I have been reading submissions for a literary journal for a few months now. The way it works is the editor receives a submission and sends it on to two readers. We each read the story individually, give it a thumbs up or thumbs down and can add some comments if we like. If both readers give it a thumbs up, it goes to the editorial staff for consideration. If both readers give it the thumbs down, the author gets a rejection letter. If one gives it a thumbs up and one a thumbs down, it goes on to a third reader. (For my teaching friends, this sounds a little like grading the NYS ELA Regents exam.) I want to talk to writers about those thumbs down submission
Let me make this clear, every single submission to date has been a good story. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were so many very good writers out there. Of course, the journal is a high-quality journal and, as such, receives high quality submissions. However, the point I am making, particularly to new writers, is you didn’t get a thumbs down or a rejection because your story was bad. Actually, I “thumbs downed” a good story just this morning. I just felt that the story itself was not a good fit for the journal. Of course, the editorial staff has to reject more stories than they accept simply because of space. They are not just choosing the best stories; they are also choosing the ones that they think best fits the style and message of the journal. Each literary journal has an over-arching message and they are looking to choose stories that support that over-arching message. And even then, they must consider how much space is available that month and choose. It isn’t easy. Literally, they are rejecting excellent stories.
So all you writers out there; you are doing an excellent job. Keep submitting. You are not getting rejected because your writing it bad. Eventually, the stars will align, and you will submit your story to a journal at the right time and your story will be a perfect fit for their style and message. Keep writing. You will get the thumbs up.