We’ve all had that moment where we open our inbox, see that bit of mail, click on it, and hold our breath. Your heart is pounding, and you tell yourself you don’t want to look but you have to because this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. As you begin to read, your balloon of happiness slowly deflates. We’re talking the rejection letter.
They all sound the same: “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read your submission but…” After that it’s all downhill, and you’ve got to move four spaces back to start. After the first or second letter, you begin to wonder if it’s your writing. That’s not always the case. Remember the expression, “first impressions are everything?” The same goes when submitting your work to any journal. Here are a few things from my personal experience that might help you next time you decide to submit:
- The cover letter is not a query. Journals are very different from publishing companies. They usually take art, short stories, poems, and essays. This means the submission material, like your cover letter, will be different. You don’t have to worry about grabbing the editor’s attention with some clever quip. That being said, you still have to keep it professional. A bad cover letter can give the editor mixed feelings about continuing further. Keep it short and avoid irrelevant stories and information. Be careful to watch your punctuation and grammar. Do include, if it applies to you, what school you’re from and where you’ve been previously published. If you don’t know the exact name of the person reading your submissions avoid things like “Dear Editors” and stick to the good old fashioned “To whom it may concern.”
- Email subject and attachment titles are important. Keep the subject of your email short as well. Unless told otherwise, the subject line in your email can look something like this: Submission: “The title of my story”. When attaching your files to the email, save your attachment under the title of your work. I used to title my stories and poetry with random names that made me giggle shamelessly. That is until someone told me that the person reading it could see what I wrote. This is the best way to avoid embarrassment and unprofessionalism.
- Always, always, always follow the submission guidelines. Even though they’re called guidelines they’re more like rules. Submission guidelines are set for a reason. If the guidelines say no more than 1,000 words don’t send 1,002. If you’re asked to double-space your work, do it. Not following the guidelines is one of the quickest ways to get your work rejected. Editors like to know that you can comply with the rules.
No one wants to be rejected. You have to be professional yet confident. If you don’t believe in your work, then we won’t either. Give your best, and you’ll get the same in return.
– Sharnita Sanders