Thursday, March 13, 2008
Lest you all think that I've abandoned writing in order to become a professional reader or political junkie, I'll have you know that I spent four hours today preparing six submission packages to send out this weekend. I still have more to go, but I'll need to hit the copy shop again.
Mailing off story submissions to lit mags and journals is my least favorite part of being a writer. I think I could make a killing by providing a service that prepares and mails story submissions for other writers. (Note: MY idea! If you steal it, you have to offer me a discount.) It's a little tedious and mostly frustrating, but it is a good way to feel productive without actually doing anything. Plus it's necessary because, you know, the New Yorker doesn't come knocking.
I've noticed not a lot of writers talk about their submission process. I guess that's because a lot of not-writer readers probably don't give a damn, but here's mine anyway. It can serve as a how-to for those starting out. I'd also love some pointers from some of the seasoned submitters out there.
1. Research, Research, Research. I have a confession to make. I don't read every literary journal out there. As much as I'd like to, I wouldn't have any time to write if I did. But I do have favorites and I keep up on what they're publishing by checking out a copy at the local bookstore. Armand at After the MFA has a list that I find helpful in finding new markets. Duotrope is also invaluable. But (and I can't emphasize this enough) make sure the story you want to submit fits with the content of the lit mag or journal. Other guidelines to look for: word count, themes, submission periods, editors . . .
2. Get to know your friendly Kinko's dude. I have a Kinko's dude. He's always on duty when I go and he's very useful for clearing up paper jams. Anyway, get to know him because you'll want someone to chat with while you are making your ten zillion copies of your story.
3. Write a cover letter. A lot of my fellow MFA grads told me that they didn't waste time with this step and I have no idea how how fiction editors feel about it, but I've always been a believer in the short but sweet cover letter. If you have credentials, give them. Thank the editor for actually reading your work. Keep it professional, no scented or graphic stationary, and use standard business letter formatting. As I said, I go this route but it appears to be a debatable issue.
4. Seal, stamp, and send them off. And then I wait for the rejection letters to come flooding back. But hey, at least you get something other than junk mail for a few weeks.