So, you’ve written a story. You’ve had it workshopped, or your friends read it and didn’t hate it. In fact, you think you want to get it published. Now what? The world of submitting can be daunting, full of rejection and long waits. But by following a few tips, you can greatly improve your submitting experience.
This one’s the easiest. When you think a story is ready to be published, put it in your drawer. Step away from it. Don’t think about it for a week, or a month, or a year. Then come back to it and see how you feel. We’re often most excited about our work in the immediate aftermath – which isn’t a bad thing! But it can blind us to its flaws, whether in structure or logic or even small things like grammar, flaws which are quite visible to a reader less attached to the work.
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to mention. Editors will take risks on works they truly see potential in, but too many easy-to-catch mistakes will turn a reader off of the piece. Did you change your character’s name during one round of revision? Make sure it’s been changed in every place. Did you somehow accidentally replace all the commas in your story with question marks? Give your story one last read before sending it off to be sure it’s free of any of these obvious errors.
- Know the audience.
All right. You’ve written the story; you had it workshopped; you’ve waited long enough to separate the euphoric I’ve just finished the best story ever emotions and when you read it again six months later, you tweaked the ending a little to be more emotionally resonant, and now that you’re ready to submit, you gave it one last glance and noticed a couple times you wrote “it” instead of “is”. Now, where to submit?
This one is one of the biggest reasons a story gets rejected from any literary journal, but it often gets overlooked. Know the audience. Not just of your work, but you need to know the audience of literary journal. If they don’t intersect, there’s a very slim chance your work will be published by that journal. And when it comes down to it, it has nothing to do with the quality of your writing. Simply put, your work and the journal are trying to do different things.
Recently, we’ve had an influx of poetry submissions. The submitters have perhaps confused us with another journal because we don’t publish poetry. In these cases, I do my best to reach out to the author to let them know that we’re rejecting their submission not because of the quality of the poems – they might be quite good, I’m not sure – but we simply have no place for them in our journal. Again, it’s not a reflection of the quality of their work. Their audience is not the same as ours.
How do you know the kind of audience the journal is reaching? How do you know if the audience of your work overlaps? The easiest way, the thing nearly every literary journal in existence advocates for: read back issues. Read what the journal has selected to publish in the past. Does it sound like the kind of work you’re writing? Read a few more stories. Read yours again. With some effort, you should be able to work out if your writing would be a good match for what they’re looking for.
And when you’re reasonably sure the audiences overlap, hit that submit button. When the rejections come – and they do come, because every writer gets rejected at some point, even for their best work – you’ll know at least it had a fair chance in the review process.
Another small hint: Look at the story collections of your favorite authors and see where they’ve been published before. It’s not a way to skip the read the back issues step necessarily, but it can help find new markets for your work.
By Cole Meyer