Now the last time I let my brain and fingers do the talking on this page, I gave you a potted run down of how to get published (Check here if you haven’t read it yet)… I don’t guarantee that particular process by the way – it was just how I did it.
I thought that today I would give you some tips on how to get your submissions perfect and how to handle rejection.
Getting the submission Perfect…
…is almost impossible, so don’t get disheartened by the prospect of editing.
Editing is absolutely key to the response that your submission will get. Once you have got your story / poem / article to the point where you feel it is good enough to submit somewhere, you have to do one very crucial thing.
Read the Submission Guidelines!
And having read them once, read them again until you understand exactly what the publication wants.
Some will want it standard Manuscript Format, some will want it pasted into the body of an email and others will have specific or unusual requirements.The only place that you will be able to find this out is in the submission guidelines.
Yes, places like Duotrope will have a summary of what the publication / editor is looking for, but even they tell you to read the submission guidelines for each publication thoroughly.
If you have any questions after that, it is always best to contact the editor of the publication – they are the best person to tell you what you need to know… and most editors are nice people, so don’t worry too much.
All submission guidelines will ask you to make sure that your piece is as polished as possible. This has a twofold reason.
Firstly, those writers who love their work will show as there will be few or no spelling mistakes, no textese will have been used unless by the characters and the grammar / punctuation will be the best that they can make it. These pieces will shine and be given greater attention because of it.
Secondly, there is often very little spare time involved in the production of a publication and there are only so many people to do it. Having to correct every spelling, grammar and punctuation mistake, as well as any context errors or flow problems etc for every piece that is accepted, would probably result in the staff having a nervous breakdown.
Get a someone to read it and point out any mistakes. Go through the piece with a fine tooth comb and a dictionary. Use a Thesaurus and even a grammar book if you feel you must, but only send it in when you think it is gleaming.
Do this and you have more than a fighting chance at getting accepted for publication.
How to Handle Rejection…
…is not to burst into tears, throw the manuscript or PC into the fire and swear never to write a single word again.
If you want to take yourself seriously as a writer, then rejection comes in all sorts of forms. It’s something we have to get used to. I’ll give you some examples:
On a Writer’s Website: I can’t understand why you are even trying to be a writer, this is badly plotted, the characters are cliched and the situations contrived.
From an Agent or Publisher: Sorry, we aren’t taking fantasy / horror / romance at the moment. Keep trying.
From a reviewer on a book marketplace website: This is Shite. Don’t buy it. It’s not worth it.
Those are just generic samples – I made them up – but I have had experience of similar ones. They range from downright nasty to nice and helpful.
The helpful ones are the ones that point out what they feel you have done wrong and how you might be able to fix it. Nine times out of ten they are right, but it is up to you as a writer to decide that.
By the way – those examples are interchangeable – you get nice ones on writers websites and nasty ones from agents / publishers. You even get helpful ones on book marketplace websites, which can be very useful indeed!
A rejection is just one person’s opinion. If you’re getting the same thing from five or more places, then you need to check the piece over, but in most cases the reader just hasn’t gelled with your work.
If you get a rejection from an agent or publisher, take a step back, relax and send it out again. Many of the greatest authors of literature have been rejected many times.
If you don’t believe me, check out WritersServices.com - they have a hilarious list of rejections. I think my favourites are:
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
‘an irresponsible holiday story’
Carrie by Stephen King
‘We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.’
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D H Lawrence
‘for your own sake do not publish this book.’
The submission / rejection cycle is depressing, scary, annoying, irritating… but it can be useful and helpful at times.
So, if you are serious about perfecting your craft and continuing in writing, take note of anything useful from the rejection, then shrug and throw it away.
I hope that my thoughts on this subject have been useful.