5 Faux Pas That Will Prevent You Getting Published

By Jess Gately

At Underground, we deal with a lot of emerging writers, who are submitting their work for publication for the first time. This means that we’re generally pretty forgiving when it comes to some of the faux pas that new writers make when they first start out, but not all publications are so relaxed.

When you submit to a publication, you have to remember that there are potentially hundreds (maybe even thousands) of other people pitching their ideas and their stories as well. Editors have to wade through all these submissions and pick what they can fit. There’s lots of reasons why your idea may be rejected, however there are some sure-fire things that writers do that have nothing to do with the writing of the story or the themes within that will ensure your submission is never even read.

We try to make sure we read everything so that we can offer feedback to our new writer but if you want to give yourself the best chance at being published, here’s 5 things NOT to do when you submit your work:

1. Ignore Submission Guidelines

Every publication has its own guidelines on how they want you to submit your work and generally speaking they make it pretty clear on their website or on their callouts. Read these guidelines!! Guidelines can include things like how to format your work, what file type to submit, what genres or themes they want to see, or even something as simple as how to submit.

Nothing says ‘I didn’t read the guidelines’ like a PDF document when the guidelines ask for an MS Word document, or an email sent to the editor rather than using the online form.

If you respect your own work, then you’ll respect the publication and their guidelines. In turn, the editors will respect your work and give it due notice.

If not, expect to be in the reject pile without a second glance.

2. Write ‘Copyright ©’ at the top of every page

What you’re doing when you write ‘copyright’ on the top of every page is insinuating that you think the editor will steal your work and sell it as their own. This is hugely insulting and more than a little arrogant. Not to mention that you’re already covered by Australian Copyright Law. Most submission processes include email or an online submission form which means there’s an electronic trail of your work being passed to that publication. It’s just not necessary to write ‘copyright’ on your work.

3. Don’t edit for grammar or spelling

If the first few lines are riddled with spelling and grammar errors, then there’s no chance the editor is going to read until the end… no matter how good your idea might be. It’s just too much work for them to do something that you should have done already, especially given the number of free online spelling and grammar checkers that are available. If you know spelling and grammar is something you struggle with, give yourself ample time to edit and revise your piece and potentially ask a colleague to read over it. In the long run, it will probably help if you do some courses or workshops to help improve your skills.

4. Self-deprecate in your letter of introduction

All writers have been there. You’re just starting out, you’ve never submitted your writing to a publication before or only rarely, and you’re looking at your mentors and peers and your favourite authors and everything they write seems so beautiful and poetic and so much better than yours.

But here’s the thing, writing ‘Here’s my submission. It’s not very good…’ is a terrible way to start an introduction. We get it, you’re nervous and you’re probably suffering from a bit of ‘imposter syndrome’ (that’s a whole other kettle of fish) but if you don’t think it’s very good, then why are you submitting it? What you’ve essentially said to the editor is that this is not your best piece of writing. That’s not how you meant it but that’s how it reads. So please, if you’re feeling nervous, resist the urge to put yourself or your work down. You don’t get better without practice!

5. Respond with a snarky email when your submission is rejected/ignored

As I said at the top, there are lots of reasons why your submission may not have been accepted. In some cases you may have received specific feedback from the editor, but in a lot of cases a publication doesn’t have the time and resources to give feedback on all submissions. Sometimes they don’t even have the time to respond to tell you that they don’t want your piece!

Don’t arc up and get angry. Don’t write a horrible email in response about how they ‘are passing up on the most intriguing new talent in Australia’ and ‘don’t understand real art’. I’m telling you now, this WILL get you black listed. Nobody wants to work with someone who can’t take ‘no’ for an answer, no matter how brilliant you may be or become. Accept that this wasn’t the right piece for the right issue and try again, either for another issue or for another publication.

Underground Team

2 thoughts on “5 Faux Pas That Will Prevent You Getting Published, by Jess Gately

  1. I love #5! Just because they aren’t accepting you now doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Or they may pass it along to a publishing friend who’s looking for just what you have. But a surefire way to keep that from happening is to make them dislike or resent you!

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