Finding a publisher for your writing is a bit like arranging a blind date for your best friend. It’s all about compatibility. Use these matchmaking tips to increase the odds of finding the perfect fit for your writing, and publishing your hard work.
1. Locate likely prospects. The wider the publisher “dating pool” the greater your chance of finding a perfect match for your writing. Even if you already have a couple of markets in mind, it doesn’t hurt to have a backup or two on standby in case your first choice doesn’t work out. Start with a list of five or more markets to send your work to. You can use these links to find prospective publishers:
2. Narrow the field. A good matchmaker considers the personality and style of each candidate in a potential match. A writer must do the same. What works for one publication may clash with another. For example, a journal that publishes only scholarly writing is not the place to submit a breezy essay.
Avoid creating a personality clash between your writing and a potential publisher by researching the publication in advance. Compare your manuscript with the pieces appearing in your chosen market. Is your writing similar in length, style, tone, and content? If so, you’ve found a match. If not, move on to the next market. This is crucial when considering how to get published.
3. Learn the expectations. In the dating game, knowing what the other person likes, dislikes, and expects can mean the difference between a successful first date and a catastrophe. The same goes for publishing. What does your target market like? Dislike? Expect? In the writing world, each publication provides answers to these questions in a set of submission guidelines (a.k.a. “editorial guidelines,” or “writer’s guidelines”).
Submission guidelines provide a clear picture of what the editors of the publication need, want, and expect from you as a writer. A few of the things guidelines address include:
- Font style and size
- The file format to use when submitting
- The address for submissions, and the name of the editor who should receive them
- The amount of time you can expect to wait for a response
- Payment, rights, and contract terms
You can often find submission guidelines on the publication’s website in the “About” or “Contact Us” sections. If you can’t find them online, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the publication and request them. No guide to getting published is complete without stressing the importance of adhering strictly to the submission guidelines.
4. Encourage a good first impression. During any initial meeting, impressions count. You wouldn’t let your buddy show up for a first date in a stained shirt and baggy sweatpants. You want him to look nice and use his manners. The same goes for your work. Proofread your manuscript a final time to make certain it is error-free. Double-check the guidelines. Does your work meet all the requirements? Finally, write a brief, polite cover letter (or email, if the publisher prefers electronic submissions) to accompany your manuscript.