While talking to a new writer recently, I mentioned I'd been waiting nine months for a response for a short story from a literary magazine. The writer seemed incredulous a publication could take that long to make a decision.
I, too, was incredulous at the prospect of such long waits when I first began, but have since found most magazines take that long to reply. That's why the practice of simultaneous submissions — submitting to more than one magazine at a time — is a must. If publications deny you that option, and the average number of submissions necessary to get a piece accepted is seven (at least for me), and each response takes six months, placing one story can take over six years.
Fortunately, most publications that stipulate no simultaneous submissions have gotten more realistic and dropped that requirement from their submissions guidelines. Even so, the wait for a response can be far longer than that estimated by a publication, or a reply may not come at all.
I'd like to begin listing my experience regarding response times in order to help you determine where to send your material. To be clear, my effort has no basis in revenge. While I used to get mad about waiting a year or not receiving any response, I now understand the pressures publications face. Some magazines get thousands of submissions, whereas there are only a few, some of whom might only be volunteers, to read the pile. At other magazines, college students are running the show, which means your story might get lost between the changes in who's editing the publication that semester.
I'd like to pass on my experience regarding response times, and specifically, how far beyond a publication's estimates the magazine took to respond while also listing those that never did. Hopefully the information will give you a realistic estimate of how long you might wait, which may convince you to submit elsewhere. Long lag times can also give you an idea of which publications are not nearly as streamlined as others for reasons I don't presume to know.
The first such publication is the Berkeley Fiction Review, which very graciously published one of my short stories in 1996. I submitted a story again in September of 2004 and didn't receive a response until June 2006.
Then there's Literal Latte where I sent a story in 2004 and am still awaiting a reply, though you'll be happy to know I'm not holding my breath.
At the same time, I'd like to pass on the facts regarding publications that are efficient in their response. The first awards go to Wendy Lesser at The Threepenny Review and Howard Junker at Zyzzyva, both of whom often respond in weeks, rather than months.
What are your best long-wait submission stories? Why do you think some publications take so much longer than others to respond?
Solarizing the lawn
4 days ago