Submitting creative work to a publication can be nerve racking for a number of reasons, especially if it is your first time. Gaining publication is an essential part of a working writer’s life, so here is a list of tips to help you along the way to becoming established writers.
1. Do Not Fear Rejection
This tip is the most important one I can give. You cannot fear rejection; it is going to happen, and it is ok. This is the first thing you, as a writer, need to grasp and understand. It is hard to send off your own work to be judged and analyzed by various editorial panels, but you should never take a rejection too close to heart. A rejection doesn’t mean anything about the quality of your writing. You could receive a rejection for any number of reasons. For example, your piece might not have fit the journal’s theme, you didn’t follow the journals guidelines, or the journal might not even read your work, because there is just too much to read. Whatever the case, you just need to continue to send your work to a number of publishers. Just be patient and have no fear; your work will find a home.
2. Submit to Journals You Like
Do your homework. When you are looking to submit work for publication, you should always look at journals that you admire or enjoy. Submit to journals you are familiar with so you know what type of work they publish. Mention in your cover letter that you have knowledge of the publication; it presents dedication on your part. Just make sure, regardless of where you submit, you do your research and take the time to learn about the publication. Take the time to read their mission statement. Know to whom you are submitting.
3. Follow the Guidelines
Always make sure to read and follow the guidelines for each journal and magazine to which you submit. Each journal has specific submissions guidelines. A journal’s guidelines tell you things like when to submit, how many pieces/pages to submit, the format in which to submit, and whether they take simultaneous submissions, among other things. Not following the guidelines gives the publisher an excuse to recycle your work and give you an immediate rejection. This is obviously what you are trying to avoid so always make sure to read the guidelines carefully first before submitting anything.
4. Write a Good Cover Letter.
A strong cover letter is essential, and you should take the time to create a template cover letter you can use to submit to various publications. A good cover letter should do the following:
- Tout your accomplishments without telling your life story. You should mention your achievements, such as other publications and awards, but keep it brief. Most editors do not want to read an autobiography, because they have enough submissions to read as it is. Always update your letter as you accomplish more.
- Include your contact information (address, number, email, etc). This way, the editors can contact with you about your submission or know where to send correspondance.
- Mention your prior knowledge of the publication. This shows that you have taken the time to examine the publication before submitting and that you have connection with that particular publisher.
- Makes you more appealing. For example, use “completing” instead of saying “going for my degree” when talking about your education. “Completing” tells a publisher that you are hard at work toward your goal and loyal to your craft.
- Be courteous. Thank the editors for taking the time to read your work. Editors have a lot of reading and work on their hands.
5. Submit to as Many Places as You Can.
Most publications allow for simultaneous submissions, which means you can submit work to them that you have already submitted to other publishers. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, because what is not good for one journal might be good for another. If you do end up submitting work simultaneously, always make sure to contact other publishers after a piece gets picked up for publication so they know to disregard it from your submission.
6. Keep Track.
Create a chart or someway of organizing where you have submitted work. This is for your own personal record and sanity.
7. Be Patient.
Give the editors time to get back to you. If you submitted work to a journal two days ago, then don’t start asking them about the status of your submission. Likely, they haven’t even had a second to look at the majority of submissions they have received. It can take a few months for you to receive any word. If you haven’t heard anything from a publisher in over a few months then just assume your work was rejected and move on from there.
There is a lot of pressure, especially for younger writers, to gain publications in order to become more established. My hope is to help relieve some of that pressure with advice. Getting published is not easy; it takes a large amount of effort and persistence. These tips can get you on track toward gaining new honors and publications, setting you on the path toward becoming an established writer.
Mike Malpiedi is a first year MFA candidate in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Mike also serves as Associate Editor, Graduate Assistant for Publications, for Bombay Gin.