Updated August 2023
Are your submissions as strong as they could be?
Sometimes, what holds a writer back from publishing success isn’t necessarily an issue with craft and technique; it’s a weak submission strategy.
Even if your writing regimen is fantastic, a so-so submission strategy will make it almost impossible to reach your goal of getting published or getting an offer of representation from a literary agent.
At Writer’s Relief, we have been working with creative writers since 1994 to help them implement effective, stronger submission strategies in order to send their work out for publication. We know what works (and what doesn’t), and our clients regularly see improved results from a superior submission strategy. Our extensive experience has shown us that any one of these three signs will have a negative impact on your acceptance rate.
Here are 3 signs that the problem is your submission strategy, not your writing:
1. You’ve been getting a lot of “nice no thank-yous.” If you’re getting “nice no thank-yous,” then your writing is solid. Are you noticing that the rejection letters you receive include a personal note, an invitation to revise and resubmit, or an invitation to submit again? If you’re getting more than your fair share of “nice no thank-yous,” it may be that you’re sending the right submissions to the wrong recipients.
SOLUTION: Dedicate more time to researching all the potential markets for your work. In addition to identifying the markets that are right for your submission, you also need to identify the hundreds upon hundreds that are not right—and avoid them.
Even if your day is already busy with a job, family, and other responsibilities, the only way you are going to have a stronger, more effective submission strategy is to spend the extra time it takes to research the best literary agents or literary magazine editors for your unique writing. Or, you can hire a team of experts like those here at Writer’s Relief to do the research for you.
2. You make submissions erratically and haphazardly. You have big bursts of enthusiasm to submit, then you lose steam. You make excuses for not submitting. You procrastinate because you have so many other things to do. Then, in a scramble to make up all the time you’ve lost, you find yourself hurrying, not paying close attention, cutting corners, and not giving it your all. Editors and agents will not appreciate sloppy, poorly targeted submissions.
SOLUTION: You need to make a submissions schedule, and be motivated enough to send work out regularly. It may be difficult, but don’t quit. Submissions are a numbers game, to some extent. We recommend our clients submit a piece to 100 markets before giving up on it. We can’t tell you the number of times we’ve seen that 100th submission receive an acceptance letter or an offer of representation. And before you send out a single submission, it’s vital that you put in the extra effort to make sure your writing is properly formatted to industry standards.
Here at Writer’s Relief, our Full Service clients strive to submit new work regularly. Then, we make sure those submissions are all formatted correctly, proofread, and sent to the most appropriate agents or editors. Bottom line: No one can publish your work if they’re not reading it. Put in the time necessary to consistently make clean, smartly targeted submissions, or get someone who can.
3. You’re submitting to the same tired markets again and again. Let’s say there are twenty literary agents you like. Or twenty literary journals. And you find yourself submitting to those markets again and again, every time you have new work prepared. But you’re not getting any acceptance letters.
SOLUTION: You’ve got to expand your reach. If you’re not thoroughly familiar with the markets that are out there (like the market researchers here at Writer’s Relief), then you’re hurting your chances. Conduct multiple Internet searches. Research every new market. Track editorial staff movement. There are THOUSANDS of markets out there. We know: We keep tabs on all of them.
Developing a strong submission system is definitely time-consuming and requires diligent focus. But with the right amount of dedication, energy, and effort, it can be done. You may find that the amount of work required to develop a successful submission strategy makes you feel anxious and overwhelmed—and that you would rather be writing than researching. If you’d like to see how Writer’s Relief can help you with the submission process and reach your publishing goals, submit your work to our Review Board today.
We won’t quit until we’ve done everything we absolutely can to find your work a good home.
QUESTION: What’s your secret to a strong submission strategy?