in search of rejections

I sent off a chapter from my book to three lit magazines today. On a whim, I also sent out a short story I wrote a while ago but came across recently in my packing. It didn’t seem that bad, so while I was researching literary journals and sending things, I sent that out, too.
Sometime during the two years I’ve been in grad school I heard this piece of wisdom: that that you have to get at least 100 rejection letters before you can even consider the possibility of getting published. I have sent out very little of my work, so this semester, I decided to rack up the rejection letter numbers. The adage about getting one hundred rejection letters is cynical and perhaps pessimistic, but there’s truth to it nonetheless. There is so much competition out there, so many manuscripts sent to every magazine (1000+ a month to the mag where I work), that you definitely need to employ carpet-bombing techniques with your work to actually get something published. So much of it is chance, personal taste and the aesthetic of the magazine. Obviously you need to target publications that fit your work and style but to some extent it’s out of your hands.
So anyway, the rejection letters. I’ve got a handy Excel file submission tracker and it tells me that I’ve sent out 12 pieces in the past 15 months including the ones I sent today. (So far, six rejections, six still under consideration.) Not exactly a rate at which I’m going to see publication. This summer I am definitely planning to step it up. I’ve recently created a binder of submission guidelines for journals and contests I want to submit to, organized by deadline. Yes, I am freakish like that. I’m thinking that I will start sending out a few essays a week, although that seems like a lot. Anyway, I’m not giving up yet. I’ve got a long way to go before I hit 100 rejection letters.


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