Poetry Submissions – Responses & Rejection

Of late there seems to be an increasing trend for journals not to bother with a response to a (poetry) submission – something which they are either upfront about or seem to willfully ignore.

Sometimes it’s on the website – the publication mentions the fact that if you hear nothing you know you failed. Some are considerate enough to give a rough timeline too. It’s pretty clear and simple, and I see where they’re coming from. It’s a time thing. But it also seems like a drop in the level of courtesy.

Now, I don’t like it, but I have to admit, having been an editor of/with several print and online publications, and as poet too, I’m familiar with the frustrations to be found on both sides of the mailbox. As an editor, getting a flood of submissions and being swamped by them is tough, and because you’re often a volunteer, you’re also overworked. Overworked into thr ground often. And time is always short.

As a poet, hearing nothing at all is just offensive and disheartening. ‘Bad form’ to quote Captain Hook.

Clearly, if a publication is one of the ‘big ones’ then they’re potentially facing thousands of subs. Going Down Swinging mentioned having around 3000 subs for issues 31/32. That’s more than significant. That’s monstrous. (And GDS always responds by the way.)

I also know how much of a bastard you feel, as an editor, when you overlook a reply, and leave someone out (for whatever reason). It really sucks and you feel unprofessional. But it’s a reality.

However, as discussed here at Adam Ford’s blog, it is polite to send out a form letter/e-mail. (If GDS can get back to 3000 people, other journals can do it too.) When I started subbing in the 90s to Meanjin for instance (with woeful material mind you), I would at least get a form letter rejection along with a ‘subscribe’ bookmark (hint, read the journal before subbing, you fool!) In recent years it’s become handwritten feedback on my Meanjin rejections, which might say as much about the class of Judith Beveridge as much as the tradition itself!

So I do see both sides of it, I do, but in any event, rather than risk this post becoming a rant, I’d like to ask something almost positive. If you can, I’d like to hear about your ‘best rejection(s).’

One I can think of was from Voiceworks back when I was able to submit – it basically told me that they’d every intention of publishing one of my poems, but actually lost it in a shift of office. The issue was already going to print so I missed out. Assuming they weren’t trying to let me down easy, it wasn’t a bad rejection at all.

8 thoughts on “Poetry Submissions – Responses & Rejection

  1. my submitting career, if you can call that so, is too short to have a “best rejection” list, though i am sure you will be in it.

    for the subject matter, i don’t see why writing back an email should be a hard thing to do, a general rejection letter, which for the least doesn’t hold you, as a poet, to your sit, not to mention, many journals still ask you not to submit to others.

    i am not the most technical/computer guy but i am quit sure it should be easy to hold all the submission at one list and send the letter to all at once, once the selection is finished and omit those who were selected. i haven’t used this side of submishmash but somehow i am quit sure it could handle it for you.

    i like those posts from you which illuminate the sides of this world i am unlearned in.

  2. Thanks, Dhyan! I agree, it would be possible to set that up for sure, in a regular e-mail client. And I imagine submishmash might do something similar too.

    Thanks too, Dhyan for letting me know you like this sort of post, I haven’t done many of them, but the editorial process is something might write about more, hopefully I don’t sound like too much of a know-all!

  3. you sound simply like someone who has experience on both sides.
    i am as a writer and a reader have great interest in the other side of this world – an experience and understanding which is sadly only possible by being and playing that side. yet your words and feeling from your own experience give shape to some clouds i am riding on from time to time.

    i do hope you will do some more posts on the subject, though better not in the next two months; i will be off to the road and hopefully completely away from the net 😉

    • Thanks, Dhyan, good to know!

      That sounds amazing, a holiday from the net, enjoy! Hope you’re having a good time as I type – I’ll try and save any more ‘editorial-ish’ pieces for later.

  4. You know, Ash, I think sometimes I prefer the non-response, if I submit then forget, 3 months later I get a form rejection then I’m reminded!
    I’ve worked with a journal as part of a team on the selection of short stories but luckily I wasn’t the one sending out the rejections. I think this creates a sort of removal and makes for a purer selection, I select based on the work alone.
    Best rejection is definitely from DotDotDash, so good in fact that I resubbed 5 times!

    • Ah, I know what you mean, forgetting can be a blessing sometimes. Yeah, blind submissions are much easier to work with, absolutely.
      DotDotDash do have good rejections, absolutely! I have to find that old GDS one and take a pic/type it up, it’s great stuff

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