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: