Updated March 2023
Most writers realize it can take many hours (even months or years!) to polish and perfect their poetry, short stories, or book. But when it’s time to submit this carefully created work to literary editors or agents, these same writers often make the mistake of spending hardly any time finding the best markets, or of making their submissions in random fits and spurts. Well, here’s a wake-up call, writers: It takes more than great writing to get published! You also need a smart writing submission strategy. At Writer’s Relief, we’ve been helping writers make effective submissions for over twenty-five years, and today we’re sharing our proven tips and advice.
Here are some of the most common submission strategy problems—and the fixes that work.
How To Get Published By Fixing Your Submission Strategy
Problem: You’re sending out lots of submissions but haven’t had any luck.
Try this: Be sure you’re submitting to the right markets. How do you do this? Research, research, research! This is especially important if your writing is a bit unique in voice, style, or content.
There can be hundreds (even thousands) of potential markets for your work. You need to thoroughly review genres and submission guidelines. Along with determining which markets are the best places for your work, it’s just as important that you eliminate the literary journals or agents that are NOT right for your work.
If you simply send work to any and every market without taking the time to do the research, you’ll be guilty of “submission spam”—sending a romance to a horror market, poetry to a short story venue, a 6,000-word essay to a journal that requests 3,000 words max, etc. This is a big publishing industry no-no! Being a submission spammer is the fastest way to get your work rejected—and to get a bad reputation among editors and literary agents.
At Writer’s Relief, we are constantly researching and updating our information on the thousands of markets we follow so we can accurately pinpoint the best markets for our clients’ work and get results. We follow ethical writing submission practices and never promote submission spam.
Problem: You send out one or two submissions, then wait months for a response.
Try this: Send out more submissions on a regular schedule. Getting an acceptance is a numbers game. In this very competitive publishing industry, even with strong work being submitted to well-targeted markets, it can take 100 submissions to get a true assessment of the response to your work. So we recommend sending work to 25 – 30 carefully selected markets every two months. As the saying goes: Lather, rinse, repeat!
When you’re submitting work on a consistent schedule to multiple markets, two things happen. One: You’ve immediately boosted your odds of getting an acceptance faster, because your work is getting into the hands of more literary editors and agents. Two: You’ve taken the bite out of rejection. Maybe a few markets have said no thanks, but there are plenty more out there that may say yes! So there’s no need to get down in the dumps over one rejection when there are still plenty of fish in the sea. Speaking of rejection…
Problem: Your submission strategy is nonexistent, because you are paralyzed by the fear of rejection.
Try this: We know it seems daunting, but take a deep breath…and send out submissions anyway. Rejection is common for EVERY writer who submits work. As writers ourselves, we know it’s not the best feeling—but we’re also here to tell you that a rejection letter doesn’t mean your writing isn’t any good! Sometimes work is rejected simply because the literary journal or agent has just accepted a piece similar to yours. Think about the author of your favorite book, short story, poem, or essay…odds are, that writer’s work was rejected at some point. If they can survive rejection and go on to get an acceptance, so can you.
Here’s an insider tip from us to you: A rejection letter can actually be a good thing! In a business where many rejections are form letters, a personalized response—even if it’s a nice no thank you—shows that an agent or editor was interested enough in your work to personally reach out to you. And getting a rejection letter also means that you’re being brave and putting yourself out there. So instead of letting rejection stop you, use it as fuel to keep going.
Problem: You don’t have time to research and make submissions (and would rather be writing anyway).
Try this: Reach out for help! Life gets busy. If you don’t have hours available for researching and choosing markets, and then more time to spend making submissions, you can ask friends and family for assistance. Or better yet, contact a submission service like Writer’s Relief to research and target the best possible markets for you! Our proven submission strategy works: As of this article’s writing, we’ve helped our clients get over 20,000 acceptances since 1994.
And try this: Submit your work to our Review Board today! Right now, the Writer’s Relief Review Board is reading for new clients in the genres of poetry, short stories, essays, and novels/memoirs. If you’re ready to fix what’s broken in your current submission strategy, send in your work today and find out how we can help!
We are reading for new clients in the following genres:
- Novels and memoirs
- Short creative prose
Submitting work to our Review Board is free, confidential, and incurs no obligations. If your submission strategy could use some first aid, STAT, send your writing for consideration today!
Question: What is the biggest hurdle you face with your submission strategy?