Publishing: It’s not as hard as it seems

First of all, I am guilty very guilty of not following my own advice.

I realized that earlier today when a wonderful colleague of mine who just moved down to Florida asked for some of my work on Daybooks and journals. When i went through my files to see what would be best to send her, I found several working drafts of articles that, with just a few extra hours, could be sent out to one of the national writing mags for serious consideration. A few more anecdotes, a little more documented research, and off it will go.

So, why didn’t I do it years ago when i began the pieces?

Simple. When I don’t remain immersed in the world of writing and publishing, I become timid about that final step when it comes to the business of writing.

We all have the ideas about great pieces, don’t we? We can see them played out in our minds like movies. We have exciting characters, a suspenseful plot, an on-your-edge-of-your-seat climax. We see it all, we have it all, up there in our heads.

Many of us write something about that idea down on paper. Some of us finish a draft. Fewer of us take it through the revising and editing stages. A small remaining number actually submit it for publication.

Why is this?

The path that leads to that ultimate goal of publishing gets pretty dense, pretty dark toward the end. It’s the area we know least about because we are here so infrequently. For every 100 ideas I may have in my head at that beginning stage, maybe 5 or 6 ever get submitted. It’s like running the bases in baseball. Everybody gets on first base now and then, but fewer get to second, a small number get to third, and it’s a big deal if your foot hits home plate.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Sending a piece in for consideration is easier than putting those ideas down on paper. It takes less time, it’s certainly less emotional, and there’s a stark finality to it when sending off your envelope.

It’s out of your hands. Time to resume work on another piece or, if you are lucky, something brand new.

So what’s the key?

I think it’s this: When you decide that you are taking a piece to publication (this usually occurs after you’ve jotted down the rough first draft), you need to start looking for a possible home for your work. Not only does it focus your writing a little more sharply, it also gives your left brain something to do to give your right brain a little break.

Here’s what you need to do once you’ve made the decision to seek publication.

  1. Consider what markets might be interested in your work. Choose at least three pubs: a local rag that is likely to publish your piece; a regional journal that might consider it; and a national publication that, if the timing is right and the planets align, may just move your manuscript on the maybe pile. Make sure that all of the pubs are reputable, though; quantity is never better than quality when it comes to accumulating your clips.
  2. Get the most recent info on those markets. Find out if they take email submissions, and if they do, whether they want your work sent in as an attachment. Learn the editors’ names that you will be wooing. Understand their audience, their guidelines–basically everything you can know about those publications.
  3. Get the envelope ready, even before you’ve finished the piece. Have it all filled out and sitting on your desk, ready to be stuffed and mailed.

By doing these three easy steps, you remove all the anxiety from the aura of publishing. It’s really a simple process, and all it takes is a little left-brain, right-brain collaboration to put it all together.

Good luck!