3 Tips for getting published
The ultimate goal for most writers is to be read. That is, to be published. There are several steps to get there. The first, in my opinion, is to stop writing crap. Try it. Being a good writer will usually get you published—unless you're J.K. Rowling, who was turned down by 12 publishers before being picked up only because one publisher’s 8-year-old child liked her book. But that’s neither here nor there. Not writing crap will get you a long way.
"The result is that you have to submit en masse before one of those dozens of strangers accepts your story and turns into your editor"
To improve your craft you must read constantly, write constantly and perhaps join a writer’s workshop. All that could be the subject of a blog post in and of itself. For the rest of this post I'll assume that your writing is very good. After getting to that point the trick is to get your very good writing seen and accepted by an editor.
The submissions process is where you send your thoughtfully crafted and heartfelt words to strangers. People who are themselves overrun by a flood of stories sent by writers who haven’t learned that you first have to not write crap. The result is that you have to submit en masse before one of those dozens of strangers accepts your story and turns into your editor.
Here are a few tips I think could be helpful in that endeavor:
1. Go With Who You Know
Any editors you're in communications with, or whatever literary journals you subscribe to, submit to them. Even if you know some only by reputation, gather up the information you already have and submit your stories. This should be your first step for the obvious reason that it requires little research on your part. Also, the publications and people you already know most likely fit your literary interests anyway and will therefore be more open to your writing. Give them a try. The same goes with anthologies as well as journals.
In submitting my short story, "Desperate Lives," I knew that author and editor Raquel Penzo, published a yearly anthology that focused on minority writers. Being a minority, I felt fully justified in submitting my story for her consideration. It was accepted and voila! A byline.
2. The Known Unknowns (research)
After you've exhausted what you know, check out the resources below. These are just a few of the many online lists of literary journals that will give you a vast database of publications to submit to. I like these the most but if you think there are better ones/other ones please let me know in the comments below.
Poets & Writers: A straightforward list of a bunch of literary journals. Poets & Writers have scoured the net and have alphabetically listed a glut of info on publications you can submit to. It’s indiscriminate, but works well if you just want to paste a template cover letter into your emails to the editors. Just make sure you change the name of the publication. Addressing the wrong folks can result in some embarrassing rejections. So I've heard.
NewPages.com: New Pages has been around for a while (or at least for the last 6 years since I've been using them). Like Poets and Writers, they also provide a large database of publications, but rather than just a list they let you know who’s actively calling for submissions, what theme certain publications will have for an upcoming issue and etc. You can tailor your submissions and save yourself time by not submitting a story about apples when the journal's theme is about oranges as a deadly weapon.
Authors Publish: This is not a list like the previous sites. This is a helpful website and newsletter that will fill your inbox with call for submissions from quality publications. They also provide advice on how to get your submission past the "slush pile." By the way, I love that term! Some people don't. I understand, but just the sound of the word "slush" is enough to make me giggle a little—it's that loopy "S" sound.
3. Organize your information
So now you've got a bunch of publications who might print (or blog?) what you write. You've got a chance to get in there! Like any worthwhile plan though, you have to make sense of the pieces you have. Time to methodically organize all that data from the resources above.
There’s this software called Microsoft Excel. Use it (or Google sheets) to organize who you submit to, when you submitted, what you submitted and what their response was. Such a form isn't that hard to create, but here's an example of the Excel spreadsheet that I've been using. It’s basic, but you get the picture.
Fill up the form with publications you think fit your writing style then methodically go through them. You can record your progress on a particular story and it keeps you from sending the same story to the same people. In the long run such a list also helps you recognize who you should submit too later on. Hey, if they liked you before, they'll probably like you again.
I hope these steps help in your journey from writer to published author. If you find any of this helpful, or you'd like to add your own tips please let me know in the comments below. and don't forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter using the bar above. You'll be glad you did.