A publishing dilemma, demystified!
I recently received a great multiple submission question from a subscriber, and I thought it would be useful to share her question (and my answer) here.
If you’re starting to publish your work — or want to start publishing it — this post has some advice on how you can start to negotiate your writing career.
The reader’s question is below, and my answer is below that. I hope this is useful.
If you also have advice about publishing your work, or understand publishing from another angle, please share your experience in the comments below.
We need to talk about this stuff, and make it not so much of a mystery!
I have a little bit of a publishing dilemma (albeit a good one!) and I wanted to ask for your advice, if you wouldn't mind.
I recently revisited a short story I'd written years ago and was never fully happy with, yet couldn't completely forget about, either. During the revision process, I shared it with a few readers, including hiring an editor. He's a freelance editor, but also the editor of Magenta Magazine*.
Along with his feedback, he suggested I "aim high" when submitting the story to literary journals. I've since submitted the final draft of the story to a handful of my top tier journals, knowing the chances are slim but wanting to give it a shot anyway.
It's been a few weeks since submitting the story to those journals. And a few days ago, I received an email from the Magenta editor asking if I would consider letting their magazine publish the story.
I'm so flattered, but I'm so torn, too, wondering whether or not I should stick with my original plan of trying for my top few tiers of journals first. (Magenta is around the middle of my very long list of journals to submit to.)
Do you have any advice? The Magenta editor needs to know my decision within the next few weeks, and I know it's pretty unlikely that I'll hear back from the other journals before then. What would you do?
* Note: all names have been changed to keep this conversation anonymous. I don’t think there is a magazine called Magenta. (If there is, I’m sorry, Magenta! This isn’t about you.)
Well, this is a lovely development! And a dilemma that might happen again, so it’s good to decide on your personal best practices are around this sort of thing. Multiple submissions are a thing.
I agree that you should aim high when you make your submissions.
Print publishing is so slow — compared to digital, it can feel ridiculous, but even before online journals became prevalent, the wait times for lit journals and magazines could be up to 8 months or a year!
I’ve known writers who call or email editors to personally check in after waiting a few weeks (the squeaky wheel approach).
I’ve only felt sassy enough to do this once, but I must admit, I was able to negotiate a publishing deal for my story after I emailed the editor about it.
So a few weeks of waiting is not that long. One of the other journals might still be interested in your story (many editors take summers off, so your story might not even have been read, yet).
Here are some options:
1. Now that an editor has offered publication, it gives you some cachet. You can contact one of your top tier publications at this point and let them know that you’ve had a publication offer, but you would prefer to give them first pub rights, and could they let you know by the end of next week? Sometimes this is enough to pique the interest of an editor. You can do this with each one of them.
2. Do you have any other short stories ready or almost ready? You can keep your submissions out there, and offer Magenta Magazine another story, instead.
3. When you’re just starting to publish, collecting publication credits can be useful if you begin applying for writing grants or other opportunities. In Canada, that was important to me — once I had four stories published, I was eligible for certain Canadian grants. So if your priority is publication first for career-building reasons, you could say yes to Magenta now.
4. If you say yes to Magenta, it would be a great idea to contact each of the top tier mags and let them know. Tell them that your story has been accepted for publication elsewhere, thank you for reading the story, etc, and may you send them another, unpublished one? That way you can still leverage this acceptance and give them a bit of FOMO.
There’s no right or wrong thing to do here — it’s win-win for you!
Go with your instincts on Magenta: would it feel good and right to see your name in print there? Do you feel aligned with the publication?
And remember, this is just the *beginning*. There will be more after this.
Congratulations — it’s happening.