Today we are discussing a particular kind of editor: the submissions editor. When I first began this journey, I didn’t understand how specifically you have to tailor your submissions when it comes to literary magazines, contests, and anthologies. Each publication has a specific market of readers, and their editors look for new works their target market will buy.
In the publishing world, there are several different kinds of editors: line editors, structural editors, submissions editors, and so on. Each does a specific job within the industry. When you look at the annual salaries, you can see that none of these jobs pay well, so it’s clear that, while they like to eat and pay the mortgage as much as any other person, editors in all areas of publishing work in the industry because they love a good story.
I’m just going to lay it out there for you: it’s not worth a publisher’s time to teach you how to be a writer. You have to learn that on your own.
So, if they aren’t going to edit your work, what does the editor for that publisher do?
According to Lynne Barrett in her article for The Review Review: A magazine editor is a person who enjoys bringing new writing to the world in a publication that will be seen, read, appreciated, and talked about.
Editors for contests and large publishers of books do the same—they find and bring work they enjoyed to the public. If your work has made it into that first part of their process, they may ask you for revisions to enable the book to sell better, but they won’t offer you technical advice.
This is because they shouldn’t have to. You must have the technical skill down before you submit your work to an agent or submissions editor. But if the gatekeeper wants perfect work, how do you get your work inside the gate?
You must do the work of submitting a clean manuscript that is marketable to the readers of the publication you are courting.
I know! If we have to do all the work why bother? For the indie author, magazines, contests, and anthologies are the most logical places for getting their names out to the reading world.
Large publications have wide readerships. The more people who read and enjoy a short piece by you, the more potential readers you have for your novels. These people likely read novels and guess what? If you have done your work as an indie publisher well, your novels are available as both paper and ebooks through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other digital booksellers.
When you have a great story that you believe in, you must find the venue that might be interested in your sort of work. This means you must buy magazines, read them, and write to those standards. For those of us who are not able to buy magazines, you can go to websites like Literary Hub, and read excellent pieces culled from various literary magazines for free.This will give you an idea of what you want to achieve and where you want to submit your work.
Go to the publisher’s website and find out what their submission guidelines are and FOLLOW THEM. (Yes, they apply to EVERYONE, no matter how famous, even you.) If you skip this step, you can wait up to a year to hear that your manuscript has been rejected, and they most likely won’t tell you why.
Formatting your manuscript is crucial. If you are unsure how that works, see my blogpost of July 24, 2015, How to Format Your Manuscript for Submission.
For an excellent article that explains the expectations magazine publishers AND authors have and our symbiotic relationship, I suggest you read What Editors Want; A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines by Lynne Barrett. This article touches on every aspect of the relationship between authors and submissions editors for ALL sorts of magazines, anthologies, and publishers in general:
- The Editor’s Job
- Your Job
- How to Receive a Rejection
- How To Respond To A Minimally Encouraging Rejection
- How To Respond To A Longer, More Personal Rejection
- Acceptance: Dos and Don’ts
- How To Greet The Issue Your Work Is In
As I’ve said before, I have enough rejections to wallpaper my house, but I have also had a few short pieces accepted. Not everyone will love your work–you don’t love everything you read either.
You have to keep trying, keep improving as an author, and keep believing in yourself and in your work. Most importantly, you must never give up.