Submitting your writing to editors and publishers can be nerve-wracking and the waiting for a response can feel interminable but, unless you’re posting everything to your blog or whathaveyou, it’s what you’ve got to do. There are several things that can trip you up in the process and hopefully, you’ll find my post today helpful.
FINDING THE RIGHT MARKET
I’ve linked before to market finders and calls for submissions (here) so I won’t do that again but I will say this. If you’re really wanting to make a good impression, read some of what the publication has available and see if that’s the sort of thing that you think you’ve written. It’s not an infallible process but, if you want to have the best chance of getting that incredible acceptance and contract, it really does help. You don’t want to send a science fiction story to a strictly non-genre publication and vice-versa.
While there is a “standard manuscript format,” not every publication follows that or wants that. Always make sure to check a publication’s guidelines and modify your file to fit those guidelines. A lot of publications will auto-reject a submission that doesn’t at least attempt to follow the right format. Pay attention to their guidelines and if you have questions about them, ask. If you’re not sure about sending an attachment or not, or if they don’t specify a preferred file type and don’t say embedded only, email and ask.
Some of the market finders also offer a tracking software so you know where you’ve sent things and when to look for responses and the like. I started submitted long before there was such a thing so I use spreadsheets. I also like that I have a copy that I can access with or without Internet access. Really, I have three spreadsheets I use regularly the first being my word metrics spreadsheet that I use nearly daily, the second is my yearly spreadsheet where I keep track of what I send out every month, the potential vs actual income, all freelance, royalty, or crafting income etc, and the third is my very old, very wonderful market tracker. I have every submission I’ve sent out since 2004 in this file and let me tell you, it’s a LOT. I have a few older ones listed as well but not everything survived my early computer failure but most of the work I was submitting prior to 2004 is either published or trunked and I’m not really worried about doubling up and accidentally sending the same piece to the same publication twice (it really does happen if you aren’t paying attention). It’s an invaluable tool for me.
Mine is set up with several failsafes to prevent mixups. First page is markets which is ordered by name, date of submission, status of submission (out, accepted, rejected, withdrawn), form of submission (nonfiction, poetry, essay, fiction), title(s) of submission, response time, and notes (this space is especially useful for seeing when I get personalized rejections or notes or when an editor is particularly awesome). The second page is for short stories sorted by title, then noted each market it’s been submitted to, third page is the same for poems, fourth is the same for nonfiction, and the fifth is for novels and agents and publishers.
The hardest part of submitting my work, for me, is the waiting. It feels like an eternity, the time between clicking send and opening a response email. It’s even harder when a market goes past it’s projected response time and you’re left trying to figure out whether or not to query about the status. I tend to err on the side of caution and give two or three months past the listed response time unless their twitter or blog has a note about it. I personally have never had a status query work out in my favor but maybe someday (fingers crossed that my luck changes as I have a status query out right now).
Mostly, once I’ve hit send, I step aside and start work on the next story or poem. It may be that I write more when I submit more because writing new, shiny things keeps me from obsessively haunting my email program…
Good luck with your own submissions and remember, rejections are not the end of the world – I’ve only got a 15% acceptance rate (when you factor by market, my by title rate is much better). I’ve had one short story that got 14 rejections before it got a contract. This is an incredibly subjective business. What I think is moving and new might be old hat to these editors who’ve seen nearly everything come across their inboxes but the next editor might agree with me. In truth, publishing is a lot like throwing spaghetti on the wall until it sticks.