A good first step to getting your work out there and one step closer to publishing is to join a writing group. If you are going to join a writing group, it is a good idea to join a group of writers who have the same aesthetic as you, otherwise you might be writing genre sci-fi while someone who prefers literary essays is telling you how you might improve your work. This is not to say that all facets of writing can't contribute to your style, but writing is difficult and lonely, so it's good to talk about your work with people who understand and get along with you.
The same goes for publishers, in a manner of speaking. As a former assistant editor for a small publishing company, I've seen the same mistakes from writers in the submission process over and over again. Here are some simple, MUST-DO steps to help you get your work from point A to point B.
1. Make sure your work is as polished as you can possibly get it. Editors are busy people and face reading hundreds of submissions per week (and that's on a small scale). A polished submission is a fair sight.
2. Read what comes out of the publisher you are submitting to. If you like what they publish, they are more likely to like what you write.
3. Read the submissions guidelines! I cannot stress this enough. There is nothing more off-putting for an editor than to see a submission in the submissions box outside of the reading period.
4. Find the Editor's name and address your cover letter to the Editor. This shows you have done your research.
5. Be succinct. Don't go on and on about your childhood and how you've wanted to be a writer forever. It is enough to put in you cover letter what you've published or your experience in writing (whether it be through school, a writing group, a blog, what have you), the title and length of the piece, your contact information, and a thank you.
6. Finally, don't beat yourself up. If a publisher doesn't accept your piece, it does not necessarily mean it's bad, it just means it is not a good fit for them. Keep working. Keep submitting. If you get personal feedback in a rejection letter give yourself a pat on the back and send that publisher something else. Editors only give personal feedback if they are struck by the writing in some way (like I said, busy people).
So, that's the spiel for the day. It's pretty preachy, I guess, but it's all information that I found incredibly useful and surprisingly inaccessible unless you are fairly deeply involved in a writing community. Knowing these things also helped me find the courage to submit. So, take heart and throw yourself out there.
Until next time,
Pen Your Brain