Magazine Submissions Part II: I Made These BIG Mistakes So You Won’t Have To!
by Kristy Gherlone
If you read my first installment concerning magazine submissions, then you already know what a novice I am. So much in fact that I bet some people read my advice and thought… “What an idiot! Everyone knows that!” Kindly, no one commented just to point out how dumb I am, but I have felt dumb at times. It is my hope, that by writing about my struggles and sharing what I have learned, I will save you some of the embarrassment I have suffered. Since I’ve had more views on this topic than any other post I’ve shared, I’m guessing there’s an interest, too. We all struggle at times and I’m glad to help.
I’d like to tell you about a few things I learned from doing things the wrong way and a couple from doing it the right way. Surely, if I made these mistakes, someone else has or will too. I can’t be that original! And it’s not that we’re dumb, it’s that we’re still learning. I like to think of myself at the middle school level in the writing world. I hope one day I get to move on to college!
Today, I want to talk about social media and a couple of other issues. I feel the need to address social media first, for a critical reason. Let’s start with this scenario:
- You have just written the best story of your life and you can’t even contain your excitement! You are so proud and want to share it right away because you’re pretty sure everyone is going to love it on Facebook! You type it out, maybe even add a photo to go along with it, and hit share…Uh oh… You just decreased the marketability of that story by more than double. Why? Because most magazines will not accept your submission if it has appeared on any social media page. Facebook, blogs, Twitter all count…anywhere it can be found online. You will find a few that will accept it, but you are going to have to dig harder.
When I was just starting out, I did this, eager to get feedback. I wrote several pieces and shared them to my Facebook page. 10, maybe, 20 people liked them (mostly family and good friends). I received some lovely comments and with their encouragement, I felt ready to show them the world! It wasn’t until I began trying to submit, that I realized my error. Oops. And there’s nothing you can do about it at that point. Deleting it won’t help and I’ll tell you why-I bet you have other authors on your page. If they saw it before you deleted it and then it gets published, what’s the chances they might say something? Want to risk it? Better safe than sorry. It’s not worth the possibility of alienating even one magazine, if your goal is to publish. The same goes for sharing your stories in an email with people you don’t fully trust, or with people who don’t understand what is at stake. Say you send your story to your cousin- she loves it! She copies it and pastes it right onto her page because she loves it so much… ‘Hey, everyone check out this story that Kristy just wrote!” It’s not worth limiting your marketability for a few nice comments, in my opinion. But having said that, I think you should still post stories on your social media. It gives you practice, free feedback, and it’s a good way to gain interest. Just don’t post what you want to market.
- Now, how about that Twitter…I have a love/ hate relationship with Twitter. Every time I go on, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m in the middle of a big city and everyone is screaming, but no one is being heard. Twitter feels a lot like a game sometimes. People add and delete you, (sometimes the same day) to boost their numbers and spam you with ads. It annoys me. However, Twitter has done some amazing things for me. I have met some very helpful and influential people on Twitter who have helped to boost my career, but I almost made a big mistake. I saw people adding the phrase “NO DM’s” to their profile. (In other words a warning that says ‘don’t write me a private message or I’ll delete and hate you for all time’) Since my message box was jammed with people trying to sell me stuff or make me look at their other pages, I thought I’d add “NO DM’s” to my profile too. Glad I didn’t. An editor of a magazine saw a story of mine and wanted to publish it. The only way they could find to reach me (since I’m fairly private) was through DM on Twitter. They messaged me and requested permission to print it. Lucky break for me! That is one thing I did right (if by accident). Just try to ignore the annoying DM’s and keep your communication lines open. You never know! So, as far as social media goes, I have found it’s good to have a broad presence. I have gained interest in my work from posting to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on my blog. The people you add will read your stories and buy your books. You can also meet some really great people and share ideas. I have made some wonderful connections.
- And… concerning your social media presence… I’m not even going to get into all of the reasons why you should try to maintain a professional appearance on social media, but you’ll think more about that yourself, when the magazine you just submitted to requests all of your social media information…yikes.
Lastly today, I just quickly want to go over something you may not know about working with an editor. As I said in my last post about magazine submissions, I use one (I feel it’s vital) and it has helped me a great deal. So, having said that…
- When you send one of your stories out to be edited, it will come back to you with track changes on it. For those of you who do not know what this is, it is a markup of your story with an internal computer program. (I don’t know how to better describe it) but basically, the editor will make the necessary changes and add comments right on your document with this program. They will fix your errors, show you where they were, and what they fixed by using this markup. They may also add notations in the sidebar. You will be required to manually accept or reject the changes, and then add your own comments if you want to send the document back for further scrutiny. Once the editing process is done and you are happy with your story, you must get rid of this markup BEFORE you submit it to any magazine. I didn’t do it because I didn’t know how. I honestly got my very first computer in 2004 and have taken a grand total of one Word Processing class. (Hey, I was up in the deep Maine woods without electricity or plumbing a lot of the time…don’t judge lol) Anyway, I thought I had done what I was supposed to do. I thought I had removed the track changes, but I was wrong. So now, I’m pretty sure I am the sole subject of a blog in a major magazine that said, ‘People, please don’t send us stories with your editor’s mark up. We can see that stuff when you send it to us and we will reject it.’ They added that blog the same day they rejected me…One magazine was kind enough to point out that I had sent one with the markup and gave me a second chance. I sent back a copy that I thought was clean, but it wasn’t either. Two strikes left me out! REJECTED! With the note- ‘you did it again.’ Geesh. My face is still red. So, the only way I know how to do this, thanks to my editor, is to accept and reject all of the changes individually. Accept the comments and delete them, also. Accept all changes in the review tab and turn off track changes. Then, once all of the editor’s notations are gone, copy and paste your story into a new document. Viola! (if you know a better way…please share!)
- Also, I don’t use an editor for Facebook posts, blog posts or stuff like that, which is probably why some people shake their heads when they read my posts and think “is this chick really a writer?’ My editor (The Letter Works) is not expensive, but the fact is; you don’t make a lot of money selling short stories. When you add in the submission fees and your time, you are pretty much paying money to publish in magazines. So, if money is a stumbling block for you, choose your best and send those out for editing. Send out what you want to see published professionally, but remove those track changes!! Like I said before, it’s not as much as you think. Save your money for when the story you wrote really matters.
So, I think that’s it for now. From time to time, as I continue to gain knowledge by making my mistakes, I’ll share more of my amateur advice. Please feel free to add your own advice in the comments. I can use all the help I can get!