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My 24-Hour, Three-Strike Submission System

I got another rejection today for a piece I’ve been sending around for a while now. For many writers that would sound the story’s final death knoll. But my reward for continuing to send this piece out is a lot of positive feedback about my use of rhyme and the story’s illustration potential. So I haven’t given up on this one, although it’s seen many rewrites and hardly resembles its original self any more. But that’s a good thing, and the primary reason is my 24-hour, three-strike submission rule. Here’s how it works:

The 24-Hour Turnaround

Big Ben, London, UK

Letting the sting of rejection get the best of you and send you into the writing doldrums is non-productive. Whether you like it or not, rejection is part of the writer life. Learning to use it rather than let it derail you is the only way to survive. When I adopted the 24-hour turnaround I began to see each rejection as a stepping stone, rather than a kick in the gut.

The 24-hour turnaround is simply this: when I receive a rejection I make myself send the story out again within 24 hours. This requires working between rejections to keep a fresh list of potential buyers for each piece. It also stops me from resting on my laurels between submissions and making the mistake of keeping all my writing eggs in one basket. Now don’t get me wrong. There are times when I can’t follow my own rule, due to scheduling issues, deadlines or other interruptions. But having this self-imposed standard gives me the regular kick in the pants I need.

Three Strikes and You’re Out! 

The other part of the equation that keeps me constantly looking at my stories with fresh eyes is the three-strike rule. Three rejections equal a serious revision for any of my manuscripts. Once a story has three strikes, it leaves the submission rotation and heads to the woodshed. Once there I typically send it to my critique partner with any editorial notes received (that happens only if I have a relationship with the editor). Sometimes I simply let it rest until I’m ready to do a complete overhaul. Other times I leave it completely until I see the market swinging back in its direction. I rarely put a story away for good, but it does occasionally happen.

Before You Hit Send

The most important thing to remember about any submission process is knowing when a piece is really ready. That’s truly where my system begins. If you have not work-shopped your manuscript in some way- critique group, conference, professional critique service- and already have many, many revisions, trust me, it’s not ready. And after you’ve done all of that, take time to do your homework about where to send your very best work. The shotgun approach may work for some things, but not typically for publishing.

So that’s my system. Having it keeps me sane in this bunny-eat-bunny world of children’s publishing. I’d love to hear about yours!


Sensibility- Writing with passion requires writing with discipline. Having a disciplined approach can actually enhance your creativity.

Sense- Have a system that keeps you organized and on track as you draft, write, revise and finally, submit.