I haven’t submitted a story to a literary magazine for at least a year. Yet I enter contests sponsored by those same magazines all the time. The reason is simple – I believe the odds are much higher that someone will actually read my story, when it’s accompanied by a check. I’m sure that the editors and staff at these magazines want to read every submission that comes to them, but they are swamped.In my mind’s eye, I can track the progress of my story as it drops into Somebody’s inbox along with 25 or 50 others, and Somebody doesn’t recognize my name, and my story ends up in a virtual or literal heap of fellow orphans until Somebody accidently hits the delete button or the pile of ancient unopened envelopes is finally declared a fire hazard and carted off to the city dump.
I’m not saying that an unsolicited story is never considered by a literary journal. One of my rare successes came at the hands of a guest editor, Edie Meidav, at Fifth Wednesday. She read my unsolicited story, liked it, took the time to suggest some very smart edits, and published it. In my experience, however, something like this happens only every decade or so.