Why I Stopped Submitting To Journals

Matthew Donnellon

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash


For a very long time, if you wrote stories there was really only one option. You would type out your story and then send it along with a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope to the magazine and journal you hoped would publish the story that you might have spent days or even weeks on.

You would wait for weeks or even months then you’d get a reply if they decided to write back at all.

Most of the time you’d get a rejection. Even the best short story writers are lucky to have maybe a 10 percent acceptance rate.

This was still the norm when I started writing seriously. The publishing would hadn’t quite adapted to the digital age and it was funny how many places didn’t accept email submissions.

The Internet changed this eventually. Now you can use Submittable and the process has been streamlined greatly but not much else has changed.

You submit digitally now, but you still wait your weeks and months only to get rejected most of the time.

I once waited over a year. I got the rejection letter and forgot I had even submitted the story in the first place.

I get the reason to do all of this I really do.

For so many years this was the only option.

There are a lot of reasons to do this too. One, many people want to be published at some point and to have a short story published is the most accessible. You don’t have to write an entire book, nor do you need to find an agent. You just find the journal and submit your writing.

In addition, some people want or need the publishing credits. You want to teach creative writing then you need the bona fides which come with having your story in a reputable journal provides. For a long time, having a few short stories published helped sure up your resume so when you tried to find an agent. I don’t think that matters much anymore but it’s advice that’s still given.

There is one reason you should absolutely not publish your work in journal or fiction magazines and that’s money.

Short fiction used to be the way to go. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway made a lot of their early money from short stories. In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway explains how just one sold story could be enough for he and his wife to live for multiple months.

Journals and magazines used to pay big bucks for fiction back in the day. But, the readership dwindled and soon novels became the way for an author to make a living.

Now a days, it’s more a prestige thing. Most journals are associated with a school or some other entity. Very few magazines pay for fiction anymore.

It’s certainly not for the money.

But, if you want to make money it’s far better to publish them yourself and monetize in some fashion.

But that’s not the only reason I don’t bother with journals.

If you get published in a literary journal your story will be read by a dozen people at most.

Think of it like this, when was the last time you picked up a copy of The Iowa Review? I think the last time I even saw one was in college. My professor had a few copies of some journal he kept in the room and I was bored so I leafed through them.

But, I published my fiction in my own publication and my stories had nearly 400,000 views. If I had published all of them in literary journals maybe it would have been seen by a hundredth of the people.

I don’t write things with even a drop of literary merit. I have no interest in trying to win awards. My goal is to get my writing into as many people’s hands as possible. The way I’m doing it now does that.

Also, most journals want a certain type of story. I don’t write literary fiction. I write the stuff I want to read. So I write horror, science fiction, and fantasy as well as a couple love stories.

On top of this, the stories I write would mostly fall into “flash fiction” and the market for those is limited. Most places want at least a couple thousand words.

This isn’t to say you should submit if that works best for you. There are plenty of reasons to do so and everyone has different writing goals.

I just wanted to outline why I no longer choose to do so.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI

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