The Manuscript Submission Process: Part II

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Last week, I defined some of the terms you may find on a submission guidelines page for an agent, publisher, or contest.  Today, I want to talk about the submission process itself.

When Should You Submit?

This question stymies many writers. No matter how many times you read over your manuscript, you're going to find something you could change. If that's the case, then when is it ready? No one has a perfect answer, but these are some of the warning signs that you shouldn't submit:

  • Typos
  • Inaccurate shifts in point of view
  • An incomplete manuscript (yep, I do need to say this one)
  • No time to revise or edit before the deadline

I have submitted work the same day I wrote it...and actually gotten it published. I wouldn't expect that every time.  Most of the time, I submit my stories after months of working on them. You can feel safe if you're sure it's clean of errors and has a full story arc (for fiction) or complete message (for nonfiction).

What Is Submittable?

Some journals ask you to submit through Submittable. This website provides a customized entry form and a place for you to download your manuscript. Publishers use it to control how they receive submissions. I appreciate journals who use this site because I know it will walk me through the process, and I worry less about whether my submission reached its destination. If the guidelines indicate you need to use Submittable, then use their link and follow the directions. You need to create an account, and then you can send your story on its way.

What If You're Rejected?

Congratulations! It hurts to get a rejection, but it does mean you're putting your work out there. Just because one agent or publisher rejects your work doesn't mean every one will. If you've gotten reasonable feedback from other writers and researched good writing techniques, then keep at it. If you've never attended a writing workshop, critique group, or conference and keep getting rejections, maybe check out the educational services available in your area.

Keep in mind that some rejections have nothing to do with the work. Often, the person making the decision is looking for a specific story or subject and yours doesn't fit that category. For example, one of my rejections came from a journal who decided to only publish cancer stories in the next issue. This wasn't advertised in the guidelines, so it probably surfaced as a pattern when they began to read submissions. Mine was not a cancer story, so it didn't fit.

What's the Bottom Line?

If you don't submit, you'll never get published. It's that simple.  So clean up and polish your work, read and follow the guidelines, and submit.

Next week, I'll focus on other requirements that show up in submission guidelines.


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