The Process: Markets and Submissions
Submitting your piece should not be difficult. It may be time-consuming, but knowing how to approach this step lets you use your time most efficiently.
When you sit down to publish something, know what else has been said in that genre or field. Just like you wouldn’t butt into a conversation without at first listening, you need to read the competition. Go to bookstores and libraries. Bookstores have especially great collections of recent magazines. Know what you’re up against so that you don’t send out a repeat.
While you’re browsing the competition, you should also be getting to know your publishers. Whether you go to the bookstore or library or decide to use Writer’s Market, you need to get a feel for possible places to publish. Knowing the names and the addresses isn’t enough, though; go back and read the last five or ten or entire year’s worth of issues. Know what they’ve printed and how you can make your manuscript match.
Submissions Guidelines and Keeping Records
Be sure that you know the submission guidelines for your chosen publications—do they accept simultaneous submissions? What rights do they buy? For definitions of these terms, see The Obstacle: Troublesome Terms and Concepts. Also, keep track of what you send, where you send it, and when you send it. Whether in a notebook or an Excel spreadsheet, have a record that tracks your submissions.
Most publishers include guidelines about following up. Some say that if you haven’t heard within a certain time period, that’s a rejection; others say that they will respond no matter what within a certain period. Make note of those guidelines so you know when to appropriately follow up; nothing is worse than the writer who hassles the publisher about a manuscript the publisher hasn’t even had a chance to look at yet.
Dos and Don’ts
Do know which editor you need to send your piece to and address it to them personally. Don’t expect that editor to be your instant best friend. Do follow up if you haven’t heard back within the promised window. Don’t be surprised if the editor hasn’t read your piece yet. Do always have another publisher for your piece lined up. Don’t jump the gun. Do be courteous and respectful. Don’t be a diva. Do develop relationships with editors. Don’t stalk them or expect that they bow to your will. Do permit revisions of your piece. Don’t get in the way of your piece getting published.
Acceptance and Rejection
When your piece gets accepted, congratulations! Learn from what you did right and go duplicate it. If your piece is rejected, don’t despair—and don’t hassle the editor with email or phone queries for writing advice, for whom to submit to next, or for anything else.
Pay attention to the form of the rejection, too. Sometimes, even in standardized rejection letters, the editor may provide a check-the-box form that lets you know why your piece was rejected. If the editor does give you reason to follow up—“We can’t run this piece, but we like your style, can you send us an article about a particular topic we need?”—then follow up immediately. Still, remember that you aren’t published yet—and even if you are, you still need to cultivate the relationship with your editor. Reread the dos and don’ts and live them.