Submission Secrets of a Rookie Pro

We’re told never to start a story with the main character looking into a mirror, but we’re going to do that anyway, here. But it’s only a metaphorical mirror, so maybe that gives me some leeway.

Shortly before my 42nd birthday, I took a long, hard look at myself. Ever since I was a little girl, my plan was that, someday, I would grow up to be a published author. I would write books and stories, and they would be available for other people to buy and read.

The funny thing is, dreams like that don’t actually happen unless you do something to make them happen. And time was getting away.

I wasn’t the only one who knew I needed to get started. The previous Christmas, my very wise brother presented me with a copy of The Writers Market. He said simply, “It’s time.”

I knew he was right. I dusted off a pile of short stories I’d left to rot on my hard drive, and I started submitting them. I got some rejections, but some of them found homes, too.

So, I joined NaNoWrimo in the fall, and wrote a novel. When it was done, I submitted it to agents. I collected a lot of rejections over the course of five months, but then I decided to submit it to a publisher. Carina Press made me an offer four months later.

Through the following year, I wrote a few new stories, submitted them to anthologies, and was lucky enough to sell them. I wrote another book, submitted it to Carina, and they took it, too.

So, yes. I do submit my work. And while some people might read my story and want to slap the crap out of me for going from zero to sixty in two years (I’m coming up on my 44th birthday, now) there’s a secret to my success. Okay, actually there are three secrets.

  1. Don’t submit something before it and you are ready: Edit until your fingers bleed. Listen to your critique partners and your beta readers. Learn the craft of writing. Learn the business of writing.
  2. Submit to the places that are most likely to accept your work: If you’re new and unsure of yourself, start with smaller presses and online magazines. They’re hungry for new voices, and you’re hungry to be heard. As you progress, go for better paying spots. But always remember to submit the right story to the right market. Look for a perfect fit. Don’t try to scattershot your work, hoping to hit something. That’s not an efficient use of your time.
  3. Don’t listen when they tell you it can’t be done: Find your own path through the publishing maze and prove the naysayers wrong. Just because somebody tells you it takes years of rejections before you get published doesn’t mean that applies to you. Focus. Work smart. It doesn’t have to go the way people tell you it has to go.

We live in a new age of publishing. There’s room for everybody. Write a good story, then find the place where it fits. You can’t get published if you don’t try.

And time is just going to keep moving forward without you.

Rachel is the author of the urban fantasy Monster Haven series from Carina Press. She believes in magic, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks, and putting things off until stress gets them done faster at the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas.


  • Thank you for this, Rachel. I find your story to be incredibly motivating, and it gives me hope that I will someday be able to follow in your footsteps. Congrats, again, btw :)

  • R.L. Naquin says:

    Thank you, Sara. And I KNOW you can do it, too. You’re a wonderful writer. Anything I can do to help, I’m more than happy to do. You’ve got books inside you that want to come out.

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