Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Publication Venues Everywhere, How's a Writer to Choose?

So many places to submit writing. So many places to (hopefully) see it published. Hundreds, maybe thousands of venues.

Overwhelming is the word I hear most often from fellow writers--and the word that buzzes in my brain often enough, too.

To combat feeling paralyzed by choice, I just keep moving along, trying to learn, adjusting my submission strategy (not even sure I'd call it a strategy, maybe more a process), making mistakes, figuring out what's important to me (intelligent editing, respect for the work, an indication that the venue won't disappear), what I want to avoid (snooty precious attitudes), and what's a bonus (venues that promote their writers, are connected to some bigger literary project/cause).

One thing that helps me is to have a small number in mind. For me it's six. I want a list of six possible submission venues for each piece, to start. On the whole (considering that I so often simultaneously submit), those six should be places I'd be equally happy to see the work appear. 

Usually there's a number one pick at the top, and I will sometimes exclusively submit there first and wait a few weeks (or only a few days if it's a newsy, timely piece). But then I move on to the next five. Having a finite number on a list is, for me, the way to narrow down the hundreds of venues to a few I can hold in my mind. As soon as that initial batch of sim subs go out, I choose the next six, put them on the spreadsheet, and wait. When rejections arrive, another submission goes out, so at all times, I have six submissions (for each individual piece of work) always in the pipeline.

How do I decide on that initial six? And the next six?

I do all the expected things: sign up for newsletters and email listservs that track open calls for submission; check out the columns in magazines and online and in blogs that do the same; make good use of submission tracking/database systems. Read. Study. Investigate.

But even with all that, mostly I follow my nose. Usually, it doesn't let me down, though there have been a few stinkers.

I start with the venues I read regularly, and hunger after. But--I am honest with myself: not everything I write merits submitting to my wish list. Depending on the piece, I add those venues that I have read and admire, those that writer-friends have been published in, those that I've discovered via a link and liked, venues that I remember with a fondness. In any case, no matter how I found a venue, there has to be a feeling of, I'd like to see my work there too.

Sometimes I'm more tactical and set out on a deliberate search. I look for venues that publish only particular subjects, that want pieces with certain themes, that are prominent in a particular area of the country, that serve a particular readership.

Then there's my *stalking* approach.

I happen across a writer whose work I like, a writer who, for any variety of reasons, gives me the sense that we're at roughly the same level of ...something. Something sort of unnameable. Not writing skill exactly; something more slippery. Maybe it's aesthetic, or publication achievement, or career trajectory; maybe it's sensibility, or style, or ...whatever it is, it's something I don't completely understand myself, but I know it when I read it. When I read that person's work, a gong goes off: this is a writer whose work is in the "same lane" as mine. Something about this other writer's work tells me: follow. And so I do.

I read the writer's bio at the end of the piece carefully, noting where else she/he has been published. I go to the writer's website for a fuller list of publishing credits, past and forthcoming. Then I set about investigating those other venues, reading, considering, evaluating, sometimes eliminating; but most of the time, I come away with the feeling that confirms what I intuitively sensed in the first place: if this is a good venue for X's work, it's a good place for mine. Those venues then usually wind up on my "submit to in future" list, one of the first six, or the second six. Or the third. Or...

I've done this at least a half dozen times, and mostly had good luck getting acceptances. 

I don't think I'm unique in this way. I've heard other writers tell a version of this story. And of course, over on Facebook, where I'm a member of many *super secret* pages where writers share submission intel (and, I'm guessing, quietly *stalk* one another's publications), it's no secret.

This sometimes makes for apparent serendipity. I've had writer acquaintances message me to say, Hey, I see you're in X this month...I was published there a few months ago.

Yes, I say, isn't that a cool coincidence! 

Images: All Flickr/Creative Commons. Send by Got Credit. Magazines by GoSheShe. Envelope by TimothyMorgan.


Cathy said...

As always I look to you for great information and thoughts, Lisa. Many thanks.

Andrea said...

Thanks for sharing this, Lisa! Great information!

Amanda K. Jaros said...

Yes, excellent info. Thanks!

Nina B said...

I have definitely done the stalker thing! And on the flip side, I've had a few writing friends' entire bios end up reading EXACTLY THE SAME as mine after getting submission ideas from me. I'm happy to help. I am! I consider myself a connector. But when it's really everything-- feels weird!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, Lisa! Thanks for this information! I’m interested in that number of venues you chose – six sounds doable. I usually send it to only 1-2 places and if they come back rejected only then do I scout for other journals and submit there.

Lisa Romeo said...

Thanks, everyone, for reading, and your thoughts.

Nina - I never thought about it that I'm wondering if there are other writers out there who are NOT flattered by this brand of *submissions stalking*! I always thought they would feel complimented. Interesting.

Gargi - I came upon the number six several years back, after initially doing what you mention, only having two in mind, then having to scramble. Now I front load the research and list making. This is also helpful when a journal is currently closed to subs; I can still put it on my list and if the piece is still unclaimed later when that journal opens to subs again, it's already on my list.

Unknown said...

As a full-time freelance writer this information is invaluable. Thank you

Jennifer said...

Great information, I needed to know! Thanks for sharing. Care to share the "secret" FB groups:)??

Unknown said...

I think you covered it. Good job.