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[The Art of Submission] When to Submit Again
Written by
Emily Lackey
November 2014
Written by
Emily Lackey
November 2014

I read recently that part of the reason women are published less frequently than men is because men resubmit more frequently than women.

I don’t know where I read this. And now, after a night of scouring Google, I can’t find it for the life of me.

But trust me. I read it. And since then I have been thinking about those soft and/or personal rejections that have been piling up in my inbox, the ones that I star and tuck into my Submissions folder in Gmail and only think about when the form rejections come once, sometimes twice a day. There is one journal that I resubmitted work to when they asked for it, but when they sent another soft rejection requesting more work, I didn’t respond. There are six others sitting in that folder, answered with only excuses—“I don’t have anything else for that journal,” “I need to revise that weird thing I wrote at the beginning of the semester and send them that,” “I’ll do it next weekend.”

Six top-tier journals have asked me for work, and I have sent them none. When I write it out like that it seems crazy to have not responded. I’m pretty sure an entire essay could be written on the topic of women resubmitting at a lower rate than men (and if Google would work with me I could quote readily from it here), so I’ll just speak for myself: if I really dug into the reason why I haven’t sent those journals anything else, knowing myself and my comprehensive history with self-sabotage, I think it may have something more to do with the voice that says, That’s close enough now. That’s all you get. That’s all you deserve.

A professor once told me that any piece you get a soft rejection in response to should be sent out to ten more places immediately.

“That means it’s ready,” he said. “It just needs to find the right home.”

I know this from experience to be true. When I was the fiction editor of Barnstorm, a literary journal sponsored by the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire, I sent out two requests for more work. Two. And, believe me, I was sincerely disappointed when I didn’t hear back from them.

Let’s not fool ourselves. I don’t think Hannah Tinti is sitting at her desk at One Story, broken up over the fact that Emily Lackey hasn’t yet sent her more work, but the point remains: when an editor asks you for more work, it is rare and it is an honor. Why not send them more work? It may just be the thing that keeps you from being published. According to that mystery article that I has fallen into some black hole in cyber space, it is one of the (many) things keeping women from being published more frequently.

I wonder: what would happen to the bylines of the world if we all had the nerve to resubmit as quickly and as frequently as men? How quickly would the numbers tip toward women? 

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  • Jo Anne Valentine Simson

    Thank you for this! I've just got to get over the submission anxiety! What's to lose? If something is not accepted for publication by a particular magazine (or agent), it's no more unpublished than it is right now! This is all part of the female insecurity syndrome I've spent my life trying to transcend. And yet here I am, unable or unwilling to try to sell what I've spent months willingly trying to craft.

  • Pamela Olson

    A quote from my advisor when I was studying physics in college:

    “Maybe that’s why more guys are in physics. The trick is, pretend you’re not confused.”

    So maybe that's the answer for us, too: Pretend we've been preferentially published for millennia, and people just like us are all over the bylines, so why not keep submitting? We deserve to be there as much as anyone!

    Fake it 'til you make it, right?

  • Joyce Evans-Campbell

    I believe you. I read that, too, but don't remember where. My thought is that men have more confidence in their ability for they as a group have had more success. And, based on men writers I know, they don't let rejection bug them, so it's easier to send it out again. I usually take my cue from the publishers' of the press I'm submitting to and for the rewriting I feel compelled to do. Sometimes when I get an evaluation, I take a few weeks depending on how much thinking time I need and whatever distractions -- illness and family necessary work, I get right to it away otherwise. Thanks for the blog. It made me think deeper about this process.

  • Rachel Rivett

    Ooohh... interesting. I hadn't thought of it like that. I recently received a rejection that said whilst my novel was eminently publishable, it wasn't the novel to launch my writing career! I just feel despair over those kind of comments.I don't know what to do with them. Like, it's the best novel I have and it took YEARS. Really helpful to have some positive spin to focus on. My recovery time from rejections is awful!

  • Odessa Rose

    Thought-provoking post.  I just did a vlog on our response to rejection letters.


  • Grace Elting Castle

    Great post!  As the long-time editor of "PI Magazine", a journal for professional investigators, I struggle with every issue to include women writers---because I seldom hear from them. 

  • Mardith Louisell

    Emily, have done the same. Glad to hear what your professor said and it makes sense. Wish I'd known, wish I would submit more. It is a huge time drain, though, isn't it? But I haven't found another way to get published! How to other women  convince themselves to do it? do they sent aside certain blocks of time, come hell or high water? Do they do it every day (impossible to keep a good mood going when submitting, I find). There must be a trick to it that I don't know. Would love to hear it (or them).  Thanks for the post and the idea that submission numbers might have something to do with the percentage of writing published by women.