Posted by: Doug | June 28, 2012

When to trunk, or retire, an artistic work? Part 1 of 2


OVER TIME, authors write many short stories, articles, and novels that are never published. Were they not good enough? Didn’t they appeal to some collection of readers? When and why do the authors eventually put them on the shelf and abandon them?

There are a variety of answers to these questions. I can shed some light on this from personal experience, backed up by some numbers easily found on the Internet. As a matter of full disclosure, I am also the developer of a software product, The Writer’s Scribe, which I use to track my submissions.

First, you must believe in your own work and not relegate it to the shelf too quickly. Second, being published gives you an immense feeling of accomplishment. It’s gratifying to share your work with others. So you send your work out to a publisher for consideration. Then you wait. In my experience, I’ve heard back from publishers anywhere from the same day all the way up to 279 days later. The median period for my work is 36 days.

Unhappily, you’re often rejected; it’s sad, but true. The odds are not in your favor. You can verify this by looking at websites such as, which track acceptance rates for publishers. An acceptance rate of 1 to 2% is not unusual. So, should you give up now? No! Most people can weather a single rejection. Did the publisher give you any feedback? Well, that’s unlikely too, but sometimes they’ll indicate that they liked it, but it just didn’t fit their publication.

So, the next question is, why didn’t it fit? I recommend doing your research. You must find a publication that is the right fit for your type of work. Being rejected is not like getting a lesser grade on a paper. Think of publishers as lenses for your readers. Some readers like a particular lens or way of viewing the world. The publisher wants something that fits their readers, something that meets their expectations. This is their winning formula, and it is why readers return to them. So, it may not be your work that is the problem, but that it simply is not a good fit from their perspective.

So it’s time to send your piece out again. You’ve done your research and picked a new publisher. It looks like a good fit; what can go wrong? Here’s a short checklist:

  • Is it a match for the publisher’s genre and does it meet all of the submission guidelines?
  • Do you have a good query letter, if needed, for the submission?
  • Are there any technical issues such as improper grammar or unusual formatting?
  • Is that publisher closed to submissions? Always check before sending.
  • Has the publisher changed their guidelines?

In part 2, I’ll cover sending out your work again.


  1. Good to know about this information. Also about the tracking submission software which is indeed required by businesses these days.