This post by Savannah Thorne originally appeared on The Review Review.
When you submit to a literary magazine, do you ever wonder what is happening to your work on the other end? Has it disappeared into an editorial netherworld? What exactly is taking so darn long for them to get back to you? And is it true that the longer the editors take with your work, the better they like it?
I was delighted to be published in Conclave: A Journal of Character‘s inaugural issue, and when I heard the magazine was at risk of not continuing, I took over as managing editor and have kept it going for years, incorporating e-books into the equation. When I stepped in, I found myself with a huge, year-long backlog of submissions to wade through, and as I learned the ropes, I realized I was in the unique position of being an editor and a writer at the same time. It gave me insight into both sides of the desk. What I’ve collected here is the behind-the-scenes truth about what happens to your work after it’s been submitted and some dos and don’ts to get your work noticed.
So, what happens to your work after you’ve hit “submit?”
At Conclave, like many literary magazines, your work appears in our online submission manager and sits there with a status of “received.” It will stay “received” even after a real human being opens it and glances at it. If they know it’s way off for the magazine’s needs, it may be quickly rejected. If it has a hook, is well-written, and seems to draw the reader in (and, in our specific case, if it’s based around a strong character), then the first reader forwards the file to another reader. The status switches to “forwards.” Editors can vote on it, and if they choose to they can also write notes about it
The longer an editor takes with my work, the better…right?
I’m sorry to have to answer that with: Not necessarily. In actuality, submissions come in, and although they are arranged by date, then author’s name, title, and genre, I can assure you that these things get little attention. It is the quality of the work alone that determines whether a writer is accepted—whether it’s their first time being published, or their thirtieth. The very first thing we do is open the file itself, and read it. It doesn’t matter who you are—it matters what your story says.