Placing Work

Posted: November 10, 2012 in Discussions, On Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I always have a hard time figuring out where my work would best call home. I know, most magazine websites (since I’m talking short stories here) tell writers to buy and read a copy before submitting so that we can get a feel for the style of the magazine. But if I were to do that, I’d be broke (literary magazines usually run $10-$20 bucks a copy depending on circulation, content, and whatnot), and I’d have even more clutter to put up with than I do now. So how do we go about finding a magazine that wants our work?

First off, I find the Writer’s Market invaluable. It separates fiction and non-fiction, as well as consumer magazines, literary magazines, special interest magazines, etc. The problem I have is that there are probably ten horror fiction magazines, and most of them accept work on a seasonal basis. So where do I send my manuscripts? Literary magazines, mostly. When using the Writer’s Market, you have to read carefully. Some magazines won’t accept any horror, or fantasy, or romance, or dysfunctional family stories, or whatever. Many also have limitations on how many fiction manuscripts they can accept as well as the style of writing.

What I’ve done with my 2012 copy of the Writer’s Market (deluxe edition), was that I sat down shortly after getting it and read through all the literary magazines, their requirements and restrictions for fiction. I paid careful attention to those that accept horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, and marked them with little high-lighter tabs. That way I can easily turn back and find a magazine I felt might accept my work. I really cannot stress to you how helpful the Writer’s Market has been for me. Besides listings of agents, novel publishers, magazines, and contests, there’s also LOADS of helpful tips and tricks and priceless advice for the new/young/emerging writer.

Honestly, if it weren’t for that book, I probably wouldn’t have had half the work I’ve sent out read, and I don’t know anywhere else to find all that information, especially in one place.

There are other ways you can go about publishing though. For example, say you live in a small-town area, like I do. Small-town magazines and newspapers generally don’t get a lot of fiction submitted, and most would weigh more heavily towards an acceptance, knowing that you’re a local writer. The local paper here, doesn’t have a section for submitting work on their website, but check yours out, they might. I think the best thing to do if they don’t have any requirements posted would be to follow standard submission guidelines and write standard cover letters/query letters, and then simply send your manuscript in to the paper or magazine’s fiction editor. If they don’t have a fiction editor, then just send it to the general editor.

And my last, and probably least attractive, advice on publishing/placing work, would be that if all else fails, and you’ve got so many rejection letters that you’re wading through them, maybe it’s time to consider self-publication (such as the popular e-book, which I can offer little to no advice on, being that I haven’t even looked into it yet) or posting your work on an online forum. The only problem with blogging your work or posting it on facebook, is that NO publisher or magazine will buy it (on average at least) after you’ve done this. That’s because by posting it online, you’re allowing others to read your work and essentially publishing it yourself on your own forum, and publishers don’t want left over work that’s been read by God knows how many people. They want new, they want something no one has seen before. They want edgy, they want top of the line. This is why any of my work you read on this blog, will not be placed (until maybe I can get a collection of short stories together, and maybe not even then), and has already found its home here, as I’ve mentioned before.

Placing your work can be one of the most frustrating parts of life in the world of writing, but don’t get discouraged. Even hearing about how tough it is to break into this field and how many writers go broke or starve trying to get their work recognized, you can’t let it get you down. Have faith in your ability to create masterpieces with your words, and hang in there.

Don’t mistake my encouragement for belief that we all get our chance, our moment in the spotlight, but it’s impossible to get anywhere if you don’t just try. Taking on writing is a daunting and often lonely task, and sometimes we forget why we’re in it at all, but that’s not reason enough to give up on your dreams and aspirations.

I actually wrote this post because I am trying to place a few of my pieces. I’ve got to go through and see what’s ready to be sent out, then I’ll be on the hunt for a magazine that might want them. Hell, I think I may even try the local paper. At least it might give me some credentials. However the problem with that is some literary magazines take 90% (sometimes more or less) previously unpublished or new writers. If I were to have work published in the local paper, I would no longer fall into the new writer section, and may have a harder time placing my work with certain magazines. (There’s sooooo much to know in publishing, it’s often exhausting.)

Which brings me to one last point. It’s so important to pay close attention to directions for submitting work. One simple mistake can make your work undesirable, especially to the most discerning editors. Make sure you follow all guidelines. Check your font size, margins, spacing (I’ve sent out more manuscripts than I’d like to admit with single spacing rather than double, which is standard, simply because I forgot, and it makes my work less attractive to the editor.), did you number every page, is your name at the top of every page, did you address your cover letter correctly, double-check the magazine’s mailing address, and so much more need your careful scrutiny. Don’t let your work get tossed simply because you didn’t pay attention or forgot to do something.

If anyone has any advice for finding a home for manuscripts, please feel free to comment with any tips and tricks or opinions on the world of publishing. I love to hear back from my readers.

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Comments
  1. The Hook says:

    David Chilton just advised me to buy a copy of the Writer’s Market. it’s a great resource for a bellman/blogger/starving author….

    • The worst thing about the Writer’s Market (I feel I should warn you), is that it’s not always the most up to date info, because by the time they get it printed and copies sold, some of the publishers listed have changed requirements, switched to online submissions only, or sometimes even shut down all together. You can’t really trust their reported pay rates either, because these often change. For example I’d found a magazine that the book told me paid quite well, and then I checked out their website, only to find they no longer paid for accepted work (well, they paid in contrubitor’s copies). I find it’s best used as a listing of possible publishers out there, and I ALWAYS check the publisher’s website before submitting anything. But as I’d mentioned there’s more than just publishing and agent listings.
      Thanks for the comment. Have a great day!

  2. cjcleach says:

    I use a web-site called firstwriter.com, it’s invaluable as a database. Publishers, agents, magazines. Whatever you need. You can sort by country and subject and genre, very helpful. It’s a pay-site though. Monthly subscription. I think it’s worth it though.

    Asparagus.

    That’s just to prove I’m not a bot promoting the place.

    • I’ll have to look into it. I don’t think I’ve heard of that one yet. Though I’m not one for subscriptions, really.
      And I know it sucks trying to recommend things for others and having it flagged as spam.
      But thanks for commenting. It’s great to hear from my readers. I hope you have a wonderful day.

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