Submitting my Essays – Update!
Back in June, I wrote about setting a goal to submit my essays for publication. I started with a goal of 21 submissions but then raised it to 50. Though publication was part of the goal, my main goal was to make a practice of writing, editing, and submitting. Guess what? I met my goal! I clicked “send” on my 50th essay submission on December 30th!
I figure it’s worth taking a look at what I did and why. So here’s a recap.
In 2021 I submitted 12 different essays to a total of 50 different markets
- I submitted to 36 different journals/publications and 4 contests
- Withdrew 4 essays because they were accepted elsewhere
- Received 34 Rejections
- Still awaiting word on 9 submissions
- Spent $198.37 on submission fees
- Received 3 Acceptances!!
I’ve had 3 acceptances so far and boy am I happy about them! But, honestly, I thought I would have more acceptances with all of the submitting I’ve done. I also was surprised that it took nearly 6 months to get my first acceptance letter. One of the pieces that was accepted for publication won’t be published until this summer, over a year after I sent the piece to the publication and nearly a year after they accepted it.
On Receiving Rejections
Boy, it’s no fun to get rejections on my essays. I’ve heard the markets are overflowing with submissions and I know the competition is tough. I also know a lot of my work covers difficult topics and may be a hard sell to mainstream readers. So, I get it that I don’t get a lot of acceptances. I simply try my best to stay positive, to tell myself my work is good enough, that it’s simply not finding the right fit and I need to keep sending it out into the world.
That said, sometimes I get a rejection and feel like crying. Other times I see the email in my in box and swear. Sometimes I feel like quitting. Often I feel like my writing is terrible and that’s why no one wants it. But then I try for a reality check and remember that all of the work I submit has been read by other writers, by trusted writer friends who give great feedback. It’s not terrible. Sure, maybe some editing might be in order but my work, I am going to be bold and say this, is at least sort of good. Or goodish. Or not bad, at least. But a lot of the time rejections make me kind of mad and motivated to send things out again. And again. Because I guess that’s what writers do. Keep on submitting their work. Which is to say, they keep on believing it’s good enough. Which is to say, I guess I believe my work is worth it.
A Note on Free Feedback
One of the pieces that was accepted (my essay “Lies”) was rejected 4 times before it was accepted. One of the places that rejected it told me the work felt like a rough draft. The place that accepted it told me they thought it was perfect. I had an editor give me some unusual feedback on an essay and their feedback contained typos and sentence fragments that made no sense. Several publications told me the piece I submitted wasn’t quite right for them but please do submit again.
What’s the point of telling you all of this? Well, take what is helpful from the feedback and feel free to ignore the less than helpful bits. Ultimately, what you are getting is one person’s opinion on your work. It may not resonate with them and that is okay. But, do take a look at a piece that is getting rejected. Is it worth editing? Is there something that could use a tweak? Could you shorten it or expand it and make it a better piece? It’s really up to you – you’re the writer.
Um, but what about that $198.37 I spent?
I love it when publications don’t charge anything for submitting but I’m okay with paying a a reading fee when I send my work out. Most publications charge just a few bucks and that’s fair. The most I paid to submit my work was $25.00 to enter a contest but felt it was worth it (I didn’t win – lol). I kept track of how much I paid in fees out of curiosity. I spent more money on submission fees than I thought I would. And, honestly, I thought I would get paid for some acceptances along the way. But that didn’t happen and I’m okay with it.
Early on in this journey, I decided that I would not think about submission fees and have that part of things get in the way of sending work out. I decided to think of the money spent as the same thing as paying for a writing class or paying my website designer to help me with some updates. I think of the money spent as a business expense. If I think of it all that way, then my submission business cost was less than $17.00 a month. On average, I spent $3.96 per submission. That’s less than a latte. I’m okay with that.
A few months ago, my friend asked me why submit? Why go through all of the work especially when I’m not making money doing this and am spending hours of time to not just write but to research possible markets, to write cover letters and bios and click “SEND” time and time again. Oh, and I also spend money to send my work out. So why? WHY DO THIS? When my friend asked, I didn’t have an answer right away. It’s what I do. It’s what writers do, I think I said. But why? Seriously – why go through all this work?
- Well, to begin with, I started sending my work out simply to practice putting my work (and myself) out there. I submitted to make the process of sending my work out into the world less scary.
- I am a writer (sometimes I still have trouble writing or saying that – but I’m practicing that, too) and writers send their work out. So, I submitted to help myself think of myself as a writer.
- Writing is meant to be read and shared. Okay so some writing is for myself and is never meant for others to see but when I attend a writing class or retreat and write from a prompt I’m writing with the intent of writing well and sharing what I’ve written.
- Sometimes sharing my writing is a way of letting go of whatever pain prompted the story.
- But it’s not all about hard times, sometimes sharing writing is a way of sharing joy.
- I also submit with the intent of getting published because I hope to build a readership, a following, in case I write a collection of essays or a memoir someday.
- But I also write and submit because writing matters. My stories matter. My stories may actually help someone else. They may make someone smile or laugh or cry. They might make someone feel heard or less alone. That is why I write. That is why I keep sending my work out there.