by Bethany Brengan
Continued from Part 1
In my last post, I discussed how to find publications. Now it’s time to look at picking a publication and sending your submission.
Before you submit anywhere, you need to decide three things:
- What do I want from publication? Be honest with yourself about your current goals. At the moment, I rarely submit to any market that doesn’t pay. But when I was starting out, I was happy simply to have the validation of someone else looking at something I’d written and saying, “Yes, this is worth sharing with readers.” I was more interested in building up my publishing credits (and my self-esteem) than my bank account. What do you need at this point in your writing career?
- Am I willing to pay to be published? And if so, how much? I’m a big believer in the “money should flow toward the writer” principle. However, certain types of writing contests frequently have entry fees (some genres are worse for this than others). Some of these are contests I have made money back on (and bragging rights, let’s not ignore bragging rights). My current rule is that I don’t spend more $3.00 per contest entry. But you have to decide what makes the most sense for you. Set a limit and stick to it.
- Would I be happy to have this publication on my résumé? Only you can answer this question. But I’d advise finding a happy middle ground between “all-Wall-Street-Journal-all-the-time” and “anywhere that’ll take me.” You won’t always know what a publication will look like until after you’ve been accepted, but you can generally tell if you’re going to be ideologically opposed to its core principles. (I confess to skipping a publication I felt like my work would have fit because their submission guidelines included a sneering takedown of another writer’s work.)
Once you have decided, on a publication:
- Read the submission guidelines carefully. Mark any deadlines on your calendar.
- Revise your piece/pitch/query (depending on the publication).
- Revise again. A second revision is usually necessary to make sure you are sending out your best possible work. That said, pay attention to whether or not you are using the “just one more revision” excuse to avoid sending out your work (and thereby avoiding the risk of rejection).
- Reread the submission guidelines (making sure you have included all the relevant information, followed the formatting guidelines, understood whether simultaneous submissions are acceptable, and grasped which rights you would be selling, and for how much, if you were accepted).
- Submit your piece/pitch/query, including your SASE and cover letter, if applicable. (Note: I usually work from a generic cover letter, so that I don’t have to rewrite it from scratch each time I submit.)
- Track your submission. Some online publications will track your submissions for you. But usually, you are relying on the questionable organization of overworked editors and underpaid interns. I track each submission in a Word document, in chronological order. Each entry looks like this:
- Date submitted: Sept. 26, 2016
- Where: Fancy Literary Journal—(snail mail, NOT simultaneous)
- Submission(s): “Some Poem,” “Some Other Poem,” “Piece I Don’t Quite Like But I’m Hoping You Do,” and “Piece I Really Like But No One Else Does”
- Response: by (date listed on website—if no date, then just “?”)
This makes me look like a much more organized person than I ever actually am. But it’s a pretty simple system to use. In my file, active submissions are in green, returned submissions are in black, and accepted submissions are in blue. This lets me know at a glance how many pieces I am waiting for responses on. If it’s been over a month since the publication’s stated response time and I haven’t heard anything, it’s time for me to contact them.
7. Prepare another submission. Rejection is inevitable. One the best ways to dampen that sting is to know you have another piece floating in the ether of potential publication.There are no guarantees. You could send out a piece you love and get dozens of rejections. You could send out a piece you feel iffy about and see it snatched up immediately.
What’s important is that submitting pieces (and getting them rejected, revising them, and submitting them again) can not only lead to publishing credits, money, and a boost to your writerly confidence—it can also, slowly but surely, make you a better writer.
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.