Here are a few suggestions to better your chances of getting published:
1. Write, Write, Write. This is the obvious one. You need to write all the time. Too many writers say, “I have a novel about…” And the novel sounds spectacular. But when I ask if I can read it or offer suggestions, the writers finally admit, “Oh…I haven’t started on it… But the title of it is.” I despise working with an enthusiastic, talented writer who simply won’t write. Don’t waste your breath! Whatever you do – write your work first and then speak about it so you won’t look/feel like a fool.
2. Edit, Edit, Edit. If you feel your work is perfect (or as good as you can make it), keep in mind – nothing is perfect! That’s what editors are for! If you are a college student, ask a professor to read it at his/her leisure. If you’re already in the workforce, ask a well-read co-worker to edit it. Or, since you’ve some extra cash to spare, hire an editor. Many places, like OutStretch Publications, for instance, offer extremely reasonable prices for editing/proofing services.
3. Share Works with Others. This is when a workshop comes in handy. Students – take a creative writing course. Or, if you’re not in school, give copies to about 5 or 6 acquaintances in advance. Then, schedule a reading at your place. Allow the guests to give suggestions and talk about your work as if you’re not there. Remember, all criticism is helpful criticism. Remember to ask questions about the shaky portions of your work.
4. Web sites: Build a Web site and add your writing to it. Or, even easier, find some of the online places where writers you don’t know can critique your work and people like me (who have a publication) may find your work and ask for your approval for publication. (This is a very rare occasion, but it does happen.)
5. Here’s the TRICK: Mass Mailings! If you happen to see 2, 3, 4 or even 5 publications that don’t mind simultaneous submissions and accept works similar to what you’ve written, send your work to all of them. Sure, sending out a mass mailing of submissions will guarantee more rejections, but you also better your chances of getting published. Remember, include SASE with each submission or 9 times out of 10 you’ll never hear from the publisher/editor. (Some publishers like you to include your Email address nowadays for quicker responses.)
6. Keeping Track. Keep track of all of your submissions. Be organized. A simple database program is perfect. In the database, list 1) the date you submitted work, 2) the publication and its address, 3) the works you submitted and 4) the date you receive an acceptance/rejection slip.
If, for some reason you DO get a rejection slip, so what? Just think of it like this: Perhaps the publication wasn’t right for your writing. Better still, everyone has his or her own opinion, so the editor simply didn’t favor your particular style. Someone else out there probably appreciates your style of writing. Perhaps your submission was received past their deadline. Big deal. Send it somewhere else! Remember, though, writing can always be improved.
Now that you’ve read this, let me tell you something. This is everything my writer friend learned from the writing course. Seems simple, eh? And, what’s even better, unlike my friend, you didn’t have to pay a course fee!
This mission doesn’t seem so impossible now, does it?
Grab the goals of getting published, the guidance I just gave, the persistence with mass mailings and get yourself published.
Good luck with your publishing endeavors!
Stephen Earley Jordan, II is Editor/Publisher of OutStretch Publications; Financial Editor in Manhattan; and a poet.