It’s no secret that one of the more frustrating aspects about being a writer is the submission process, especially if the outcome of that process brings a brief rejection letter. Sure, one rejection stings, but it’s when those rejections start heading for the double-digits that things start to get painful. This is often the point where a little bitterness starts to settle in and perhaps thoughts along the lines of, “If they can publish that, there’s no reason why they would look over me.” I’ve been in that mindset before and it’s just not healthy, nor does it improve your publication chances. Instead I’ve found it helpful to keep a few positive and practical things in mind when submitting my work as to avoid any hard feelings toward journals, publishers, and company.
1) Read Submission Guidelines Carefully
I can’t stress this enough. Each and every publishing entity you find will have a set of their own submission guidelines. They are all looking for different things. The guidelines will tell you how many pages you are allowed or the specific content they are looking for. Bypassing what a publisher is seeking or disregarding their rules will guarantee that your work goes unnoticed. Get to know the publication and make the decision if you are the right fit for them. If not, keep looking. Also, it’s good practice to respect what is being asked of you. Always.
2) Is It Solicited or Unsolicited?
This is a question you should also be asking yourself along with the submission guidelines. Most major publishers are not going to accept unsolicited submissions. They’ll want to see something from an agent. Some say this isn’t fair, but you must remember that you’re not the only writer out there. If all publications allowed unsolicited submissions, there would be a massive overflow. Seek out publications that allow unsolicited submissions first and then move forward from there. You never know, they might even start coming to you.
3) Be Patient
As a general rule of thumb, expect to hear something back about your submission between one to three months. Not all publishers and journals go by this timeline, but, in my experience, that has been the norm. Sometimes you won’t hear anything at all. It is an annoyance, but you can’t fault them for that. There’s only so much the editors can do. They work hard to read what is being sent their way on top of other responsibilities. It has been said patience is a virtue and this definitely puts it to the test.
4) Rejection Isn’t An Insult
As I stated before, receiving a rejection letter from a publisher is close to soul-crushing. So much in fact that it makes you question your own abilities as a writer. You have to remember that there are limited spots available within each publication and twice the amount of submissions. Nine times out of ten someone will be chosen over you, but don’t let that discourage you. Continue seeking out publications and don’t give up. You’ll hear a yes eventually.
5) There’s Always Room for Improvement
Sometimes this is the hardest pill to swallow. Whether you’re at the beginning stages of your career or a seasoned writer, your writing can always use a little touch-up here and there. Improvements can range from the big to the small to the monotonous. Whatever they may be, take note of them. Workshops and books can help you pinpoint where your strengths and weaknesses are. Give your writing to a colleague or friend and get their input, too. You can never go wrong with a little extra help. You’ll thank yourself for it later.