Playing in the Slush Piles of 2019

Tolstoy kept his butt in the seat and his pen producing.

Time for an accounting of last year’s submissions!

Prior to 2019 I don’t think I’d ever submitted to much of anywhere. Because I started off self publishing from the beginning (and newspapers) I never explored that part of writing… the inevitable slush pile and rejection letters.

I lucked out because one of the first things I submitted awhile back was my short story “Vanilla Rice” to  the Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy back in 2016. It was accepted and I started writing Bitter Suites based on that world so I didn’t submit anything else until 2019.

In late 2018 I realized I was creating a stagnant bubble for myself. I had a tiny pool of fans that responded well to my self published work, but it was the same people over and over. I was absolutely grateful for this, but I was mummifying my career and sealing it in a tomb before it got to live a little. So my New Year’s goal last year was to hit the slush piles and see if I couldn’t spread some ink.

So how did I do? I’m happy with the results. Despite running into some issues in the last quarter of the year that had me treading water just stay afloat, I managed to submit 92 short stories or poems. I had 74 items accepted, 18 of which I received payment for. One submission is still outstanding with no decision made on it yet.

My goal was to find new readers, and that has definitely been accomplished. My circle of readers has at least tripled. Here’s what I learned about submitting work this last year:

Franklin knew how to rock ‘boring.’

Proper formatting is a must. Most publishers want to see your work submitted in Shunn Manuscript format. Many will delete your work, unread, if it’s not submitted properly. (Read more: Do NOT Sun Shunn).

Careful record keeping is important. I kept a spreadsheet where I pasted all the information for each submission, including a link where I could check back for updates. I had another folder where I dropped links I wanted to submit to, organized by date due. At a glance I could see how long something has been in limbo, if payment was received, and when/where it was published.

Rejections are not reflections of me or my work. As long as I have turned in a well written, properly edited and formatted piece—my best work—I have nothing to be ashamed of. A rejection happens for a number of reasons… too many similar pieces, bigger names submitting, the publication (common) simply ran out of room. Often there are 12 open slots, and 500+ submissions. (Read Rejections are Not Reflections)

Submit some work for free. I often hear writers urge each other not to give work away for free. I agree that we all deserved to be compensated based on the quality of our work, but compensation is not always monetary. Publicity, promotion, advertising… these things have more value than actual payment sometimes. Considering that a full page ad in a popular publication can run from $100-500, I am quite happy to contribute a free little story or poem in exchange for the publicity. Giving free work is like giving away a sample and works great for finding new readers. Plus, there is nothing like your name in print to boost your morale, paid or unpaid.

Keep up on your social media. I have fallen short on this in the latter half of 2019, but I’m getting back into the swing of it. Years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Alan Ritchson* at an interview. He opened my eyes to the value of social media. He said, anymore, a bigger social media following is the deciding factor to get an acting job, and I apply it to writing as well. Agents, directors and the like will check social media accounts for how much influence a person has. He or she with the most likes wins.

Is it fair? It doesn’t matter. It’s a fact. Take care to build and protect your social media… and use it. I neglected to announce a few publications that accepted me towards the crazy part of the year. Not only did I do myself a disservice, I did one to them as well.

Flaubert saved his energy for art.

While I would love to think my words fall from my lips like golden dew drops, I know a large part of my success goes to boring details like the ability to follow guidelines, keep records and give things away sometimes.  Being a pleasant person to work with (even when I don’t want to be) is another important factor.

My goal for this year is much the same. More submissions, I’d like more to be paid submissions and I’d like to get a book or two published as well. To this end, I already have some nice, mundane files set up in my Google Drive and a fresh now spreadsheet waiting for some orderly, yawn worthy record keeping.

Be settled in your life and as ordinary as the bourgeois, in order to be fierce and original in your works, to quote Gustave Flaubert. Here’s to more successful submissions for us all in 2020.

*Alan Michael Ritchson (born November 28, 1984) is an American actor, model, and singer. He is known for his modeling career as well as his portrayals of the superhero Aquaman on The CW‘s Smallville and Thad Castle on Spike TV‘s Blue Mountain State. Ritchson also starred as Gloss in 2013’s The Hunger Games: Catching FireRaphael in 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, and its sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and Adam in 2016’s Lazer Team. Since 2018, he has portrayed Hank Hall / Hawk on the series Titans.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, author, and publisher with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She is a Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist and HWA Mentor of the Year for 2020. She co-publishes Space and Time, a publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction since 1966. Join the community at
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