Five Submission Tips for New Writers

Hey guys,

Funny story? This post? It was actually submitted to a popular writing blog as a guest post. The blog master accepted it enthusiastically in September, and told me I could expect to see it posted on his domain in about two months time. Well, November has up and gone already–which is crazy, right?–and, as of this morning, I had not been contacted with any details at all about when the piece was to run. So I sent off a follow-up email, as one would, and was informed that he’d “lost track” of my post, and, upon a second reading, was no longer interested in posting it on his sight. He did, however, very graciously invite me to “try again”in the future.

Yeeeahh, probably….not?

So! Not a happy camper. But I’m posting the piece here, fully aware of the irony of the fact that this post includes”submissions tips” in the title. Ya gotta choose a home for your writing with care, folks. That said, ya can’t always tell with folks. (This is discussed further below.)

Without further ado…Five submission tips for new writers!

subs

As any seasoned writer will tell you, the publishing industry can be hard to navigate even for the pros. But the path toward publication, for new writers especially, seems much more labyrinthine now than it ever has. Answers to common questions like “where should I submit?” or “what kind of work is (name of publication) looking for?” aren’t as straightforward as they might seem. After several years of submitting and a series of successes and failures as a writer, I have compiled a few tips and some insights for the new writer on the block.

1. Each publication, new or well established, has a niche.
This is true even when the editor doesn’t call for submissions of a certain style, form, or theme. If you’ve submitted to any number of publications, you’ve probably read the generic line “send us your best work.” In the absence of any other editorial preferences, this does, to a certain degree, mean that the journal or magazine welcomes work in many different styles and forms. It doesn’t mean that anything goes. Just as you gravitate toward certain styles and forms when you read poetry or fiction, editors seek work that adheres to certain guidelines, which may or may not be readily apparent at cursory glance. This is why it is always advised that you take the time, as a prospective contributor, to understand what the publication in question is doing.

Often, a journal’s editorial focus will not be identifiable in one or two pieces, individually, but as you read carefully through the issue, you might notice that most of the writing has a certain feel. Perhaps it is emotive or understated. Perhaps all the poems have a narrative quality, or the fiction is very descriptive. These are aspects of writing that can exist in works of any style or form. Bottom line—every publication has a niche, is unique, and curates work that adheres to certain preferences, so do your research.

2. Not all journals are created equal
This point may seem obvious, but if you’re a writer who is seeking that very first acceptance or a new writer with only a few publications under your belt, choose a prospective home for your work with care; look for publications that evidence sustainability, i.e. those that have an easily accessible, well-maintained platform, which you feel can welcome readers for the foreseeable future.

As a very new writer, I once made the mistake of submitting to an online publication that did not have a very user friendly interface, the editor of which was somewhat unorganized with his magazine’s contributions. The piece he accepted was published online as an “editor’s pick” for a month or so, but never, as promised, incorporated into the current issue or archived at all. Further, my attempts to communicate with this editor and rectify the situation were unsuccessful.

For new writers, especially, it’s important to build a solid publication history. Unfortunately, many small publications are not well organized or they are short-lived. You can’t always predict the success of a journal or magazine, especially as so many new ones emerge online. But look for ones that have made a good start with a streamlined method for receiving submissions (Submittable is a solid method! A personal email address is less so) and have carefully organized and archived their content.

3. New and/or Small Journals are Okay
While it true that not all journals are created equal, the publishing community is experiencing a recent influx of fledgeling journals that are innovating and fresh. Editors of newer, smaller literary journals are often afforded more time to consider your work and may be more inclined to take a chance on a debut author. Take a look at various sites like Poets and Writers and The Review Review online for rankings and listing of newer journals.

4. Keep Track of Submissions
As important as it is for publications to keep track of your submissions, it is equally important for you, as the writer, to keep a careful record of the places you have sent your work. This is especially true if you’re submitting a lot of work and doing it frequently. I highly recommend keeping a notebook or file handy. Use this to keep tabs not just on the places you’re waiting to hear back from, but also those places that have either declined or accepted your pieces. Additionally, always keep careful track of how an individual piece has changed over time. If you have sent a piece out and it was declined for publication, it is bad form to send it again, even if it is has been significantly altered or edited since it was rejected. Each time you submit, include the pieces you sent, the dates (many publications ask you wait for a designated period before resubmitting), and note all the journals in question if you have simultaneously submitted. Finally, as requested by most publications, follow through on notifying them, when a simultaneous submission or part of one has been accepted elsewhere and check each one off your list!

5. Get Rejected (Often)!
Sure, nobody likes getting that form rejection notification in the mail or in their inbox. But submitting and submitting often is key to getting your foot in the door as an established writer in any genre. To head off the inevitable emotional slump of multiple rejections, I long ago began compiling them in a folder (in addition to my notebook) and began actively trying to reprogram my mind when it came to publications declining my work. I say an emotional slump is inevitable, because it is—no matter how you view it, a no is a no. But you can do what myself and many other writers have done: learn to take the disappointment and convert it into a source of pride.

Rejections that pile up mean you’re invested in your work, you’re taking both yourself and your craft seriously. Very few writers get their work into the hands (or onto the screens) of readers without resilient determination. William Saroyan, the Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist and author of The Human Comedy, which was adapted for film in 1942 and won an Academy Award, is reputed to have been rejected an astonishing 7,000 times. Top that, I dare you! As many others have noted, if you’re not getting rejected, you’re not submitting enough. So get rejected—often.

There ya have it! Maybe the blogger I pitched didn’t like how long it turned out to be? Who knows. The point is, these are a few of the things I wished I’d know really early on! I hope they help you on your journey to publication!

Have any tips you’d add? Any listed here that you’d like to discuss? Talk to me!

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2 thoughts on “Five Submission Tips for New Writers

  1. Great tips and very helpful indeed! Wish you mentioned who was the blogger. Who knows, maybe we can help you track him/her down or simply avoid altogether!

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    1. Thanks Brenda, suffice it say that it was one of those sights that is more of a business enterprise than a real reflection on the writing process. This post would have fit in with what they’re doing, but the blogger is looking more at SEO and spinning the topic for increased blog traffic than he is anything else. Sadly.

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