Let’s talk about submissions. (Dear google, this is not going to be as interesting as you think it is going to be.) A bunch of you are Finishing the Fucker, and I salute you! For those of you who are in the earlier stages, noodling around with poems and stories, let me give you some encouragement.
Finish your shit and send it out.
1. When am I ready?
You’ll never be ready ready. But have you spent a few weeks or months (or years) on your work? Have you had some actual drafts where major changes were made? Has someone else read it and given you feedback? Have you drafted it some more? If so, you’re probably ready to submit. You can always keep working on the poem/story/play/etc., and change it later.
2. Oh my god, look at all the journals in the world, where do I send it?
Well, first you should send it to The New Yorker, Poetry, or another Unbearably Impressive Journal because that’s part of the ritual of sending your shit out. You’ll probably get rejected (see number 3), but what if you don’t? When I first started submitting poems to journals I kept geographically close to home because it was a way of keeping the possibilities a little more reasonable. (That and I was writing a bunch of Southern gothic poems at the time.) Check out the amazing work the people at New Pages do. Read some sample work in your genre. Submit to five places where you think your work will be compatible.
3. What about all the formatting shit?
Suck it up, princess, and get ‘er done. Read all the fine print about whether they do or don’t want your name on each page and do it right. Don’t piss off the editors. I assume you’re all sophisticated enough not to be submitting in Comic Sans and including hand-written recommendations from your cat. Although if you have no prior publications, I say forgo the cover letter and let your lovely work speak for itself.
4. How many pieces of work should I send out?
It’s a game of numbers. The more you send out, the more you’re likely to get published. Certain people whom I married to like to remind me that that’s a poet game. Poor fiction writers have less work to throw into the wind. I can send out five poems and have five more ready to go, while fiction writers might only have one or two stories to show for their work. (At least fiction writers are more likely to get paid.) So look at your collection and send out the work that is ready to go.
5. I got rejected. I’ll never write again.
Congrats, you are a real writer. You have the balls (or ovaries) to submit, you have the strength to handle rejection. I once rejected a poem when I was a reader for my grad school journal that I later read in Poetry. There are a hundred and one reasons why your work was rejected and most of them don’t have anything to do with you. The reader was having a bad day, you wrote about cats and the editor’s cat just died, they liked your story, but it didn’t quite make the cut. You HAVE to find a healthy, measured way to deal with rejection to be a writer. It’s not personal, it’s not judgment of your work as a whole, it doesn’t mean that you will never get published.
6. Send it back out.
You need to have a system and become a machine. Proofread/edit your work and put it in a new folder for submissions. Once you know there are no errors, never reread the work before you submit. Just find your journals, read the requirements, and submit. This is a business. Just do it!
What steps am I missing?