What You Need to Know Before You Submit Your Work
1. Honing Your Craft
It’s tough sharing work that you’ve spent countless hours on, especially if it’s your first time. Receiving feedback on your pride and joy is one of the most difficult things about the creative process. But the sharing part is just as important as the writing part.
“If you want to work on your own craft,” Hopkinson said, “certainly join a local writing group, exchange work with friends, help critique other [writers].”
She said that there are plenty of opportunities to share your work, including Facebook groups.
“It doesn’t help a writer at all to keep everything to themselves or close to their chest,” she said. “You gain so much more sharing with other writers and helping other writers.”
Yes, putting yourself out there is a huge part of creative writing, but thankfully it’s not the only part. There’s another secret to becoming an accomplished creative writer, something you can start doing right now that doesn’t require interacting with another human being:
“Read,” Hopkinson said, deadpan. “You really can’t read enough.”
2. Getting Set Up
The creative writing world runs on Submittable. It’s a submission management website that just about every literary magazine uses, whether it’s your local university’s poetry magazine or The New Yorker.
If you don’t have an account, Schwarz suggests starting here. Creating an account is easy and free.
“I use Submittable at least every day. I’m on Submittable constantly,” Schwarz said. “It’s what any magazine on the literary side uses.”
Schwarz also recommends DuoTrope. Accounts start at $5 a month, or $50 for a year.
“It is a paid resource, but it’s certainly worth having if you’re starting out,” he said. “You get pretty amazing statistics that are as specific as percentage of people they publish, percentage of people they reject, how many people they publish per issue. Sometimes contact information.”
That contact information is extremely useful.
“Familiarizing yourself, being really personal, addressing editors by name, if that information is available, is my biggest advice,” he said.
Submittable offers a cover letter section attached to each writing submission. That’s a good place to get personable, Schwarz said. Another good option is to reference your submission in a follow-up email to the corresponding editor — if you can find their email address.
3. Managing Expectations
Be prepared to submit. A lot.
Some submissions won’t ever get read. Some might take months for a response. But the vast majority will — gasp — be rejected. Rejection is another crucial part of the creative writing process. It happens to everyone.
“Rejections can be hard, but in most cases they’re brief and kind of canned,” Hopkinson said. “I have one particular poem that was rejected 31 times before it was published.”
Schwarz echoed the same idea. He said that he’s been denied hundreds of times.
“Rejection never means failure,” Schwarz said. “A rejection isn’t a dismissal of your work; it’s always an opportunity to make your work better.”
He recommends following up after a rejection to ask about ways to improve.
“As an editor, we like to talk about writing a lot,” he said. “You’d be surprised with how many editors are willing to share that kind of information.”