As a writer, I know that frustration comes with the territory, so I try not to let things like writer’s block, rejection letters, unreasonable response times, or very humble to no pay get to me. However, there is one thing that really grinds my gears, and I would like to share my irritation with you guys, if that’s OK . . .
A brand new online magazine—let’s call it New Lit Rag, NLR for short—posted a classified ad on a literary magazine database, calling for submissions to its first issue. I, of course, sent out five of what I would consider my best poems and waited patiently for the generic, impersonal rejection letter to flow into my inbox three weeks after the submissions period closed. That is not what upset me. As I said before, these things come with the territory. We live with them; we move on.
However, in the letter, the editors talked about how they were blown away by the response; they had received over 300 hundred “wonderful” submissions. They assured that the rejection letter was in no way a reflection of my and the other rejectees’ work, esentially saying, “We don’t think you suck; there were just a whole lot of other submissions that we liked better than yours.” No biggie, I’ll just submit to the next magazine. However, what really made my left eyebrow twitch incessantly was when I ventured to NLR‘s website to see how the first issue turned out, and saw what pieces did make it into the magazine. Of the 30 or so contributors to this magazine (excluding the artists since this is usually expected for them), half of them had multiple pieces published. And when I say multiple, I don’t mean just two, I’m talking three, four, the whole damn submission packet for a few of the contributors! So is NLR trying to tell us that of the 270 rejected submissions that were still “so wonderful,” not one, not even one, was better than Billy Bob The Poet’s third or fourth poem? I find that very hard to believe.
I’m not saying they should’ve accepted my poems. I simply take the rejection to mean that’s five more poems I can share here (as soon as the other slow-poke lit mags send me a response). The fact that these writers have so many pieces published means that they’re pretty damn good, and I congratulate them wholeheartedly, but these writers have 100s of poems or short stories published and they dominate this specific database—their work appearing in over half of the magazines that post classified ads here. To publish multiple pieces from them in on issue when over 300 submissions were received, I just think it’s unfair. I don’t expect all literary magazines to know or even look out for those prolific writers whose work is everywhere. I mean, if they’re good, they’re good, but am I wrong to want diversity? I don’t know, maybe I am, but if even the little people can’t get a voice in the “little” magazines, what does that mean for the literary world? Even when we try to break the mold, we still can’t? I don’t know . . . self-publishing is starting to sound just a little more promising.
What are your thoughts on the matter?