If you submit to literary journals, be prepared to be rejected. The more prestigious (and paying) magazines will only accept a small fraction of submissions (sometimes less than one percent). An overworked editor may receive hundreds of submissions and can only accept a handful for publication. Even if your story is great, chances are you will be rejected. It’s simple math.
Most of the time, you will receive a simple form rejection thanking you for submitting but declining your work. Occasionally, you’ll receive a higher level form letter that indicates somehow your piece showed promise and encouraging you to submit more.
On rare occasions, you will receive a personalized response from the editor rejecting your story but providing their feedback. You may or may not agree with their thoughts, but you should be thankful that someone took the time to respond. At the very least take comfort in knowing that at least they read your work!
As an emerging writer myself, I’ve found a lot of value in these responses, even when they’re no more than a sentence or two. But other times the feedback can be quite personal, detailed, and helpful. I want to thank a few editors who haven’t published my work but who have given me direction.
Keith Cork and the rest of the team at The Colored Lens: Keith’s recent comments on one of my stories gave such strong feedback that I can’t wait to rework the piece. He wrote a very lengthy paragraph explaining what he liked but also why he was rejecting it. The Colored Lens will provide a personalized response to all submissions but typically provide more detailed feedback to pieces that are closer to acceptance.
Dylan Brie Ducey at Anti-Heroin Chic: Anti-Heroin Chic bills itself as a space safe for those recovering from addiction or those affected by addiction in some way. This is a heavy subject but Dylan responded in a warm and caring manner, matching the friendly environment they are trying to create.
Rick Taubold at Fabula Argentea Magazine: Fabula Argentea is one of the magazines under the Silver Pen Writers umbrella and I believe they all provide personalized responses. With Rick, I appreciate his candour. In one submission, he told me he liked the piece but unfortunately due to the number of quality submissions they get, he has to turn away pieces that he deems worthy of publication. For another submission, he was fairly blunt in saying the story started slow and then didn’t really go anywhere. (If you dislike the feedback, you don’t have to follow it–the comments are just one person’s opinion in a highly subjective field–but when the initial sting of the response subsides, look at your story with fresh eyes and see if there’s anything to learn from the comments. Chances are there will be. In my case, Rick was right. The story did start slow and I’ve begun to rework it.)
I am thankful for any feedback from editors. They don’t owe me anything other than the courtesy to read and consider my submission. I owe them much more than that. Their countless hours (often unpaid) of hard work to help publish writers like myself does not go unnoticed, and for that I thank them.