Finding the Glass Slipper is a Pain the Ass: Sending Out Submissions
Imagine this: you’ve finished that poem(s), short story, or essay. It’s polished and everything else you want it to be. It’s been edited and proofread within an inch of its life. It’s done. It’s as perfect as it’s going to be. The time has come to send it off in the world. All on its own.
So, now what? Where do you send it? And how do you know where to send it? Your first step is…research. (I’m sorry; it’s true.) You can’t just send out submissions willy-nilly. It won’t do you any good, and it’s not really professional.
I’d recommend going here. Poets & Writers magazine has an excellent database of literary magazines. You can narrow the search by selecting poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction. Decide whether or not you’re interested in online or print publications. Then, take a look at several magazines that might work. If possible, read a few of the works they’ve published. That will give you a feel for what they like, what the style of the magazine is. (In my opinion, it can, occasionally, be kind of a crapshoot. A lot of times, magazines claim that they’ll publish anything “good,” but that’s subjective! Unless you are one of the X-Men, I doubt you can read minds. Plus, it can be rather insulting if they reject you, because they’re basically saying, “You suck!” Or that could just be my opinion. I’m occasionally cynical.)
Once I’ve settled on a magazine (or more than one, depending on their simultaneous submission policy), here’s what I’d do.
Panic. (I kid. I just wanted to see if you were still with me.)
Start a spreadsheet. This might seem like a stupid idea, but it’s a good idea to have a document where you can keep an eye on what you sent where (and when). Otherwise, wires get crossed, things explode, and the world ENDS. Okay, not really. But you want to avoid accidentally sending the same poem to the same magazine, or something similarly horrifying.
Reassess and double-check. It’s important to know your audience, and if your piece will (potentially) find a good home at the magazine. You don’t want to send off a free verse poem to a magazine that only published formal verse.
Beware the Ides of March. Pay attention to whether or not the Magazine has a reading period. If something is sent outside of that period, the Jabberwocky eats it – which gives it indigestion – and no one reads your work. In that scenario, no one wins.
Format your submission according to their guidelines. (This means you MUST read them. Carefully.) Don’t use a crazy font, font color, or font size. You want the work to speak for itself, not look like the literary version of jazz hands.
Determine method of delivery. Each magazine has a preferred method (some only have one) for submitting your work. Some prefer snail mail, while others favor email. Some only accept email, while others shy away from technology (Skynet = bad). However, a lot of literary magazines have online submission forms now, which is (in my opinion) awesome. Not quite legendary, but we can’t all be Barney Stinston.) Comply with whatever method they prefer/want. (Note: if the magazine wants you to mail in a submission, do NOT send them your only copy of a work. And if the say to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE), DO IT. Otherwise, you will get a response the very same day Godot shows up.)
Do a last minute body count. Or, in other words, give your work one last read through. Make sure you didn’t accidentally delete a whole stanza/paragraph, drip coffee on the pages, leave out a comma, or selected the wrong version of your work.
Click submit, send, or put it in the mailbox. That’s it. You’re done. The rest is up to Fate, the Universe, the Powers the Be, or the Literary Faeries. Take comfort in the fact you’ve done what you could. What you did was kind of brave, too—putting yourself out there like that. It takes courage.
And as always, drink lots of coffee, play in rain puddles, and try not to poke yourself in the eye with a pencil.
(Author’s note: This is a revised version of a post I wrote about a year ago.)