1. Get the look. If you want people to take you seriously, you’ve got to present yourself in a serious way. When making your submissions to agents and editors, skip the bright-colored paper, the “clever” query letter intros (editors get sick of them fast), the thumbnail image of your face on the manuscript. Just be brief, straightforward, and businesslike. Also, follow industry standard formatting and have your work proofread. Interestingly enough, it’s often the veteran writers who are more inclined to appreciate proofreading than the newbies—but that’s probably why they earn veteran status to begin with.
2. Write to the right people. The first mistake of making submissions is taking the “blanket” approach: wallpapering the whole country with your query and cover letters. A few well-placed and specific queries truly mean much more than 50 that are almost well-placed. Queries that are almost well-targeted will almost get you published. Do the research (or hire someone who will) to make your submissions matter. (NOTE: We’ve found that writers who take this seriously tend to be more successful. Submitting selectively is a sign of a writer who knows what she or he is about. Selective writers put so much love into their manuscripts that they won’t submit to just anyone. Selectiveness is a very good sign because it demonstrates the right attitude for success.)
3. Be the tortoise, not the hare. Make submissions part of your writing habit. Submitting your work in dribbles and drabs is NOT a strategy; it’s a crapshoot. Sustainable and steady wins the race. To a certain extent, submissions are a numbers game. When you submit more regularly, it’s likely you’ll get published more often and more regularly. And the more you build up your bio, the more likely you’ll be well-received. Don’t give up on a story just because twenty places rejected it. Plan to submit to at least 100 markets. AND create a schedule to lock yourself into making submissions. When you create a calendar for your submissions (and deadlines for your writing so that you can make submissions) you will see your publication rate increase.
4. Organization is your friend. Some people are naturally well-organized but others are not. To truly make the most of your submissions, you need to keep track of who read what, who liked what (and why), who rejected what (and why), who wants to see more work from you, and who acquired what rights. It is a TON of work (that’s why Writer’s Relief takes on this burden for our clients). When the acceptance letters start coming in, you’ll thank yourself for the extra effort.
5. Chin up! Last but not least, work to maintain a good attitude. Negative thinking, getting glum about rejections, and believing yourself less than worthy… It’s easy to fall into those traps. Positive thinking takes real work when you’re getting bombarded by rejections (and you WILL get bombarded—it’s part of the process). Start looking at your rejection letters as proof of your dedication, devotion, and all-around awesomeness. Attitude is often the only difference between a nobody and a rising star. Every rejection brings you closer to acceptance, so submit regularly and chip away at those numbers.
If you’re not able to develop a submission strategy on your own, or you just don’t have the time and patience for it, do yourself a real favor and check out Writer’s Relief. We can take on as much or as little of the submission process as you like so that you can focus on what you love: writing.
At Writer’s Relief it’s our business to work with our clients to develop a submission strategy that 1) keeps them focused on writing, 2) eases the stress and frustration of the submission process, 3) circulates manuscripts regularly (with no spamming) to generate interest, and 4) targets the BEST literary agents and editors (those most likely to enjoy the writing in question).
QUESTION: What’s YOUR secret to getting acceptance letters from literary agents or editors of literary journals?
I have been receiving your emails for a few years. I have been happy to receive them. I am now interested in your website. I would like the information and to make sure I would be interested I am a senior and I’m writing my novel.Iwould like to have the information regarding prices. How exacely do you help me.
I am a publised writer with fifteen submissions and very proud.
Thanks for asking the question. We have a service for every budget and level of writing/publication history. You may find an overview of our pricing at: . Congratulations on your publications. Keep up the good work.
My strategy is to keep at it no matter what. It’s the writing that I love, first and foremost.
Must admit my submission strategy hasn’t been great so I’m glad I read this. Especially love “Start looking at your rejection letters as proof of your dedication, devotion, and all-around awesomeness” in #5. I will definitely pick up the pace with that in mind and look forward to lots more rejections.
Hi, I enjoy reading your newsletters and I’m finding I’m learning a lot from them. Really enjoyed the 5 ways to get more acceptance letters. I’m not good at submitting but I like the way you address rejection letters. What a wonderful approach to feeling more like we’re all doing okay. Thank you so much!
Karen, thank you for your note. We’re so glad that you enjoyed our article. If you’re having trouble submitting, Writer’s Relief can help!
#3- Be the tortoise, not the hare: This one is definitely my strongpoint and the most encouraging tip for me in this article. I may not have the perfect cover letter, the best organization, the best targeting skills, or the sunniest attitude, but I don’t take it personally when I get rejected so I endure. I learned long ago to separate my personal self from my author self. Rejection letters tell me I have either not sent my work to the right editor, or I need another round of revisions. I don’t feel insulted or hurt because my author self is aware of the need to always improve, and therefore has little ego.
I received my short story back within hardly 15 days of submission. They wrote me a note which said, “from the editors best compliments and regrets.” Please explain what they actually mean.
Naushad, this, unfortunately, looks like a generic rejection response. However, we implore you to not become discouraged by this! Generic responses do not mean that the journal in question did not read your work; many journals receive hundreds—even thousands—of submissions each month, and some simply cannot send personal responses to each author. Remember rule #3: Be the tortoise, not the hare. Continue to send out your work regularly for the best chance of acceptance!
And if you’re looking for something to do with those rejections, check out one of our latest blog posts, Rejection Letters: Five Crafty Ways To Celebrate A Writer’s Rite Of Passage.
My strategies are: to send my best work; to take advantage of theme issues; and, to look at the venue first.
Thanks, W.R, for picking the right places to send submissions. Despite the agony of rejections, I eventually got the thrill of acceptance. I have no secrets here to disclose. All I can offer is: No rookie author catches the big fish on the first cast…keep on submitting!
Query letters take so much out of you. Seriously. I often find myself spending a minimum of an hour on one. I do this just to make sure I am doing it correctly. I don’t like generic letters.
My best tips are to keep improving one’s craft–in my case, by taking online courses with personal attention to my work–and to use Writer’s Relief to get the submission process off the ground. I’ve done three eight-week online poetry courses in the past two years, and I’ve used Writer’s Relief three times to submit my best poems. WR gave me 25+ markets each round, for a set of five poems each round. I also paid WR to write my first cover letter.
I’ve had nine poem acceptances by submitting to the WR markets. I’ve also had three other acceptances based on markets I identified that seemed to be a great fit for a particular poem. Many thanks to Writer’s Relief for this terrific service!
Thank you for this excellent article, I have shared the link with all at Forage Poetry.
In my experience it is easy to get so caught up in the writing part of the process that you forget the basics, particularly in targeting the right people. A little bit of research into potential publishers can save you unnecessary rejection and allow you to focus your efforts on places more suitable to your work.