After I was invited to speak at the Henderson Writers Group, I had to decide what I wanted to say. What did I have to offer that was useful? As the executive editor of an award-winning literary journal, I realized I could offer tips to the writers on how to make their submissions stand out so they had a better chance of being published.
Most writers write with the intention of being published. Not all writers. A few years ago I taught a creative writing workshop for adults in California and I had a lovely older lady as a student. She was taking my class because she wanted to write her life story for her grandchildren and she wanted to write it well. But most writers want to submit their work to magazines, journals, agents, and book editors so they can be published.
Every day writers give editors many reasons to say no to their submissions. If you can help your submission stand out from the crowd, in a good way, then you can increase your chances of getting a yes and being published. In honor of my friends at the Henderson Writers Group, I thought I would share my Top 10 Tips for Submitting to Editors here. Today, numbers ten through seven.
10. Cc every editor you’re submitting to in one e-mail
Most editors understand that writers are sending simultaneous submissions, meaning that writers are sending their work to several journals at a time. Even so, it’s important for writers to take the few extra minutes to send a separate e-mail to each individual editor. It looks more professional, like the writer cares about presentation. Cc’d submissions look lazy, quite frankly, and other editors I know agree with me. Every time I’m included in a cc list with other editors, inevitably a few of the other editors will e-mail me and ask “Did you see that e-mail?” Then they’ll follow the question with something like “What a jerk!” or some other expletive I won’t include here. I don’t look too closely at cc’d submissions, and neither do other editors I know.
9. Misspell the editor’s name
8. Confuse the editor’s gender
Make sure you spell the editor’s name correctly, and check to see if the editor is a boy or a girl. If I had a dollar for every time I received an e-mail addressed to Mr. Allred I could have bought out Borders and prevented it from going out of business. I’ve seen my name as Allston, Allen, Allan, and every other variant of All— you can think of. On The Copperfield Review The Staff page, my name is there, spelled correctly, and you can see at a glance that my gender pronoun is ‘she.’ It’s the same for other editors or agents—the information is on their websites. Just three weeks ago we received a submission addressed to “Dear Sirs.” There isn’t a single “sir” on the staff of Copperfield. That submission was laughed right into the no-thanks file. Details are important. Really.
7. Add editors/journals to your groups on Facebook or tag them in your posts
This is a relatively new phenomenon, but one many editors find annoying. The Copperfield Review is fortunate enough to have 5000 friends on Facebook, along with about 70 subscribers. We’ve also just started a page so we can keep our network of great readers and writers growing. If even only 20 of our friends add us to their groups in one day (and this has happened), that’s many, many e-mails in my inbox I have to weed through. Then I have to find the group on Facebook and stop the e-mails from coming. It’s the same for tagging us in posts. About a month ago I saw an editor of another literary journal respond in real anger because she had been tagged for the umpteenth time and she was tired of weeding through e-mails from people she didn’t know. She said she would never accept a writer’s work based on a Facebook tag. I tend to agree.
Facebook is a wonderful way to meet other like-minded souls. We’re thrilled to have every single one of our Facebook friends. But I don’t pay attention to groups I’m added to or tags. I don’t have time. If you want to attract an editor’s attention then send in an excellent submission according to the journal’s guidelines. Outstanding writing will get you the attention you want every time.