Reporting In, Summer 2016

Hi there! It’s been months since I’ve last posted, and I thought I’d give you an update about what I’ve been doing in my writing. I’ve revised (again) my book-length manuscript of persona poems: weaving in newer, stronger pieces and pulling out weaker ones, as well as re-organizing them into a different sequence. You know, the usual. And sending off sets of poems in the manuscript to journals—lots of journals!

Since November 2015, I’ve been making a concerted effort to send out far more journal submissions, and to do so more systematically, than I have before. To get organized for that effort, I created a big chart of about 30 journals in which I’d love to see my work published. Using data from Duotrope, The Review Review, and NewPages, I assembled information about acceptance rates, reading periods, response times, and editorial preferences. As time went on, I added over 30 more journals to my chart, as well as recorded dates on which I’ve submitted poems and received responses, plus the comments I’ve received from several editors. Inspired by poets who post their submissions stats on Jessica Piazza’s Poetry Has Value blog, here are my numbers, after 9 months of this project, as they currently stand:

  • Sets of (3-5) poems submitted: 60
  • Individual poems submitted: 50
  • Total poems submitted: 296
  • Individual poems accepted for publication: 5 (by 3 journals)
  • Sets of poems rejected: 58
  • Rejection notices with encouraging notes like “these poems came close” or “we encourage you to send us more to consider”: 16
  • Presses to which I submitted my chapbook and full-length and manuscripts: 19 (rejections: 8–but my manuscript was a semifinalist in one contest)
  • Journals to which I’ve submitted two different nonfiction lyric essays:  9 (rejections received: 5)
  • Total rejections received: 71

This project yields only a 1.6% acceptance rate for my poems, but I’m glad I’m making this effort. I’m encouraged by the number of “send us more” rejections; these motivate me to sustain this push, which has resulted in my sending out more work in the past ¾ of a year than I’ve sent out in the past 15 years combined.

I’m motivated also by an article I read recently in LitHub by Kim Liao, who explains “Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year: Flipping Your Perspective on Rejections, and Failing Best.” By aiming for this many rejections, a writer is sure to score some acceptances along the way. Perhaps even more important, this approach helps take the sting out of receiving rejections, and reinforces the truth that rejections are just part of the business of being a writer, not a soul-crushing indictment of the quality of one’s writing. By Kim Liao’s method, I’m 71% of the way to reaching the goal of 100 for the year. (But my year began in mid-November 2015, so I’d better pick up my lackadaisical summer pace if I’m going to make it to 100 by mid-November 2016!)

Another benefit of sending out so many submissions is receiving encouragement from journal editors, even when that encouragement arrives in the context of a rejection notice. To hear from an editor that even though they don’t currently have space for my work, they really enjoyed it, or that my poem made it to their final round of consideration, and that they want to read more from me in the future, is terrifically affirming. To receive this kind of feedback from editors I deeply respect–including those at journals like Black Warrior Review, Copper Nickel, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Puerto del Sol, and Water~Stone Review–is validation to continue aiming high as I submit my work to literary magazines. Yes, I do plan to broaden my approach to include publications that aren’t quite so keenly competitive, so that I’ll increase my chances for actually getting my work into print. But this “at first, aim high” approach has been very useful as an exercise in level-finding. Now that I know where my work almost gets accepted, I can focus on those journals, and on journals in the next tier down, as I make subsequent rounds of submissions.

So where did those 3 acceptances come from, you may ask?

One is from Tinderbox Poetry Journal, one of the literary magazines to which I submitted a set of poems last December and whose editors replied that one of them came close. So this spring I submitted another set, and they chose my prose poem “Amanda Bubble Composes a Fifty-Word, Third-Person Contributor Bio for an Anthology on the Theme of Vulnerability” to appear in the October 2016 issue.

Another acceptance was from Bellingham Review, whose previous editors included one of my poems in last fall’s online issue and featured me in a blog interview. Subsequently, the new editors have accepted two more poems, “Amanda Bubble Has Moments of Sublimity and Moments of Abjection” and “In Which I Apologize to Amanda Bubble.” These are slated to appear in the spring 2017 print issue.

The third acceptance is from Cider Press Review–another wonderful repeat acceptance. After publishing one of my poems this past winter, the editors accepted two more for this year–and one of them went live the very next day! You can read “Organize Your Home Using This Weird Old Trick” here, in Issue 18.3, and “I Anticipate a Metamorphosis” will appear in a later issue. Thank you to editors Ruth Foley and Caron Andregg for giving these poems such an excellent home!

 

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14 comments on “Reporting In, Summer 2016

  1. susanissima says:

    Jennifer, thank you for taking time to share this information. It is incredibly valuable and inspiring. I now have a bouquet of “next steps” that I previously lacked.

  2. Jennifer, great job!

    I’m still smiling from reading “Organize Your Home Using This Weird Old Trick.”

    Congratulations on your process, and on your acceptances!

    Sincerely, Andy

  3. yvonneleach2014 says:

    Really interesting post Jennifer….I love your energy and the stats were super interesting. Keep up the great work!

  4. chrisjarmick says:

    Bravo and Bravo…. It’s an excellent idea to get those poems out there. I had a very concerted effort for about 15 months prior to the publication of Not Aloud, submitting 95 percent of the poems in the book (that had not been published before). My acceptance rate was just short of 2 percent (numbers slightly higher than yours). I submitted to places that did not charge fees– mostly. I did pay a few 2 and 3 dollar submittable fees… I entered no pay contests… and only a couple of no pay ones. I got some encouraging notes from editors. I submitted to several journals via post too… I haven’t submitted 100 times this year. more like 12… and that’s not good.. but life has been very busy for me… I’ll be submitting many poems again shortly…. and might make 60 submissions (some being 3 and 4 poem subs.

    Most important… Bravo…. go get ’em… keep it up…. rah rah rah….

  5. A round of cheers for this impressive effort! And I must say that the titles of those poems that got accepted make me eager to read each one. I’m confident there will soon be a book with your name on the spine.

  6. Organize your home…what a gift — thank you for this entire post. I’m forwarding it my writing group.

  7. Poetarc says:

    Wonderful to see your push to have more work out there for us, Jennifer. I recall somewhere something of William Stafford writing on the back of each of his poems the date he submitted it to a given journal. He then crossed through each refusal to print and wrote beneath that his next submission of the poem, until it was finally accepted – if in fact it was. His own estimated acceptance rate was 10% of what he sent out (not of what he wrote). Onward!

  8. jik says:

    You’re an inspiration. And I’m checking my cleaning supplies now.

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