You have a great idea for a story or article. You write it. You tweak it. You run it through a critique group. You send it to your beta reader. You revise it. You polish it. You get it all spit-shined and ready for publication.
And then, you do…nothing.
Are you a “do nothing” when it comes to submitting your work? Do your great ideas loll on a flash drive or stagnate as a Word doc because you can’t work up the courage to hit send on Submittable? Are you depriving your stories of their right to be published because you have a fear of submittment?
Failure to submit hobbles many writers for a variety of reasons. Some writers love the creative process, the joy of transforming a nebulous concept to a completed story, but despise writing a businessy cover letter. Some writers are overwhelmed by the needle-in-the-haystack search for markets. Some writers don’t have fear, exactly, but never quite get around to submitting. Some writers—well, all writers, really—hate rejection.
It’s easy to find an excuse not to submit. If you are writing for yourself and don’t feel the need to share your work with the work, that is fine. You don’t have a problem.
But if you do want your work to be published but find the submission process a hurdle, read ahead for how to get over it:
Be realistic. Your work will be rejected, perhaps multiple times. It will happen. It will hurt. Consider it character building, or a challenge, or a notch on the belt of paying your dues. Most of all, understand that no matter how personal the subject matter of your story may be, the rejection of it is not personal. While much of the acceptance process is subjective, editors and agents are making business decisions based on the particular piece of writing you submit, not on your value as a human being. A rejection may come for the simple reason that, while your story fits the guidelines and is well crafted, it is not what the publication needs now.
Have a plan. Continuing the business theme above, for each piece you write, research more than one possible market. Keep a Plan B. Plan B choices create a built-in defense against lolling and stagnating, because if your piece is returned, you can turn it right around. If a rejection arrives from your first choice, go to your Plan B choice—and choose your next backup, so Plan B is always active. Additionally, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by sending to the wrong market or think your story is so special, a publication will bend its guidelines just for you. You are not special. A word count limit of 3,000 does not mean 3,985. A journal that publishes fantasy does not want to consider a short mystery. Don’t waste your time, and the publishing world’s, with laziness or ego.
Keep records. Some writers use spreadsheets. Some use a notebook with columns. Keep track of submissions in at least one physical place, online or on paper. Check that place regularly. Is Monday your business day? If so, every Monday, open the file or spreadsheet or notebook and check the status of your submissions. Just as writing every day keeps a story fresh in your head, regular checking up on your submissions helps you to keep track of what is where, but it’s also a reminder that submitting is an ongoing process.
Use resources. If the plethora of publishers and publications is overwhelming, there are beaucoup places and ways to narrow down the available markets for a piece. Choose a day—once a month, perhaps—for market research. Write a list of pieces you feel are ready for submission, and then hunker down online with NewPages, Duotrope, AgentQuery, Poets & Writers, or any other resource with publication listings. Market research can be tedious, so if you hate it, consider it a necessary chore and do it anyway.
Set goals. One submission a week? A month? A year? Depending on what you write, your goals will reflect how often you produce work to be submitted, but you can’t meet a goal if you don’t set a goal. So, set a goal. Here’s something to help you with that:
Goal Setting Statement
I, ___(your name)____, promise to submit a __ (short story, poem, article, query)___ once a __(day, week, month, year)____because I am proud of my work, and I want it to be published and read.
The above advice comes down to one final statement: Do it. No one can submit for you. When your work is published, it will be worth it, I promise.
Don’t be a do nothing. Go forth and submit. Good luck!