Cartoon by Tom Gauld
As an emerging writer, getting your work out into the world to be read can be frustrating and bewildering. Even established writers, unless they are extremely well known and actively sought out by publishers and journals, struggle with the submissions process.
Newtown Literary, as part of it's mission to promote writing in Queens, held a well attended professional development panel at the Queens Library at Broadway to explain how to submit to literary journals and to demystify the frustrating and sometimes scary process (because who likes dealing with rejection, right?)
Local editors Jennifer Baker, Jared Harel, and Safia Jama answered questions put to them by the audience and by moderator Allison Escoto, associate editor at Newton Literary.
Most importantly, they advised writers to become part of a community. Go to readings, ask questions, network with other writers and editors. That way you can see what other people are doing, and it helps to know that you are not alone.
Here are some of the main topics they covered:
1. How do you choose which journals to submit to? And how do you track submissions?
Read a few journals to get a feel for what they publish. Follow directions! Especially with regard to word limit and themes they are asking for, if any. Look for journals that publish work that you like, or authors you admire.
Panelists strongly recommend duotrope.com. Even though it is a subscription service ($50/year), it is a great website that identifies markets and helps you track your submissions.
Get to know submittable.com which almost all journals use as their submission portal.
Otherwise, make use of spreadsheets to track your submissions. Sort by title of work, date submitted, deadline, date accepted/rejected, etc
Jared Harel suggests separating your writing activity from your submitting activity, setting aside one week in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter to do your submissions.
If you are submitting poetry, submit 5-6 at a time to give editors a feel for your work (but not 15 -20!)
Remember for your own records, to title your submissions to submittable to make it easier for you to identify and track them eg, if you are submitting a batch of 5 poems, name the submission by the title of the first poem instead of something generic like “poetry”.
Also, if you are submitting several poems, lead with your strongest poem, don’t bury it deep within your submission. Editors may get bored or disinterested if your first couple of poems are weaker and they may not make it to the good stuff.
2. How often should you submit the same piece?
Submit your piece when you think it is ready. If it gets rejected multiple times, perhaps it isn’t ready.
3. Cover letters?
Less is more. Just include your previous publication credits if any, if you had previously received constructive criticism from them, and some details of your background ONLY if it is relevant to your piece.
4. Follow up?
More than 1 day, less than 1 year. Most journals will give you an estimated time frame for response. Please tell the journal if your simultaneous submission has been accepted somewhere else. Most places will assume submissions are simultaneous.