Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome Marc De Faoite, author, reviewer and editor, who speaks about writers submitting their work for publication.
Take it away, Marc!
You’ve been getting signals for a while now, at least you think you have, and you’re on the verge of leaning in for that first kiss. Your heartbeat quickens, even as time slows down. You commit yourself, hyper-aware of every detail, unsure if you should close your eyes or keep them open, unsure if this will lead to reciprocation or rejection.
Many of us recognize this scene, this hesitant willingness to be vulnerable while being honest about our desires. The path forks, but the choice of direction depends on someone else. Having stepped beyond the brink, we put our fate in their hands, submitting ourselves for approval or disapproval.
There can be fear in this, there can be desire. Fear and desire, it’s these two elements that create the delicious struggle that heightens our senses.
The verdict is usually clear and immediate – we get kissed back or we get pushed away, perhaps gently, perhaps roughly, but at least we know where we stand.
Attaching a document to an e-mail isn’t quite as romantic, but the dynamics are the same. We put ourselves out there, or our surrogates in the form of writing, knowing that we either face the thrill of acceptance or the disappointment of rejection.
But the response is nowhere as immediate as with a kiss. Days and weeks and even months might pass, craving a positive reply, fearing a negative one, obsessively checking inboxes, trawling through junk mail folders in the off-chance that there might be some news hidden there. If the publisher is inundated with submissions, or simply inconsiderate, we might even never hear back.
Craving the validation that comes with acceptance is a form of suffering, and not just in the writing life. The word submission has the double sense of offering our work up for scrutiny and consideration, but also of yielding to a higher authority. With eyes downcast and lowered heads we second-guess ourselves and our abilities. What’s the point in writing anyway? But no news is good news, right?
That moment of doubt as we lean in for a kiss can be as nerve-wracking as it is thrilling, but it’s just a moment. When we send off that manuscript or story we’re stuck in purgatory for an uncertain amount of time, and the longer we stay in that state the more disappointed we are when sorry-but-it’s-not-the-right-fit-for-us comes along. We’re setting ourselves up for a fall.
Conversely, you open your e-mail, and there it is at last — congratulations-you-are-the-golden-one! Do you experience a wonderful warm tingling vibration pervading throughout your body? Do you punch the air and whoop as a joyous cocktail of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins floods your brain? Damn straight, of course you do.
Well, it tapers off. Happy? Yes. Slight sense of anti-climax creeping in yet? Wait a week or two. You must be thrilled, say your friends. You admit you are, feigning the enthusiasm you want to feel, but somehow the fizz of elation isn’t there. It’s gone flat. Feather in your cap? Sure. Eternal bliss and un-doubting sense of self-worth? Not so much.
We all develop our own coping mechanisms, perhaps you have yours. Me, I attach a document to an e-mail, re-read the submission guidelines and place the cursor over the send button. For a moment I close my eyes, picturing a match setting fire to the document. I press send and it’s gone. Sometimes these submissions are resurrected phoenix-like, sometimes publishers send me RIPs. That’s beyond my control.
There’s little point in wasting energy craving for acceptance, fearing rejection. It won’t change the outcome. Our time is much better spent wrangling with new combinations of words. Now quit procrastinating and get back to your writing.
Are you a reader, a writer, or both? What is your experience sending off your writing to journals, magazines, agents or publishers? As a reader or writer, do you have questions for Marc de Faoite?
This post was written for the IWSG. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) every month! Go to the site to see the other participants. In this group we writers share tips, self-doubt, insecurities, and of course, discuss the act of writing. If you’re a writer and a blogger, go join rightaway! Co-hosts this month are: Christine Rains Dolarah @ Book Lover Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor Yvonne Ventresca LG Keltner
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Wonderful write up. I really like the recommendations by author.
I’m always surprised by my reaction to the “No, sorry, great stories but they don’t fit our style.”
So… if the stories are great then why not make them fit your style?
I gave up wondering and self published my first set of short stories about a month ago.
After all, what have I to lose?? If I keep submitting to different publishers and keep getting the “don’t fit” reply then surely I’m wasting my time?
I often wonder how Monet, Picasso, van Gogh and the others reacted to no, you don’t fit our style?? (OK.. maybe van Gogh isn’t the best example but it proves we have doubts, even if we should eventually become recognised!)
Also, my opinion… short stories allows one flexibility and creative licence. One voice, two… three, lots of variety. That’s what I so love about the unfettering of a short story!
Interesting you should mention Monet in this regard, because he and many of his contemporary artists did face problems, in fact Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas and several other artists founded the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (“Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers”) to exhibit their artworks independently.
Emperor Napoleon III had certain tastes and had a huge influence over the type of paintings that were exhibited by the Académie des Beaux-Arts at the annual Salon de Paris, but he was man enough to accept that not everyone might share his tastes and he was the prime mover behind the establishment of the Salon des Refusés in 1863 which allowed many of the rejected works to be seen by the public so that they could judge for themselves and make up their own minds. In fact the Salon des Refusés was so successful that it drew more visitors than the main event, which is probably why it was never repeated. Lacking this ‘fringe’ event was what motivated the Impressionists to band together. As they saying goes – if you don’t like what someone is saying, change the conversation.
Thanks for replying!
Yes… we have a right to want our work to shine and be seen, even if it isn’t what every editor or publisher wants to see.
I’m a firm believer that my style, my voice, should be unique to me.
I further believe that if I don’t contort the English language (spelling and grammar) then I should embrace the freedom my expressive voice is looking for!
Many hate the challenge of change – the short story should be a writing form to embrace it wholeheartedly!
Thanks again, I enjoyed your post! Having self published allows the anticipation of the acceptance kiss… often!
I’ve found often that when an editor says the piece doesn’t suit his or her style, they are doing this keeping their readers in mind.
When readers come to expect a certain type of stories from a publication and the editors throw a curveball in, many readers will become disenchanted with the publication. After all, if you read a magazine because they posted the best new romantic short stories and one day they posted a horror story, would you still trust them for your romance needs? Probably not.
That being said, I love indie publishing, and think that every author should give it a try at least once. Best of luck getting your work published however you decide to do it!
coffee. Chocolate. Ice cream. those help the coping process. 🙂
“The verdict is usually clear and immediate – we get kissed back or we get pushed away, perhaps gently, perhaps roughly, but at least we know where we stand.”
If only this were true. This is why I don’t cope at all with the submission process – why I publish on my blog or stuff my writing into a drawer – I don’t mind rejection, but I do mind very much having to wait four months to get it and move on. I understand “this does not meet our needs at this time” (though who wouldn’t want more specific critique of their work?) – it means the buyer’s not buying this thing right now, which is fine. I pass up many lovely things while shopping, because they are not what I need or in my budget RIGHT NOW. But the “no simultaneous submissions” rule (which I also understand, from a publisher’s standpoint) makes it commercially unfeasible to bother, some days.
Most mags are now ok with simultaneous submissions. The magazine I help edit, the Forge Litmag, offers payment, short decision times, and charges no submission fees. We published a fair bit of good work, some of which has gone on to win awards. Not all magazines are made equal 🙂
I’ll look into it. Thank you. I’d not heard that any were okay with simultaneous submissions. And it wouldn’t matter, provided turnaround time was faster.
Most are, these days. You’ll find only a very rare, snobbish few that don’t allow simultaneous subs. I hope you’ll consider sending out your work to various venues, Holly 🙂
I love the last line on no point wasting the time to think on the outcome. Right now, I am quite stuck on my first draft and didn’t write anything out of fear. Time to get things rolled today. Thanks for this post, Marc and Damyanti.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Vishal. Best of luck with moving forward on you first draft.
Thanks much Marc for the wishes.
That is a well-written piece right there! Thanks Marc, for the post, the comparisons and the insights. You know, I never realized that the word submission has this double-meaning. I have always know that in the different contexts, of course (well, since I have been speaking English anyway), but it totally makes this the perfect word for submitting work! Especially with all those feelings involved. I am like you. Whenever the send button is pressed, the submission has a life of its own. We can’t do anything about it anymore. And, to be honest, we have worried about it enough by that point.
Hoe zou je het woord ‘submission’ in het vlaams zeggen? (excuse my lousy Dutch)
Aha! Wat een verrassing. 🙂 Dit woord is beter in het Engels dan in het Nederlands, waar het “inzending” of “submissie” kan zijn. (I’m sure your Dutch is better than my French!)
Wow. This is amazing. I’d recently pitched an idea to an editor and this is exactly what I went through. Once the piece was published, I wasn’t as excited as I thought I would be. I was happy, yes but I was never on cloud nine. I could relate to what you’ve written. I needed to hear these words. I might as well go and work on my next piece instead of waiting for the world to go by.
Best of luck on your next piece Ashwini. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
Sending something off to a publisher is hard. I’ve done it many times, but each time I decide it’s time to do it again, I get sweaty and cranky. I obsess over the submission guidelines. Sometimes I pick, prod, and poke the work so long, the deadline whooshes by and I never have to click Send at all. Those are the worst times, but they happen a lot. I guess I need to set myself a goal: x amount of submissions in x amount of weeks/months. Sounds good on paper, right?
Douglas Adams once said (or maybe he said it many times – I know I have) “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
Very interesting reading this! I can see how this might be very useful for a lot of people out there who are keen to get their work published. Thank you, Marc, for stressing on why the fear of rejection should be banished. A lot of us get stuck right there and cannot overcome that.
Thanks for your kind comments Esha. If there’s anything of value in there it’s like anything in life – learned the hard way. Best of luck
This made for a very interesting read. I liked the analogy you shared, Marc. It’s true that the radio silence from the publishers and agents can be pretty hard. But as you mentioned, it’s best to move ahead and let go of fear of rejection.
Thanks Shilpa. As you say, it might be best, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. 🙂
I liked your post. So true…resonated with me.
Love the kiss comparison!
Thanks Yvonne. 🙂
When I get good news, there’s always the initial “YAY!!!” and then the next day it’s all business. A “yes” is just the beginning.
That sounds very diligent and hardworking Chrys. I admire your sense of drive.
Love the analogy. So true! The worst is the wait. Still, most times if you don’t hear anything, that means it hasn’t been rejected. And that means hope. Good luck, everyone, but as Marc says get back to writing.
Thanks Diane. You are right – a long wait often gives us reason to be hopeful. A bit like a long courtship. 🙂
Processing submissions can be frustrating, not simply in the wait, but the recognition that each publishing house or agent has different requirements. I’ve been looking/seeking and sending my MS for er, years. Each rejection meant a good thing: You’re not there, yet. And I’d go back to the MS and rewrite/edit again. Get wise counsel. Respect the edit. My MS landed into an agent’s slush pile in October. Their statement is after three months, consider that a rejection. So in Jan of this year, I started a rewrite. Then … received an email that it had been shuffled during the holidays, and press on, it was back in the pile. That’s another three months (trust me, I’ve been working on a few writing projects since). Waited until near April, and figured it was rejected, and started the ‘what have I missed that they don’t like?’ edit. THEN received the news that after the gauntlet of readers, the agent wanted the full MS. WOW. Okay, so sent that. Whew. Another three months, and I hovered a finger over my new edit … then thought … I’ll wait one more month. The next day, received an email that they like it, want it, and please fix this and that. Which is where I am at, right now.
THAT made me ecstatic. But that was truly a birthing process: 9 months. Now, after this edit, onto returning, there probably will be more. Then they will pitch to publishing houses. Once accepted- if accepted, there will be yet more edits. So be patient. Work on other projects. If you are rejected time and again, take solace that even the best authors suffer rejection after rejection.
Congratulations on having your manuscript accepted Cindy. What an achievement. Your perseverance will be an inspiration to many of us.
Thank you 🙂 I take forever on Google, tend to forget it’s here!
Yup. And then we do it over and over again until we can’t bear to hit the button and have to run away from the world for a while. =)
Ah, the world – you can run from it but you can’t hide. Actually I just came back from doing exactly that – a month walking across Northern Spain with everything I needed (or thought I needed) bundled up into a backpack. Where do you run to Crystal?
It’s a painful process. I’m not a fan. I’ll be cuddling up at Acorn Publishing where I feel warm and fuzzy and welcome, lol 🙂
How nice to have a warm, fuzzy, welcoming place Jessica. I guess if I have such a place it’s behind my eyelids.
Four of us have entered a mock-competition to see who gets the most rejections in a year’s time. The winner (loser?) will treat us all to a bottle of wine. The result has been that we get revisions done, get the work out, share market information, exchange journals to learn what editors like and are looking for, share the news of rejection (“Three rejections this week! I’m surging ahead!”) and in general send more work out while taking much of the sting out of rejection. It’s been bitter fun.
That’s a fantastic idea Martha
Martha, what an exceptional idea! I’ve got to wrangle together some writers to do this with.
Funny enough, back in the days of sending off paper manuscripts (with an SASE, of course!) I always kissed it before I put it in the envelope. Now, I kiss my fingers and press them to the screen before I send off an email query.
The problem with the ‘thrill’ is that thrills are just that–momentary, and they wear off quick. But the satisfaction of knowing you’ve accomplished something stays with you, a little more lowkey.
Very true Megan. Low-key works.
Back to writing! After IWSG day of course.
For us, it’s like setting our heart in a box and walking away. We don’t get to see what happens.
Wow. That’s quite and image Alex. Got me thinking simultaneously of the boxes and their unseen contents in the movie Seven and more recently in Twin Peaks. I think I prefer the Twin Peaks box. Best of luck with IWSG day.