A Five-Step Guide to Healthy Submitting
By Chris Wiewiora
This is the year you’re going to get published. Or published again. Right? Right!
A lot of writers have probably made publication a New Year’s resolution. However, like a diet plan of over-exercising that doesn’t lead to good health, massive submitting to magazines doesn’t lead to healthy publishing. You have to be patient and not over exert yourself.
If you’ve read my other tips the past year, then you’ll know that I’m a fan of fives. And so, with this tip I’ll give you five ways to get your submission into shape to send. From there you’ll be on a healthy way to publishing.
First things first: Train with your manuscript. You wouldn’t run a race without training. The same thing is true with your writing. Push your writing as far as it needs to go by workshopping it, and then set it aside; redrafting it, and then set it aside; reading it aloud for rhythm and errors, and then set it aside. Do you notice a pattern? You need to have patience with the training of your writing by using both time and space. Setting aside your writing is like having days off from working out to repair your muscles.
2. Understand your manuscript
While you’re setting aside your piece, go ahead and classify your manuscript. Ask yourself: What is this? I don’t mean to distain your writing or to figure out the genre, but seriously ask yourself what your writing is about. While you might be entertaining and/or instructing, there’s some sort of audience—even a niche within the literary world—who specifically wants to read your writing.
3. Know what magazines are out there
Once you’ve gotten a general sense of what your writing is about, then the third thing you’ll want to do is consider all the magazines, both literary and not.
Note: You’re reading magazines, right? Because if you’re sending your writing out to magazines and not reading them—let alone subscribing to them—then you have no right to be published in them. Even if you can’t afford to subscribe to all the magazines (who can?), then you can at least read many of them free via online content, research databases such as Project MUSE or JSTOR subscribed to by university libraries, and public libraries with periodical sections (sometimes entire rooms!) of magazines. You can pick up the Best of… anthologies, get back issues from friends, ask teachers or professors to give you their old copies, or start up a “free reading” box at your school or work or workshop where you put an issue in to take an issue out.
The reason you want to consider all these literary magazines is to match your writing to the appropriate magazine. For instance, I’m the managing editor of the online literary magazine Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment. While we look for environmental writing, we also look for place-based writing or where the setting of narratives and language is an integral aspect of a piece. With that, you’ll want to read the mission statements, interviews with current editors, articles about or by the editors of magazines that you could classify as similar to your writing. Also, look at those magazines’ current calls for submissions, announcements, and news. All that information is available for the community tapped into a magazine.
4. Start small
Now, you’ll want to send your manuscript to a handful of magazines. That means no more than five at a time. Seriously. Sending to ten, twenty, or more magazines at once is a waste of your time and money. If you’re sending to twenty places at the cost of $3 per submission because of printing, envelops, SASE (or online submission fees), then you’re spending $60 that you might as well pay yourself not to publish. Even if you’re sending for free, then realize that you’re blasting off electronic messages to managing editors who have to handle a massive amount of submissions and can easily spot over-submitters. Just as easily as you send to them, they can reject your manuscript, hold your piece in limbo, or even put you on a blacklist of indefinite non-acceptance for the future.
5. Review your work
You’re going to get rejected. I know this tip is about healthy submitting to publish, but publishing is also about handling rejection healthily.
When you get rejected figure out if the rejection was a default rejection without any personal comments or if the rejection “had some ink.” When submissions were mostly physically mailed and SASEs were mailed back with a rejection slip, editors sometimes wrote brief encouraging notes to writers. This still happens with both physical rejection slips and now more often with online submissions. The more personal the note, the better your aim with your submission. Think of a personal rejection as your manuscript striking the dartboard, while acceptance is the bull’s-eye.
For here, keep a record of rejections. If all five magazines reject your writing, then go through these tips again. The next time you submit you’ll be another healthy step closer to your resolution of publication.
Chris Wiewiora is a native of Orlando, Florida. Currently, he lives in Ames, Iowa where he is a Master of Fine Arts graduate student at Iowa State University’s Creative Writing and Environment program and the managing editor of Flyway. He is a regular contributor to the Good Men Project and a contributing editor to BULL: Men’s Fiction. Read more at www.chriswiewiora.com