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Six Rules for Getting Published in 2024.

Image: The dark and mystical art of publication (Source: shutterstock)

The thrill of getting my first novel, 'Darwin's Wake' into print in 2023 hasn't faded, but I thought I might have had more success with short stories.


I have submitted to several journals and competitions without success. The closest I came was an honorary mention in 'Minds Shine Bright.' The MSB recognition delighted and encouraged me, but I'm hungry for more.


At the other end of the scale, I submitted to the US-based journal in July last year. A $10 reading fee was required, and I paid an additional $7 fee to receive a brief critique. I'm still smarting from this one. My short story was rejected instantly, and I'm still waiting for the critique. I've sent three emails requesting ANY feedback to no avail. I suspect it was a scam preying on overly keen novice authors. How do you avoid being ripped off?


I don't have any problem with a submission fee. It is a fair payment for someone's time, and the fee often goes to publishing the selected pieces. I also don't object to an additional fee for a critique, but I resent paying a fee and receiving nothing! My final email directly asked them if they were a scam. I suppose their lack of response is confirmation.

Image: Aim for the bullseye (Source: Freestock)

I decided to put a few short stories on this blog in the hope that I might get some feedback (good or bad). Thanks to those of you who have responded. Your words are literary gold. I'll take on the feedback constructively and try to make the following short story, or the longer piece I'm working on, better.


How can I sway the odds to get more in print in 2024?


The glib answer is to write better. I'll try this, but it is not the entire solution. Leaning on experiences gained in my day job, I believe there are two options: a shotgun or a targeted approach.

Image: Words you want to hear after submitting (Source: Ron Burgundy and quickmeme)

The shotgun approach entails submitting everything to as many publishers as possible and hoping for a good result. The targeted approach aims precisely at the target and takes a single but accurate shot. My nature is to take the targeted approach. The intent is to minimise effort for maximum return. There are a few other guidelines I've also summarised for you.


1.                   Refine the Submission.

Edit and proofread your manuscript. Then, do it again thoroughly. Seek feedback from beta-readers or other trusted readers. Make sure you're getting frank feedback. Someone confident to tell you, 'your baby is ugly,' is a cherished resource. I also like to read the piece aloud, record it, and listen to it. This practice is essential for dialogue to check that the voice sounds authentic.


2.                   Adhere to the Submission Guidelines.

This rule is close to rule number one. It shouldn't matter if you used Aparajita or Walbaum (yes, they are actual fonts) instead of Times New Roman (or sometimes Arial) and font size 10 or 13 instead of 12, but it does. If the requirement asks for something specific – use it.

However fond you might be of cute illustrations and that 'funny' emoji, don't use them unless they are expressly permitted. The intent is for you to make your best first impression – don't do the opposite by putting the reader off-side before they even start to read your work. Channel your creativity into your writing – not a demonstration of your penchant for primary school decoration.

Image: An editor surrounded by slush piles.


3. Research Relevant Publishers.

 This rule defines which target you are going to aim for. Identify publishers that specialise in your genre. Look for publishers who are accepting submissions and review their submission guidelines. Some Journals may have specific themes that they are calling for. Don't waste your time and the time of the publishers by submitting something that would never fit in with what they are seeking. Submitting your gothic horror work to a cosy mystery journal is doomed to failure, irrespective of how good your work is. The best way to research journals is to purchase them.


 4. Craft a Compelling Query Letter and Bio.

 Where a query letter and bio are required, make them concise, relevant and engaging. The bio should introduce you, not summarise your whole life to date. Maybe add in one quirky fact if you feel it is necessary. Perhaps stating that you are a long-time subscriber to the target journal is a good way to illustrate that you consider their journal valuable. Advising the editor that you have been published in other journals (when you have been) can also create interest and hopefully lead to a snowball effect for future publications.

Image: The inside of my head after considering where to submit. Conceptual representation only. (Source: Shutterstock).

5. Marketing.

In trying to squeeze the rules into six in total, I have consolidated a few under the marketing banner.

               a.           Build an Author Website – that way, if the journal (or your future readers) wants to know more about you (or purchase your other work), they can check you out clandestinely.

              b.          Attend writing events. In a world ruled by social media, there is still a lot to be said for in-person events. If an editor, a journalist, a publisher or even a fellow writer remembers you (in a good way), it might just be the catalyst to set you ahead of the pack (though most stories are judged blind). Treat yourself to a Writing conference or a Book Fair. Attending writing conferences, workshops, and literary events to network with industry professionals is inspirational. I've found the people at these events so generous, welcoming and passionate. If you're feeling brave (and what have you got to lose), practice your pitch on agents or publishers during these events (but don't be obnoxious).

              c.           Join a group of like-minded writers. I am exceedingly fortunate to have a group of fantastic fellow writer friends, where I'm the newbie. I'm so lucky to be learning from such a group of talented and accomplished artists.

               d.          Engage with the writing community by participating in forums, blogs, and social media discussions.

Image: A crowded book fair. Don't expect them all to be like this. (Source: Google)


6. Prepare for Rejection.

This rule could also have been higher on the list, but I don't like to receive bad news first. Understand that rejection is a normal part of the publishing process. Keep refining your work based on feedback and continue submitting. Don't be upset if you never hear back from publications to whom you've submitted. Frankly, I think it is pretty poor form to hear nothing (especially when an email to 'dear writer' only takes the push of the mail-merge button) – but sadly this has become the norm. There are plenty of tales of rejection from great authors. If you are going to play in this arena, toughen up! If it gives you any solace, Bonnie Garmus had her first book rejected 98 times before her bestseller, 'Lessons in Chemistry' was published (when she was 65). Even J. K. Rowling was rejected 12 times before finding success. By the time Steven King was 14, the nail on his wall could no longer handle the number of rejection slips he'd received. His solution was to 'get a bigger nail'.

Wish me luck!

Image: More good advice for authors. Note, any resemblance to me as a child is purely coincidental. (source: Google).

90 views2 comments


Hi Pete

Happy new year! And I hope you and your family have had a great festive season!

I always love reading your posts, and this one is no exception. I will admit that sometimes it takes me a while to get to them.

I wholeheartedly agree with your comments (not that I’m publishing works). I think that everyone can be a successful author, you just need to find your niche and hopefully there are enough people there too!!

I have a couple of comments on your notes (which I really like btw).

  1. Read out aloud is so important. So much more now with the increasing use of audiobooks

  2. Every business has capability, competency and connections. You are seeking to…

Replying to

Hi Garth. Many thanks for your comment. Your suggestions are spot on. Connections (particularly face to face) are so important in so many areas. Good luck with your writing, I'm sure it will be a very interesting book.

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