Thank you for your patience with our submissions process, and for the work you submitted for consideration in our Jan–April round this year.
I’m sorry to notify you that we have not selected your story for publication in Island magazine, but I would like to assure you that we read and consider each and every submission carefully and with respect – sometimes more than once. I know that not all publishers read each submission in its entirety, but I firmly believe in the importance of this. You have taken the time to write, edit, polish and submit your work, and in exchange we take the time to read what you have created.
*** NOTE: I apologise also for this generic response to your submission: we’re experimenting with the most efficient ways to reply, in order to streamline the process for you as best we can (nobody enjoys the ‘waiting game’). It seems that bulk responses through Submittable are the most effective – though they do not allow us to personalise the email. This also means that if you have submitted multiple stories, you may receive multiple copies of this email. Further, as these emails will come through Submittable’s standardised platform, please do not reply directly to this message, as it will not be regularly monitored. If you’d like to get in touch for any reason, please copy and paste the following address in the ‘to’ field when you reply: [email protected] – this will ensure that your email reaches me directly. Thank you. ****
If you have submitted work for publication before, you will no doubt have received rejection letters – no matter the standard of your work. (And if this is your first, rest assured there will regrettably be many more; again, this is completely independent of the standard of your work.) And if you have submitted to us before, you may have received a response from me that was very similar to this one. So my apologies if the contents of my email is familiar to you. But I have been on both sides of the rejection letter many times, and I prefer to be transparent and up-front about the process. It certainly doesn’t provide any more pleasure to be on this side than the other side.
I also believe in providing a detailed response to every work submitted (even though time and resources do not permit that response to be individualised feedback). And I would emphasise, for those of you who are new to this: although we may not be able to publish your work at this time, it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t publish something else of yours in future. And of course, similarly, another publisher might accept this piece that we are declining.
There are many reasons why a work may not be accepted for publication and unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you choose to look at it – many of them have actually have little to do with the ‘quality’ (if there is such an objective measure) of your work.
Firstly, we receive huge volumes of submissions: in terms of rough percentages, what we have space to publish is well under 10% of the work submitted to us for consideration.
Secondly, selection of work is highly dependent on context and cohorts: we need to choose writing that brings variety to Island and also sits well with not only the other fiction we publish, but with the rest of the magazine’s content, on an issue-by-issue basis as well as on a broader level. This concerns style, content, tone, perspective, and scope – among many other variables. There have been several stories in this submission round that I felt were very well written and probably publishable, but were too explicitly similar to work that we have very recently published, or have in preparation for publication in forthcoming issues. (Usually this is in terms of themes, settings, or voice.) This seems very unfair. That’s because it is very unfair. There’s just no way around it.
Thirdly, a high proportion of the submissions we receive are readable, entertaining, moving and engaging. It is a very small percentage of pieces that I reject because I consider them to be poorly written. I can’t emphasise this enough: in a majority of the pieces of work submitted this year, there was something outstanding. Be it a phrase, an idea, a character development, a plot device, a surprising and satisfying ending, a remarkable image, a twist: I find myself genuinely responding to most submissions I read and, after many, many hundreds of short stories, that is no small compliment.
Finally, there is, of course, the elephant in the room: subjectivity. Any editor and editorial team will have their own personal preferences about the work that they select. This is not an excuse for editors to publish only what they ‘like’, but subjectivity is an important aspect of the curatorial task of editing (particularly in a quarterly journal like Island magazine). I stand by the artistic choices I make, but I also want to be very clear that there is always ‘bias’ involved – and bias is not necessarily a negative quality. Editors before and after me have made, and will make, very different choices. And this is exactly as it should be, and is why journals work with not just reading panels, but with different editors over time.
In summary, I deeply thank you for offering us your work for consideration, and I do not take lightly the privilege of reading submissions. I wish you well in your writing, and challenge you to continue to write fiction that you are passionate about: it is what keeps us all going, in a world of increasing pragmatism and challenge.
Best wishes, Anica Boulanger-Mashberg Island Fiction Editor [email protected]