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Are you a new writer? Do you have a stack of rejections sitting on your desk, taunting you? No problem! Starting out in the writing biz is never easy, and, in the end, you can’t control whether a literary agent or editor accepts your work. What you can do is develop a strategy that, when honed, will increase your chances of publication.
1. Practice, practice, practice.
It’s nice to think that we are all naturally gifted writers from birth, but as with most creative pursuits, everyone has to practice. Your writing skill is like a knife. Sharpen it! The deeper you explore your talents and the more techniques you try, the better you’ll be able to gauge where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
2. Write often and a lot.
A common mistake many new writers make is not having any backup. It’s great to have a piece of work you’re proud of, but you’ll quickly run out of places to submit to if you send out the same stuff over and over again. If one particular piece isn’t eliciting any positive responses, it might be time to switch it up and send something new.
3. Format and proofread thoroughly.
The importance of this step cannot be stressed enough. Make sure it’s PERFECT! Editors and agents get hundreds of submissions passing across their desks every day, and one of the first lines of defense is to cut out the sloppy stuff. Spell-checker and grammar books are your friends! If proofreading isn’t your forte, Writer’s Relief proofreaders can help.
4. Do the research.
Research the best literary journals for your short prose and poetry, and research the best literary agencies for your books. You can’t find the right places to submit your work without a little legwork. Do NOT send your work out to someone “just because.” If you’ve been getting a lot of rejections, it may be because you’re not submitting to the journals or agencies that are right for your work. Every editor and literary agent is different, and they’re all looking for different things. Read the submission guidelines and take a look at the work they have published previously. If your work doesn’t match up, don’t waste your time. Move on!
NOTE: if you despise tedious hours of researching literary agents and magazines, Writer’s Relief can research (and target) the best markets for your unique writing style and publishing goals. We’ve been helping writers successfully connect with agents and editors since 1994.
5. Have a killer cover or query letter.
Think of your cover letter as a handshake. When you meet someone, especially in a professional setting, you don’t give him or her a limp, noodly handshake, do you? So why send out a weak and bland cover letter? Create one that is concise, professional, and efficiently informative. Show your confidence as a writer. Let your personality shine through. This is an editor’s or agent’s first impression of you, so make it a good one!
Note: Guess what? Writer’s Relief can create your cover or query letter too! Put our expert submissions strategists to work for you!
6. Don’t be afraid to start small.
Boy, wouldn’t it be nice to get published in The Paris Review at the beginning of your career? Sure! We just wouldn’t suggest holding your breath. We do recommend going for the smaller journals first, at least while you’re starting out. Smaller publications are incubators for emerging writers and, best of all, they’re LOOKING for the new and unpublished! Be open to online journals as well, as they have gained a lot of popularity and respect over the years. Do that and you can…
Once you start getting acceptances from smaller journals, more prestigious publications will look more favorably upon your work. It’s not a matter of snobbery—a list of credits shows that not only is your work good, but there is a market for it. This also applies if you are seeking representation for a book. Publication credits in poetry or prose not only show your potential, but also prove your versatility.
8. Track your submissions.
Keeping an updated list of your submissions and responses will give you a sense of the bigger picture. Editors or agents sometimes give constructive criticisms and feedback—keep note of these personal comments! When you’re ready to submit again, these should be the first people you send to. You’re on their radar. Take advantage!
Learn more: Successful Record Keeping For Writers’ Submissions.
9. Be honest with yourself.
Even the best writers can write mediocre stuff. It’s a natural part of the creative process. And while it’s not easy to admit that a piece of work isn’t necessarily amazing, being honest with yourself about the quality of your work will help you in the end. Is your book query not getting the raves you expected? Step back and look at it objectively. Don’t let your proximity to the work block your view of what might be improved.
10. Don’t take it personally.
Discouragement is a new writer’s biggest enemy. It’s easy to assume that if no one is accepting your work, you are an awful writer. Not true! Perseverance and patience are a must for writers: they are absolutely key when you’re breaking into the writing industry. Literary agents and editors aren’t sinister figures sitting behind flaming stacks of crappy writing—they’re just doing their job and they have nothing against you. So chin up!
If any of the above sounds daunting, remember that Writer’s Relief offers assistance in all aspects of the submission process. Our submission strategists are ready to help you stay encouraged and get your writing published!