thoughts on “Submitting short stories: the waiting period

  1. Reply JohnD Jan 6,2017 15:10

    Wow! Thank you for the advice. Now I just have to follow it… 8-)

  2. Reply JohnD Jul 8,2017 11:02

    Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I got rejected!

    But the cool part is that they included a detailed list of why they rejected it and how the story could be improved. Even better, they ended with this “So, we will pass on this for now, but if you decided to rework it, we’d be happy to look at the revision next round.”

    So, given that I reworked the story following their suggestions (which were, by and large, excellent), how long should I wait before resubmitting it? And should I change the standard cover letter,/A> to let them know I was listening?

    • Reply Alex Jul 12,2017 07:49

      Rewrite request! Awesome. With those, take however long you need to implement their suggestions (if you agree with them). It doesn’t have to be a certain length of time. What shows you were listening is the implementation. :) for the cover letter, I’d really just recommend a note along the lines of, “thank you for your feedback, here is the rewritten piece as you said you’d be happy to read it once it had been reworked.” The important part is providing the reminder that they said it was okay to resubmit.

      • Reply JohnD Sep 7,2017 11:33

        OK, here’s another question:

        An editor just sent me an email letting me know that my story had made it out of the slush pile and into final consideration. Should I reply with a “thank you” or just sit quietly in the corner with my fingers crossed?

        I’d really like to send a note saying “Thank you for keeping me in the loop. Please let me know if there is anything you need to help in your final decision.” However, I can see how that might be seen as pushy.

        What do I do, oh Mighty Knower Of All Things Editorial?

        • Reply Alex Oct 11,2017 13:42

          Sorry this took me forever to answer. Sometimes I’m not getting emails or notifs on comments, which is annoying. General advice is that the editor will assume the “thank you,” so don’t bother sending an email since at that point politeness just becomes inbox clutter. :)

Leave a Reply