Literary Submissions

Writing is the easy part. The submission process, on the other hand, is an entirely different ball game. Whether you're submitting to literary agents, a publishing house, a literary magazine, or an online journal, they're each going to have a different process and want things formatted just the way they like it.

Here's the process:

Let's say I want to submit a short story for submission. First, I need to find who publishes short stories and in what medium (some are only print, only online, or both). Then, I'll need to go through the list and first check if they are interested in publishing stories in the genre I've written. If yes, I'll find "Submissions" on their website, and the first thing I do is look at the top of the screen to check for this:

"There are currently no open calls for submissions at this time."

If that isn't on the screen, read through the criteria. Often, word count is the biggest hindrance. Also, I’ve noticed that almost every site seems to be looking for “LGBQT writers/content”. Just an observation. If you manage to meet their requirements, you then start reading how they want the story submitted. Generally, they'll want an e-mail, have an online form, or some type of submission account like Submittable.

Formatting is the biggest pain, especially when trying to find a literary agent because each agent wants a specific amount of pages in a certain format, either as an attachment or pasted into an e-mail. Short stories are easier since you're sending an entire piece of work and most follow the Shunn formatting guide. However, there are often weird requirements where you'll have to go in your document and change things. For example, some want no personal information on your work while others want everything, including an address. Some will only accept a .doc format while others want a .pdf or .rtf. Some want a single - and others want double --. Once you've managed to fiddle with your original piece according to the specifications, you can move on to the cover letter.

The cover letter is generally the body of the e-mail you send to those you're submitting to. It should include your name, title of your work, word count, genre, and previous publications. Some magazines/agents/journals want a short bio written in 3rd person, while others don't. Some want your nationality, others don't. Once you've finished with that, and attached the perfectly formatted file, recheck their site to make sure you type the e-mail subject line exactly how they want.

Once you've finally completed all of this and press send, you'll immediately be sent an automatic reply that goes something like this:

"Thanks for your submission! Due to the number of submissions we receive, we don't have time to respond to every e-mail. If you don't hear from us within 2-6 months, please consider submitting your work elsewhere."

Cheers, thanks…

Then you do this again, and again, and again. There are a lot of free submissions out there, but there are also lots that charge a “$3 reading fee” and writing contests that charge an entry fee. Sometimes, you'll get lucky and people will want to publish your work, and other times, they won't. In any case, it's worth going through such a tedious process because it gives you the possibility to share your work with a larger audience and at the end of the day, isn't that what we're all trying to do? It’s a hassle, and I’d suggest making a sheet in Excel to keep track of everything, but ultimately, it’s better than not going for it.