Some people write all their lives and never submit their writing for publication. Submitting your work is scary. Someone might point out all its flaws. Someone might tell you your precious creation isn’t perfect.You might get – gasp – rejected. It seems like it would be much easier to hold on to your work forever because if you don’t try, you can’t fail.
But if you never submit your work, you’re never rewarded for your writing. No recognition, no praise, no words of encouragement, and certainly no payments. And those rewards are some of the best incentives to continue enjoying the wonderful, creative craft of writing.
Sadly, the long road to publication is littered with rejection slips, but nowadays technology speeds up the submission-rejection process. Sites such as Duotrope and Writer’s Market have searchable databases that list reputable publishers in fiction and non-fiction, and allow you to track your submissions. Duotrope and Writer’s Market request a fee for their services but other sites, such as The Grinder, are free.
I receive most of my rejections from the speculative short story market. This is one of the toughest markets to crack. Publishers that pay professional rates of five cents a word or more usually have an acceptance rate of less than one percent for unsolicited manuscripts. I’ve read it’s easier to get a publisher to accept a novel than to have a short story published in this market.
One useful thing I’ve learned from reading submission guidelines is how to format a professional manuscript.While formatting a story correctly doesn’t make it more imaginative, engaging or well written, it does prevent from being the first one tossed aside by an editor. William Shunn’s examples of short story and novel formats are most frequently cited by publishers.
Novel writers pitch their work to publishing houses through query letters. Writing good query letters is an art in itself, and it’s an essential skill for unpublished writers. Sites such as Query Shark contain plenty of good advice, and Absolute Write and other sites for writers are also helpful.
I’ve sold a few stories and received many, many more rejections. But over time I’ve learned to not take rejection too hard (most of the time), learn what I can from the experience and improve my writing. Submitting your work for publication is time-consuming, laborious and nerve-wracking, but it beats the alternative.