"Why Do Literary Journals Take So Long?"

I used to get frustrated by wait times...until I was on the other side of things.

Dear Milo,

Why do literary journals take so long? Why do some take way less time? Some take six or seven months to respond, but then some take a week or less. Is there a reason to these big differences?

Thank you!


Impatient Submitter

Medford, MA

Dear Impatient Submitter,

Your question came in just an hour after I finished a literary journal meeting! This is a great question and one that seems to be on most writers’ minds. The wait time after you submit a story to a journal can be agonizing. I know this feeling well. Some places take so long that I completely forget I submitted to them, only to be reminded when they, you know, reject me. (“Oh hey, remember when you gave us this? Well we don’t want it.”)

I used to feel pretty frustrated by all that waiting. But then I experienced life on the other side of the fence. It opened my eyes considerably. After serving as a guest editor for the journal I now manage as the fiction editor, I said the same exact thing I’d later hear countless other guest editors say: “Wow. I have so much more respect for this process now.”

There’s certainly such a thing as “too long” for a literary journal’s response time, but generally speaking, a longer wait time is a good sign while a shorter wait time can be a bad one.

Or, at least, that’s my opinion. And here’s why.