Following Up on Submissions

The last time I posted an article, I wrote about submitting a short story to a magazine. And as promised, I’m following it up…with an article on following up on those submissions when a lot of time has passed.

Most magazines promise on their websites that they’ll get back to you on your submission in 2-6 months. What they don’t tell you is that work and submissions tend to pile up, especially when the magazine may be an operation run by only a few or even just one person. And imagine getting several submissions at the very least every month for short stories, articles, art pieces, and just about everything else under the sun. Your submission could be lost underneath all that.

So if you find a magazine has been taking its time getting to your submission, it can be helpful to send them an email and ask politely if your story has been looked at yet. Here’s what I normally put down in an email when I’m following up on a submission:

Dear [Insert magazine name here],

I am writing to follow up on my submission [insert story name here] which I sent in [insert how long ago or date you sent it in] to see if it is still being considered for publication. If you could please get back to me when it is convenient for you, that would be great, and thank you for your time and consideration.

Hoping you are well,

[Insert name, pen name if applicable, and contact information]

It’s also a good idea to attach your short story to the email in case it got lost somewhere among the submissions.

Normally a magazine will get back to you pretty quickly after this sort of email is sent. Even then though, it may take some time for the magazine editors to get back to you on your short story. If that’s the case, it may work in your favor to send an email every month or so inquiring about the status of your short story. That way it’ll stay in the forefront of the editors’ minds.

Also, remember to always be courteous and polite in your emails. They could just send you a form rejection letter right away, so the fact that they are taking the time to actually look at your story, no matter how long that time is, to possibly publish it is worth staying on the magazine’s good side. And when the magazine finally does take a look at your short story, no matter what the result is, be courteous and thank them for the time they took to read the story you sent them. That way, if you send them something in the future, they’ll be inclined to work with you and show you the same kindness and understanding you showed them.

Do you have any tips on following up on submissions?

Categories: Business Plan, Digital & ePublishing, General Writing, Marketing & Promoting, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, Publishing Basics, Short Stories, The Writer & Author, Traditional Publishing, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Having a Good Team

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Just as a sport’s team needs to have good team work to win games so does the writer.

With the finish of my sweet-Christian romance, Courtships and Carriages, I reflected on how much a good product stems from those behind the scenes. In other words, an author needs a good team. These include an eye-appealing cover, good editors and having a story which takes people on a journey that entices readers to read more and want more.

An eye-appealing cover is important, such as the one for my newest release, Courtships and Carriages. This beautiful cover is above.

However, getting a good design which matches your novel is not easy. It takes the right photograph as well as relaying the right story concept. Mine says sweetness and romance, all fitting the story. But other genres require different qualities, such as a horror book depicting dark or black designs to denote evil lurking in the corridors.

At a glance, readers need to know what lies behind the cover. Currently, I am reading, Doctored Evidence. What is on the cover? A picture of a doctor’s stool and the type of bed you would find in his office or in an emergency room. As indy publishers or with certain traditional publishers, you can have some input on your cover. But a traditional-published book without an author’s input, places that author’s story at the whims of their graphic designer. This could lead to disastrous results like a cover depicting a man wearing pajamas, but no scene contains anything of that sort.

A good cover also needs to focus on not more than three concepts. My Courtships and Carriages has three — the girl, the basket and the yellow-wheeled carriage. Each of these are important to the storyline.

If you are a self-published author, you need to make sure you hire a professional to do your design work or are proficient in developing a cover. I met an author a couple of years ago who used his mother’s painting of their Alaskan cabin for the cover. It was awful. After talking to the man, I heard intriguing stories about his family’s experience in Alaska, such as a bear peeking into their window when a certain television show was on air. I bought his book after talking to him, but if I only had seen his cover I would have dismissed it.

Another must is to line yourself up with good editors. I cannot tell you the importance of having an excellent team in this regard. I have readers who look over my manuscript from a reader’s perspective. One reader is especially knowledgable about farm animals since she grew up on a farm. She also is a great resource for lanterns and cooking without electricity because she experienced these.

However, I also have wonderful editors. They are great in finding grammar and spelling errors, historical inaccuracies, making the story flow smoothly and providing suggestions to improve the overall work. I am so grateful and I cannot thank them enough. Without this team, my work could end up in a wastebasket.

Of course, a key is to have a story which makes readers turn pages. I cannot tell you how heartsick I was last year to learn that my story needed major changes. It would not work as a book in a series as I planned so I made changes and started a new series with Courtships and Carriages. Her input was extremely valuable. It improved the work and although I hated to hear this terrible news it also was what I needed to hear. The story is better and it freed me from having to stay under the guidelines of a villainous character which I was trying to turn into good. Now the story flows and the characters shine. Thanks so much to this special person.

So line up a great team. One which also works for you and remember this sometimes takes time to find, but you will and as always I will end with a God bless.

Categories: Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Overcoming Fear So You Can Finish and Publish Your Books

Today I was thinking of a friend who is a very talented writer but doubts her ability because of things people in her past told her.  I won’t go into specifics, but from time to time, it seems these doubts creep up on her.  I’m sure there are some triggers to it, but I don’t know what those are because I can’t get into her head.

But I was thinking that the reason some writers don’t finish a book or publish it is because they’re letting fear push them down.  They might not be aware of this.  My friend does have published books, but she’d like to write more books in a year, and I can see she’s making an effort at this.  And it takes courage when you are pushing past a barrier of “I’m not good enough” because you’ve been told you weren’t way back in your childhood through high school.

Today, I want to address some strategies to help writers who are procrastinating because of that they’re not good enough.

Fear

 Fear of rejection is a powerful one, and when it’s from someone you know and respect, it’s even more difficult.  I really think people can become paralyzed by fear if they’re not careful.  But think through the worst case scenario.  No one likes your book or no one buys your book.  That is the worst case scenario as a writer.  I don’t know if not selling any books is more of a fear factor than being told your book sucks.  You can’t have anyone hate your book unless someone reads it, which implies someone bought it, which implies you made some sales.  For the sake of this discussion, I’ll say the fear that people don’t like your book is the bigger of the two fears.

Fear of rejection is a tough one, but it is one that you can overcome.  You don’t have to be a prisoner to it.

Procrastination

I think the reason writers procrastinate is because they let fear talk them out of taking the chance.  If you never publish a book, you don’t risk rejection because you can simply say, “Well, I just never got around to finishing it and getting it out there.  That’s why I never made it as a writer.”

By not finishing the book or publishing it, you are buffering yourself from potential rejection.

“I don’t have time” Feeds Procrastination

I can hear someone say, “But I don’t have time.” This is actually a dangerous mindset because you’re setting yourself up not to finish the story.  Books don’t have to be written in one day, one week, or even in one month.  National Novel Writing Month isn’t for everyone.  Just write a little at a time.

Break the word counts up into doable goals.  This way you won’t get overwhelmed.

Strategy Tip #1: Small Steps Lead to Great Rewards

Let’s say you decide to write 200 words three times a day.  That means you will take 10-15 minutes to sit down without anything distracting you, and all you’ll do is write.  I bet you can get 200 words in that small block of time.  Then walk away and do other things.  Come back to the computer in an hour or two and write for another 10-15 minutes.  Then you repeat this one more time in the day.   By writing for no more than 45 minutes a day, you will have 600 words.  At this rate, it will take you 83.3 days to finish a 50,000 word novel.  You could potentially write 4 novels (at 50,000 words) in a year by simply writing 600 words a day.  If you want to take vacations or breaks, then maybe you’ll want to write 3 novels instead of 4.  But the reality is, it’s very doable, even in a hectic schedule to write a full-length novel in one year.

Let’s Further Break the Baby Steps Down

You could write 137 words every day of the year to make a 50,000-word novel, if you wanted to just write one book in a year.  You can write 137 words in 10 minutes or less.  You won’t make a career at this pace, but you can get the book done, and that is the focus of this post.  Overcoming fear and getting a book out because it’s something you really want to do.  Sometimes you will have to fight your fear by going slow, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Baby steps add up.   The more you write, the more comfortable you’ll be, and the more confident you’ll become.  And, it’ll get easier to ignore people who don’t like your work.

The fact of the matter is, you will not overcome your fear by doing nothing.  You must write.

Strategy Tip #2: Put Things in Perspective.

Now, here’s how you put fear in perspective.  Read the 1 and 2-star reviews of your favorite books by famous authors.  I guarantee you, there are people who hate those books that you love.  You won’t be the first person whose book has not pleased someone, and you won’t be the last.

If it helps, I come from a family who mocked me for writing romance (aka “trash”).  I also receive comments from time to time from people who don’t like my stories for one reason or another, and if you take a look at my reviews (esp. on the books going back to 2009 – 2010), you’ll see I have a good number of anti-fans out there.

The reality is you will never please everyone.  Taste is subjective.

Strategy Tip #3: Seek Out Trustworthy and Encouraging Writers

Networking isn’t simply about selling books.  It’s also about establishing friendships with other writers who can be a huge support system.  You don’t have to go through this alone.  Local writing groups and meeting writers online can help you overcome fear by sharing common experiences with others who are in your shoes.  Non-writers mean well, but really, they don’t understand why a 1-star review stings or why an email telling you that you’re the worst writer ever hurts.  They don’t understand that our books are more than “books”.  Our books are a part of us because we created them.

Surround yourself by encouraging and supportive writers.

Strategy Tip #4: Join a Good Critique Group

The key here is to join a good one.  A good critique group will be full of writers who are honest but also encouraging.  They should tell you what is good about your story but be brave enough to tell you what isn’t working.  Feedback isn’t always pleasant, but you grow because of it.  If you have a supportive atmosphere, you can really fine tune your writing skills.  And this should help build your confidence as a writer.

Critique groups don’t have to be big.  They’re actually better off being small.  They can be online.  They don’t have to be a formal critique group.  Beta readers who are writers are a form of critiquing, too.  Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to establish this.

Remember, you want to be open to the good and the bad.  No matter how much you’ve written, there is always going to be room for improvement.  Each story you write should be better than your last one.

Strategy Tip #5: Join Workshops, Go to Conferences, and Read Books on Writing

Thanks to the Internet, you can go to conferences and workshops online now.  You don’t have to go to a physical place.   Part of workshops and conferences are networking, especially if you go to them in person, and they are educational.  These have a two-fold blessing built into them.  Not only are you learning ways to improve your writing and learning about the publishing industry, but you’re also meeting people who share your interest for writing.

If you connect with a couple of writers who are encouraging and supportive, you will probably start to feel that way within yourself.  I’m amazed at how surrounding myself with positive people makes me feel more positive, and I, in turn, can pass that on to others.  Like-minded people tend to attract each other.  Stay away from the negative as much as you can and seek out the positive.

And of course, reading books can be another avenue for improvement.  I prefer to do workshops and conferences rather than read books, but I know someone who’d rather read books.

However, I do think if you surround yourself with happy and supportive writers, it will go a long way in helping you to be positive about your writing.  When you’re positive about your writing, you’ll have a better chance of improving your work.

Strategy Tip #6: Do You Love Your Story?

Do you love the story?   At the end of the day, you are stuck with the book.  This is your story.  It’s what you created.  It is a part of you.  As long as you love it, it was worth writing.

Categories: Psychology of Writing & Publishing, Social Networking | Tags: , ,

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