I came across the following note (under the title “Fear of the Waste Basket”) in the January 1880 issue of The Contributor, the magazine for the Young Mens and Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Associations. It gives, I think, the something of the other side of the coin on submissions.
Most publishers, of course, want to find material that they can publish. Magazines exist to publish material. Authors, you are not in a struggle with the publisher’s “waste basket.”
We take pleasure in publishing an article, from a new contributor, who forwards his first effort with the following modest apology: “Brother Wells, — I begin my struggle with your waste basket by sending you the enclosed for publication.” We desire to remind the young men and women of the Territory that the columns of the Contr1butor are at the service of these “first efforts,” which contain merit, and that the waste basket is not so ravenous as some of them seem to think.
While we receive a great deal of matter that is not published, the writers should not feel discouraged. There are many reasons why contributions sent to us fail to appear: the same subject is treated upon in different articles, while but one of them can reasonably be published. Again, items of local interest are thrown together, and sent us, but they would be unreadable to the majority of our subscribers. We wish however to encourage all, having literary tastes and ability, and respectfully urge the Associations to establish manuscript papers, in which practice will be given young writers, and as they improve,–their writings becoming of more general interest,–let them direct their attention to the Contributor, filling its pages with entertaining, lively, and instructive articles, the excellence of which will be a credit to themselves and to the Magazine.
I really don’t think things have changed much in 130 years. Believe it or not, publishers are still looking for good writing that fits their publications or imprints.