Wednesday 29 May 2013

Every writer should have one – a submission strategy!

We often hesitate to submit. Is it laziness, lack of organisation or fear of failure? Or even possibly fear of success? What if you did become a writer with a great reputation and had to live up to it?  Or was so in demand you didn’t have the time or the brain-space for writing?

Rejection as a part of acceptance

Yes, I’m afraid it is. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a novel accepted quite quickly, your editors will ask for more work on what you thought was your perfectly polished script and once it is published not everyone will give it a 5* review. In fact, some will give considerably less and a reading group’s verdict will often read like a school report. No matter how good your work is there will always be a but.
And no matter how much you’ve had published so far, you’ll still get rejected. I’ve had two novels out this year and a third comes out in July. Yet I had one rejected yesterday by a similar company to the others who’ve given me a green light.  I had a lot of hope.
You have to develop a thick skin, you have to keep faith in your writing and you have to have another go.
One writing friend doesn’t talk about rejections. She’s more likely to say, “Ah here comes the post with a load of rewrites.” What a healthy attitude.
And indeed, the rejection I got yesterday was quite a helpful one. They actually liked my writing.  The topic was good. The work was polished. There were some concerns about the very opening. Aha! Rewrite coming on. In fact, anyway, I’ve changed the title and rewritten a couple of pages further in since I last sent it out. I’ll respond to the screen full of advice they gave me too. So, in a couple of weeks’ time a slightly different version will go out to more agents and publishers.   

Fishing rods

The fact remains that if you don’t submit you can’t have your work accepted. Another writing friend once said that you have to be like those men on the end of the pier; they have half a dozen or so fishing rods dangling into the sea. Eventually they get a catch.
The said novel is actually out with another publisher and an agent as well. I’ve also got some flash fiction and some short stories out with certain publishers and entered for competitions. One publisher is looking at a whole collection of flash fiction. So, yes, I have cast my rods.

Keeping on top of it all

You have to keep good records and you have to build in routines for chasing up work. You also have to look for the opportunities. It’s hard and slightly boring work. However, it must be done. Naturally the writing comes first. This probably comes a close second. Steaming up behind in third place come the conjoined twins of marketing and publicity.    

But what about an effective strategy?

I’m always looking to refine this but at the moment it sort of works for me.
Once a work is finished I put it on my To Do list. That means when it comes to the top I’ll take one more look at it and then send it out to three agents if it’s a novel and three publishers looking for submissions or competitions for shorter fiction.
As soon as something is rejected, it goes back on to my To Do list and gets sent out twice more after I’ve got a some distance from it and the rejection and after I’ve refined it a little. After all, we constantly grow as writers.  
Periodically, when my To Do list tells me to, I got through all of my submissions and see if any need chasing.
I also keep a list of opportunities. Once I’ve exhausted the yearbooks, I go through this list. Every so often, again when my To Do list tells me to, I go through the opportunities and see if there isn’t one I’d like write something new for or if there is one that suits a piece of work that hasn’t been out for a while.
I always work the most proactively with the latest completed work. When I’ve finished something new, I put most of my energy into trying to sell that. However, I also keep an eye open for new opportunities and again see if older work might suit.

Identifying opportunities

I find these from friends, through Twitter (two books this year!), Linkedin, Facebook, NAWE and Mslexia. As I lecture in creative writing, several people approach me and offer opportunities. I vet these carefully and publish my own list of opportunities that are fair to my students. I use this list for myself as well. You too can sign up for it here.                        


Andy Szpuk said...

Hi Gill,
A useful post. I just wondered though, how much chasing is it de rigeur to do? I default to very little, because of my affinity with rejection - I can handle that fine, but never really can judge whether it's worth a go at chasing or not?

Andy Szpuk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gill James said...

I often don't get round to chasing - just move on to the next one. But I still check that a submission has "expired". I work out how long it's likely to be with them then move on. But if it's someone with whom I have any sort of personal relationship I do check - just in case they never saw it or somehting.