Submission strategy: change the title.
**Quick note: for all those readers and editors who might be looking up my name via the Google due to the submission I recently made to your magazine/journal/website, this entry does not apply to you.
I have spent the past few days editing a story I’ve been sending out for a year and a half, the one I consider the most apt for publication in my current stable. But no one has picked it up yet. So I’ve rephrased, revised, shortened, added, and otherwise kept it exactly the same. Except the title. I changed the title back to the working title. I think someone in workshop may have suggested a title change after the first draft, or maybe I did it myself just to shake things up a bit. The new title didn’t sit well with me even from the beginning, but I kept it that way because I couldn’t think of anything better. Now it’s back to its original, the formative, the inspiration for the first part of the story’s generation. I don’t know if it’s better, but it’s different. Which means I can send it back to the same journals I just sent it out to during my last major push for publication.
**Again, editors and the like, if you’re reading this, the story I sent you is definitely not the exact same story I just sent you in January. Your publication is special, and everything I produce for you is decidedly unique and dare I say inspired by your very existence. You are my muse.
This is not the typical method, for me. Once a publication rejects a story, I don’t ordinarily send them the same one ever again, no matter how different it becomes in subsequent drafts, despite knowing how these journals work, especially the ones attached to college MFA writing programs. There’s a new crew of readers and editors every year. They’ve never seen this story before. Maybe two people at most might have seen this story in its previous version, but they’re almost certainly gone by now. Or even if the same reader does happen to get first crack at it, the same one who read it last year and rejected it in a month, or in the case of The Missouri Review, 17 days, guess what, you get it again, because it is ready for someone to pick it up, and you probably won’t remember it because you probably didn’t read it carefully enough the first time. So guess what? Here’s chance two for you.
**Except for you, Missouri Review, I’m done with you. We just don’t understand each other. If the editors of The Missouri Review are reading this, I wouldn’t hesitate to send you the same story word-for-word, title-for-title, every single reading cycle for the rest of my life, this under the assumption that I still wanted to see my work in your pages, which I never would, see it, because I know you’d reject it each and every time. Because I don’t think you’re trying create, forge, or investigate, I think if anything you would like to regress, to read the same story over and over again for the rest of your lives, because familiarity is the least scary thing, isn’t it. Predictable is recognizable is therefore good, and deviation from the norm must be silenced, ignored, forgotten. True imagination amputees, the lot of you.
In fact, the journals who rejected it the quickest – or most of them anyway – are definitely getting it again with the new title (and small edits), because I know it never made it past the first two readers. The one journal who gave me the most personal, encouraging rejection, I’ll be submitting something else to them, because I know they gave this story a fair shake.
**Editors: this is definitely your magazine, to which I am referring right now. You are getting only my latest and greatest.
Everyone else, you ought to take a second look. Really. It’s good. I promise. Publish it. Even the title’s better now. Publish this one, and I promise I’ll never send you another footnoted dead baby story ever again. Even though that one is awesome too.