Six Invaluable Tips For Publishing Your Short Stories
by Bold Commerce Collaborator
A year ago
So, you want to publish your little darlings…
Sending out your poem, short story, or essay is an unadulterated act of courage. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Like most writers, my relationship with my work is a personal one—intimate even. Letting others look at it in all its stark nakedness is one of the most vulnerable acts I participate in (at least without the benefit of gin). But there is method to this madness: we want to share a facet of our creative selves with the world. Which one of us doesn’t want that?
Publication can be tricky, however. Brutal in some instances. A great deal of the psychic carnage involved in this process centers around one’s ability to reconcile the constant barrage of rejections, which are inevitable for most of us, and one’s belief that they have a voice—a message—that others want to hear. Constantly hearing “no” chips away at one’s ego, sometimes making one question why they even attempted to submit their work in the first place. None of us are immune to this; I know I’m not. But then I remember how miserable I am when I don’t write, so I get back up on the proverbial horse.
The soul-crushing effects of this unfortunate phenomenon are temporary and easily assuaged by one of those ever-elusive acceptances we all hunger for so ravenously. The response to an acceptance email varies from writer to writer. For me, it is a big smoosh of validation, euphoria, and infantile “nah nah nahnah nahs” (aimed at the other publications that turned me down) that glows in the middle of my chest. After the glitter fades, I am still left feeling pretty awesome.
While no formula exists that will ensure a submission’s acceptance, there are ways to tilt the scales in your favor. Some tips are musts, while others are optional. The following have served me well this past year of successfully publishing (and reprinting) over 120 pieces of writing, both internationally and domestically.
1) Make sure your work is publish-ready.
No matter what you write, make sure you thoroughly proof, edit, and revise your work. While some publishers suggest edits and provide feedback, others don’t and will likely toss out submissions that are rife with grammatical and spelling errors. Removing extraneous words and reading your manuscript aloud are also great ways to improve flow.
2) Submit to the right publication/publisher.
This tip is double-barreled in that picking the right publisher requires knowing what audience you want to target. Is your goal to write pieces that are literary or more outsider in flavor? Popular or experimental? Your writing must have audience-appeal, and the editors who review your work are the gatekeepers to reaching those audiences.
3) Read previous issues.
Most publications suggest reading previous issues to ensure a good fit. There is merit to this suggestion, especially if you want to submit to publications that cling to their aesthetics for dear life. One shouldn’t discount the value of a publication’s vibe: it can be a crucial part of their readers’ experience.
4) Read and follow submission guidelines to the letter.
Very important. Publishers tend to be very explicit in these instructions and typically become annoyed by submissions which flagrantly flout the rules. Remember, their house, their rules. Play nice.
5) Keep track of your submissions.
Luckily, many publications use Submittable or other submission systems, so tracking your submissions can be easy-breezy. Others, however, accept submissions via email. This can be particularly problematic and confusing when you do get a piece accepted and have to notify the other publications you submitted to that you have to withdraw a piece (or pieces) from your submission. Develop a tracking system and stick to it!
6) Submit. Resubmit. And resubmit again.
Rejection is an unavoidable part of a writer’s life. A large part of a piece’s worthiness of being published—apart from talent—is subjectivity. I know this to be true, as 99% of all my poems and short stories that have been published or accepted for publication have been rejected at least once. If your writing is good (i.e., something people will want to read), there is likely a publication out there that will take a chance on it for the sake of entertaining readers.
Seeing the fruits of your labor in print or on your computer screen is one of the most satisfying things you can experience. Is it any wonder that so much anxiety exists around that process? As writers, however, we should not lose sight of the grand prize. Focus on writing something wonderful, something original, something worth celebrating. And once you have given yourself a round of “hoorahs,” take a deep breath and share the love.