…I started submitting my work for publication.
1. Simultaneous submissions are a mixed bag
Simultaneous submissions feel good in the beginning when you don’t have a lot to submit and want to get your foot in the door. That said, they really only work when the rejections come first. Last year, I had a particular poem submitted to three different journals. The first response was a shortlisting for publication, so I did the right thing and withdrew it from the other two. In the end the shortlisting journal didn’t accept my poem, which meant I lost out on, not one, but three, potential opportunities to see it in print.
2. Always have more submission opportunities and deadlines lined up than you can keep track of…*
Starting out I could tell you every deadline and every turnaround time for every competition, grant and journal I submitted to. It drove me (and my nearest and dearest) around the bend. I would wake up almost frantic every morning, check my phone, mope around all day, check, check and re-check my email. When something eventually pinged up, I was instantly euphoric if it was an acceptance; devastated if it was a rejection. Either way, N&D were subjected to the extensive ‘I’m on my way’ or ‘The end is nigh’ monologue. It was just too intense and, ultimately, unsustainable.
Now I aim to have at between 5-7 submissions on the go at any one time, with turnaround times varying from 6 weeks to 6 months. It means I always know something is being considered somewhere, making it hard to fixate on one particular submission.
*…in your head. Always, always, always keep track of submissions on paper or electronically.
3. Make it fun
Submitting is a labour of love and at times the labour can outweigh the love, especially if you’ve had a string of rejections. So do something to take the edge off.
I recently created Submission/ Publication bingo cards for 2017 and stuck them to my fridge. There is a different publication, competition, or award in each square. When I submit, I draw a blue circle around that publication. Every time I’m succesful, it’s a red heart on the Publication card. A line of blues and I’ll treat myself to a cd or new book; a line of reds, an extra subscription or a workshop.
A simple enough idea but it keeps my momentum going, and keeps it light.
4. Don’t be afraid to submit to the big names
Or to keep submitting to them if you’re not successful. Three of my publications this year have come from journals I have been submitting to for several years now. In each case I waited six months to a year between submissions, to give my writing a chance to get better.
5. A literary calendar can be a very useful thing
Something with nice pictures and lots of writing space for each date. I use it to record deadlines, submissions, acceptances, publications, and launches, as well as workshops, readings, writing days, and other literary things I do. It lets me plan my submissions, celebrate my successes, and appreciate just how far I have come.