Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stop! Do You Really Want to Submit There?

You are going through a dry spell. It has been months, maybe even over a year since your last submission was accepted. You've been circulating the same two––three––five––stories all that time. You started with the journals everyone dreams about. You've worked down to the ones where you thought you had a fighting chance, and nothing––nada-–bupkiss.

These are the times that try writers' souls and when you need to exercise the most self control. You have reached the point where you want your work to appear somewhere––anywhere––someone can read it.

There's the site you found last weekend that is nothing more than a webpage with guidelines telling how they encourage new and emerging writers and are reading for their first issue to appear this winter. They are looking for "quality work." Who isn't? You have no idea who will be reading your work, what the website will look like when it's complete, or what style of work they will publish.

Then there's the online journal that did put out one issue and promises the next issue is coming as soon as they have enough submissions. That was a year ago last spring.

Last week you found a journal that has actually published several issues. They claim to want only your best writing but everything in it reads like a third grader's essay on "How I Spent My Summer Vacation."

So how low are you willing to go to get published? It is something worth thinking about.

There is nothing wrong with submitting to brand new publications that haven't yet put out a first issue. This is one way to improve your chances of acceptance, and if the publication develops a good reputation it will make a good future credit. On the other hand, if everything surrounding your work is junk, you have ruined your chances of submitting that piece elsewhere, and the credit is not one you'll want to tout.

Use your common sense when considering any new publication. I submitted for the inaugural issue of Sotto Voce, but they already had an attractive site, an impressive staff, and a sophisticated online submissions system. Oh, and they paid, which is always a good sign of staying power. When a website shows nothing but some guidelines and you suspect the "we" is really an "I" wait until they've published a few issues before submitting.

The same goes ten times over for journals without a regular publication schedule. While I am a huge supporter of online journals, the fact is anyone can start one. What could be more painful than having a journal publish your work and then disappear into cyberspace? When an editor appears to publish whenever he gets around to it, someday he won't.

Finally, and this is the toughest one, there are those journals where it looks like you'd have a good chance of getting published, but mainly because the writing simply isn't very high calibre. Is there really any point in publishing in a journal where all you have to do is spell correctly––and sometimes not even that––to get in?

When you've gone through a long dry spell, you may find yourself eventually submitting anywhere and everywhere, but think carefully. Do you know anything about the journal? Will the journal last or will it disappear? If your work does appear in that journal, would you want to send your friends and writing colleagues over there to read it? If not, then don't submit there. Instead, keep revising and if you run out of places to send an old piece, write something new and fresh. Sometimes just being published isn't  enough.


Rebecca Nazar said...

Fantastic post, like a pep talk.

I wrestle with this so much. To date, I've been fortunate. Only two markets that accepted my work have crashed and burned. Thankfully my inclusions were micro-fiction pieces, not a short story I poured my heart and soul into.

Most of the time I shoot for semi-pro markets that have been around for at least a few years. New markets entice me all the time, though.

Nannette Croce said...

Good advice Rebecca. I wrestle with this as well. In fact I was inspired to write this after considering several new markets from my recent Duotrope's weekly e-mail.


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