I like to break down the writing process into three simple parts:
Step 1 – Writing
Step 2 – Editing
Step 3 – Publishing
The first two steps are rather straightforward; however, the third step is often cause for consternation amongst many writers. While getting your writing published can be a difficult challenge if you do not put the work in (or hire a publishing consultant), you can dramatically improve your chances of publication by simply avoiding these five common mistakes:
#1 – Make sure that your manuscript is edited. I fully understand the impulse to take the initiative and just go for publication after completing a manuscript. For me, this hasty approach has never led to actually getting published. Even though I help other writers as an editor, I fully acknowledge that I, like every writer, can be quite myopic about my own material. It’s my baby, and it’s perfect—except it’s not. My friend Rairigh Drum edits my fiction, and my girlfriend Lauren Rubin and writing partner Zubair Simonson edit my screenplays. I trust them fully to take the quality writing that I produce and shape it into something excellent. I could not do it without them, and most likely neither can you. Having a qualified editor that you can trust pore over your manuscript is critical to catching both the simple errors in spelling, grammar, and syntax that can make a publisher reject your manuscript, and also to catching the larger errors, like plot holes, weak description, or vague characterization that can also doom your writing.
#2 – Not conducting yourself as a professional. I’ve mentioned my story before about how I sent an expletive-laced letter to Brian Fugett, publisher of Zygote in My Coffee, and still had my poem accepted by his publication. I highly recommend that you do not do the same! For 99.9% of publications, you would want to approach your query letter the same way you would write a cover letter for a position in the workforce. When you interact with publishers or others in the field, engage with them in the same way you would conduct yourself during an interview. Put simply: cut out the horseshit in your communications.
#3 – Delusions of grandeur. You very well might be the best unpublished writer around; however, let the critics say it. Tooting your own horn will turn off publishers and make you look like a giant ass in the process.
#4 – Sending good material to a publication outside of your niche. Most every publisher, aside from the Big 5, cater to a specific niche. If your writing is excellent, but it does not fit the form, style, or genre of the publishing house, it will be rejected. Just because a piece of writing may be good, it doesn’t mean that every publisher would be interested in it.
#5 – Not following directions. Most all reputable publishing houses list clear rules on the submission process. If you disregard them, even if you do everything else right, it will likely lead to a rejection.
By avoiding these five common traps, your success rate in terms of getting published will improve.