Most new authors try to make a good impression on publishers. It’s important to put your work in the best light before you send it out into the world.
When I took on the task of submissions editor for a press, I was looking forward to the job: reading the stories, possibly giving someone their first publication. It was exciting to find an avenue of the writing game that I hadn’t yet experienced.
But those highs came with some low lows. Like Barry White with a chest cold low.
I found that not all writers put their best foot forward. Now that may be lack of knowledge or experience. We’ve all been there.
So I decided to write this post. While it contains my (somewhat strong) opinions on how to submit your work to a publisher, I’ve decided to soften it with pictures of kittens.
There are some situations where writers kill their chances of getting published before the editor or slush reader even looks at their story. A large part of that is completely preventable. Always make sure that you (trumpet fanfare):
Read the submission information closely.
It should be all there. What the publisher is looking for in a story. The genre. How it should be formatted. And there is usually a place to ask questions, if you find something hasn’t been addressed in the call for submissions. If you’re already a famous author, you may not have to make as significant an impression as the author trying to make a name in the industry.
Editors get an enormous amount of submissions and they—like everyone else—hate for their time to be wasted.
Here are a few more things I came across while compiling my first anthology that I ask you NEVER EVER do when sending in your work to a publisher.
Don’t: Send in a story that is outside of the genre the publisher wants. Most publishers are extremely clear on this point.
Don’t: Send in a story that is outside of the publisher’s word count, even if it is by 100 words. Some publishers will have wiggle room and ask that you send in a query if your tale is longer (or shorter) than their stated requirements. In this case, asking permission is better than asking forgiveness.
Don’t: Send in previously published work unless the publisher states they are accepting reprints. If your story has already been published (even if it’s on your blog or self-published) don’t send it in if you see “no reprints” listed.
Don’t: Send the same story to multiple publishers unless it is stated that “simultaneous submissions” are accepted.
Reason: Publishers don’t like it if you tell them another publisher has already accepted a story they have offered to publish. (It’s kind of like offering to save a seat for someone but it’s gone when the person comes back.) Don’t think they’ll remember? Chances are they will.
Don’t: Give the editor a lot of choices. It makes you look unsure about your work. (Which you may be, but they don’t need to know that.)
For example: Don’t send in three versions of the same story or five different titles for one story because “they all sounded good”. Many times, the slush reader will pass on all of them. When submitting, choose one version of your piece and one title. It may take some time, but it’s the most professional way to do things and publishers like to work with authors that take their work seriously.
I want to end on a positive note so I’d like to list one DO:
Have confidence when you send in your writing. Don’t tell the publisher that you don’t have much faith or hope that your story will get accepted. Instead, share your concerns with a friend or family member. Better yet, get a Beta reader to give you feedback on your story so you can make changes if need be.
Perhaps the most important suggestion of all is to keep trying! Understand that you will face obstacles and continue to push through them. Learn to love writing, being a writer and all that comes with it.
Happy writing (and submitting)!