How to Submit Your Work to Publishers (A Review of the Process)

Magazines_volume_perspektive_227795_lSo, this blog has been around for awhile, like seven years, and because of that I've amassed a lot of posts (over a thousand of them) which is something the Google loves and thus I get some traffic through here. Because I get traffic, I also get people pitching ideas to me for the blog.  These are for ads, for posts, and sometimes for links.  

I also get tons of requests for guest posts.  Most of these are thinly disguised ads or link bait and the articles are so poorly written I won't run them.  Not only that, they are completely off topic!  They'll be on real estate or automotive stuff or raising children.  Clearly, these people have not read this blog, they are just working off a list somewhere.

(Do let me be clear that I love running guest posts and if you have an idea for one that is related to writing or creativity, don't be afraid to pitch me. Most posts that I accept are from readers who know the topics I cover here well.)

And then, a few days ago, I got a lovely, long submission from a writer who was an expert in a classic literary figure.  This person wanted to come present her lecture at my workshop.  Yeah, that's right–the workshop where eight people sit around a table in the south of France and talk about their writing. Not a lecture hall in sight.  Clearly no research had been done for this request.

All this reminds me of the tried and true guidelines we've read over and over again about submitting your work.  Let's review:

–Do your research and make sure you are submitting to a publication that runs work on your topic.  If you're submitting to a literary agent, read their website and ascertain that they actually represent fiction if you want them to rep your novel, or non-fiction if you're sending a book proposal.

–If you can, take it a step farther and read the publication you're submitting to.  Peruse the blog's archives.  Look through a few issues of the magazine. Read a book repped by the agent you're pitching.  Or at least leaf through it at the bookstore!  This is the biggest problem I see.  I get these requests from people who clearly have never laid eyes on the blog and have no idea what I write about.  

–Do not send out a blanket email without personalization.  I get emails from people who are obviously just working from a list (like the literary expert mentioned above).  I especially love the ones who compliment me on my wonderful blog and then go on to suggest a story about animal care.

If you just follow those three simple guidelines as a starting point, you'll at least get your query read. Oh, and here's one more piece of advice:

–If you have a recommendation from a fellow author, as when querying an agent, put that author's name in the subject line.  As in, "Recommendation From Famous Author."  That will get you read much faster.  Come to think of it, this applies to other submissions, too.  Always write why you are emailing them in the subject line, as in "Guest Post Submission," or "Article Query," or whatever.

And, as mentioned above, the guest posts I accept are often from regular readers.  I don't have a formal policy for accepting or rejecting, just that the post be well-written, vibrant, fun, perfect in every way–kidding!  But I do like to run lively pieces that will be of value to my readers, and I also run author interviews and the occasional cover reveal.  So hit me up.  Just please don't ask me to run a piece about mortgages.

What are your experiences with submitting to publishers and agents?  Please share the good, the bad, and the hilarious!

Photo by mgelinski.

, , , ,

Leave a Reply

13 Comments on "How to Submit Your Work to Publishers (A Review of the Process)"

Leave a Reply

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
D young
Guest
D young
While my version of writing still involves a quivering pen hovering above lined paper- I have no business posting this. However, I can’t imagine the “junk” you must siphon through to find the rubies worth sharing. The thought of pitching anything I have written terrifies me. A good friend of mine, and NYT best selling author, Patti Callahan Henry and I once shared dialog about some novel ideas I had floating around in my head. I actually had about eight pages of outlined notes and was ready to start putting something together. The moment I asked her to take a… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
Hmmm, if that story is still roaming around in your head, I’d say there’s a good chance it will find its way out some day. I sure hope so, D! And, I understand your feelings of vulnerability. Years ago, I joined a writing critique group. I was so terrified it took me months–maybe even half a year–to take in work in. And when I started this blog, I didn’t tell anybody about it. It felt way too vulnerable. So it happens to all of us. A couple things that have helped me through the years: –Remembering you don’t have to… Read more »
D young
Guest
D young

All very good points and thank you!

J.D.
Guest
J.D.
Sometimes we write pure fiction, stuff about someone who doesn’t exist. Even that is scary. There is always the fear that the audience will recognize you, not so much your name or your face, but that a piece of your heart will sneak onto the page. Sharing those intimate thoughts, like you speak of, is absolutely terrifying. You don’t know, will they scoff … laugh? You just have to believe someone wants to know the most secret part of you. That reader will understand you, see some of himself in your words, and embrace your bare soul. It’s a chance… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest

You’re welcome!

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
I love that J.D.–“a piece of your heart will sneak onto the page.” Beautiful, and so true. Writing is scary–its like offering our hearts and souls to the world to see. And that is terrifying. What if we are cast out by our tribe? I think that’s what it all goes down to. These days, though, we don’t need to worry about that quite so much, yet its still hard wired into us. The only way to overcome it is to keep writing. “The only way out is through,” is one of my favorite quotes. I think Robert Frost said… Read more »
J.D.
Guest
J.D.

Charlotte, that is a fantastic quote. And you should take your DNA idea and mold it into a post. I can feel the ancient drums beating now.

D young
Guest
D young
Robert Frost had many good quotes. He and Faulkner. I have works from both men. I’ve been on a Hemingway kick lately. More about his personal like than his own actual writing. The secrets of famous authors and writers fascinate and intrigue me. I get my nose into every book I can. A good friend of mine, whom I have not seen in a while has a stash of books just waiting for me. As well as a couple books about writing. As We all know- writing is personal. And when we are graded or judged based on our writing… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest

D–I took a lot of art history classes and I thought they were great training for writing. (My first free-lance writing career was art writing, by the way.) In art history, you’re taught to really see and look at every aspect of a work of art, deconstructing it to learn its secrets–and that’s what I was taught to do with writing in my MFA years as well. I love the parallels! I also love Hemingway. I need to go back and read him, its been awhile.

Zan Marie
Guest

Great post, Charlotte. Research is the basis of everything…of course, I’m a retired history teacher. You probably expected I’d say that. 😉

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

I love it, of course I would!

Don Williams
Guest
Don Williams

Great post as Zan Marie has already said. In topic, however, having a great query letter also goes a long way too! For example, the link below is priceless when it comes to writing an effective query letter to a literary agent, or at least I find it so:

http://www.jmtohline.com/2010/12/biggest-mistakes-writers-make-when.html

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

Thanks for sharing this information, Don. Great query letters are vital. I just agreed to review a book based on the strength of a query another writer sent me–I was so happy to get a good request!

wpDiscuz