You’ve submitted your poetry, essay, or short story to carefully researched literary journals. Well done! Give yourself a much-deserved pat on the back. Now comes the hard part—waiting. And waiting. As more days pass, you may find yourself checking your email every hour and maybe even accosting the neighborhood letter carrier in search of news.
Since response times can vary from a few days to over a year—how long should you wait before you follow up with a literary journal?
We’ve been helping writers cope with this frustrating question since 1994, and we have some insights to share.
Why can’t I know right now?
Most literary journal editors work for very little or no pay and spend their limited free time reviewing submissions. Also, many literary magazines are staffed by volunteers who do the job because they love it. Literary journals serve the writing community in many ways, so be patient with them. If you simply can’t stand the suspense, it may be time to call on your deepest reserves of patience.
Then how long should I wait before following up with a literary journal?
Before you attempt to contact a busy editor about your writing submission, check the literary journal’s submission manager or Submittable for updates on the status of your work.You don’t want to annoy a busy editor when the information is readily available online.
Next, visit the magazine’s website and review the submission guidelines to see if the average response time is posted. If the response date has passed and you haven’t received a reply, then you should be in the clear to follow up. But if you’re still within the time frame for responses to be sent…keep waiting.
What if I got an offer of publication from one literary journal, but I’m really interested in a different one? Can I follow up with my preferred journal?
You can, but be careful. Editors tend to support one another (and rightly so!). You risk appearing callous if you say, “I’m wondering if you read my story yet because another journal already told me they want it, but I like yours better. So could you please hurry and read mine next?”
Prevent this potentially sticky situation from occurring by submitting your work to the journals you have strong preferences for first. And if you do accept an offer, be familiar with literary journal contracts.
How should I follow up?
Two words: Don’t call. The best way to follow up is by email.
What should I say in my follow-up email to a literary journal?
Try something like this:
In [Month/Year] I submitted my essay “Over the Moon!” to Name of Journal for your consideration. I know from your website that your average response time is three months, so I wanted to follow up to see if you’ve had time to consider my work yet as I haven’t received a reply. Thanks so much for your consideration.
Waiting…Waiting…Waiting Is Part Of Being A Writer
Sometimes there’s just no way around waiting to hear from a literary journal. While you’re stuck in response-time limbo, focus on your work instead of on the number of days that are passing. But if you’ve checked the journal’s guidelines and submission manager/Submittable and feel you’ve waited long enough, then do follow up. You’re absolutely entitled to!
QUESTION: What’s the longest you’ve ever waited for a response to a submission?
What do you do when the journal doesn’t respond to the e-mail you sent to inquire about the status of your piece? They say on their website to inquire after three months, and so you wait four before e-mailing. Then nothing. This is why writers go nuts.