Publication is a numbers game. With that in mind, we have a seven-step guide to help you stay organized and focused when submitting work for publication.
If you want to see your work in the pages of literary journals, magazines, or even online, you’re probably going to get more rejection letters than acceptances, which means you’re going to have to send out a LOT of submissions in order to see results. You’ll need to develop thick skin and a submission strategy — and a proficiency with spreadsheets to stay organized!
1. Take inventory of your work
Make a spreadsheet listing all your stories, articles, or poems. Include on this spreadsheet each work’s:
- form (novella? sonnet? etc.)
- state of completion (rough idea? half-finished? 1st draft? completed?)
2. Search open-submission listings
Find out which publications are open to reading unsolicited submissions (check out Duotrop.com). Read through the excerpts and sample pieces online in order to get a feel for which editors/magazines will be most receptive to your writing. Now make another spreadsheet!
- the name of the publication
- the editors’ names
- dates of open reading period and deadlines
- the subject of any upcoming themed issues (because you might have the perfect piece for them!)
- whether or not they accept simultaneous submissions and electronic submissions
Aim for 100 listings where you think your work will resonate. Why? Because we’re about to cross half of those off the list—leaving 50 listings, which evens out to 1 per week! (With 2 weeks vacation).
3. Avoid publications that don’t accept simultaneous submissions
A “simultaneous submission” means that you’re sending the same piece of writing to 2 or more magazines at once. Why should you avoid submitting to places that don’t allow simultaneous submissions? Well, let’s just look at the numbers game again. Do you even have 50 different, amazing pieces of unpublished writing right now? If so—way to go! If not, you’ll want to take your absolute best writing and send that to as many places as you can.
4. Avoid publications that charge reading fees
$3 here and $5 there ain’t gonna break the bank. But as a general rule, it’s smart to avoid submitting to too many places that charge submission fees. Save that money for your marketing budget when your book comes out!
5. Avoid publications that don’t take online submissions
Why? Because it’s a pain in the butt to print the submissions, package them up, and put them in the mail. You can save that time and put together more ONLINE submissions. For any editors who haven’t checked their calendars, it’s almost 2013—not the 1990’s! The internet exists. Use it.
6. Make a week-by-week action plan
OK. Great. Now that you’ve slashed that list in half, it’s time to take the info on your spreadsheet of listings and make a calendar. Take a look at the open reading periods, consider the submission deadlines for each, and plan out your next year—one submission per week! And always prepare your submissions on the same day so it becomes a part of your writing routine.
Alright, another week, another day for submissions. Check your calendar; look at which journal or review you’re submitting to; and then do a little brush up research. Re-familiarize yourself with the work they like to publish. Consult the spreadsheet of your own work and see which pieces make the most sense for that venue. Carefully read the submission guidelines and follow each step. Sometimes they want your name on every page. Sometimes they don’t want your name on the doc at all! Sometimes they want a word count. Sometimes not. In your cover letter, be sure to mention something about the publication you’ve enjoyed—even if it’s something featured on their website. Press “submit!”
Submit. Submit. Submit. Submit to the uncertainty of this process, but don’t submit to the discouragements. Sure, you’re going to get a lot of rejection letters. But the acceptances make all the hard work worthwhile.
In addition to your own Excel docs, you’ll probably want to explore these two essential online submission tools as well:
2. Submittable – the “best way to accept and review digital content and files.” Many of the popular literary journals use Submittable (formerly called Submishmash) to manage their submissions.
Do you have a submission strategy? How has it worked for you? Let us know in the comments section below.
Tips for submitting to literary magazines
The 10 Rules Of Submitting To Literary Magazines
7 Step Writer’s Guide To Submitting Work For Publication
Have You Considered Entering A Writing Contest?
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