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We asked several editors, “What is the worst thing that a creative writer can do when making a submission?” And their answers surprised us! Read for yourself, then click the links to learn more about these great publications that are open to YOUR writing!
Diverse Voices Quarterly: This may seem like a no-brainer, but not following submission guidelines is the worst thing. To be more specific, some of the things that come our way are poetry submissions that consist of just one poem, stories that are too long, or work that we’d never publish (scholarly essays or book reviews). We can attest that some of the best submissions we receive are ones where the writers have read back issues and are familiar with the type of work we do like. We realize that not everyone has time to read every single piece ever published in every lit journal, but even just reading through a journal’s website, one can pick up on an overall vibe and tone that an editor might be looking for. Krisma, Editor.
Inkwell: The worst thing a writer can do when making a submission is to disregard the submission guidelines. We receive submissions from too many writers who state they don’t have computers so please excuse their out-of-date submission or forgive them for handwriting the entire manuscript, they simply didn’t know what to do because they can’t visit our website—or worse, say nothing at all. Not adhering to the guidelines torpedoes a submission. If you don’t have a computer, but you do have our address, write us a letter months before you consider submitting. And don’t forget, there’s the ancient relic called the library! If you write to us, ask everything you need to know. We don’t hate mail…especially if it’s necessary. Yes I’m an editor, but I’m also a writer, and I believe all editors are writers, therefore we feel any piece of work a writer submits should be sent out with the utmost respect. We create guidelines for a reason, not arbitrarily or to be as strict as the grandmother who smacks our hands away from the fresh-baked cookies before dinner is served. Guidelines create order. And although we love to break the rules in our writing in order to let the creative juices flow, without order on the business side, there would be publishing chaos. Putting out a literary magazine requires tremendous effort and coordination of readers, etc. A writer following the guidelines is our best friend and also keeps our editorial fangs in place. And, frankly, nothing pains us more than to have to send a slip of paper back saying your submission is out of our reading period, over the word limit, or etc. Sometimes we appear a lot more uptight than what we really are, but the truth is, this is an interdependent relationship; so meet us halfway. Just follow the rules. Tanya M. Beltram, Editor-in-Chief.
Philadelphia Stories: The very worst thing an author can do when submitting work for publication is to ignore the submission guidelines. It’s really that simple. If we ask for double-spaced, please take the time to double space! When addressing a cover letter, make sure to get the editor’s name right. Proofread the work for typos and only submit work that is polished and ready to go. Authors should treat their work with the same care and respect that they would a job application. Authors should also make sure that they’re reading at least a brief sample of what the magazine is publishing to make sure that their work is in a similar vein. Don’t send a fantasy story to a magazine that only publishes chick lit. If the word limit is 3,000 words and your story is 4,500 don’t be surprised when you get that rejection letter. So much of submission success really boils down to finding the right editor who will love your piece, and that may take 20 or 30 tries. But if you fail to present your work in a professional manner, chances are the editor won’t get past the first page. Carla Spataro, Fiction Editor.
Rattle: As a poetry editor, I’m always on the hunt for good poetry — and with the amount of time I spend in the woods, I feel like I can spot a trophy buck no matter how dense the foliage. The packaging of a submission never matters as much as the content, so my preference is for those who make my job as easy as possible: Make sure the poems are legible, follow the simple guidelines, and skip all the frills. The one thing that rubs me the wrong way is when a writer tries to butter me up with a transparent compliment about the magazine. Picking out one poem from a back issue to mention seems like an obvious ploy even on those rare occasions that it isn’t. I’m not naive. It’s my task to overlook this minor annoyance, and hopefully I do, but you might as well stay on my good side. Honesty is the best policy. Tell me that you’ve never read Rattle, that you just want the thrill of seeing your poem in a bookstore, and that you probably won’t even read the contributor copy you get for free if you’re chosen for publication. Or don’t say anything at all. That’s fine by me. Honestly. Tim Green, Editor.
Softblow Poetry Journal: The worst things: submitting without reading the instructions given by the editors or the guidelines set down by the journal; sending docx attachments; continuous submissions too soon after the initial rejection; biographies that go on forever and which matter little in the end; sentimental or religious poems; poems that equate innovation with bland obscurity or vulgarity; people who cannot understand that the reading of poetry is a subjective experience (they should stop submitting); people who respond to rejection with vehemence and arrogance (they should grow up). Cyril Wong, Editor.
Tiferet: As Tiferet’s poetry editor, I look for work that is fresh, polished, and powerful. A poem that startles me into deep attentiveness definitely has an advantage; but, importantly, I also look for work that is a good fit for Tiferet in terms of content and spirit. A potential submitter can only know what a journal is likely to publish if he or she is familiar with the journal before submitting. One of the worst mistakes a writer can make is not bothering to read an issue or two of a journal before sending work for consideration and, consequently, having little or no idea what the editor’s preferences might be. (With the caveat to “read before sending” in place, I add that potential submitters should also read submission guidelines carefully and then follow them precisely.) Adele Kenny, Poetry Editor.
The Worst Mistake When Making Submissions To Editors
There’s a big lesson to be learned here. If you are following submission guidelines and doing research to be sure your work is being sent to the proper markets, then YOU have a huge advantage. The fact is that many writers—more than you may think—are not making professional, well-targeted submissions. So if YOU are making professional, well-targeted submissions, you’re a step ahead, a cut above, at the front of the line, the head of the class! While many writers have the time and resources to make strong submissions on their own, Writer’s Relief assists writers who (for whatever reason) need some help with the process. Our Review Board is reading RIGHT NOW for new clients (by invitation only), so be sure to send in your work soon!
QUESTION: What do YOU think is the worst thing a writer can do when making a submission? (Leave your answer by clicking “COMMENTS” at the top of this article and scrolling down).
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