Many aspiring authors find (or perhaps invent) numerous reasons not to submit work to publications. I am certainly guilty as charged. Though my focus here on Word Bank is to showcase my freelance writing and editing services, I still aim to write a book someday. In the meantime, I’ve decided to up my author game by getting serious about establishing greater credibility as an author by seeking publication in magazines and literary journals that implement editorial discretion. I’d like to invite you to do the same. No matter our writing path (traditional, indie, or hybrid) it only makes sense to grow our author platform in as many ways as possible.
Let’s face it, many of us toil away at blog posts while trying to grow our readership numbers. We attempt to pump up our email subscriber list and share posts on social media without coming across as too spammy. Other times, we write guest blog posts to reach potential new readers. All this effort sometimes feels like a hamster running in endless circles on a squeaky, aimless wheel to nowhere. Yet, we persist. If the process feels a bit insane, it’s because it is. One person can only accomplish so much in the race to find 1,000 true fans. A prudent step is to harness the power of already established literary platforms.
At its simplest definition, editorial discretion means someone (usually assisted in some capacity by an editorial staff) has the authority to decide if a submission meets the standards upheld by the publication in question. Depending on where a piece is submitted, an author’s claims will be evaluated for accuracy and fairness as well as sources for relevance. My time spent as a submissions editor for the Idaho Review taught me a lot about all that goes into the selection process. Sometimes that process is all about pieces that truly shine, and other times it’s about name recognition. So it goes.
Gain Valuable Experience
The process to submit work to publications entails becoming familiar with a wide variety of submissions guidelines. Finding the appropriate venue for one’s work means becoming familiar with the audience and genre(s) represented. It’s largely a process of reading widely. An author who doesn’t read the magazines and literary journals they are submitting to has no business querying them. And if said writer doesn’t have time to do all that research, then shame on that writer. The same goes for novelists who don’t take the time to research comparable titles and the categories and genres applicable to their work.
Earn Publishing Credibility
Let’s face it, anyone can self-publish. Too often writers bemoan the futile nature of trying to get past the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. Gatekeeping often gets a bad rap and is deemed overly subjective. News flash: all selection processes are subjective. There truly is merit to putting one’s writing before an experienced and discerning publication to see if one can make make the cut. Yet, some incredibly savvy authors without much traditional publishing experience have earned a respected place in the writing community, and it’s because they are putting out a great product and working toward professional standards. Besides, rejection builds character!
Access a Wider Audience
This is a no-brainer. Every time an author is published, that author’s writing gets in front of potential readers who would be next to impossible to reach with their own author platform. Readers who like their work will be inclined to read their brief author bio and potentially seek out the author’s website or other published titles. So while toiling away all on our lonesome, we should always ask ourselves what we are doing to find cross-promotional opportunities. It’s a bit cliche, but always be looking for ways to work smarter, not harder.
Make Some Extra Cash
If an author is putting most of their platform building efforts into writing articles for free, that author is most definitely doing it wrong. Granted, many publications and contests can’t afford to pay much for publishing a piece, but they do pay. We live in a world where free is becoming the norm, but the average artist can’t make a living from giving their work away for free. The artist is far and few between who can make decent cash from affiliate links, advertising, and sponsorships. We need to value ourselves enough to price our creative products accordingly and only use free sparingly as a promotional tactic.
Self-Publish After Initial Publication
Many literary journals and magazines offer first rights. Upon buying a piece that particular publication gets to be the first to print it. Afterward, the rights revert back to the author who can then sell other rights or self-publish. This approach makes a lot more sense considering many bloggers often realize they’ve written strong posts that could potentially appeal to a wider audience, only to be denied the submission process since previously published material is often not eligible for consideration.
How often do you submit work to publications? What results have you had? What advice would you give? If you aren’t submitting, what’s stopping you?
Stay tuned for an upcoming post where I will cover how to write a query cover letter.
The cover images used in this post are for promotional purposes only and comply with fair use guidelines.
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2016.