Submitting creative work, such as photography, short stories or poetry, to campus publications can be a nerve-wracking process. Often creators find it difficult to submit work because of the vulnerable attachment they create with their pieces. Once a portfolio or manuscript is submitted, the fear of the rejection letter creeps its way into the back of the mind. When you submit your creative work to a publication you are putting yourself and your writing integrity out there to be judged on its merit, which can be a terrifying proposition.
The process of submitting to campus publications itself is not easy. You have to find the publication that works for you and your work, and then adjust to meet their guidelines. Aerogramme Writers’ Studio has a detailed article explaining the process of submitting creative work, noting the process is different from submitting an article for an online publication or newspaper.
Here is some advice to consider helping one’s chances of being published.
Deciding to Submit
Sticking to that decision tends to be the hard part for most people. While choosing to put work out there comes with a strong fear of rejection, learning how to overcome that anxiety and push on with the submission process is vital for your writing career and future success.
Always check the formatting requirements of the publication you are submitting to; some submissions require a specific format for editors to even consider the piece of work. For example, some manuscripts cannot be over a certain page number, some need a minimum, a cover letter, specific genres, etc. Formatting is also important in the actual work itself because many editors place some pieces over others based on the aesthetics of the work.
Just because you have sent out a story, manuscript or other creative piece does not mean that the piece can simply live in peace in a folder on your computer. Keep editing, changing and reworking the piece.
Send out the piece after taking some time away from staring at it for hours on end hoping it is “perfect.” Let the work marinate for a bit, then revisit it with a new perspective. This ensures that publications are receiving work you have spent time working on, but it also allows you to submit a piece you are content with rather than one you are submitting to simply get it over with.
Expand Your Range
Do not submit to a single publisher and call it a day. While there are some places that have strict rules about submitting to multiple publications, many college-based publications do not have this specification. Submit to multiple publishing houses to receive new and different perspectives from each, which will come in handy when you’re editing, editing and editing again.
However, Caleb Stephen, a writer for The Writing Cooperative, warns to not wildly fire off your story to too many publications at a time. According to Stephen, you should submit the same story to roughly four different publications at one time, any more than that would prohibit you from submitting the edited version to more publications.
Don’t Be Afraid of Rejection
The rejection letter comes with being an artist. For writers, the rejection letter often seems like the end of the word, or at least the end of the world in their stories. This is especially true for new, or young, writers to the scene. Rejection can be the one thing that keeps writers from trying to become publishing.
In her interview with The Guardian about acceptance of a rejection letter, psychologist Dr. Jessemy Hibbard said, “Don’t expect to get it right [the] first time. More often than not, you’re going to take a few wrong turns before you work out the right turn.” The author of the article, Donna Ferguson, goes through various authors that received numerous rejection letters from publishing companies before their books were published. Even J.K. Rowling went through years of rejection letters before become a bestselling author for the “Harry Potter” series.
The message to take away from both Ferguson’s article and this one is don’t stop trying. I have seen my fair share of manuscript rejections and it does not get easier, but you do learn from them each time a new letter comes in. Rejection letters can open up the dialogue with yourself to look at your work and be brutally honest with yourself on where you can improve for the next call for submissions.
It is rough, but in the end that one published piece will be worth all the previous tear-soaked rejection letters, or keyboards. The submission process requires patience and a box of tissues at the ready. There will be times where it seems like there is no point to even trying to get your work out there, but there is.
Being published does get easier once your name is out there for the community and world to know. Submitting is just like getting a job for the first time. Keep submitting and re-working and learning from what the publication has to say, and most of all, don’t hide from the failures, embrace them.