You can learn a lot about what it takes to place a story in an ezine by starting up one of your own.
Last month we started work on a new ezine for writers, which we intended to use to publish high-quality, contemporary fiction, from writers all over the world. We placed a few adverts asking for submissions of just that. What we got was a revelation.
As a writer myself, I know how competitive the market is. Even non-paying markets are deluged by wannabe writers desperate for a by-line and some publicity. Competition, I had thought, would surely lead to a high quality of submissions, with every writer determined to submit only their very best work. Not so.
Of the handful of submissions we received the day after the adverts went out, only around four were fiction. One was a “how to write” style article. One was an essay on “the day my gran died”. Two were stories about vampires. One guy just sent us his CV – in Arabic.
Lesson one, then: read the guidelines carefully. If the market you’re aiming at publishes fiction, then no matter how brilliant your essay or article is, it’s not going to be accepted. Neither is your CV….
Lesson two, I hardly even need mention: If the publication is in English, don’t send your submission in Arabic, on the off-chance that the poor, beleaguered publisher will understand it. Simple.
Having deleted the non-fiction submissions, I moved onto the “good stuff”. Or so I thought. Of the four remaining pieces of writing, none had been proofread too carefully. One story made reference to a businessman “clenching the deal.” One made frequent use of the word “teh" and had apparently random. Punctuation. A bit like. This. The other two were … stories about vampires.
Lesson three: Proofread. Or, ideally, get someone else to do it for you. Any writer knows that once you’ve worked on a piece of writing, you become blind to its mistakes. You can “proof” it as many times as you like, but you’ll still just see what you think is there, rather than what actually is there. In any artistic endeavour, a fresh pair of eyes is essential in providing a little bit of clarity and perspective. For this reason, I present:
Lesson four: constructive criticism is your friend. There are a lot of aspiring writers our there. Get together with one, even if it’s only by email, and swap stories with them. Chances are they’ll be able to point out something about your story that you’ve missed. They may have some knowledge about your subject matter that you lack – for example, the fact that it’s called a “bass” guitar, not a “base guitar”, as one enlightening submission had it.
Finally, a quick note about bio’s. When you send your work to an ezine, of course you want a little something in return – other than cold hard cash. You’re looking for publicity, and your author bio is the ideal way to do it. Keep it simple, though. Of all of the submissions we’ve received so far, the one that sticks out the most is the one from the author with the most impressive credentials of the lot. So impressive, in fact, that her bio ran on for four A4 pages.
The problem was, her work stood out for the wrong reasons. She had certainly been published in a lot of magazines (I know, because she’d listed every single one of them) and won a huge amount of competitions (yep, she’d listed all of those too. Every one of them.) , but by the time I’d waded through all of the story titles, publication dates and other non-essential info, I was heartily tired of her. Her bio was four pages long: her story only two. When that happens, you know you’ve gone into overkill.
Essentially, too, after such a tremendous build-up, I was expecting something utterly spectacular which her writing failed to deliver. It seemed almost as if she was trying to use her bio to persuade me to publish her – the story was just an afterthought.
Lesson five: let your writing do the talking. When it comes to biographical info, less is more. I want to read your story, not a breath-by-breath account of the last twenty years of your life. Keep it simple, keep it short.
And lesson number six? Well, if you’re thinking of submitting your writing to a publisher, consider submitting it to us, first – the Hot Igloo proofreading service, at www.hotigloo.co.uk/proofreading.htm