A lot of people make New Year’s Resolutions to write more, and some even decide that they are going to submit for publication. Each type of writing has its own rules and norms when it comes to submitting to magazines and websites, but the more you practice, the better you will get at it. Here are our top five general tips for submitting creative writing and poetry – these apply to our Short Stories department here at Cultured Vultures, but they will also set you up for sending your work to all sorts of places.
If you think that your piece is ready to go, check it one more time. You’d be amazed how many tiny grammar and spelling mistakes you miss the first time that you proof read something. How many times have you turned in an essay and immediately discovered a mistake? Creative writing is like that, only worse, because you won’t just get marked down – there’s a chance that they won’t even read it.
2. Read the submission guidelines
I can’t emphasise enough how important this tip is. Read them and then read them again. Read them one more time before you submit. Submission guidelines are there for a reason. If they only want 500 words, they mean it. If they want an email with a PDF attachment, that means they don’t want a Word file. A lot of science-fiction magazines, for example, have a specific format that they want your stories laid out in. Editors don’t ask for these things for fun, and if you don’t do as they ask, I can almost guarantee that they will not read your work. They will spend their time on the people who could be bothered to get it right.
3. Do your research
It is always worth spending some time checking out the types of stories and poems that the place is already publishing. If you can’t afford to subscribe to a magazine, that’s alright – a lot of them have at least a small sample of their wares on their website, and a small sample is better than nothing. Remember that there are a ton of places publishing stories out there, and some of them are pretty niche. There’s no point sending a zombie story to every horror magazine you can find if some of them deal exclusively in vampires or ghosts. This research can be pretty fun, so enjoy it – who doesn’t love an excuse to read some great stories?
4. Editors are people too
Editors can be scary, I know. I’ve spent enough time sending my own work off to know that. When you’re starting out, they have the power to make or break you. Do remember though that editors are humans too, despite all of this, and they deserve to be treated like humans. I’ve lost count of the number of emails I’ve received that don’t even have a greeting at the beginning. A simple ‘hi there’ can go a long way. That being said, they also don’t want your life story. It’s all about balance – a polite greeting and a sentence or two is just right for a lot of places.
5. Rejections suck
This last one is tough, and trust me when I say that I get it. Rejections suck. They really do. There’s no way to sugar coat it. If you are rejected by a bigger magazine or website, there is every chance that you just might never hear back at all, or you might get a generic ‘no thanks’ email. Some smaller places might email you personally to say no. Whatever happens, you have to accept the editor’s decision. They aren’t inviting you to negotiate when they say no, and if you try to, they will just stop replying. If your story isn’t working for them, it isn’t working. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and submit to the next place – someone out there will love your story, and you need to find them.