As a writer, submissions are a must. Well, if you ever want to get published they are. So, I decided to do a post about it.
Before you submit, you need to find markets and submission calls. Duotrope.com is a good place to find various kinds of markets using a search engine. Otherwise, you can find press forums where presses post their submission calls (most of these I know of are in the lefora network and are for small presses). There’s also books you can get — most libraries have these, so ask at the reference desk for help if you can’t find them on your own.
If anyone is now wondering what a ‘submission call’ is, here’s what they are: A submission call is the explanation of what is wanted from the press (subject, word limits, dates, format required, etc). They’re also know as submission guidelines, because they’re the guidelines to go by when you submit your work. Keep in mind they are different for each press and youMUST follow them exactly. Some presses will automatically delete or throw away your submission without reading your piece just because you didn’t follow their guidelines. You HAVE to do it. Don’t argue or think you can get away with doing things your own way. It doesn’t work!
Now that you’ve found a market, and have read the guidelines you can either write your short story, novella, novel, etc, or modify the ones you’ve already written to fit the presses requirements.
Now we get into the tricky stuff like synopsises (will be refered to as syn after this), cover letters, and bios. Don’t freak out! I say this because most people freak when you talk about syns, and if you’ve never done a cover letter before, it can be daunting.
A syn is nothing more than a page to two pages of what your book/story is about. It should be direct, sound exciting, and sell your story to someone. They aren’t really that hard if you don’t overthink it.
A cover letter is a letter with your name, address, phone number, email addy, and date in the top right corner. Next, you skip a line and move to the left side of the page and list the press or publication you’re sending to, and put in their contact info (addy or email addy) — this is also where you would list a certain editor if applicable. Skip a couple lines, and put “Dear Editor:” (use names instead of just generic editor if you have it). Skip a line and give a brief syn of your story (maybe 3 or 4 sentences). Skip a line under this and talk about the technical aspects of your story, like word count and title.
Here’s an example:
(Over there —–>
(right here) Press
publication or editor
addy (mailing and/or email)
Attached (for email) is a 5509-word story entitled, “Blah, Blah, Blah,” for your consideration.
After that, you skip another line and put your bio. In a cover letter, they aren’t looking for a ‘cute’ or ‘funny’ bio, they’re looking for previous or past writing credits. Keep in mind you’re selling yourself and your past credits here. You’re selling YOU! So, sell it babe! LOL
After the bio, skip a line and thank whomever for their time and then skip another line and end the letter with a ‘Sincerely,” with your name below it. (If you’re doing a paper/mail submission, make sure you actually SIGN the letter.
***Note: A cover letter should be ONE PAGE ONLY, so you might have to make a few things shorter to fit it all on one page. A syn is usually two to three pages, but some presses (with novel submissions) sometimes will let you have a couple more pages. Make sure you pay attention to the guidelines.***
Also, a BIG mistake I’ve noticed in a lot of submissions is that they don’t have contact information at the beginning of there story document. How am I supposed to know who its from when its seperated from the cover letter?! You put your name, address, email address, and phone number in the top left of the first page of your submission. To the right, should be the word count of the story, and under the title there should be By (your name). It’s your work. Frankly, you should have your name plastered all over it so people know its your work. Your contact info should be on everything (unless you’re asked specifically in the guidelines not to put it there — common in contests) if you want them to contact you to tell you you’ve been accepted or not. DUH!
After you’ve submitted with professionalism, don’t kill that image by being an email, calling, pestering ass. Most presses tell you how long it might take for them to respond to you. Don’t contact them (unless you’re withdrawing your piece) until after the alloted time. If there isn’t an alloted time, wait at least 3 months (don’t groan) before enquire respectfully. The only time this is allowed to be bypassed is if you see an announcement saying they’ve responded to all submission or they’ve posted a TOC (table of contents) and you haven’t heard from them. At that point, it’s okay to enquire as to whether they recieved your submission.
***Note: If you send out paper submissions, it’s okay to include a self addressed, stamped postcard the receiver can toss into the mail to let you know your submission packet was received. Mail submissions get lost, over looked, or go undelivered just as much as email ones do. ***
Waiting to hear back from a submission can be pure torture, so here’s a tip on how I’ve dealt with it from the beginning… Write something else. Write, submit. Write something else, submit. Repeat. You’ll either have a bunch of acceptances, one or two acceptances, or you’ll have no acceptances and have learned by repeating the process. Just keep in mind that there are a lot of markets and you aren’t going to fit in all of them, and every writer has a file of rejections — we learn from them.
I hope this has helped anyone who doesn’t know where to start, or had some questions about how to submit properly. I wish you all the best of luck with your future submission, even if you’re a vet and know all this already.
©Rebecca Besser, 2012. All rights reserved.