Why is it some writers have no trouble getting published while others of comparable talent receive rejection after rejection?
The successful writer takes a moment to define his goal—to be published by a specific publication. He gets a feel for the editor’s preferences by reading the publication and gives her what she wants. He doesn’t send Shakespearean sonnets to a magazine specializing in Japanese poetry; he doesn’t submit a romance to a publisher of who-done-its. It’s not the writer’s job to expand the editor’s horizons. It’s the writer’s job to address a topic in an unusual manner, or give an unexpected twist to an old saw while still conforming to that publication’s editorial style.
I shouldn’t have to say that, should I? I mean, how many times have we heard that advice in every writing class and read it in every writers’ magazine we’ve ever picked up? Yet editors still receive submissions that don’t come close to anything they’ve ever published—or ever will publish.
I have no doubt these writers are using a shotgun approach to marketing. They send the same piece to every magazine or website on whatever list they’re working from with the hope that someone, somewhere, will like what they’ve created.
As a writer with time constraints, I appreciate efficiency. As an editor, I appreciate it even more. Taking time to research the requirements of a specific publication is an efficient way to get work into print without acquiring unnecessary rejection-slips.
That’s right. As an editor, I appreciate it when a writer’s submission actually matches what I publish. Even if, for some reason, I find I can’t accept that particular piece, the fact the writer has researched Page & Spine’s needs before submitting makes a favorable impression, one I remember next time I see that writer’s name.
Other editors feel exactly the same way. We're all time-crunched. And none of us particularly likes saying no.
So save yourself an inbox full of frustration. Research your markets before submitting your work. It will make your experience much more fun.
Fred Waiss is a former high school teacher and coach who writes poetry, articles, short stories, novellas, and novels as the muse attacks; as an author he considers himself a work in progress.