19 May 2014

behind enemy lines: learning from the editors

May Submit-O-Rama: Behind Enemy Lines
Now that we're well into our submission journey, it's time to take a new look at the enemy ... that is, the editors to whom you are submitting your work. First, understand that when I say "enemy" I mean it only in a metaphorical sense. Editors are not your enemies, no matter how many times they say no to you. Editors are like your friends: only the best ones will be honest enough to tell you "no" when what you need to hear is "no." But in the battle analogy sense ... editors are on the opposite side of the battlefield. So the question is ... how do we deal with them?

know your enemy

First, you need to really carefully and closely read the editorial mission, masthead, and submission guidelines. Remember: the editors wrote these. You're literally reading both what they want ... and how they write. Seriously. It's time to stop restricting our reading to jotting down notes about word lengths and document formats. It's time to start reading letters from the editors, blog posts from the editorial staff, and more, for their hidden messages. This is the code breaking section of your journey. Read the editors' sentence structure. Watch for jokes. Look at the questions they ask. Tune into their eyes for detail. Use this to get a first sense of who your editors are.

read between (enemy) lines

Many of us go into the submission process primarily focused on finding the right journal that matches our work, and that focus leads us primarily to the Submission Guidelines page. The farthest many of us go is looking at the journal's blog and interviews with the editor. But have you ever cyberstalked your editors? I mean it: it's time to take to the net and start stalking the heck out of the editors to whom you're considering sending your work. I don't mean trying to track down their birthdays. But put their names into Google and try to find them elsewhere online. Look at their blogs. Read their own writing that's been published. Hit up GoodReads and see if they have book lists, reviews, or groups they're active in. Find them on Facebook and see what they're posting. Follow them on Twitter. It may sound extreme, but really ... the more you know your editor (in the least creepy way possible), the better you'll understand what they really like ... and what they'll be drawn to in your writing.

Your Turn: How well do you "get to know" your editors before submitting to them? How can you, or do you, slip behind enemy lines to know your enemy?  

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1 comment:

  1. You are preaching to the choir in this leg of the journey Khara...This may seem like a time-consuming endeavour, no doubt about it, but if you're really interested in placing your poetry somewhere...it's well worth doing. As an example, from 2008 when I first had a critique from Jendi Reiter at Winning Writers,(and subsequent publication) I decided that I wanted to win their yearly contest (Tom Howard Poetry contest) and started researching the winners, the judges, and any advice they gave out. It was/is a reasonable price to enter, and I placed each year in the "Commended", then "Highly Commended" category,then the "Very Highly Commended" category, moving up each subsequent year but stalling for awhile at the "Very Highly Commended" level. I think it was at that point that I took some advice offered in the Winning Writers newsletter (well worth signing up for incidentally, and free) - and bought "Write Ways to Win Writing Contests" (How to Join the Winners' Circle for Prose and Poetry Awards) - by John Howard Reid (one of the judges for the Tom Howard contest and multi-award winning writer for both short stories and poetry himself)...It's a simple book with very straight-forward advice but it made a big difference for me, especially in how I approach contests - where I decide to put my money and my work. And, I'm sure I've mentioned it here already but last year I tied for 2nd in this contest (even tho' I withdrew the poem because of some factual errors) and this year, I won 1st place in the contest (and John Reid, not a judge this year, but a consultant - asked if they would make a "special mention" of my poem from last year -- which I had re-entered but it hadn't won -- and publish it too, and WW were kind enough to publish it as well, under the prize winning poem...not too shabby). So, yes -- I would encourage the kind of "stalking" you are suggesting, in spades. The more you can find out about the people you are submitting to...the better.

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