By Margaret Chu
With the World Wide Web, there are many publishing opportunities for creative writers. However, this does not necessarily mean that it’s any easier to get published than before. Now that these opportunities can be accessed simply with the use of your typical search engine, more writers are putting their work out there in hopes of getting published, both, online and in physical print. This means more competition and less chances of success.
This is your basic guide to getting published. It’s a list of the little things to remember before submitting your work to any literary e-zine or print journal.
Getting feedback on your work via the Internet:
Forums, personal blogs and websites, art-related sharing sites, Facebook, and the likes allow you to post your work and receive readers’ comments. Of course, getting public opinion on your work is great, but some literary magazines consider work posted online as “previously published.” Some sites, such as DeviantArt, have a no-search feature and a storage feature that prevents search engines from finding your work. If you post your work online, make sure it can’t be found via search engines before submitting to publishers.
Picking the right magazine
Read back issues of the magazine that interests you. You’ll find a pattern in the type of work the magazine accepts. You also need to make sure that the magazine is reputable. Usually if it has been around for several years, it’s in the green. If not, you’ll need to read back issues to evaluate the quality of accepted work.
Selling First Rights
Most publishers buy some sort of “first” right (such as First World Serial Rights, First World Electronic Rights, etc.). After a publisher buys any sort of “First,” it means that the piece (usually poetry, a one-act play, or short story) cannot be published again elsewhere as a new, unpublished piece, but as a reprint. Most magazines only want new stories that cannot be found anywhere else, so you have to be careful about posting your work online (see first section).
The reprint market is substantially smaller than the “First Rights” market.
Do as you’re told
Some publishers are specific about the submissions they’re expecting, such as the length of the piece, the cover letter, and the method of submitting. Follow their submission guidelines very closely because publishers are busy people; they receive many entries and won’t mind cutting their work by eliminating the ones that don’t follow their simple, but specific instructions. Every publisher has its own submission guideline. For example, Beneath Ceaseless Skies clearly states the exact subject matter, document file type, genre, length, and rights they want; Stand Magazine, on the other hand, have but a few rules. Don’t be afraid to ask the editor for submission requirements if it’s not on the magazine’s website.
Include a cover letter
When in doubt, include a professional cover letter. It shows the editor the quality of work you’re providing, so be sure to proofread it because some editors don’t bother reading submissions that have misspelled the magazine’s name or have misused the wrong homophone in the cover letter. It should always consist of your contact address, the date, the publisher’s address, and a “Dear such-and-such” type of introduction. If the publisher doesn’t specify content requirements for the cover letter, always include what you’re submitting (e.g. poems, short stories, etc.) and the titles of your work. Don’t summarise your submissions. Keep it short and to the point. Include an autobiography.
This can be in first person or third person. It should be a few lines long. You can talk about your aspirations, your publishing experience, and your educational background. Be creative, memorable, and honest.
This is the act of submitting the same piece of work to more than one publisher at around the same time. Beginner writers who have only a few works might want to do this since it cuts waiting time, but most publishers frown upon simultaneous submissions. If you do it anyway, and your work gets published in more than one magazine, you’ll run into “first rights” problems.
This varies from publisher to publisher. It could be a few weeks to a few months before a publisher accepts or rejects your work. Most publishers don’t even bother telling you if you’ve been rejected. Move on to another publisher if you’ve been waiting for six months because that’s the general definite cut-off point.
It happens a lot. Just keep writing and keep submitting (to different publishers).
Some publishers pay money, some pay with copies of the issue in which your work appears, and others can only offer bragging rights.
Publishing a novel or anthology
Unless you’re self-publishing (i.e. using money out of your own pocket to print and market your book), you should first publish shorter pieces (poetry, one-act plays, and short stories) in literary magazines. You want to build a repertoire of publishing experience before doing something big.
So, what are you waiting for? Start publishing