This is part two of my four part series on The Nuts ‘N Bolts of Story Submission. I call my second installment PRE-PREPARATION – THE KEY TO SUBMITTING.
In a response to Part I, a reader mentioned that it can get expensive to submit because of reader’s fees. Good point! I don’t submit to contests or publications that charge a fee. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t if you feel strongly about the magazine or contest. It just means that there’s a route to go that doesn’t cost a dime.
Now, on to Part II : PRE-PREP – THE KEY TO SUBMITTING. I’ll go through how to line up your ducks in order to save time and effort in the long run.
With submitting, PRE-PREPERATION is the key. It’s a one time set-up, that takes a while but in the long run it’ll save you lots of time and increase your productivity.
The first thing is GO OVER YOUR WORK WITH A FINE TOOTH COMB. If you’re sure your piece is free of typos and grammar errors, check it again, and one more time after that. Nothing says amateur – and rejection – louder than sloppy work.
Next, save your story in multiple formats: save it as a word doc, an rtf file and a pdf. Also save them – in all formats – with your name on it and without any name on it. Depending on what each publication wants, you’ll already be prepared to send it.
DO A WORD COUNT of every one of your stories and post a paper of the results where you can see them (mine is taped above my computer screen.) Every publisher has word restrictions. It’s a guaranteed rejection if you submit a piece that doesn’t fit in their category. I always include word count in my submissions.
WRITE A COVER LETTER. I recommend one that isn’t frilly, “I enjoy Oreo’s with my cat, Fluffenuffer.” Save that for the ‘get to know the author’ page.
DON’T EXAGGERATE your credentials. It’s not necessary, and it’s pretty easy to spot the ‘enhancers.’
INCLUDE A BRIEF BIO, with writing credits if you have them. If not, it’s okay to say ‘I’m living in Miami, but originally from Kansas where most of my writing inspiration comes from.’ Keep the bio under seventy-five words. If you’re accepted they’ll probably want you to keep it anywhere from 30 to 50 words.
INCLUDE COMPLETE CONTACT INFO: name, address, email, phone. Do the cover letter in first and third person. Again – depending on the demands of each publication – you’ll already be prepared to cut and paste it into your submission.
MAKE IT APPEAR PERSONALIZED. I think editors look for “shotgunners” people who submit willy-nilly and it turns them off. Dear (fill in the publication’s name) Submission Editor, is fine.
The last thing in pre-preparation is to MAKE A DATA SHEET to record your transactions – including vital info such as DATE SUBMITTED, PUBLICATION, STORY SUBMISSION, CONTACTS, RESULTS, ETC. I use an excel sheet. At first I did it by hand originally, but it was too cumbersome.
A data sheet is important because the info it contains will prevent you from submitting the same stories to the same publications. It will let you know when you submitted to them so you don’t waste time submitting in the same time period – which most publications don’t allow.
A data sheet will let you know who you have to contact in the event that you get accepted and you’ve submitted the story to other publications. It’s your obligation to let the others know it was accepted so it can be withdrawn from their consideration.
It tells you who’s getting back to you in a timely manner and who isn’t – in other words their professionalism, which is their obligation. That way you can decide if you want to submit to them again.
And it gives you an idea of your progress, and may suggest which stories to go back and tweak. I’ve tweaked some after long spells of rejection, and to my surprise and joy, had a few of them accepted a short time later.
Whew! I know pre-prep is somewhat of a task, but when it’s over you’ll be glad you did it. In the long run the work you put into pre-preparation will be gained back over and over again in time and effort saved during the actual submitting.
With pre-prep over, you’re ready to step into the stadium. I call my next installment SET TO DO BATTLE. I discuss terms you need to be familiar with, and how to determine who to send your work to. See you next Tuesday. Keep the feedback coming!