Most writers hope to get their short stories, poetry, personal essays, novels, and memoirs published. After hours and hours (even days, months, or years!) of writing, proofreading, editing, rewriting, and formatting, you submit your work to literary journals or agents—and wait. But while you’re waiting, consider this: Some journals get 10,000 submissions in one reading period, and literary agents can get hundreds of queries a day. At Writer’s Relief, we’ve spent years honing our strategies and helping writers effectively boost their odds of getting an acceptance. Our research experts have tips and advice that can improve your writing submissions. You’ll be saying: I wish I’d known this sooner!
The Writing Submission Advice Every Writer Needs
Reality check: It’s not easy to get published. This is especially true if you’re only sending work to one or two markets at a time, or waiting six months to a year between submissions. Many writers don’t realize that the publishing industry standard for strong, well-written work is up to 100 submissions for every acceptance! If you want to boost your odds of getting published, you need to make a lot of targeted submissions on a consistent schedule.
Don’t submit the first draft of your work. Submitting work that you haven’t proofread and edited is a great way to build your rejection letter collection. But that’s not your goal, is it? So don’t rush…wait, revise, have other people read your work and give you input, proofread, and format.
Follow submission guidelines. Yes. Always. Full stop. Spoiler alert: Your writing isn’t somehow above the rules that every other writer has to follow. Editors and agents don’t want fancy fonts, colors, or seven-page cover or query letters just because you think your work is “special.” They’re looking for reasons to cull their pile of reading, and not following the guidelines will get your submission tossed onto the reject pile without a second glance. Check the submission guidelines to make sure you know exactly what each recipient expects you to send. Then read them again, to be sure.
Don’t make scattershot submissions. Okay, so you want to send out as many submissions as possible—you should just grab a bunch of names and press the “submit” button, right? Wrong. While you do want to send your work out to a good number of markets, you also want to make sure you’ve selected places where your work really belongs. If you send your horror short story to a journal that publishes environmental poetry, or your romance novel to an agent who specializes in children’s books, you’re not going to be very successful! You may even get a bad reputation among editors or agents (yes, they DO talk to each other!).
Set reasonable expectations. Sure, we all want to be published in The Paris Review or to be represented by a big-name literary agent. These are nice goals, but there are thousands of other agents and literary journals out there—and they’re accepting great work! Many of the less famous literary journals nominate for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net (and you’ll have less competition for those accolades). And literary agents who don’t have famous clients are eager to build their reputations by helping your book get published.
Track your submissions. It’s important to know what work you sent and to whom. You want to avoid the publishing industry faux pax of resubmitting work to a market that’s already rejected it. You can create a simple spreadsheet, use index cards, or utilize an online submission tracker to track your submissions and responses.
Volunteer for a literary journal. Whether you’ve written short stories, poetry, or a book (Insider tip: Excerpts can be submitted as short stories!), this is a great way to get a peek behind the scenes and learn what the selection process at a literary journal actually looks like, what editors are looking for, and more. Most volunteers work online as first-round readers. Submittable is a good place to look for opportunities, but you can also check the website of a journal you’re interested in.
Turn to the experts for help! Too often, writers take on the hours and hours of research needed to find the right markets—and to eliminate all the wrong ones. Instead of getting yourself frustrated and exhausted, put that task into the hands of experts like those at Writer’s Relief. We’ll curate a list of the best markets for your work to boost your odds of getting an acceptance.
Now that you have the advantage of all this insider info, you can make smarter, more effective writing submissions. And the easiest way to put all these tips into action is to work with the pros at Writer’s Relief! Learn more about our services, and submit your writing to our Review Board today!
Question: What’s the best piece of writing submission advice you’ve ever been given or have learned while submitting your own work?