How to Submit an Article for Publication

Common sense tips, that most people skip, to increase the chances of having your writing submission accepted in magazines and websites

How to Submit an Article for PublicationAs a magazine, newsletter, and website publisher, I’ve received thousands of article submissions over the years. Some of the writers are easy to work with and others are more of a chore. If you hope to see your work published, don’t be a pain when you submit content.

While I’m willing to work with a writer who tries hard, I’m much less willing to work with a writer who hardly tries. Follow these tips for your best chance of success.

  • Know the Publication or Website: Read their past content. As you do, envision if your idea is a good fit. If not, don’t force it. Seek another topic or a different outlet.
  • Look for Submission Guidelines: Find their submission criteria on their website. If they don’t have anything posted, they aren’t likely open to receive unsolicited submissions. If you can’t find their instructions, even after double-checking, look for articles from non-staff writers or guest posts. Contact those writers to see how they did it. Maybe they’ll make an introduction for you. As a last option, email the publication and ask if they’re open to receive submissions.
  • Do What They Ask: If they ask you to pitch your idea (sometimes called a query or an abstract for more academic outlets), then do that. Others (like me) ask for finished pieces only. Never ever send a draft and ask for feedback.
  • Write the Best Possible Article: You know the drill: write, re-write, edit, spellcheck, and proofread. You only get one chance with this article at this publication, so give it your best effort.You only get one chance with this article at this publication, so give it your best effort. Click To Tweet
  • Follow their Requirements Carefully: Reread their submission guidelines and meet every requirement. Though most editors won’t disqualify you for making a tiny blunder, it could count against you, and too many will result in a rejection.
  • Be Patient: Most publications will acknowledge they received your submission. If you haven’t heard back in a week or so, ask – politely. If your piece is accepted, be patient. It can be a while for them to post it online and several months for print.
  • Promote It: Most print publications post their content online. When they do, promote your piece. Post the news and a link on social media, your blog, and in your newsletter. If you can drive enough traffic to the publication’s website for them to notice, they will be eager to consider more of your content.
  • Thank Them: Most writers skip this step; don’t be one of them. Once your piece has run, thank them – even if some aspect of it wasn’t to your satisfaction. It you have an idea for another piece or are open to receive an assignment, this is the ideal time to mention it.

Following these steps will not guarantee the publication of your work, but they will move you ahead of most writers. I wish you the best in your writing.

What are your experiences in submitting content for publication? What tips do you have to add? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Seven Steps to Deal With the Sting of Rejection

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve received very little rejection with the articles I’ve written. In fact, aside from contests I haven’t won and a few editors who never responded, I can’t recall a single time I’ve heard “No!” But that’s just for articles.

For books, my results are different. Half the time, I hear “no.” And the times when I hear “maybe,” it eventually turns into a “no.” Given my success with articles, I wasn’t prepared for a lack of success with books. Rejection stings.

The first time someone said “no” to one of my books, I went into a tailspin. It lasted several weeks. I stopped writing for three, and when I resumed, my heart wasn’t in it. It took too long for me to bounce back, to reclaim my joy for writing, and write with zeal.

Since then I’ve gotten better at dealing with rejection. Here are my thoughts:

1) Be Realistic: We will hear “no” much more often than we will hear “yes.” Accept this; it’s the reality of being a writer.

2) Be Positive: As they say in sales, each “no” gets us one step closer to “yes.” It’s a numbers game, so don’t stop too soon. Our next submission may be the one that’s accepted.

3) Listen to What Is Said: Consider why our book or proposal was rejected, but don’t make false assumptions. If they say, “This isn’t the right book for us at this time,” they’re not saying our book is bad, we can’t write, or we should quit. They’re simply saying the timing is off.

4) It’s Not a Reflection of Who We Are: Although our work is rejected, we aren’t. Reflection of our work is not rejection of us; it may not even reflect our skill as a writer. Maybe our idea wasn’t good or our type of book isn’t selling at this time. But none of this means we are a bad person.

5) It’s Just One Person’s Opinion: In my critique group I’m amazed at how many times one person doesn’t like something and the next person really does. The same is true for books. Everyone has an opinion, but that’s all it is.

6) Allow Time to Grieve: I give myself time to grouse. Sometimes I only need a few minutes, while other times I take the rest of the day. What I don’t do (anymore) is to ignore the pain; I acknowledge it – but only for a time.

7) Start Again: Then it’s back to writing as usual – even if I don’t feel like it. That’s what the pros do; that’s what I’ll do.

Rejection stings, but it’s not the end.

Four Essential Elements of a Successful Book Proposal

To approach an agent or publisher with our book, we start with a query letter and are ready to follow it with a proposal. For me, writing my first proposal was harder than writing the book. Seriously.

To learn about creating proposals, I read blog posts, listened to podcasts, attended webinars, went to lectures, and took classes. Amid confusion and conflicting information, I realized two things: 1) writing a proposal is as much art as science, and 2) there is no one, right format.

Then I melded all this disparate information together to realize four essential tasks a book proposal must do:

1) Sell Our Idea: In our proposal, we pitch our book. We make it compelling and not give anyone a reason to say “no” or push delete. Our idea must be unique, memorable, and enticing.

2) Show Our Professionalism: Our proposal establishes us as a competent writer who is easy to work with and not flaky, disorganized, or flippant.

3) Exhibit Our Talent: As a writer, our work must always shine, and nowhere is this more important than in a proposal. Make every word count. Our writing voice must ring out, true and clear.

4) Demonstrate Our Ability to Sell Books: A publisher will look to us as the primary person to promote, market, and sell our books. Yes, they will provide logistics and support, along with some marketing, but we need to show we have the ability and means to motivate people to buy our books. This means we need a platform, that dreaded word every writer detests. Regardless of its size, it never seems big enough.

Whatever format we follow for our book proposal or if we choose our own path, we must make sure we include these four essentials.

What’s your experience with writing a book proposal?

Five Ways That Publishing a Book is Like Finding a Job

I like working but not finding work. I like writing but not finding a publisher. Unfortunately, there are similarities. Consider these parallels:

  1. The Search: For a job, we need to find where to apply. This means looking through help wanted ads, researching companies, and networking with people we know. For writing, this means scouring market guides, learning about agents and publishers, and networking with others in the industry. Just as we wouldn’t apply for every job at every business, we don’t query every agent and publisher. We work smart and are strategic.
  2. The Resume: Just as the goal of a resume is to land an interview, the goal of a query letter is to prompt a request for a proposal. Resume equals query letter; both must shine.
  3. The Interview: In a job interview we need to sell ourselves and our abilities. In a book proposal we have the same goal.
  4. The Follow-up: A successful job interview results in more interaction with the company. A successful book proposal produces additional discussion about our writing. Both bring us closer to an offer.
  5. The Offer: Sometimes we grab the first deal that comes along. Other times we negotiate. And occasionally we say “no thank you” but leave the door open for the future.

The same is true for jobs and for books.

How else is finding work like selling our writing? In what ways are they different?

How to Write a Query Letter for Your Book

Once we finish writing our book (though a book is never really finished), the next step for those wishing to land a traditional publishing deal is to find an agent. This requires a really great query letter.

There’s a lot of information online about writing a query letter. Unfortunately it seems to be as much art as it is science. Despite differing opinions on the specific content and order, here are the pointers I’ve picked up and use:

  • Address it to a specific agent, following the agent’s guidelines and making sure he or she is accepting queries in your genre.
  • Open with a concise connection to the agent (sincere and non-embellished), followed by a great hook, sell your idea, and then sell yourself (including your platform).
  • Keep it to one normal page (even though you will generally email it as text).
  • Don’t ask them to click a link or download an attachment. (I understand most will skip your link and few will download an attachment unless they know you or requested you to attach a document.)
  • Keep it professional; avoid being cute, clever, or gimmicky.
  • Spell check and proofread carefully.

For more insight here are some helpful links about writing a book query:

Happy querying!

Five Ideas of What to Write

Hopefully, you’ve given some thought as when is the best time to write, as well as where is the best place to write. Even if these decisions are works in progress, needing to be fine-tuned, you need to move on.

Now we get to the question of what to write. Although, it may seem a nonsensical query; for some, especially those just starting out, it is not. Here are some ideas:

  • If you have a project, you need to be working on it. This is an obvious answer — if you have a project.
  • Work on a potential project, something that could turn into a project. That is, work on an article or a book that you could sell in the future. Write a query letter or proposal for this project.

However, if you’re just starting out, you likely need to develop and hone your writing skills before seriously embarking on a project. So, here are some more ideas:

  • Blogging is a great way to release creative ideas and develop a writing style. (I don’t put Facebook in this category, though I do know some who compose intriguing and well-written posts. I do not recommend journaling or keeping a diary as worthy writing exercises either; they are too informal, introspective, and narcissist — however, they may provide useful fodder for a future memoir.)
  • Write book or movie reviews. Work on developing a reviewer style and on being concise, fair, and helpful. Avoid the mistake of many professional reviewers — being unnecessarily critical or writing a review merely to call attention to your skill as a writer.
  • Writing exercises are other worthy considerations. “Exercising” will get you in the habit of writing and provide opportunities to develop your skills. Here are some ideas for writing exercises.

(I am currently working on a project — my dissertation — which is also a potential project, a future book.  I usually blog one day a week and also write reviews — mostly book reviews — which I hope to soon post on my Website.)