Amid all the hysteria about this week’s football Super Bowl, I noticed a critical, inescapable hurdle the winning Green Bay Packers had to overcome. Did it jump out at you, too? They had to go out on the field! Even after all their previous work of the season, no breathless reporters called the players at home to inform them that while they were building snowmen with their kids, they had won the Vince Lombardi trophy. They had to put themselves out there in the final competition.
Same thing for writers – we’ve got to put ourselves on the playing field in front of editors and publishers. And as we introvert types know, that can seem as scary as facing a team of three-hundred pound guys in tight pants. I’ve been there (with the editors, not the football team), and I’m going to share a tip about publication I’ve gathered amid the tears, sprains and strains – know your market. My favorite marketing research tool for short fiction: Duotrope’s Digest (www.duotrope.com/) There are other websites out there. But especially if you write in more than one genre, Duotrope has the widest array of listings I’ve found. And they’re searchable in so many ways – fastest responses, highest percentage of acceptances, and, yes, pay scales. Duotrope also has a submissions tracker to remind you where you sent what, and when. Sure, you can make keep track in other ways, even build yourself a spreadsheet. But why do the work if somebody else will do it for you, for free?
I’ve become addicted to on-line submissions (what struggling writer needs the extra expense of postage) and in the process of searching for just the right place to publish stories, I’ve also found many new or new-to-me places to read the stuff I love. And signed up for probably way too many on-line subscriptions (free and delivered straight to your inbox). Duotrope also gives my acceptance ratio. It was 14 percent the last time I checked, which is cheering because when you’re looking at rejection after rejection (yes, it happens, I won’t lie) you can feel as if your acceptance rate must be in the one-thousandths of a percent.
If you believe you’ve written the best story you can, look for a place worthy of it. And when you get some rejections – well, I’ll talk more about dealing with those next week. You may have rejections of your own to comment on by then, because some of these e-zines have a really, really fast response time!