Submit or Perish

Writers are masochists. They have to be. Otherwise, they would never put up with the whole thing. Writing is a painful process.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone loves the first draft, some writers even enjoy re-writing, but I don’t know a single person that loves submission.

Even the name sounds bad, as if you are giving in to the world, bending under its crushing weight. Unfortunately, it might be the perfect name for it.

Submission requires market research. You search to find a publication that you think might have some sort of interest in whatever piece of writing you are trying to sell. Then, you have to read through their submission guidelines.

Sometimes, you have to reformat your manuscript to whatever guidelines the publisher uses.  Yes, there is a general manuscript format, but that doesn’t mean every market uses it. Of course, this also requires a cover letter, which also has a common format, but some publishers want additional information. Electronic submissions are great because you don’t have to worry about printing things off, paying for postage, and making a trip to the post office.

Once you say goodbye to your manuscript (you won’t be seeing each other for awhile), you get to work on the next work of art. Some people would say you keep writing because you are a writer, but that isn’t it, really. You keep writing because otherwise, you spend painful days, weeks, and even months waiting to hear back. I’ll tell you right now, unless your name is Stephen King (Hi Steve! Big fan.), you are probably going to get rejected. I would give you a percentage chance of acceptance, but frankly, it would be such a depressing percentage that it isn’t even worth mentioning.

Rejection is so common that we break it down into two types of rejection, personal and form. You will get to the point that you welcome a personal rejection, because at least they cared enough to bother typing a single sentence.

You might wonder why writers even go through it. Why bother sending your love child out to a world that doesn’t welcome it? You do it because sometimes they don’t reject you. Having someone want to publish something you wrote, even something small, is one of the greatest feelings of pride you will ever feel.

I submit a lot. Once I have something written that I think might be worth something, I submit it. When it gets rejected, I submit it to another market. I try to keep all of my stories out working for me. I do get rejected, very often, but acceptance does happen. I’ve been accepted for publication in an anthology later this year, and I’ve been short-listed for a second anthology that hasn’t closed, yet.

Ultimately, I want people to read my work. I want them to like it. Like most writers, I write for myself. But I re-write for readers. I re-write in hopes that people will read my stories and like them. It seems like such a small thing, but it might be one of the biggest things in the world to a writer.

You must submit. It’s the only way you ever know. Most of us will never make a full time living writing. Those who do make a living have a rare gift. It isn’t the gift of writing. Thousands upon thousands of people have that and most will never publish a thing. The gift that a career writer has is the gift of readers.

Readers make all of the difference in this craft. They drive it. We have a responsibility to the readers to write. We have a responsibility to submit so they can read that writing. Readers are out there waiting right now.

That’s why I submit.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at

1 Comment

  • Jason Arnett says:

    I like this thought, Jack. Well said. I’m getting closer to being ready to send my own work out more (starting with the novel) and I envy that you’ve been so fearless in putting yourself out there like that.

1 Trackback

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.