As well as writing my own prose and poetry, some of which gets published, I am also on the selection panel for an anthology that issues editions annually. Today I got a reminder of both sides of the submitting process. I received a standard rejection letterâ„¢ in the post and a flash drive full of other people’s submissions. It was an interesting bit of timing, and provoked this blog.

The rejection letter was for a piece that I had sent off 2 months ago. In the past, finding that something I knew was good and had worked hard on, being rejected bothered me. Now it is water off a duck’s back, as I have gained perspective from doing the selection process myself. I would suggest to any other writer that they should go for it, if they get the chance to look at life from the other side of the fence. The grass is certainly not greener. Now, I appreciate what it is like to have a mountain of submissions to deal with. I’m not going to make any specific comment on the selecting process for this or any other anthology, but I think some general truths come through from past experiences. Generally, only a small proportion of pieces are not well written enough. The rest is all fine. From then on, selecting is down to personal preference. I tend to find there is an awful lot that could be published if there was space. If a piece is borderline in my selection process, (and a lot of work will fall into this category) I ask myself a few questions about it. The most important tend to be…

1. How much do I like it?

2. Considering the commercial angle, will it help sell copies of the publication? (Luckily the anthology I select for is known for quality writing, so I ask myself whether the piece is good enough to merit inclusion).

3. Will it fit in with the other pieces without being too samey?

4. Will it complement the other pieces without clashing?

These last two are important random factors, as no matter how good the work, writers can not know what others have submitted. On a pure quirk of fate your wonderful piece may be competing with a dozen on the same theme.

With the anthology I select for, I am part of a panel. I think this helps as having to argue the merits of a piece with others, you first have to understand why you like it yourself. Furthermore, it is always intriguing to see which pieces the panel members agree about and which they don’t. Personal preference is an important factor when the general quality level of submissions is high. It is certainly useful to know what the selector likes before going to the effort and expense of sending work. I’m sure submitting the right pieces to the right people has helped me get them published. I hate it when “How to” guides say research the market, but in this case they have a point.

In the past, the phrase “feedback isn’t possible” always irked me, but I can now understand the time constrains that make for blanket responses. Sometimes I wonder if the authors of near misses couldn’t be notified and thus encouraged. It may pay dividends when they put that extra bit of effort into their next round of submissions. I would certainly like to know when my work has only just failed to make the grade. Those publishers and publications would become a higher priority for future submissions.

In conclusion, don’t be disheartened. There will be random factors beyond your control, and an awful lot of good material will have missed publication by not much.

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