I’ve never liked the word “submit.” To Submit, to place under, to capitulate, to yield.
Nope. Never liked it.
When I started writing, I learned a new meaning for the word “submit”: to send for consideration a manuscript, born of sweat and tears, wrapped in prayers and orisons, in hopes that, against overwhelming odds and counter to all probability, an editor will find it pleasing and bestow upon it the gift of acceptance.
And submit I did. Often and regularly. For years. I have the rejections to prove it (more on them, next week). For now, though, some thoughts on the mechanics of submitting your work to markets.
First: Do it.
Sounds pretty simple, I know, but I am surprised at the number of writers who simply do not submit their short works to markets (or their long work to agents/editors, for that matter). Why wouldn’t a writer submit his/her work to a place that might publish it?
A fair bit has changed since the last time I regularly submitted my work to magazines. We’re only talking a dozen or so years, here, but in that time a lot has changed. Back in the early Aughts, street mail was the only method of getting your MSS to editors; now the majority accept electronic submissions. Back then, you never ever submitted the same MS to two markets simultaneously–there were horror stories of editors meeting for lunch, discussing the great new story that crossed their desk, only to discover that they were both reading the same story, and both deciding to reject that story–but now about 85-90% of the mid-level markets accept sim-subs. Back then, editors took months and months to respond to a submission, but now…oh, wait…that still happens…never mind.
The main change, however, is the advent of self-publishing. Now, you can write a story in the morning and “publish” it on the web that afternoon. You can blog it, you can put it up on Smashwords or some other venue, you can even package it and get it on the e-shelf at Amazon. Easy-peasy.
Considering the ease of self-publishing, I can understand why some writers don’t bother with submitting to magazines. I mean, it’s a pain, it’s fraught with rejection, it takes for bloody ever, and even if you do get a piece accepted, it takes so much time and provides so little recompense that it’s simply not worth it. On top of this, there are a ton of magazines and e-zines out there that are just awful, with thrown-together presentation and filled with amateurish tripe.
So, why bother with it at all? Two reasons: feedback and outreach.
Wake up, write a story, send it through spell-check, slap it up on Smashwords, and you’ve been “published.” You’ve also learned nothing about the craft of writing. By submitting to a paying market, I’m asking for an opinion. Is this story good enough to be published in your magazine? Does this story match with your editorial vision for work you publish? Unfortunately, the usual response is an inscrutable “No,” and nothing more, but even so, it’s an answer, and it tells me something.
If a story of mine does get accepted by a periodical, that story–and my name–will be put in front of subscribers I might never reach. If those subscribers read my story and like it, they may wonder what else I’ve written, and may buy a book of mine, or end up here at my blog.
More Readers = Writer Win.
This doesn’t mean I submit my work to every periodical I find. There are limits to the benefit each periodical can provide. So, to break it down, here’s my process/criteria.
- I go through my resources (print and online) and compile a list of candidate markets; good candidates have some/all of the following traits:
- Is a match for the story in question (i.e., acceptable genre, style, and word length)
- Pays a respectable amount for fiction
- Puts out a quality product (i.e., good layout, quality content)
- Has a good sized subscriber base
- Has a good reputation
- I prioritize the list from most desirable to least
- Higher pay rates usually go at the top
- Prestige/reputation can override a less-than-good pay scale
- An editor who repeatedly provides specific feedback with rejections, etc., can bump a market up the list
- I note specifics about the markets
- Are they reading now?
- Do they accept simultaneous submissions?
- Do they accept electronic submissions?
- I work the list, from top to bottom, submitting to one or more, according to their stated requirements
Being paid a couple hundred bucks is a good reason to submit. So is getting my story in front of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of readers. And so is getting some specific idea as to why this story was not accepted. There’s no guarantee of getting any of these things, but there’s a chance, and I feel it’s worth it. I may end up with a pile of rejections, but in the end, I will have tried and (hopefully) I will have learned something.
Next week, I’ll take a look at that pile of rejections and see what it can tell me.