Have you ever entered for a writing prompt, call-for-writings or contest with such assurance and confidence that your work should get accepted and published, only for you to be turned down with a well-written rejection mail?

‘I guess we all have been there”

But what could’ve gone wrong?

Submitting to literary magazines, writing competitions, prompts and postings is usually a 50/50 chance. Your writings might be the best ‘in your view’ but still get rejected by the editors or publishers. A lot of times, this is because ‘your work just isn’t fit for them’ or due to the ‘simple errors’ entrants make while submitting their works to these.

Some Checks To Make Before Hitting SUBMIT

0. Check your source

Upon receiving a prompt, run a search (through a search engine, social media or via email) to be sure if or not the brand actually exists as a publication entity)

This helps to avoid submitting your intellectual properties to scam sites and other fraudulent individuals over the internet who make use of other people’s work without their consent while claiming it is theirs (the publishers).

Ask questions, search for social proof, social media present, web address, people in charge just to clarify that you are actually submitting to a legitimate platform.

1. Edit Your Work (Re-edit)

A lot of writers have admitted to the fact that they do their best proofreading after they hit publish. When it comes to submitting to literary magazines and publications however, there is usually not an option to edit the work once it has been sent to the editor.

So go through your submission again, check for grammar/typing errors.
A lot of submissions get rejected by publishers just because the entrant refused to take one more look at their work before submitting.

2. Cross-Check With The Theme (if there is one)

It may surprise you to know that this happens, a lot too!

As writers, when submitting for themed calls/prompts, you should always ensure that your work stays in the reins of the theme.

Do not go around writing a ‘What Shall I Compare To Thee’ poem on a ‘Ozymandias’ kind of prompt.

This usually results in automatic disqualification.

3. Read through the guidelines for submissions

Just to fulfil all righteousness

Read through the guidelines stated by the publishers one more time. Do this just to be sure that you actually are doing the right thing and can back it up if the need arises.

Read through the dates, the promises, the idea behind the magazine, the modes of acceptance and anything else that needs to be.

4. Mode of submission

Are you sure that work you are submitting should not be a docx. File?

Editors take it really seriously when submitters (I finally found out that ‘SUBMITTER’ is actually a word!) use the wrong methods to submit.

Always ensure you are following the rules guiding submissions.

Here are some common modes of submission:

  • ‘Submit your works in the body of the mail’
  • Submit your work through mail but the work should be in a document
  • Submit through an online tool such as Submittable
  • Submit to ‘this address’ (Yes, submit physically via mail. Some still do)

5. Submit through the right medium

This is a given. You should always take note of the medium stated for submissions.

Do not try going around the protocols when it comes to submitting to magazines, you may easily get the red card.

If you do not understand how to submit, do not Submit directly via email if that is not required. Instead, send a mail that helps you with the process or ask for an alternative.

I have seen cases of writers submitting directly to editors’ email boxes instead of using a submission form on the website.

This is wrong and you may get penalized for it.

6. Entry fees or Not

Before you even start writing for a submission prompt.

You should put your glare on whether or not there is a submission or reading fee to be included with your submission or not.

This is because it would be such a shame to complete writing only to discover that the prompt is not a free one and you need to make some payment before you can ever submit your works to be read or featured by the publisher.

7. Smash that button

This post is not in any way aimed at stopping you from publishing that awesome work of yours.

It is only a reminder to cross-check your works before sending a work with errors or send it via the wrong medium.

So this is included, once you are done with the checks (you might want to do it again), it is only right you HIT THAT SEND/PUBLISH/SEND BUTTON.

There is nothing to fear now, you already did you work. 

Let the pen be the judge.

8. Follow-up

Once you have submitted to a magazine, contest or for an anthology.

The next thing to do is to note it down.

A lot of writers submit and hope on sheer luck that they get in.

You should note down who you submit to. Check for their response period. If it takes longer than expected, you might want to send a follow-up mail inquiring the state of your submission.

You deserve to know if or not your work is up for publication or has been rejected.

Do not take silence as an automatic rejection from editors.

Literary magazines may takes as little as 3-days or as long as 6 months to respond to submissions.

A lot of times, their reading period is usually stipulated on the prompt’s webpage but if it is not, you may inquire.

Tell us, which of these tips do you find the most helpful?

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Emmanuel Ojex

I am here to use my ART as a mean to make IMPACT in the world. Join me in doing so.


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