The Writer & Author

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Success” Doesn’t Guarantee Happiness…Your State of Mind Does

Success (however you define it) isn’t going to guarantee happiness.

© Icefields | Dreamstime.com - Happiness Formula Photo

© Icefields | Dreamstime.com – Happiness Formula Photo

I understand how lack of sales, lack of positive reviews, not winning an award, hateful email, and other things we deal with as writers can bring us down.  This is normal.  We’re in a roller coaster business.

But the opposite isn’t going to “finally make you happy”… at least not longterm.  You might get a boost from it.  There is a certain high in reaching a goal, especially if you did even better than the goal you set.  But the high doesn’t last.  It peaks and then fizzles.  The high, just like the lows, are like a roller coaster.  Often right after going through a couple days of a “wow, I did it!” high, I find I spend a day or two feeling down in the dumps–and there was nothing bad that happened to make me feel bummed out.  I think this is the body’s way of leveling out our moods.

My point is that there is no external thing in our lives as writers that will truly satisfy us in the long run.  No matter how many books you sell, you can always sell more.  If you made it as a NYT or USA bestselling author with one book, you want to make it there with another one.  If you win one award, you want another one.  If you get one great review, you want another one.  It’s normal.  Once we get a taste of something, we want more.

If we don’t get it, we’re disappointed.   Why?  Because these things don’t sustain us.

You could have everything you’ve ever dreamed of as a writer, but that doesn’t mean you will be happy.  Happiness is something that comes from within.  It’s a state of mind.  The good news is, this is one area you have control over.  You decide how to respond to things that happen around you.  The older I get (I’ll be 40 in October), the more I’m convinced that the way you think has a huge impact on how you feel.

A quick disclaimer before I continue: you will not be happy every single day for the rest of your life.  There will be days that suck.  But overall, there could be an underlying sense of joy in your life if you start focusing on the positives.

Okay, now to continue…

You reap what you sow.

Focus on what you can control.

If you focus on things you can do (realistic goals such as improving your writing or getting a little more writing in during the week), you are more likely to find contentment than if you’re running all over Facebook and Twitter to promote the heck out of your book with the hope you’ll hit a certain number of sales.  Why?  Because you can’t control if someone buys or reads your book.  That is out of your control.  And if you’re looking for other people to do something to make you happy, it’s not going to happen.  It might give you a boost (and you should enjoy the boosts when they come), but it won’t sustain you.

Another principle of reaping what you sow…

The way you treat others ends up coming back to you somehow.

I don’t fully understand why this works out the way it does, but time and time again, I’ve seen people get what they’ve given.  Generous people seem to get more than those that are stingy.  People who reach out and help others often end up being liked by a large group of people.  I think it’s because positive attracts positive and negative attracts negative.

In regards to writing, I would say treat your fellow authors and your readers with respect.  That doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat.  There are times when you have to say no.  You can’t do it all.  But you can be positive when you engage with others.  Save the “I’m bummed out” for your close friends and family who go through life’s ups and downs with you.  Publicly, be happy.  When you are happy in public, it has a tendency to lift your spirits.

***

If you can get to the place where you’re content with your life, I think it’ll go a long way in being a better writer.  You’ll have more creative energy and enthusiasm for your work.  You’ll be more passionate about it.  You’ll naturally do better without consciously trying to.

And if you do hit an accomplishment you have no control over, like selling X number of copies in a month, you will be grateful for it, but you won’t base your self-worth as an author on it.  You’ll be humble about your accomplishments.  When good and bad times happens, you’ll bounce back a lot quicker, and you’ll level off easier to an overall sense of joy.

Categories: The Writer & Author | Tags:

Writing Reviews

I enjoy writing reviews on my personal blog. Whether it be for a book, movie, or TV show, writing reviews allows me to give my own opinion on a particular work to a wider audience, as well as helping me to seem more like an authority on the subject when the work in question happens to be in my main genre (namely horror). And there’s an added benefit to writing reviews: by identifying what works or what doesn’t work in a movie/TV show/book, you can learn from these examples and incorporate them into your own fiction to make your stories better.

I’ve been writing reviews on my blog almost as long as I’ve been blogging (for examples, click here), and I think knowing how to do it and doing it as often as possible actually works in your favor as an author. Below I’ve written down some tips to writing reviews, based on my own experience and things I’ve picked up from reading the reviews of others (especially those in Entertainment Weekly):

Review both good and bad works. Sometimes it’s tempting to only review the good stuff. After wasting perhaps several hours on a work that proved to be well below the bar, the last thing you want is to spend any more time on it. However, writing a review on something you disliked not only does a lot of much-needed venting on how you wasted money getting that ticket or buying that paperback, but it may help someone decide whether or not to check out said work, and perhaps avoid several hours of trying to get through a book that fails to please.

Opening, summary, thoughts, final rating, closing. This is the structure I usually use for my reviews. I give a little opening that gives my impressions of the movie, positive or negative. Then I give a short, hopefully spoiler-free summary of what the film is about, followed by a paragraph or two about what worked and what didn’t work. Finally I give a final rating (more on that below), and I write a final piece, usually something relating to any possible sequels or how this book was one of the best I’d read in a long time or some other third thing (you guys get the idea).

Use a rating system. You don’t have to use a rating system, but I find them helpful. Something simple, such as on a scale of 1-10, 1-5, out of 5 stars, a grade between A+ and F (though I wonder, if you’re a schoolteacher during your day job, is using that rating system too much like work?). I prefer using 1-5 with decimals. The last review I gave was a 2.6 out of 5, if I remember correctly. It’s simple and easy to understand, which is what I hope everyone thinks my reviews are.

Make sure to name all relevant people. Include the names of the author, or the name of the writer, director, and actors if this is a TV show or movie. Also, if you feel themake-up artists producers, and composers or anyone else should have their names mentioned, do it. Just make sure you explain why these names are mentioned.

Unless your blog is dedicated to reviews, don’t do them too often. It’s that whole thing about staying true to the theme of your blog and not wanting to deviate too much from that. Sure, a review every now and then is good, but don’t do it too much that you forget why you’re writing your blog in the first place.

If you want to find out more about reviews and writing them, you can check out mine through the link above (though you’ll also find reviews of my own books among them and a few other things, so you might have to wade through all that). You can also check out blogs dedicated to reviewing different movies/books/music/TV shows (too numerous to list here, I’m sure), any pop culture or entertainment magazines (People and Entertainment Weekly) and review aggregator sites (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, etc.).

And readers, we want to hear from you. Do you write reviews? What do you get out of it? Do you have any tips for the rest of us? Let us know in the comments section, we’d love to hear from you.

And if we get enough tips, I might post an article with your suggestions listed. So don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on reviews and reviewing. You might see them posted for all to see in a future article.

Categories: Blogs & Websites, Book Reviews, General Writing, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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