Good Editors and Good Practice: Submitting

This is the last article in my series on writing. It addresses a subject feared by some authors and relished by others – that of submission. There is something magical about sending a story out into the world. Once it leaves your laptop it is open to interpretation by anyone who reads it. Consequently, myriad worlds and characters are born from your imagination. How many is down to who you choose to submit to and how you go about it…

  • Do your research on both the magazine and its submission guidelines. Brilliantly written though your story may be, it will not be a fit for most journals out there due to the bleak mathematics of themes, submissions guidelines, and audience. Carpet-bombing publications with submissions is not an effective way to get your story accepted. A few well-targeted, well-written submissions has, in my experience, been far more effective in securing publications. In addition, it comes across as far more authentic. Even the most patient editors out there get tired, so make it easy on them. If they want your work in size-74 comic sans, then that’s how they should get it. Don’t give them an easy excuse to throw your work on the discard pile.


  • A submission email personally addressed to the editors is a nice touch. It demonstrates that, if nothing else, you’ve gone to the trouble of clicking on their publication’s website. You’re looking to stand out from a large crowd here, so anything that shows that you are familiar with the material they publish can only be a good thing.


  • Decide what you want your story to do for you. I use Duotrope for this purpose. It let’s me scan thousands of publication’s acceptance rates, response times, and interviews with the editors themselves. If I think that one of my pieces is good enough, I might search for a print journal and worry less about the time it takes the editors to respond. If I’m looking for a fast publication for a piece I want out quickly, I’ll search for a website whose response time and reply rate is impressive.


  • This is more of an observation than a piece of advice. Too often there is an unequal relationship between the author and the editors of magazines. My pet hate is journals who state the following
    • We want your work
    • We won’t pay you
    • We don’t accept simultaneous submissions
    • We don’t send replies to unsuccessful submissions

We need to remember that our stories are the lifeblood of these magazines. There are publications out there whose editors genuinely engage and value their contributors. We should be rewarding good behaviour and submitting our work to those who value it, rather than to those who treat submissions as, at best, a mild irritation. I’ve built up some really fruitful relationships with editors who treat authors as partners in a shared endeavour.


***Thanks for reading. Any comments are most welcome***

Other instalments in my writing advice series are below:


Igloos in the Tundra: Idea Formation

Exploration and Sterilisation: Research

Storytelling on the Bus: Planning

Getting Toothpaste Out of the Tube: Writing a First Draft

Polishing the Pebble: Editing



5 thoughts on “Good Editors and Good Practice: Submitting

  1. This is so helpful, thank you! I’ve only submitted to a couple of journals so far because I feel daunted by the process, but I have a couple of stories I’d really like to get published somewhere and you’ve encouraged me to get my butt in gear and give it a go. It’s also interesting that you avoid journals who say they don’t pay, because I’ve always been under the impression that as a newbie to ‘selling’ my stories I have to deal with submitting to smaller, non-paying publications first. Do you think this is the case? And in your experience, have you found that publications favour writers who have a lot of published work behind them? Sorry to bombard you with questions!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not at all, Ellie, and please don’t take me as an expert by any means. I’m only at a dozen published so definitely a newbie myself! Firstly, I’m genuinely amazed you’re not published more! I read your stuff on a regular basis and it never fails to entertain me! You’re so much more adept on social media than me as well. I lumber along picking up followers at a snail’s pace, so I’d love to pick your brains re your strategy! I certainly took the route you described – getting my work onto non-paying websites and magazines first. Despite what a lot of editors day, I think that having a portfolio of work behind you does lend credibility to any submissions. I certainly found that after a couple under my belt I was more likely to be accepted, and that rejections were more likely to be personal rather than pro-forma. It shouldn’t work this way but it definitely does. I certainly don’t mind journals that don’t pay – it’s the combination of not paying, not replying, and not accepting simultaneous submissions that gets on my wick!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, that’s so kind of you to say! In regard to social media, I’m honestly picking up followers slowly at the moment, too. I started out by following a lot of people which led to a lot of follows back, but that doesn’t necessarily result in engagement which is the most important thing, really. These days I try not to worry about numbers and just post content that I actually have fun writing, rather than what I feel I ‘should’ be doing. After all, those who follow based on the fun stuff are probably more likely to read my work or buy any books I put out in future.

        I thought that was the case re: having a portfolio, and mine is painfully lacking right now! It’s a shame that some editors can care more for credentials than the creative work itself, but such is life, eh? I’ll focus on the non-paying mags for now but I’ll definitely bear in mind what you said about the writer’s work being the life blood of a journal/mag – very true and a good reminder for us to know our worth. The industry is so competitive that it feels like we need to bend over backwards and jump through hoops to get anywhere, but it’s good to know there are editors out there who simply value good work. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!


  2. I haven’t succeeded in getting print published yet, (though I’ve succeeded in submitting :)) Very helpful article, thanks for sharing. Nice tip on Duotrope, and I like your stance on the ethics of rewarding publications that pay and give replies! 👍

    Liked by 1 person

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