another getting published question!
April 4, 2021 2:40 PM   Subscribe

I have been advised by a friend who is an editor at a publication where I submitted an essay for consideration (though not in her area) to reach out to the essays editor and inquire about the status of my submission, since it has been nearly three months and that is within the timeline of when they were planning on getting back to writers who submit. I am still new at this. How do I approach writing this email?

The publication is actually a well-known lit mag affiliated with my alma mater. My friend, "Joan", is also an alum and is the editor of the book reviews section of this pub. She has been working there for years, and said that the pub LOVES promoting the work of their alums and that my essay would basically be a shoo-in, and she put in a very good word for me with the essays editor when I submitted my piece.

However, now it is out of Joan's hands. She is not involved in editorial decisions that aren't for reviews, and doesn't know what the timeline is in the other editorial departments. I reached out to her recently to inquire about my submission and she said that since she doesn't have insight into that department she thought there would be no harm in me reaching out to the editor of that department to politely inquire about my submission.


I am new to getting published! I've been accepted for publication at exactly one other lit mag! ONE! I don't know what I'm doing! What do I write in an email to this editor? How do I do it in a way that isn't entitled-sounding or off-putting? Writers of AskMe, PLEASE HALP!!! I need a script.

posted by nayantara to Writing & Language (6 answers total)
As someone who has submitted a TON to literary journals, I'm under the impression that editors do not like getting these kinds of emails from writers unless they are way past their stated "decision" date. It sounds like you're not there yet. So I'd advise you to wait, unless you have another offer of publication or there's some reason you need to know now if they're taking it or not. Sending work out involves a lot of waiting. The folks who work at these journals are often unpaid staff.

But if/when you decide to write, you can be very brief and straightforward: I sent my piece X back in December. The website says publication decisions are made in three months, and it's now been four, so I was just following up to see what the status of my piece is. Thank you!

Or whatever.
posted by swheatie at 5:00 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]

it has been nearly three months and that is within the timeline of when they were planning on getting back to writers who submit.

You should wait until the timeline has definitely passed. If this is a situation where you’d submit it somewhere else if they pass on it, you’d be ok to email right after the window closes; if not I’d give it at least another week or two. Then something very brief like, I’m just writing to check in on the status of my submission, thanks for considering me.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:37 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yep. I work on a journal that's been going 12 years now and sometimes the editor is really busy and doesn't get round to sending it to the editorial board member straight away, and the first (2 or 3) reviewers ignore the requests, and then the editor reminds the editorial board member and they find two reviewers finally and now it's 6 months and the authors are sending emails to the editor every week (and this is sort of a volunteer job) so she tends to answer emails once a week and she gets in contact with the editorial board member who gets in contact with the reviewers and before you know it, 6 months has gone. Keep it short and sweet, which will give the editor a chance to send a reminder out (because we really do want to publish good articles, but every one except the formatter is a volunteer).
posted by b33j at 11:04 PM on April 4

Best answer: as someone who deals with submissions, if they said three months DO NOT CONTACT THEM BEFORE 3 MONTHS IS UP. i ignore everyone who nags me before the date we said we would notify.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:39 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]

A well-known, well-published writer of my acquaintance once said the answer to the question of when to query is either double the stated response time or six months, whichever is longer. Is the piece topical/time-sensitive? If so, you should probably consider (if you aren’t already) simultaneously subbing to markets that accept them.

Me personally? I’ve published essays, short stories, articles, etc., and I essentially never query on a freelance sub without good reason, and I don’t see anything in your Ask along those lines. Even shoe-ins! Doubly so these days — the pandemic has affected everything, it seems like.

All that said... unless your journal accepts paper subs only, the chances of it being “forgotten” are pretty low, in my experience. You might not hear back as soon as you’d like, but—you never know what opportunities emerge from slow responses. I had a slow response and rejection last year that wound up converted to a forthcoming pub at a better rate and (likely) profile from the same publisher.
posted by cupcakeninja at 8:06 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know I'm answering this late, but just in case anyone looks at this thread again: For antsy writers, it can be helpful to consult Submission Grinder (or pay for a subscription to Duotrope) to see what the actual response times are for various journals. You may notice that a particular journal says they try to reply within 3 months, but their recent record shows it's more like 6. In that case, don't bug them. However, if you notice that nearly everyone else has received a response within 3 months, you can go ahead and query at, say, 4 months.

I personally rarely query and if I do, it's always well beyond the stated time period. Most literary journals take a notoriously long time to respond, especially if something is under serious consideration.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 10:20 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]

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