My tips for submitting

My last post, My rules for writing, was quite popular, so I got cocky and started thinking maybe I could actually help writers.

Here are a few tips about how to submit your work, because this seems to cause either rejection-quote-2-picture-quote-1agony or resentment, as your darlings are repeatedly rejected. These tips will work just as well for online and print journals, small press publishers and agents.

(Note: some of these tips might sound harsh, but they come with love as – as I shared in the last post – many, many, many years of experience)

  1. Just as with editing, you need to distance yourself from your manuscript when you’re submitting, because your first-choice agent/journal is not obliged to accept your work. You have become a salesperson, they are your customer. If they don’t want it, you can’t force them, and it isn’t personal. How many times have you said ‘no thank you’ to a cold-caller offering double glazing? When you submit, you are the cold-caller.
  2. Follow the individual guidelines of each market – word counts, ms layout, and extra requirements might all be mentioned specifically.
  3. Be professional. Check the name of the editor/agent, and begin your email ‘Dear…’ or if that feels too fusty, perhaps Good Morning… or Good Afternoon. Never Hi, or Hey or skip that part altogether. Your first approach should be formal; once you have a relationship (or even a second/third email) you can relax a little.
  4. End your email similarly with Regards, Kind Regards or Faithfully/Sincerely if you wish. Bonus points to anyone knows the correct context to use Faithfully and Sincerely!
  5. First names are fine, I think, these days. But Mr/Mrs/Miss are traditional and formal. And using first names avoids the need to know whether your female recipient is married or not!
  6. I like to have a list of markets for the same book/story, so that if I get a rejection I can send it out again straight away.
  7. If the reply is a rejection, do not enter into correspondence with the editor. I know most people wouldn’t do this, but there have been instances, and those instances somehow find their way into the public domain for everyone to see. Worst case scenario, you may find yourself blacklisted by all editors or agents if your conduct is very poor.
  8. Try not to weep and wail and throw away every scrap of writing that you’ve ever done. This is one person’s view of that one story on that one day you sent it. If it had reached them the day before or the day afterwards – or if their dog hadn’t died, or their car hadn’t broken down – the outcome may have been different.
  9. Although, some chocolate/wine/coffee is allowed.
  10. Don’t give up. It might be tempting to self-publish at the first sign of rejection, but before you do, ask yourself if that’s what you really want. If it is, awesome, go for it. If you have a yearning to follow in the footsteps of J.K. Rowling, keeping trying. After all, J.K did!

Can you add any other tips that have worked for you?


32 thoughts on “My tips for submitting

  1. Brilliant timing as I’m putting submissions together this week. Good to be reminded that this was their opinion on that day, at that time. Also nice to know that indulging in chocolate is allowed!


  2. Hi Annalisa – saying thank you is a good addition. Dear Sir = yours faithfully … while Dear Mrs Blogs = yours sincerely.

    Just not letting yourself get into a pity party … keep on writing … and make notes – they may let you know why your piece didn’t fit … and as you say always adhere to their requirements …

    Good luck to one and all – and yes chocolate – except mid summer … when chocolate ice-cream might do! Cheers Hilary


    1. Full marks to you Hilary! I always remember it because you can only be sincere if you know the person’s name.

      Continuing to write is very important. You’ve got me thinking about ice-cream now, even though it’s really cold 🙂


  3. Agree with the need for treats! Being on submission is hard but having faith in your work is important. I would add, keep a spreedsheet (or similar) of who you have submitted to and the date. Also note when (if!) you hear back and again note the date as this might be useful to know for submissions in the future. Also, if you are submitting a number of different projects note which is going where! Other than that . . . keep on keeping on!


  4. Wise wisdom. You are absolutely the right person to help writers. Thank you for this post. I’d once feared querying. But now, I wish to write short stories, perhaps even get them published. I don’t have the guts yet, but your post made me feel less afraid. Thank you for that Annalisa.


  5. I can’t even imagine sending grief back to someone because of a pass. I suppose people do it, though no one I’ve ever known.

    Now, I must go google the difference between sincerely and faithfully.


  6. as always, excellent tips and not harsh at all. As for faithfully or sincerely……hmmm…….that could be another post. Faithfully sounds very old fashioned. I’ve used sincerely before – hopefully correctly…as in “sincerely yours”
    Oh my – now I know why I’ve been rejected constantly. I should have been faithful.
    Anyway – good post – you deserve a chocolate!


    1. Lol, you use sincerely when you know the person’s name, and faithfully if you are addressing them as ‘Sir and Madam’ etc. Hopefully, writers would never use faithfully, because they should have researched the name of the editor or agent 🙂


  7. Great tips! I would add that if you receive a personalized rejection, it’s not bad form to thank someone for taking the time to give you feedback. That’s a rare gift in this business. I keep it short and don’t comment on any specifics.


  8. The irony for me is that I’ve submitted over 100 stories to various short story markets and I’ve become more courageous about that, but I have never submitted a new novel idea to a publisher or an agent. I just went straight for self-publishing my books and now I’m thinking of querying/submitting to a publisher or agent in the next year. My only novella through a small press involved being asked to write it by the publisher – kind of amazing and a huge confience booster.
    As for what I would add: I keep a list of places that have accepted/rejected my work current and I submit stories and poetry to markets I’ve had success in, as well as new markets. Keeping track of when/where things were accepted is good – it helps me know how often I should submit to those markets and what they like. Knowing where I’ve been rejected is good if I make note of how/why they rejected me. If it’s a form rejection, then I don’t often send any more work to that market. If it’s a personal rejection or a “we would like to see more of your writing, just not this piece” then I keep that in mind for the future.


    1. Having your novella commissioned must have been a real ego boost! 🙂

      A couple of people have mentioned keeping a record of submissions – I didn’t add it because I thought it was obvious… But then I habitually record my daily calories and expenditure in spreadsheets, so I might just be more of a record-keeper than other people!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanking them for their time is completely different from the ranting I was thinking of. It must be lovely to open an email to see some pleasant words in that line of work – I may take a leaf out of your book, Ruth.


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