The Publisher’s Yellow Brick Road

Published July 28, 2013 by M E McMahon

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I mentioned yesterday that I dedicated last week to submitting a few of my stories to publishers.  One of my goals is to be published in a magazine that people buy and is printed on dead trees.  It’s part of my dream to hand something to my granddaughter that she can keep and say “My Grandma Wrote This…she was a writer.”

During the week, I made a few discoveries that I thought I would share with other new writers who might be on the threshold of submitting their work to a publisher for the first time.  These discoveries showed me that the Yellow Brick Road we follow to a publishers desk is filled with dangers that could wind up with our efforts thrown into the publisher’s waste basket without getting past the first paragraph.

As new writers, we don’t have editors and publishers are not on the phone clamoring for our work.  So, the first step before I submit a story is to be sure that it’s polished until it glows.  I accomplish this by getting a professional editor to look at the story.  I am lucky to be a published author on Alphie Dog Fiction and they offer editorial services for their authors at a very reasonable price.  When I want to submit my work to a magazine, I use them to ensure the work is up to their standards.  But, you can also get some of your followers to critique and proofread your work…I have a few that are helping me on the revisions of my book.

Once my piece is as good as I can get it, I search for the right home for it.   It is so important that you research the publishers and the magazine to make sure you’re sending in a story that fits in with their type of publication.  This prevents wasting your time and sometimes the expense of sending in your manuscript.  I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating, I use Duotrope to locate publishers that are open to new writers and who are accepting submissions.  I also look around WordPress for sites such as Morgen Bailey’s site (here) that lists publishers looking for submissions and what they are looking for.  But, you should also take the time to look through the publication itself to see what the type of stories they have published before and then you can decide if that publication is the right home for your story.

Now, that I have a list of potential publishers, it’s time to check their submission guidelines.  I was amazed to find out how diverse these guidelines can be.  Electronic submission guidelines sometimes require the document be in a specific format (.doc) or they want you to copy your story into an e-mail.  Some require that you send a cover letter and/or a short bio with the story.

And then there are the publishers who will only accept submissions by snail mail (postal).  You should be sure to follow their guidelines specifically regarding spacing, font and format they want the submissions to have.  I include a cover letter with these submissions and I make sure to include a Self-addressed Stamped envelope for their reply!

I am stressing the importance of following the guidelines for a very important reason.  Publishers want your material…but they want it presented in a professional and neat package.  One publisher I have submitted to stated quite honestly in the guidelines that the majority of rejections they made were based on the writer’s failure to follow their guidelines.  So, check and double check before you send out that story to the publisher.

Which brings me to the cover letter for submitting my work.  I searched the Internet and found a great piece by Freelance Writing (here) that shows you how to write a good cover letter.  I especially like the fact that they recommend you keep it short and simple.

Before I finish, I do want to share some advice that a writer friend gave me when I first started to consider publishing my work.  They recommended that I submit to publishers whether they pay for your work or not…the key is to get published.  When I wrote my first cover letter, I had no credentials; now I have two publications that have accepted my stories and one pays a pittance and the other not at all.  But, it feels wonderful to be able to include that sentence:  “My work has been previously published in Alphie Dog Fiction and Totally for Women.”

And, I hope by all the research and the sharp attention I’ve paid to the submission process, that I will add to those credentials soon.

So, I hope my experiences this past week will help some of those new writers who are just getting ready to walk down the Publisher’s Yellow Brick Road.  I’ll keep you updated on the results of my efforts.  Good luck to all of us and keep writing!

Yours in Writing,

M E McMahon

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10 comments on “The Publisher’s Yellow Brick Road

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