Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ask the Moon: Send again ... but when?

My friend Lori brings up a head-scratcher I hear very commonly from writers:

When I was reading poems for a journal and responded with a no, but that we'd like to see more, I was astounded that some people sent a batch RIGHT BACK which were so similar to the ones rejected that it felt maybe desperate or too eager.

Lori goes on to ask my opinion on the issue. We all covet an acceptance, but barring that, we hang our hopes on the “send again.” But “send again” rejections bring with them the sticky question—when should we send again? Immediately? In a week or month or year? Editors have an opinion about this, but one editor’s opinion may be different from another’s. It leaves writers unsure of how to proceed.

I write this frequently, but it bears repeating: Unless a journal is run by rank amateurs who don’t take the appropriate level of care in their communication, a “send again” statement in a rejection note is targeted and intentional. That means that the editor of any established journal truly means it when he or she includes the line “We invite you to submit again” in a rejection.

Editors receive plenty of submissions. Most of the work is easily rejected; even if work is good, there is a significant difference between “good” and “rocked my world.” Not a lot of “rocked my world” happens, but those pieces tend to be snatched right up. There is a level between competence and amazement, though, and that’s the work that is edging toward amazement—work that has something special going on, even if it is not a pick for an issue of a particular journal yet.

This work, the “edging toward amazement” work, is what editors want to encourage and see more of. Editors like seeing familiar names in the submission queue; it happened many times that I saw a name and thought, “Oh, wow, XXX sent again!” and I couldn’t wait to see the work. Typically a journal has at least two standard rejections, not counting the personal letters that are not from a form. The rejections are the basic form (“No, but thank you for sending”) and the good form (“No, but we read your work with enthusiasm, and we invite you to send again”).

A writer who receives the good form rejection should absolutely send again. An editor like me who recognizes the writer’s name and remembers asking to see more work will be eager to receive it, and the writer will receive perhaps a more generous read because the work has been quasi-solicited. (A true solicitation happens when a writer is contacted out of the blue with an invitation to submit to a journal, and I make a distinction between that sort of invitation and the “send again” rejection.)

It’s probably a good idea to play it cool for a short while and plan the next submission carefully. The trick is to wait long enough that a new submission does not look overly eager or feel burdensome to an editor who may have just become caught up with the always-difficult “maybe” pile, which is where the “send again” rejections tend to come from. (“Send again” may reflect weeks of consideration and discussion, and frankly, an editor may enjoy not seeing your name for a bit. If your last submission came close, it probably required a lot of work—the hardest work an editor does.)

It’s also a good idea not to wait so long that the name recognition factor fails to work in our favor. We can and should mention that the editor asked to see more work when we do send it, but the ideal situation is for an editor to spot a writer’s name and feel interested—rather than spot the name and have it make no impact because the previous submission was too long ago.

How do we calculate this in number of days or weeks? I’d like to mention at this point that I started a blog on writing and creativity because I was told there would be no math. But let’s take a stab. The same day? Bad. The same week? Bad. The same month? Better. And at this point, it’s actually a little hard to make this sort of call. Some editors want a six-month buffer and some were probably hoping to see more work sooner, maybe for a hole in an issue. Additionally, some magazines are very quick.

Yesterday I “sent again” to the magazine that is listed as the fastest in Duotrope’s rankings of response times. I received a response in under a day, and it was quite cordial—but it would be very awkward to send again right away. I think I recall a recent nightmare in which I received another rejection, and another, and still another, like one of those kinetic art desk gadgets with the ball that goes out and swings back without perceptibly slowing. Imagine the ridiculous extreme of your behavior, and the answer of what to do becomes a little clearer, I find—in all areas of life.

And Lori is so wise to bring up the work in this question. There is really no sense in sending again when what we send is almost the same as what was rejected. Chances are we’ll just be rejected again. Maybe what “send again” actually means is “Send something along these lines but different,” rather than “Send something nearly identical to what we just rejected.”

Regardless of when we send again—because in fact editors are very odd birds and nearly impossible to please—I hope the real takeaway is clear. If an editor says, “Send again,” we should absolutely SEND AGAIN. We’re getting closer! Maybe the next time will be the charm.


  1. Karen!
    Your post makes me feel so much better about a recent rejection I received from a journal that you know well. I won't be slitting my wrists tonight. But then again, whenever I read your posts, I feel a little more centered. Thank you!

    1. I'm so glad to hear that! :) "Send again" is always sincerely meant. A lot of people don't realize that. Hope your work catches fire!!!

  2. Karen,
    I once got so frustrated that I emailed the person who had sent me the "send again" and actually asked "what is your timeframe." This was a journal based in a grad program and the editor in question was a grad student who would be cycling out of the position the next year. She said "send to me right now." In the end, I didn't have work that was different enough to send, but it was an eye opener that journals run with grad students in editorial positions make the math even harder. Le sigh.

    1. Ain't that the truth? It's hard to decide these things. That's a factor I hadn't even considered.

  3. So lately I've been struggling with this. I've been going back and forth with Don Share and he always asks me to send again, very nicely, so I do almost right away just because Poetry takes five months to respond back. Thus, I send twice a year, but I don't think he reads my subs very close together. It's interesting to think about this as I've done both--send again the next week, and the next year. Thanks Karen!