Category Archives: Publishing

Can’t Get Your Novel Published?

Platform.

Do you know what this word refers to in conjunction with the publishing industry?

Platform is the reason why Lena Dunham landed $3.7 million for her book proposal. If you want to sell a manuscript, more than the quality of your content (though it should certainly be up to snuff), you need to develop a reputation. If you’re thinking that your reputation is going to come from your book, you’ve got it backwards.

There are many ways to develop your platform. If you have public exposure in some way, you’re already set. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to most of us and it can be hard to generate (I’ll leave that to others far more qualified than I am if your intent is to get famous). However, a solid portfolio of writing in other forms can do wonders for establishing a ready-made audience eager to read your book (which any publishing company would love).

A novel is a huge undertaking. I certainly think all writers should attempt one, but consider the following diverse forms as a way to gain exposure and increase your chances of selling your idea for a book:

Poetry – Whether it’s traditional or free-verse, avant-garde or transparent, there are tons of poetry journals that always are seeking quality expression.

Short Fiction/Flash Fiction – Scale back your world building and capture a photograph. That’s the art of the short story. Again, there are tons of literary magazines that are always in search of quality fiction. Regardless of your style, there’s a market for everything (of quality).

Plays – Why not write a play, send it to a contest, or work with your local theatre to have it staged?

Screenplays – Think with an eye for the visual. There are some excellent television programs and films that are quite a bit more literary than most fiction (e.g. Mad Men, my favorite program). If you want to sell your script, there’s an excellent book written by Blake Snyder called Save The Cat! that gives an insider’s view into what kind of scripts sell in Hollywood and how to write them.

Nonfiction – Do you have expertise in a subject? It’s so easy to write an E-book and publish it on the Web. While fiction can be harder to attract an audience, with nonfiction there’s always a built-in audience for just about every topic.

Freelance Journalism – Yes, the pay is terrible, but your name can get out there with some rather influential people.

6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Submit Your Short Story or Poetry

You wrote a great story/poem and now you’re all ready to submit it for consideration in your favorite journal. Before you click send, make sure that your submission doesn’t have any of these six common red flags by asking yourself:

1. Did you format your submission appropriately? Here are the guidelines for poems and here are the guidelines for short fiction. Note that some journals may have their own formatting guidelines, which you should always follow. However, you should default to these guidelines unless a journal explicitly notes otherwise.

2, Did you proofread your submission? Spelling and grammatical errors are a huge turn-off to editors. Run a spelling and grammar check on your word processing software, proofread your writing yourself, and have a friend look over your work before you click send.

3. Are you sure the journal is an appropriate fit? It may be your favorite journal, but do they publish the same kind of work that you wrote? Does your style fit with the magazine? Does your content? Your genre? Most journals have very narrow parameters of what kind of work they publish. You can find out through reading a few issues if your work is an appropriate fit for publication in the magazine.

4. Did you find out the editor/publisher’s name? Make sure that you browse the publication to find out who is likely going to be reading your work and making the final decision. If you place the wrong name, or no name at all, it will give the impression that you are not a regular reader and/or do not think the editor/publisher is worth your time.

5. Have you read the magazine? Editors can tell when writers send a submission without reading the magazine first. These result in rejections. Familiarize yourself with the work published in the magazine.

6. Did you compose a cover letter that can win an editor over? Is your cover letter professional or is it a hard sell? Is your cover letter professional or are you begging for publication? Is your cover letter professional or is it a form letter? We’ve all heard of writers and their antics, but if you are an aspiring writer, edgy as your work may be, a cover letter is not the time to show anything less than your professional side.

The Vanguard of Online Literary Journals

If you aspire to challenge yourself as a writer of short-form fiction and/or poetry, you ought to familiarize yourself with the vanguard of online literary journals.

Listed below are ten top literary journals that publish on the Web. The work they post is available for all to read. You don’t have to buy a print journal or PDF. If you’re serious about taking your work to the next level, you need to read these free publications.

When you read top literary magazines like the ten listed below, you’ll be exposed to the work of some of the most gifted emerging writers and established voices in the literary game. Furthermore, although acceptance rates in all these journals are very low, should you send a piece to one of these journals that matches with their aesthetic and that wins over their editors, it may be just the springboard you need to move forward in your literary career. These journals are all widely read and deeply respected.

Without further ado, here are ten literary journals you need to read:

PANK

Word Riot

decomP

Hobart

Bartleby Snopes

JMWW

Camroc Press Review

Spork Press

Tin House Flash Fridays

SmokeLong Quarterly

By no means is this list comprehensive. Excellent literature can be found in even the deepest corners of the Web, but if you start with just these ten journals you’ll definitely sharpen your understanding of what top-quality literature and poetry can be. Hopefully, through having a greater awareness, you can push yourself towards new literary heights.

Personal Rejections Are Good!

For most writers of short fiction or poetry, publishing your writing in top-tier literary journals is the goal (Yes, we write because we love it, but we also write because we want our ideas, our thoughts, our worlds to be shared with others.) Acceptances are great; however, don’t underestimate the value of personal rejections.

I don’t remember the exact quote, but I believe that Charles Bukowski, in a clip from Born Into This, explained what he read into his early literary rejections: “It’s not that you’re not good, son—it’s that you’re not good enough.”

If you are receiving personal rejections from competitive literary journals, you ought to be downright ecstatic. While of course acceptances are the goal, personal rejections are hard to come by in the literary world. The criticisms you receive may cut to the bone. Still, for your own sanity, you should be aware what the editor is doing is performing a service. S/he took time out of their busy schedule to offer their thoughts. If your work wasn’t close to making it, an editor would have responded with a form rejection.

As writers, we have a misguided tendency to believe that our work is always without flaw. It never is. However, if you receive a personal rejection for a piece, know that you are VERY close. Know that you are knowledgeable enough to be submitting your work to appropriate markets. Know that you are skilled enough of a writer to warrant a response. You’re on the right path. Personal rejections are good. Let them spur you on to making the necessary changes and finding a new journal to publish your work!

And please, whatever you do, don’t try to argue with the editor’s points. Just don’t.

How to Deal With Form Rejections

First things first, whatever you do, don’t write anything back after you receive a form rejection.

A form rejection hurts. All writers will receive them at some point in their career if they take their pursuit seriously enough to submit their work to competitive markets. Even if you’ve done the appropriate research and found an excellent match for your writing, you’ll still face form rejections. Even if you’ve polished your story, poems, or manuscript, you’ll still face form rejections. It’s the ugliest part of being in the literary game.

Whatever you do, don’t mirror that ugliness.

A form rejection doesn’t mean that you are a bad writer. Simplistic an argument as it is, know that if it did, there would not be any good writers because every writer has had to deal with form rejections at some point in their career (usually throughout). All a form rejection means is that your work was not an appropriate match for the place that you submitted it to for one reason or another. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have talent. Read that again. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have talent. The publisher or editor is not trying to personally insult you. There are any number of considerations that go into whether a piece is accepted or passed on. The desire to insult a writer’s pride is not a consideration in any publisher, editor, or reader’s mind, so please don’t read a form rejection as such.

When the decision you’ve been waiting for from a literary magazine or publisher comes in, if it’s not to your liking, whatever you do, please don’t blast the publisher or editor. This can do serious harm to your literary reputation. At the very least, it’s the mark of a rank amateur.

Writing is like baseball. They both are slow. They both are pastoral. They both can be construed as largely solitary (compare baseball to other popular team sports…) And like baseball, you’re doing awfully well if you are hitting .300. Actually, you’re a downright star. The point is that when you miss the mark, as you surely will, brush it off as best as you can. Once the pain of the rejection subsides, re-examine your piece. Is there anything about it that you can touch up? Are there other journals or publishers that would be a good match? Go right back out and give it your best shot. In the literary game, your degree of resiliency matters just as much as your innate talent…

The Importance of Professionalism for Authors

We can all recite a long list of names of famous authors who are almost as famous for the way they comport themselves as for their writing. Please don’t attempt to mimic their antagonistic behavior. If you do not have name recognition in the popular imagination (i.e. Your books aren’t being sold at bookstores), you must hold your pride at bay and conduct yourself like a person, not a walking spectacle.

The following are common errors related to professionalism that novice writers often make. These mistakes must be avoided at all costs:

1. Don’t rush the writing process along. Plot out your story. Fix the errors. Make sure the prose is sharp. Your first draft is just that—don’t send it out immediately to publishers. Spend some time ensuring that your work is as tight as it can possibly be before submitting it.

2. Pay attention to submission guidelines. There’s nothing less professional than not following submission guidelines. Doing so will almost always lead to a rejection, and worse than that it will color you as a careless writer in some rather influential people’s minds.

3. Write an appropriate cover/query letter. Think of this like a job hunt. Don’t be the person sending 100 resumes a day with the same generic cover letter. This is insulting to editors and publishers. Show that you are actually familiar with the work they publish and that your writing would be a beneficial addition to the press or magazine. Do your best to find out the name of the person that you are addressing.

4. On that same note, make sure that your work is an appropriate match for the content of the journal or publisher. Don’t send a genre piece to a literary magazine. Don’t send a noir manuscript to Harlequin. Do your homework.

5. Don’t be goofy or edgy in your communication. Your work may be satirical or hardboiled, but your approach to publishers and other power players must be professional. You’re a writer; you’re not a clown or sociopath.

6. Never respond to a rejection (unless there’s a clear lead-in to do so from the editor, which is extremely unlikely). Just don’t. Certainly don’t respond to any rejection with inflammatory remarks. The literary world is small. You want your name to be talked about, but certainly not for this reason.

7. Respond to acceptances from literary journals. Thank the editor for selecting your work. Be humble and gracious.

8. Get involved beyond your writing. Offer to volunteer as a reader for a literary journal. Start your own literary magazine. If you have the money to do so, pursue an MFA to show your dedication, network, and learn from masterful authors.

The takeaway: Never underestimate the importance of professionalism for authors. Conduct yourself in your literary career in the same fashion as you would in any other professional sphere.

Finding a Good Literary Journal

Hello. Since this is my first post, before I get into the heart of this topic, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Alfonso Colasuonno. I am the founder of The Literary Game. This blog is a service designed to help writers improve their knowledge in various capacities (craft, publishing tips, etc.).

First off, you should congratulate yourself if you’ve written a strong short story or poem. Never forget that is an accomplishment in and of itself. However, what of the next steps? If writing is your passion and you want to get your work out there, it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with various literary journals.

The first key to finding a good literary journal for your fiction or poetry is to read the journals that you may come across and ask yourself if your work deviates from the style, subject, and format of that particular literary magazine. If it does, regardless of how high quality your work may be, you will likely receive a form rejection.

The heart of finding a good literary journal for your work is to find an appropriate match. If the content on the journal is similar enough to your own work, your odds of getting published increase. It may be a good reference to compare getting your work accepted in a literary journal to getting an interview for a job. If you do not research the company, if you do not update your resume to reflect the needs of the job, it is highly unlikely that you will be considered for the job. Such is the case in the literary world.

The heart of this lesson: Make sure that your writing is a good fit for what the journal has already published.