As a former television station marketing director and a former magazine editor, I’ve certainly had to consider how much effort it takes to capture one viewer, one reader….and I’ve been in plenty of meetings with sales teams. If submitting your work is a form of selling, why should it be any different?
Here we are at the mid-point of our Year of Submission, and I’ve been thinking about that. Part of our goal was to increase the volume of our submissions, yet I know I’m still tinkering with making things perfect–and not submitting frequently enough.
This article from Kim Liao came to my inbox at the just the right time last week, when endless editing was getting in the way of getting things out.
In “Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year,” she begins:
Last year, I got rejected 43 times by literary magazines, residencies, and fellowships—my best record since I started shooting for getting 100 rejections per year. It’s harder than it sounds, but also more gratifying.
Those 43 rejections, she later says, came in alongside five acceptances AND six encouraging rejections.
Her article did turn my thoughts to the lessons I’ve learned in my other work:
- It can take a lot of exposure to win audience for a new TV program. Doesn’t mean the program isn’t great, just means the audience has yet to “find” it.
- Volume does matter in sales. I know account reps have to call on many clients to find the select few who have the need, the budget, and the belief that advertising with you is the right choice.
- When casting for a show or commercial, I see a lot of great actors–but that doesn’t always make them the right actors–and often for reasons that don’t have anything to do with acting. For example, I might have to cast a group that looks like a family, so I have to take the plausibility of that into account.
Since I’ve started aiming for rejections, not acceptances, I no longer dread submitting. I don’t flinch (much) when I receive inevitable form rejection emails. Instead of tucking my story or essay apologetically into a bottle and desperately casting it out to sea, I launch determined air raids of submission grenades, five or ten at a time. I wait for the rejections, line up my next tier of journals, and submit again.
I wasn’t aiming for rejection earlier this year when I submitted to Jenny magazine, but I didn’t tie myself up in a knot over it either. Likewise, I submitted to Barrelhouse, was rejected, and it was no big deal.
It’s getting easier, but I still have a long way to go. I forced myself last week to submit a middle grade novel I’ve been working on to an agent who seems the right choice. I didn’t talk myself out of hitting send, even though I had plenty of doubts about whether I had gotten my query email right. Then, back to endless tinkering with the manuscript and I cringed: Despite all my editing, I’d still used the same word twice in the first page of that book.
Sigh. Of course, I tell students in my writing classes things like, “No one loves a novel for its perfect punctuation.” But the fear of making mistakes is hard to shake. So maybe the solution is to a) up the volume and also b) give myself another day to get it all wrong.