Write It Sideways

10 Ways to Boost Your Odds of an Acceptance

Today’s post is written by Writer’s Relief.

So you’re trying to get published—that’s great! But after a while it seems like your work is being “politely declined” by everyone—not so great.

As the saying goes,“you can’t control the wind, but you can change your sails.”

Here are some tips and tricks to help any writer change direction and catch the breeze to the island paradise of Publishedville.

1. Get an attitude adjustment.

The very first thing you need before you start this process is the mindset that from now on in your writing career, things will be different and they will be better. You can’t let your past define your future. Motivating yourself to write and submit is similar to motivating yourself to exercise—you may be dragging your feet to get yourself going; but once you do it, you won’t regret it.

2. Practice, practice, practice.

Even Broadway stars and professional athletes still need to show up for rehearsals and team drills; no one is exempt from honing and polishing his/her skills! In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that to achieve greatness, one must put in at least 10,000 hours of study. The good news is, you’re on your way! And while you’re enjoying the journey, there are plenty of markets for up-and-coming writers.

3. Hit the brakes.

Perspective is key to great writing. So cut yourself a break and give yourself a little breathing room! You could see your acceptance rate climb.

4. Don’t send out work prematurely.

You wouldn’t skydive with a parachute that was only 90% finished, would you? A thorough check of your spelling and grammar is absolutely crucial. Turn to friends, colleagues, or professionals for feedback. The extra step will put you an extra step ahead!

5. Rework your cover and/or query letter.

While you may think your writing speaks for itself, editors and agents often want to get an idea of the person behind the words.

Tip: Our free Cover and Query Letter Tool Kit offers just about everything you’ll need to know for this task. Read these articles, and you’ll be at the top of your game.

6. Do your research.

Could it be that part of the reason for your acceptance letter dry spell is that you’re not targeting the markets that are most suited to your work (your topics, level of skill, etc.)?

It’s worth the energy to do the legwork. Don’t waste your time sending your sestina to a journal that loves experimental forms or your dystopian YA novel to an agency that only represents nonfiction. Your research will save you a lot of time (and rejection letters, and heartache, and hassle).

Tip: If you would rather be writing than researching, that’s what Writer’s Relief is here for.

7. Follow the rules.

You simply would not believe the number of submissions we receive from writers who can’t/don’t follow simple directions; editors and agents report similar experiences. Be sure you don’t get disqualified over something as silly as forgetting to include your contact information or name! If you can follow guidelines, you’re already closer to an acceptance than quite a bit of the competition.

8. Get real with yourself.

Every writer has to start somewhere, and while getting picked up by your dream lit journal or literary agency at the beginning of your career would be ideal, it’s good to be flexible. If the big guys said “no thanks,” smaller markets can be stepping stones on the path to excellence. Shift your expectations and the acceptances may start rolling in.

9. Pay attention to what people are saying.

Keep track of all responses to your submissions, especially rejections that arrive with personal comments. When you’re ready to submit again, these should be the people you send to first. When you have an “in,” your odds go up!

10. Resolve to be resilient.

Although these tips will improve your odds, rejections are still inevitable. But that’s not a reason to give up. Things change. Journals and agencies close down, and new ones start up. Tastes change, trends fade—anything can happen. If you keep perfecting your craft and making strong submissions, someone somewhere will connect with your work. If you’re ever feeling down, take a look at these words of encouragement from fellow writers.

Writer’s Relief (est. 1994) is an author’s submission service that prepares and targets writers’ submissions to literary agents and literary journals. Check out their website for free publishing leads, submission strategy tips, and much more!