How to publish your writing
It seems simple enough. You’ve written a short story or a poem, and now you are looking to publish them. There are so many magazines and sites out there, it would seem very easy to get your work published. Yet you’ve submitted your work time and time again, and magazines and sites have consistently rejected you….why?
There are 5 major mistakes people make when they submit their work to magazines. Avoid these 5 mistakes and your chances of getting published will skyrocket.
- Follow the Guidelines
EWR only accepts submissions of stories that are 500 words or less. Do you want to guess how many times per week I get a submissions that is longer than 500 words? It happens every day. Editors really want you to pay attention to the guidelines. I know what you are saying, “That’s dumb, and of course I follow the guidelines.” Really? When is the last time you really read the guidelines of a literary magazine? Have you spent time? There are all kinds of literary requirements people don’t thing make a difference. For instance, our guidelines state make EWR: Short Stories your subject line. If you don’t, you work is disregarded. I bet we have 100 people’s work dismissed per week, because they do not follow this simple request.
- Know your market: Read the dang magazine
This is the second thing that editors hate, and writers don’t always pay attention to. On the surface it seems simple. If you are a science fiction writer, you might not want to submit your work to a magazine looking for love stories. Sure that makes sense. Even though it happens more often than you might think. Even though this doesn’t happen very often, the issue that does occur many times is ignoring tone, mood, and nuances of a magazine. For instance, read a few stories of your magazine first. If you see that all the stories lack curse words, they may not be looking for your profanity saturated piece. Another magazine, might be begging for it. You never know if you don’t take the time to read at least one issue or a few stories.
- Formality please
Just because the online magazine you are sending your work to, isn’t the New Yorker, don’t dump your work on them. I see it all the time. Email, with attachment, no intro, no cover letter, nothing but a file. I delete those by the way. A little niceties go a long way. I know you don’t think this has anything to do with publishing, but it is key. I have spent extra time reading bad poems, because the person was so polite and nice in the email. Send a nice little cover letter. Just say, please consider my work.
- Bios Matter
I would love to say editors never look at bios, but this is completely not true. The reputation of the magazine is directly connected to the quality of writers you are publishing, so yes bios matter. Make sure that you don’t just say, “Been published in 100s of magazine.” Be more specific by not too lengthy. If I know the magazines you have been published in, and I respect them, I’m going to read your work extra carefully, believe me.
Do not listserv your editors
On a side note. Do not turn your editor’s emails into a mailing list. I was on a strand email recently, where someone had submitted their work to 100s of editors on one mailing. The editors found out, and boy did they go to town on the guy. Thy made fun of him and much more. Don’t do this. 1 email per submissions.
- Use a database
The biggest secret to getting published here, is use our database. You can use any really, but EWR has some specific search options like: Print Magazines Taking Online Submissions that are kind of unique. You can search our literary magazines here. Even if you don’t use our database, use a database. You are looking to match up your interests and writing style with a magazine. Also, if you are just starting out, look for new magazines. Some of the really well established magazines hardly take unsolicited submissions. They might publish 1 or 2 new writers per year. You want to start with some good magazines that still take new writers.
- Edit, edit, edit
If there is a mistake on the coverlet, I usually stop reading. I read a story, just last week, that was a wonderful story, but it changed tenses in the middle of the story. It was a mistake. I almost cried when I rejected it, but I didn’t have the time to ask the author for rewrites. Make absolutely sure that your work is perfect. If you get a couple of rejections reread it, proof it, and someone else read it. Maybe you are missing something. Maybe something is rude or condescending.
- Be persistent AND flexible
Last on our list, keep trying. Don’t give up. Be flexible. Of course you have to keep sending out your work. Find 5 or 10 places to send it then repeat. This is great, but I would say that every 5 rejections, you must, must, must, reexamine your work. If you send out 5 submissions, check and see why it isn’t working. Change of your cover letter. Change the work, and proofread everything again.
Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal…check our About Us page for more. Also here is info on our On Classic Articles