How do you get published? How do you not? I’ve given you some information on cover letters and presenting yourself professionally, along with introducing you to Newpages.com, a site that organizes submission information for journals and contests. (The main difference between a regular submission and a contest submission is that for the contest, there is usually a fee to enter.)
A friend led me to this article from the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR), and I found it very interesting. The author points to himself as a relatively young writer (young in his profession and in being published) who is guilty of bombarding journals with submissions. This means submitting to up to 80 journals at once, many online!
Basically, he suggests that this approach may be affecting the quality of poetry that is submitted and, in the end, published. This is definitely food for thought. Would you rather write as quickly as possible and submit, submit, submit or work carefully and then submit to only the journals you know most about?
I’m guilty of submitting to journals I haven’t read, thinking, “They’re all the same.” Naturally, while this has some truth to it, it is profoundly untrue. Every editor has a different vision, and editors change every few years, too. That tends to be the trend in academia, at least, through which most well-known literary journals are published.
The best way to learn to write is to read. This, I was taught by the magnificent Jeanne Leiby, a fiction instructor and my mentor. For example, I’ve been really drawn to reading and writing poetry lately, and the more I read it–different authors, different styles, different subjects–the more I feel I “get” it. The same is true of reading journals, and that’s the most valuable lesson I gleaned from this VQR blog post–reading will help you learn how and where your work might best fit. Learning that will help the writer be more selective about where he or she submits, and that will, hopefully, bring happy returns.
Here’s the VQR blog post by Sean Bishop (Sept 2012):