If you want to get published online, your work isn’t done when you finish the piece.
(For more on the qualities of good writing that will impress an editor, read this.)
I’ve read hundreds of submissions — for our anthologies and for our website — and my best advice is to treat the submission process just as seriously as the writing itself.
Here are my suggestions and strategies to make you and your writing stand out (in a good way) so that you can get published online:
Spend time reading the publication before you submit.
Get a sense of the tone and style of the pieces it typically publishes. Read the site’s most popular pieces and see which types of writing get the most engagement, in comments on the site or on social media. Is the tone of the writing serious, conversational, emotional? Who do you think is the target reader for this publication? At the same time, don’t submit a piece that is too similar to something that was very recently published.
To get our free guide of publications that are good fit for midlife writers, click here.
Don’t go over or under the word count.
If the publication’s submission guidelines state that it publishes 1000-1500 word essays, don’t send a 2500-word or 500-word essay.
Don’t forget a cover letter.
Do not just send your piece with an email that says: “Here is my submission.” Cover letters do matter. This is where you succinctly describe your piece and tell the editors a little bit (emphasis on “little”) about you and your background as a writer. Make the editor very interested in reading your piece in a short (2-3 sentence) paragraph.
Choose relevant clips.
Many publications ask you to send along links of your publishing credits. Choose writing that is most similar to the style and tone of this particular publication. If you don’t have big name publishing credit, it’s perfectly okay to choose a well-written blog post.
Use the name of an actual person in your greeting.
I think you demonstrate professionalism by showing that you’ve taken the extra effort to address your cover to the actual human being who will be reading your submission (instead of writing a generic “Dear Editor”. It’s usually pretty easy to find the name(s) of the editors of any publication on a website.
Don’t send multiple submissions to the same publication.
Choose your best piece and wait for a response. If you don’t receive a response — often the publication will give an estimate of how long a response might take — it’s more than okay to follow up in a short, polite email.
Don’t be afraid to name drop.
If you have a personal or unique connection to the publication, don’t hesitate to mention this in your cover letter. For instance, maybe you met the editor at a conference. Or maybe a regular columnist for the publication suggested that your piece would be a good fit.
Follow the directions for how to submit your writing.
Do the editors want your submission in the body of an email? As an attachment? Or to use a submission manager like Submittable?
Read your writing aloud or have someone else read it to catch any missed words, typos, or grammar issues.
Come up with a rejection strategy.
If your piece is rejected, have a backup publication prepared in advance. Every writer — and I mean, literally every single one — gets rejected. It’s as much of being a writer as using words. Keep trying to get your piece published. If it’s a strong piece of writing, it will get published somewhere. But if the piece gets rejected again and again and again, maybe put it aside for a while and look at it again in a week or two with fresh eyes. Ask a writer friend if there’s something you can do to improve the piece and make it more compelling.
What are your tips for other writers who want to get published online?