Writing Advice: Resubmitting Poetry And Short Prose To Lit Mags

From Writer's Relief staff:

Why Resubmit Your Work?

There are multiple circumstances that make it worth your while to resubmit a piece to a literary journal or magazine that turned it down in the past. If you submitted a piece a year ago without success and have now revised it so that you feel it’s an even stronger candidate for publication than before, you could (and should!) resubmit it. Or if you have a piece you really believe in that you sent out a few years ago but was never picked up, a resubmission may be in order.

The editors at many literary magazines change regularly, which means that the editors who turned you down a couple of years ago probably won’t be there when you resubmit later. There will most likely be a new editor with new tastes and preferences if you send in your writing a few years later. And the magazine overall may have gone in a new direction that is now more closely related to your writing.

Correspondence With Editors: What To Do

Sometimes editors send rejection letters with specific feedback on how to improve the piece. When editors respond to your work with suggestions for changes (without any promise of publication), it’s up to you to decide whether or not to acquiesce. If the changes are small, you might feel comfortable replacing a few words in a poem and resubmitting it to the editor in hopes that he or she will now publish. But if the editor has suggested you cut out the first five paragraphs of your essay or drastically alter the ending of your short story, you might be more reluctant to make the change.

Even if that editor ends up publishing when you resubmit with the changes, you might no longer be happy personally with the piece. So think long and hard before resubmitting revisions based on editor feedback. Some of those suggestions might be spot-on and improve your piece greatly, but other suggestions might change the work too drastically for your comfort. Caveat: Don’t resubmit revisions every occasion an editor takes the time to send you feedback (that could really irritate an editor!).

Consider This Before Resubmitting Poems, Short Stories, and Essays

Submission methods to print and online literary journals have changed over the years. Now, most literary journals and magazines prefer or insist on electronic submissions. And because of the efficiency of those electronic submissions, they can easily track what submissions you’ve made, and sometimes even details like editors’ comments and why the piece was accepted or rejected.

What that means for you is that you want to make sure you have a strong case for resubmission. Don’t tweak the title and resubmit the poem that was rejected last week, because the editors may be able to see just how little you’ve changed. If you want to resubmit work based on editors’ comments, you might want to include that in your cover letter or “comments” section of the online submission manager. Mention that the editor suggested the following changes, which you have made, and you hope the piece is now better suited for the journal’s needs. Don’t assume that the editor will automatically publish the work either. Just because he or she saw an issue and wanted to help you improve your work does not mean that the piece is any more desirable to the editor.

In Conclusion

Always keep in mind that the odds of getting an acceptance are 1 out of 100. If you haven’t submitted each story, essay, or group of poems to about 100 literary markets, then you might be hasty in resubmitting to a journal that’s already seen the work. Use your best judgment; if the editor’s comments are really encouraging, it might be worth sending him or her a second look at the piece after you’ve revised. And when you’ve exhausted all of your markets but really believe a piece is as strong as it can be and worthy of publication, you can wait a few years and start the submission process over.

When it comes to making resubmissions, every writer has to consider his or her own individual position. But we hope that the above information helps guide you and provides you with a place to start when you make those decisions. Happy submitting—and resubmitting!

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