Medium Writers! Are You Languishing in Submission Limbo?

How To Play The Submission Game

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There’s been a certain amount of grousing among Medium writers lately about editors who hang on to your work for weeks before deciding whether or not to publish it.

Editors are busy people. They’re flooded with submissions. How many? We have no idea. Because, like everything on Medium, it’s a big effing secret.

I feel their pain, because I was once an editor myself. Starting with Women’s Glib, a Collection of Women’s Humor, I published two humor anthologies a year for close to a decade.

This was back in the Mailbox Era. Before Al Gore invented the internet! When being an editor meant putting out calls for submissions, then shlepping to the post office every day to see what turned up.

Because I was a writer myself, and all too familiar with the pain and uncertainty of sending a submission off to an editor and not hearing for months, I was determined to turn things around quickly. My goal was a 24 hour turnaround and, I usually met this goal. How?

Did I consider each submission carefully, reading every single word? Nope. I read it as I imagined an eventual reader of the finished collection would. Which meant?

If the first paragraph didn’t hook me, back in the SASE it went. (Is anyone reading this old enough to know what a SASE is?)

If I kept reading past the first paragraph, but the piece wasn’t exactly what I needed, or very close to it? It got a big no.

Did I reject 95% of what I received? Sure! Submit to me and you’d probably get rejected.

But at least you’d get a prompt rejection.

I figured it was the least I could do. (And the books didn’t suffer. Women’s Glib got rave reviews and sold a very respectable 20,000 copies.)

I recommend this down-and-dirty method to those Medium editors currently coping with a terrifying logjam of submissions. Don’t be thorough. Be quick. Don’t be considerate. Be ruthless.

Because? Speeding up a bit would make everyone happier.

But? It’s your publication, so it’s your call.

So how do I, as a writer, deal with Submission Limbo?

I have a Two Day Rule.

After I submit my work to a publication, I wait for only two days.

Why? Because I’ve found that if a publication is going to run my work, they’ll put it up quickly. Sometimes within moments. Always within two days.

If an editor doesn’t run it within 2 days, they’re never going to use it.

I’ve never had an editor sit on my work for a week and then run it. But before I started my 2 day system? Plenty of my stories vanished into Submission Limbo for weeks while I waited in vain for an editor response.

So? If you haven’t run my submission in two days, I’ll withdraw it and either post it myself or submit to a publication whose editor responds quickly. (For instance? The Haven. The Mile High Club. Indelible Ink. Writing is Cheaper than Therapy.)

I’d rather have my story published quickly by a smaller magazine (or no magazine at all) than languish forever in a submissions queue.

Not only that, but withdrawing a publication after two days isn’t necessarily the end of things.

I once withdrew a submission and posted it myself, only to have a Startup editor get in touch to ask if they could run it.

One writer tells of submitting to a large Medium publication, not hearing, then withdrawing and resubmitting to that same publication — and promptly getting published!

So there’s no clear and obvious way to play the Submitting Game.

But having some kind of system gives you a (probably illusory) feeling that you’ve got some control over the process.

Part Two of my Two Day Rule? The minute I submit, I start working on a new story, and see if I can get it finished before first one gets published. This kind of race-against-the-clock is both a good motivator and an excellent distraction.

If you don’t think my Two Day Rule & Write Another Story While You’re Waiting Method would work for you? No problem. Develop your own system for coping with Submission Limbo and fine tune it as you go.

And feel free to write about it.

(If you liked this essay by Roz Warren, you might enjoy this one too.)

Written by

Writing Coach/Medium Sherpa Roz Warren( ( writes for everyone from the New York Times to the Funny Times.

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