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A good writer is someone who loves to read—and learn. So…what can an aspiring author learn from the ritual of mailing holiday cards this season? Writer’s Relief explains how the same skills used for efficiently sending out holiday cards can make you more effective when submitting short stories, poems, and essays to literary magazines and journals.
Holiday Card Mailing Hacks That Work For Writing Submissions
Create an efficient system.
If you have a large network of friends and family, you may already use a spreadsheet to keep track of where you’ve sent holiday cards and newsletters—so that Uncle Howard doesn’t get two cards and Aunt Jan gets none. (This is how feuds get started, people!)
At Writer’s Relief, we recommend writers create a spreadsheet and track submissions to avoid submitting the same piece more than once to the same editor. Columns can include the title of the piece, name of magazine or journal, website address, editor’s name, date submitted, and response received (with date).
What goes where?
Grandma may appreciate a Christmas card, but what if your best friend celebrates Hanukkah, and your sister is offended by images of reindeer? You have to choose the right type of greeting for each recipient.
This holds true for making writing submissions too. There’s no point in sending work to a magazine that isn’t a good fit, so savvy writers familiarize themselves with magazines, e-zines, and journals before sending work to them.
When a holiday card is returned, you know you might have the wrong address for a distant cousin. Time to update your spreadsheet, track down the right information, and fix your address book for next year! (Or make a note that Cousin Joy does not feel joyful about holiday cards and remove her from your list.)
Literary magazines and journals come and go, and editors move around the same way relatives do. Make sure you have the most current information when sending out submissions, and update your spreadsheet if you discover a journal is on hiatus or has a new editor.
Don’t rush through the process.
If you receive a holiday card with nothing but a signature—does it feel meaningful? Taking the time to write a note or include a photo makes cards special and personal—and they’ll stand out in people’s memories.
It pays to take your time when you submit to an editor as well. Follow the submission guidelines so that you don’t send the wrong type of file or submit work that’s over the word count limit. Check to make sure each field is filled out and entered correctly, and use the “preview” option before finalizing your submission.
How would your mother feel if she received a card from you with a coffee stain and her name misspelled? Probably the same way an editor feels when he or she gets a cover letter addressed to “To whom it may concern” and filled with typos. Okay, your mom would probably be a bit more miffed—but you get the idea.
The ideal time for your holiday cards to arrive at their destination is during the first half of December—not in August or January. (Hint: Speed things up by creating custom address labels and decorating your envelopes well in advance of the holiday season.)
When you’re making writing submissions, keep timing in mind too. It makes no sense to submit a piece to a magazine that is not open for submissions, or to wait too long during the reading period. Sometimes journals unexpectedly close early!
Include your return address and contact information.
Whether it’s a holiday card or a cover letter, don’t forget to include your contact info!
Ask for help.
The holidays can be overwhelming. Shopping, cooking, traveling, and all the other wonderful things about the season can also be very stressful—and time-consuming. It’s okay to ask for help! Little kids can put stamps on envelopes and decorate cards, while older kids can help address envelopes and include personal notes.
And Writer’s Relief is here for you if you need help with the submission process too. We know how hectic things can be, and not just during the holidays!
There’s still time to submit your work to our Review Board for client consideration. But hurry! Deadline: January 5.
Question: Do you mail out holiday cards or send greetings electronically?