Article 4: Writing
Choose the Right Venue for Your Work
by Patricia Fry
Most of us write for pleasure. Writers eventually feel a need to justify their enjoyment of the craft, however, and they seek validation. How? They begin to show their work around.
By then, the writer has a whole collection of poetry, short stories or even a novel. Friends say, "You ought to send this to Woman's Day," or " I've seen stories like that in Reader's Digest." And you feel ready to take your craft a step further and become published.
In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is, "How do I find a publisher for my story (poem, article, book)?" Here are some ideas:
Locate magazines that publish material like yours. Perhaps you have some magazines in mind. Start there. And then reach out and become familiar (if not intimate) with the multitude of magazines that currently seek submissions from writers. Writer's Market is a great resource (about $30 at most bookstores or in the reference section at your library). The 2003 issue debuts in September. You might also take a look at the Directory of Small Press and Magazine Editors and Publishers by Len Fulton. Research appropriate magazines on the Internet. Using your favorite search engine, type in poetry or poems to find publications that publish poetry, for example.
There are over 100 magazines listed in the Literary and Little section of Writer's Market that publish poetry and fiction. Triquarterly publishes 20 ? 50 fiction pieces per year and 20 ? 50 poems. Tin House pays $200 - $800 for experimental, mainstream and literary fiction works. Tampa Review uses 45 poems per year from 2 ? 225 lines per poem. Poetry Magazine publishes 180 ? 200 poems each year.
Besides these great opportunities for poetry and fiction writers, there are over 700 contests listed in Writer's Market alone for nonfiction, fiction, poetry and screen writing.
Study the magazines for which you want to write. The magazine listings in Writer's Market include contact information, type of material desired, submission requirements, word count, pay scale and so forth. But you'll also want to request a copy of their Guidelines for Writers and a sample magazine. If you make your request by mail, always include a self-addressed-stamped envelope (SASE). Note: Many editorial offices are now charging for sample magazines. You can also find pertinent magazines at your library and in larger bookstores.
Read the magazine from cover to cover. This will help you determine whether or not your work is right for this publication and give you ideas for revising it to fit. Examine the stories, the editorials, letters to the editor and even the ads. Who is their target audience? Demographics are often available in their Writer's Market listing or their Guidelines for Writers.
Research publishers for your book. My favorite way to find the right publisher for a particular book is this: Go to a mega bookstore and find books similar to yours. See who published them and contact those publishers. If you have written a true crime, for example, you'll want to approach publishers who publish true crime books. If yours is a cookbook, you'll need a publisher of cookbooks.
Also find publishers and their contact information listed in Writer's Market, Literary Market Place (in the reference section at your library), Gale's Directory of Publications (also a library reference book) or Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers and Literary Agents.
Follow the submission instructions. Magazines and publishing companies pretty much each have their own requirements. While some magazine editors encourage article ideas from writers, others like to assign stories, for example. In this case, they will ask only for a resume. If you go ahead and send them your story, you're just wasting time and postage. Here are some additional rules for submitting your work.
- Send only what they request. If the Guidelines state, "query first for nonfiction," do not send the completed article. Find help writing a query letter in the front section of Writer's Market or books such as my A Writer's Guide to Magazine Articles (www.matilijapress.com or amazon.com) or my new ebook, A Successful Writer's Handbook (www.matilijapress.com or amazon.com).
- Use the appropriate mailing service. Send your query, etc. via email only after making sure the magazine editor/publisher accepts email queries and submissions. This information is usually noted in their listing or on their Guidelines. Otherwise, use regular mail and always enclose an SASE.
- Consider the format when preparing an article or story for submission. While some magazines use a variety of styles, others might use only heavily researched pieces, essays, first-person stories, how-tos or question and answer articles. Adjust your piece to conform.
- Stay within the suggested word count. This will vary from magazine to magazine.
- Polish your story, article or book manuscript before submitting it. This seems like a no brainer, but I've talked to writers who will send something that needs extensive editing in hopes that their editorial staff will fine-tune it for them. What they'll do is send your submission back to you in the next mail delivery.
- Don't bug the editor. Wait an appropriate amount of time for their response. How long? Generally the response time is in their Guidelines. If you don't hear from them by their two or three month response time, for example, email or write asking for an update on your submission. Be sure to give your full name, the title of the project, the date sent and anything else that makes it easy for them to check the status of your project.
So back to the question, what is the right venue for your work? First, ask yourself:
"What do I hope to accomplish by having my work published?" Do you want to get paid, build a portfolio, prove to yourself you can do it, impress friends, feel validated as a writer/poet/author?
Determine your deep down desire and your venue will become apparent. Through this process, you may discover that you simply want to put your story or collection of poetry into a form that you can hold in your hands and give as gifts. In this case you may decide to self-publish. You could design greeting cards featuring your poetry, for example. Have your book of poetry or short stories copied and bound at a Kinko's-type store. Or check into print on demand—where you can have only a few copies of your precious book printed and bound professionally.
Whatever you decide is the right publishing path for you, keep in mind that a magazine editor or book publisher is not going to come looking for you. It's up to you to do the research necessary to find the right venue for your work.