Finding Your Publisher Mate
By Chila Woychik (Port Yonder Press)
We know how the story goes: we write a brilliantly stunning novel, magazine article, short story, or poem, one sure to knock the socks off of Stephen King and Margaret Atwood—at the same time—both socks—what a feat! (Pun intended.) Then we begin submitting. Of course we read the guidelines first, or at least skim them. We may even take a peek at what is often called The Masthead: that which contains a list of staff and their bios. We want to address our email to the correct person, after all. But is it enough? Probably not. So, how do we further curate the growing number of publishing houses, literary magazines, short story markets, etc., to find just the right one? Let me offer a few suggestions, all revolving around the element of knowledge, and lesser so, chance.
See what’s out there. For this I might recommend you cough up the money for an annual subscription to Duotrope.com. One can easily spend days and days filtering through the several thousand markets listed, but the effort will be more than worth it. (It took me about 2 months to get through the Poets and Writers database, checking out or dismissing dozens a day.) Use Duotrope’s Search engine, and the website will churn out a list of the most closely linked markets for your needs, along with a list of secondary possibilities. From there, click on the market link which takes you to a Duotrope summary page for that market. If you’re still interested after scrolling through the short page summary, you’ll see a Go to Their Website button on the right hand side of the page. Be brave—go there! Find their Submissions or Submit or Guidelines tab(s) and read them thoroughly. If it’s a fit, you know what to do.
Get to know the specific presses or magazines. Some presses now enable a potential submitter to read a few chapters from their archives, and many literary journals are online only so you can read from their archives often listed by genre. I would highly recommend this. We can come away with a pretty good idea of what a publisher likes and doesn’t like by taking advantage of their previous publications. You may even want to read a book or two of theirs, especially if award-winning. See what makes them award-winning in the eyes of readers, and editors.
Who runs it? Facebook is a great place to friend those in the same industry, other writers, editors, publishers. Often it’s more telling to simply watch from a distance, read their posts on occasion, rather than feel we have to jump in and say something in an effort to ingratiate ourselves. Be sensitive to the person’s likes and dislikes in the writing world, catch the vibes they’re sending out. Don’t stalk or attempt to teach; listen and learn.
Go to writing conferences and sign up for free or paid appointments. This is a great way to get a foot in the door with select publishers. Be thoroughly prepared, though. Don’t waste those few precious moments you have them to yourself.
Work it and work it again, then work it a few more times for good measure, in learning the craft and in the submission process. I’ve recently been published in a number of literary journals. The secret seems to be a writing style editors seek, a thorough search of a publisher’s website, and a little dose of luck. There’s no substitute for good writing. If your writing is mediocre, no amount of appointments or reading samples or Facebook connections or personal conferences will find you a reputable publisher. Same for sporadic submissions, or a lackadaisical approach to market-submissions. Subjectivity is also an issue but if the first two pieces of the puzzle are in place—great writing + dedicated market research and application—the chances are much greater that you’ll find your publisher mate. In fact, the possibilities are quite high. As the saying goes, all things are possible to those who believe, and, might I add, work their butt off.
Chila Woychik lives in Iowa with her husband, several Jeeps, and chickens that lay green eggs. When not playing on the farm, she edits at a small literary press. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in The Mayo Review, Prick of the Spindle, The Milo Review, and others. You can visit her online at www.portyonderpress.com or www.chilawoychik.com. She also hangs out on Facebook on occasion.