A repeat post that is still applicable today.
The Submission Process
There is one great truth in writing for publication. You will not be published if you don’t submit your work. More writers than you might think write, write, write but are terrified of actually submitting their work. Submitting is step one. Sounds easy, doesn’t it, but in reality a writer must have a few items in her internal tote bag to help in the process.
First and foremost, she’ll need the courage to send her work to an editor. And don’t kid yourself--it does take courage to send your baby out into the publishing sea. The waters are deep, and the sharks numerous. Other authors have sent their precious words to the same editor. Which one is going to survive? There’s no way to tell, but if you don’t submit, you’ll never know if your words will be the ones to swim right into the publication process. Take a chance and send your work along with whatever is required in the writers’ guidelines. The rejections may outweigh the acceptances, but that’s what this business is all about. Statistics tell us that writers receive more rejections than acceptances, so toughen your hide and send your work to an appropriate publication. If it comes back, send it to another publication.
The best way to match your story, essay, or article with the right magazine, newspaper or ezine is to study market guides. There are several guides published annually that offer complete information about hundreds of publications. They list address, phone numbers, editors’ names, requirements, payment and sometimes list current needs. Guides exist for novel writers, magazines, playwrights, poets, and song lyric writers. It is to the writer’s advantage to study the guide that pertains to her particular type of work. Most library reference sections have copies of the market guides. A writer can spend hours in the library taking notes, but she can also go online to find market guides or websites of specific publications, or visit a bookstore and purchase a copy. Keep in mind that they become outdated in a hurry.
It’s also possible to use an internet search engine for writers’ guidelines. Use keywords to narrow the search. If you have written an article about building a backyard pond, look for garden magazines or How-To publications. If there is a particular magazine that interests you, put the name in a search engine and look for the guidelines. Ask yourself if your article, story or essay would be a good fit. It’s a waste of time to submit to them if you feel your work is way off base for that publication.
Offering guidelines allows editors to reduce the amount of unusable submissions sent to them. Guidelines provide a step by step guide for the writer. For instance, a writer can learn if single or double spacing is asked for, if paragraphs are to be indented or not, if there are certain items to be listed at the top of the entry (ie. name, address, phone, e-mail, word count, rights offered). Guidelines might specify that only unpublished work is accepted, or they might say that reprints are welcome. The information is there to help and is meant to be followed carefully. If the writer disregards the information, the submission will end up being tossed, so it is to her benefit to follow guidelines carefully.
If a cover letter is included with the submission, keep it short and professional. If at all possible, learn the editor’s name and use it--Dear Mr. Brooks rather than Dear Dan. If a writer has never been published, there is no need to point it out. If published, she should give a short resume of where her work might be found.
Send the cover letter, the submission, and a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) if you are submitting through postal mail. Don’t add cutesy things to any of the above. Be professional at all times. If indicated that submissions are accepted via e-mail, so much the better. No postage, no SASE to be included. Pay careful attention to the guidelines as to whether the editor prefers attachments or to have the submission copied and pasted into the body of the e-mail.
Set up a record-keeping system of some kind. It may be a series of index cards, a notebook with a page for each piece you’ve written, or a more complex spreadsheet on the computer. How it’s done is a personal choice, but do it.
The last step in the submission process is not to sit back and wait for an answer. A response may not arrive for weeks, perhaps even months, occasionally never. The final step is to begin to work on a new story, article, or essay and start the submission process all over again. Keep a ferris wheel of submissions going at all times.
Add-on for today: I ran across an excellent blog post on the topic of submitting to literary magazines. It would be well worth your time to check it out here.