Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My Personal Rules for Submitting to Lit Mags

Every one and their mama has written a blog post about submitting to literary magazines.  When I see one of these posts, I typically devour them, reading them closely, memorizing the sacred text so that I can increase my chance of obtaining the impossible "Yes!"

But, just practicing the dance of publishing lets you figure out which moves are graceful and which will leave you flat on your face (or back given my luck, damn sciatica). 

These would definitely get you kicked off of Dancing with the Stars, the fiction edition: 
  1. Not proofreading your draft with so much vigor it is like you are searching for a small pebble in sand;
  2. Revising after its been submitted (one sure way to drive yourself mad);
  3. (In relation to #2) Not submitting the final final final draft.  Meaning that its been workshopped (if that is what you do) or that you have let at least one person read it before you submit it and then completed edits accordingly, read it out loud, and you've done all that you can to make it work;
  4. Submitting to magazines that DO NOT publish what you write, regardless of how good it is;
  5. Not submitting at all;
  6. Getting butt-hurt and/or depressed over rejections so that you stop submitting;
  7.  Becoming a know-it-all when you do get published (i.e what I'm doing now in writing this, I suppose one could argue...);
  8. Not researching the magazine you are submitting to, especially when simultaneously submitting;
  9. If simultaneously submitting, not making sure that all the mags/journals in each round of submissions are on the same level with one another (i.e. sending a story to an esteemed journal like the Paris Review and a virtually unheard of journal like the Po-dunk Review at the same time.  Although slim, what if the Paris Review does accept your piece and you don't find out until you withdraw because Po-dunk accepted it first?  Moral code says you have to go with Po-dunk and you will be kicking yourself forever because of that.), and
  10. Not sending your best work (whatever that means).
Outside of these moves, which I'm sure is the standard for most writers stuck inside the crab bucket like I am, I have come up with my own personal rules that I follow in addition to those above:
  1.  My submission fee cut off is $5 for a non-contest submission and $10 for a contest submission.  Paying a fee to be published goes against every single principal of common sense I have.  Ideally, I want to be the one who gets paid from this situation.  I give you my hard work, in return, you pay me.  It is generally the way of the world.  However, I am no one special.  I am not famous (yet) and I know absolutely no one in the publishing world.  So, I cannot make a grand statement that I will never pay a submission fee.  Maybe one day, God-willing, I will be able to live a life where I actually make a profit from selling stories.  Until then, I am going to have to pay to get my name out there.  But, I will not be taken advantage of. 
  2. If I pay a submission fee, it will be for a journal/mag that pays its contributors.  I don't care if the pay it $100 or $10, its the principal of the thing for me.  If your model is to make people pay to be published and then you pocket said funds and not pay those on whose backs you stand, then you are running a scam in my opinion. 
  3. Barely, if ever, submitting to contests.  I blame this rule on my mother.  She plays the lottery religiously.  Sometimes she wins, but most often, she does not.  And at the end of the a non-winning week, who is receiving the benefits of her lotto playing habit?  The State lotto commission, not her.  I understand contests are designed to help keep underfunded, barely read journals and magazines afloat, allowing them to generate large sums of money in a short amount of time.  And, it would be AWESOME if I won first place and received thousands of dollars and the recognition that comes along with an esteemed prize.  But, like the lotto, my chances of winning is probably something like 1 in 8 million thousand six-hunnet forty two.  Therefore, I limit contests to a very minimum. (wow, these first three rules make me sound really cheap...)
  4. Always having at least one piece out at any given time.  This is my way of gauging my work output.  At my day job, we have certain performance measures and goals.  Our promotions, salary increases, etc are based on meeting these measurements and performing at or above the required standard.  Right now, I am still figuring out how to monitor my "performance" for my writing job.  If I ever want this to become more than just a part-time hobby, I need to create concrete goals for myself.  Since I am still in school, I don't think it is reasonable to expect anything more of myself than making sure there is at least one piece out always.  Also, I am a slow writer and could probably go months, even years between projects if I let myself go.  This is my way to make sure I am constantly creating and revising.
So, now that I've laid out my rules for publishing, I guess I should go ahead and write something...