Publication Pitfalls: Watching out for the Alligators

58e5a-insecure2bwriters2bsupport2bgroup2bbadgeThe first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.

August 1 question – What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Pitfalls while seeking publication are inevitable. They’re like trying to avoid Legos on the floor in the middle of the night when you have small children or trying not to be murdered by your cat when you go down the stairs. It’s going to happen. The most you can do is brace for them and prepare.

pitfall_alligatorsHowever, I’ve been around the block a few times so here are my best tips about avoiding pitfalls and then some. Of course, it’s not an all-inclusive list, but I think these are the biggies.

  • Do not send anything out for publication (or to an agent) without a critique by trusted readers (not your mom, not your partner) and a thorough editing, revision, and proofreading
  • On that vine…learn the difference between revision, editing, and proofreading
  • Make it a point to understand story structure and how it applies to your work. As a lifetime reader, I’d developed a general sense for how a story should unfold, but I’ve still benefitted from studying craft and how to develop a story (even as a pantser, you need to understand plotting when you go back to revise!)
  • Learn to take criticism from a critique constructively – you may not agree with every point, but you can’t disregard the feedback without thoughtful consideration
  • Read the guidelines for manuscript submissions. I’ve always been good with this so I’m always surprised to find people who blindly send their work out.
  • Keep track of where you send your manuscripts, when, to whom and when you received an answer. Trust me. This will save you a ton of embarrassment. You can use excel, pen and paper, an app, whatever. Just track it.
  • Learn how to craft a cover letter or query. Cover letters for short stories are generally painless. Query letters can be a little more difficult (do you think?) so feedback is vital. Jonathan Maberry has some great free templates here. And here is a step by step if you need one.
  • Do not go into a pitch session (for fiction) with unfinished work, expect the agent to read anything right there, and/or give the agents your ideas and expect them to pick something for you to write about.
  • Learn how to handle rejection professionally, not personally. It happens to everyone. Don’t send a nasty response to the editor/agent/publisher. Don’t call them or stalk or write horrible things on your blog on Twitter. Just don’t be that person.

So if you want to be published, take a chance, grab that vine, and swing. Just expect to get a little muddy here and there on your way to publication and even afterward.

Helpful Links on Dealing with Rejection (because there will be a lot of that!)

How to Handle Rejection Like a Pro by Annie Sullivan

The Bulletproof Writer: How to Deal With Rejection at The Creative Penn

25 Things Writers Should Know About Rejection by Chuck Wendig


13 thoughts on “Publication Pitfalls: Watching out for the Alligators

  1. I go over submission guidelines more than once, checking every step off to make sure I’ve gotten everything. I hate the idea of being rejected for something technical!

    And that pic makes me yearn for my old Atari game system. Sigh!


    • I’m the same way. I’ve made the mistake early on in not reading guidelines thoroughly.

      I loved Pitfall but it was soooo frustrating…damn alligators.


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