Writers need journals to accept their work to generate momentum. Here are eight steps to take when submitting your writing for publication.
1: Research opportunities
Start by researching which publishers are available, and which are the ones most likely to be interested in your work based on your genre, style and subject matter.
Good Irish websites include Writing.ie, Creative Writing Ink, and Paul McVeigh’s blog. For an international audience, try Duotrope (an American database of all publishers in the US — plus publishers from Canada, Great Britain and more).
2: Set clear goals
Decide what you want to achieve with your work: know who you’ll submit it to, and how to format your submission.
3: Personalise your submission
Refer to your contact by name, acknowledge the publication he/she works for, evidence your familiarity with it, and briefly explain why your work will complement the publication.
4: The follow-up
Check the publication’s guidelines re. how long it will take to review your submission; don’t contact them until this expires.
If you don’t receive a response, email your contact with a gentle reminder – “I’m just wondering if you’ve had the time to read my submission…”
If you receive a rejection, you could thank the contact, wish them well with the publication, and ask if there is anything specific stylistically/thematically that they are looking for in future issues.
Some journals don’t/don’t have the time to offer feedback. If this is the case, try comparing your submission to recent posts published by that editor.
5: Further follow-ups
If your first follow-up doesn’t work, take a different angle with your next approach. Make contact again but avoid asking about the work you submitted.
One possible angle is to inform your contact of some good news you’ve had – i.e. being published somewhere else, winning an award etc.; include a link to this information so the contact can access it.
If you are determined to be published by a specific publisher, continue to monitor their submission calls; tailor new or revised submissions to exactly what they are looking for.
6: Success/“Not today”
When you’re successful, reflect on your journey; consider how you will repeat but also improve on this in future submissions.
If you’re rejected, analyse your rejection: was your work good enough?
More often than not, this is the case. But remember also, writing is subjective; it is incredibly difficult to measure and rank a text on its overall quality. And it could be that the editor has published something similar to your best work already.
If you do have to say “Not today” to yourself, ensure you execute step six thoroughly. Seek advice and feedback from fellow writers, re-assess the market, and remember that tomorrow is a new day.
8: Never give up
Repeat steps 1-7.
Neil Slevin is Dodging The Rain’s Poetry Editor.