by Bethany Brengan
Part One: Finding Publications
If you’ve learned anything from following Chris’s blog, it has to be that traditional methods of publication are neither the only ways to build a writing career nor necessarily the best.
Now join me as I proceed to ignore all of Chris’s hard-earned wisdom and share a few tips I’ve learned about submitting short pieces to more traditional publications (whether print or online).
Beginning writers tend to make one of two mistakes when they submit their work: They either pick the hardest possible markets to submit to (e.g., The New Yorker) or they end up submitting to a vanity contest or scam.
Chances are that if you’re new to publication and there’s a market you have heard of, it’s probably highly competitive and not a great place to start. There’s nothing wrong with setting the bar high. But because a long string of rejections can be disheartening, you may want to protect your ego and look for some good mid-tier markets or new publications that haven’t had time to build their reputation (and their slush pile) yet.
There’s nothing wrong with vanity publishers if they are upfront about their practices and costs. But keep in mind that if you really just want to see your work published, there are usually cheaper ways to accomplish this than what most vanity “contests” offer. Be particularly wary of any unexpected costs (e.g., “you’re a semi-finalist” and now you must pay to continue “competing,” or you are asked to pay for the anthology your work appears in—even in non-paying markets, the publisher will usually provide you with a free copy of the book or journal your work appears in).
“But Bethany,” I can hear you saying, “where am I supposed to find these magical competitive-but-not-too-competitive markets?” Good question. For a long time, I found this the hardest part of the process. But fortunately, other people have started compiling these lists for me.
- Writer’s Digest puts out a yearly collection of market guides, including Poet’s Market, Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market, and Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. Even with publication information only a Wi-Fi signal away, I still find these dead-tree listings useful. Sometimes they contain information not available on the publisher’s website, and they categorize publications by both their difficulty to break into and how much they pay. (Full disclosure: I have been published in the 2015 Poet’s Market, but I had been using the books for years before that point and would definitely have recommended them anyway.)
- Brian Scott’s Online Writing Jobs (http://online-writing-jobs.com) tracks various freelance writing jobs, but I tend to prefer his calls-for-submissions Tumblr (http://writingcareer.com), which is mostly for magazines, journals, zines, and anthologies currently open to submissions. Which one works for you will depend on what type of writing you are trying to submit, but they’re both very comprehensive listings.
- I also like Freedom with Writing (http://www.freedomwithwriting.com), which is a weekly(ish) email list of possible markets for poetry, articles, essays, short stories, etc.
- Sign up for publications’ email lists. Even (especially) if you’ve been rejected by the publication. This where most publications announce upcoming themes, contests, anthologies, and other calls for submissions. That publication in the 2015 Poet’s Market I mentioned? I heard about the call for submissions because I had been rejected by a Writer’s Digest publication earlier, but I had signed up for their e-mail list anyway.
- Take part in online forums, email lists, communities, etc. that relate to your interests. You don’t have to force this; pick topics/hobbies that you love and want to communicate on. This how you discover hobby and trade related publications. On Tumblr, I follow a lot of comic book related bloggers, particularly those who write about Dick Grayson. And this is how I got involved in what eventually became Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder: Scholars and Creators on 75 Years of Robin, Nightwing, and Batman. I had never imagined that such a niche interest could have resulted in publication.
- If you love a publication, print or online, look up their submission guidelines. (If you can’t find the guidelines, ask.)
- If you’re reading a collection of work (essays, articles, poems, short stories, etc.) by an author you feel has a style similar to your own, check the “previously published in” section in the back. You might find some markets that are right up your alley.
- Don’t ignore local publications. Often, the competition is lower than that of national publications but the need for quality writing is just as high. Pay attention to community bulletin boards, at places like your library or coffee shop, which sometimes advertise these.
My next post will focus on choosing a publication and submitting your work. But hopefully, this is enough to get you dusting off some favorite pieces that still need a home.
Continue to Part 2
Bethany F. Brengan is a freelance writer and editor who reads too many comics. She is a contributing writer to Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder: Scholars and Creators on 75 Years of Robin, Nightwing and Batman (McFarland Books). Her poetry has appeared in The 2015 Poet’s Market, Poetry Quarterly, and The Crucible. She can be found at www.brenganedits.com andwww.readingwritingraptures.
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