In my previous post, I highlighted common roadblocks writers may experience when it comes to submitting their work or even thinking about submitting their work. Now that these have been explained and hopefully eliminated, you should be able to send out your manuscripts with confidence. Let’s talk about how to do that.
Finding markets for your work – or studying markets to come up with ideas for stories and articles – is a necessary part of writing but it does take time. Most writers wish they had an assistant for a few hours each week who could handle this part of the job. Instead, scheduling the task on your calendar is the best way to dive into the sea of markets. One afternoon every couple of weeks is a good plan.
Investigating markets may mean reading and analyzing back issues of magazines you are interested in, noting their unique styles and formats. It usually entails studying the unique submission guidelines for new markets you have discovered so you can follow them closely.
Market research may also involve discovering and keeping track of submission windows for journals and magazines you would like to work with. Some markets are only open for submissions a few months of the year. Terrain.org, for example, is accepting poetry, fiction, and nonfiction through April of this year. Writers submit to the Iowa Review Awards during the month of January. As you research, more of these submission dates will become important. Keep careful track of when certain markets accept manuscripts and what each is looking for.
Subscribe to newsletters that do some of the market-search work for you. Authors Publish and Writers Weekly are two good choices. Each (free) newsletter usually includes an assortment of places to submit – many of those markets would be time-consuming to search out on your own. Investigate those featured and add them to your list of possibilities, eliminating those that aren’t relevant to your writing.
Don’t forget – as noted in the previous issue’s Submissions blog post – the Institute’s Magazine and Book Markets Guides provide hundreds of vetted market possibilities. One market research goal should be to read through each listing and cross out those specialized markets that will never work for you. Circle the best ones and go to those websites. Read through a site’s content as you decide whether the market may be just-right for your work.
Planning market research time for a few hours a couple times a month will help you stay current on good places to submit your work and make you aware of which markets seem to be good possibilities. Jot down notes throughout the week to remind yourself of how you will concentrate your scheduled market research time.
Rule of Twelve, or Ten
Some writers use the “Rule of 12” for their submissions, which may be revised to the “Rule of 10,” especially for those just starting this approach. The strategy helps a writer commit to getting work into editors’ hands throughout the year and at a somewhat rigorous pace.
The plan is to keep twelve (or ten) submissions out to markets at all times without exception. It will take most writers the first quarter of the year – perhaps more – to build up to this target number. Challenge yourself to submit to markets now as you increase your total to your target of ten or twelve manuscripts out.
Create a spreadsheet or just make a chart in a notebook to log the manuscripts you have sent out. Number the page from one to ten and list each submission (if you send the same manuscript to two markets, list it twice). Enter the date you submitted the story or article, where you sent it, comments you may want to include to remind yourself later, and a final column for the outcome. Work toward getting ten submissions out. As you receive news (favorable or unfavorable) replace that submission with another one so you always have ten (or twelve) out to editors.
Most writers who use this strategy allow themselves just 48 hours to replace an unaccepted submission and maintain their target number. That means they are constantly assessing markets and thinking about places they can send their work. (Your log may sometimes have greater than your goal amount of submissions out to markets, and that is a good way to avoid scrambling to get back to the target number when you receive news about a submission and it leaves your list.)
Committing to the Rule of 12 for 2021 should encourage you to keep writing, submitting, and researching markets for the twelve months ahead. By January of next year, you will have an interesting roadmap of where your work has been over the past twelve months – and some positive outcomes.
Vow now to research markets and submit your best work throughout the year. There is no way your manuscript will be even considered for publication if it is sitting in your computer.
Susan Ludwig, MA has been an instructor with the Institute of Children’s Literature for over 15 years. Susan’s writing credits include teacher resource guides, English language learner books, and classroom curriculum for elementary through high school students. A former magazine editor, she assesses students’ written essays as a scoring director for the SAT exam.