What? Over-Submitting?


Most writers are fond of proclaiming their devotion to the craft (ahem) of writing and by saying this explains their lack of discipline in marketing their work. Fair enough. These are two different skills, no doubt from two different hemispheres of the brain: Samarkand has a goal of submitting work to ten markets today, while Asunción wants to write art for art’s sake (how noble… and lonely)!

Over the course of my development as a writer, I’ve worked hard to develop the Uzbekistan side of the tracks. I have a special Word document of markets divided into two categories: Submissions by Poetry Journals and Submissions by Poem Title.

Using the “Table” function, I created rows for “Date Sent,” “Title(s),” “Accepted or Rejected,” and “Expected Publication Date.” It’s been a lifesaver.

Why? Because you can become an over-submitter. Yes, the web site called Submittable can be a life-saver, but not all submissions go through that growing monopoly and the growing $3 “not-a-reading-fee” fees participating journals often engage in there. Many journals have their own submission managers, some still use trusty attachments to e-mails, and then, stubbornly in the corner, we have the hold-outs who still insist on good-old postal submissions with self-addressed stamped envelopes (SASES). I mark these special cases with an asterisk in the “Date Sent” column.

The tricky part comes when your poems get accepted. The more simultaneous submissions you have, the bigger pain it becomes to notify all parties. As Ben Franklin (or was it Mark Twain?) once said: “Simultaneous submissions giveth, and simultaneous submissions taketh away.”

The Submittable markets are easiest to alert because you can simply add a note on that site to inform the editors they have one less masterpiece to choose from. Beyond that, you’re often looking up e-mails of editors and/or special instructions on the web pages of all of the other journals submitted to.

One adjustment I might make, then, is adding “Contact Info” to any market that does not use Submittable. This way my Word document will help me to expedite obligations to other editors considering the “sold” poem.

Should there be set limits on how many markets any one poem is courting at any given moment? That’s a personal call. Right now my most marketed poem is waiting in the editorial offices of ten different journals. It’s a sign of my own confidence in the poem, my own incredulity that it hasn’t been snapped up yet.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s my baby. We all play favorites, and as any parent can tell you, when you play favorites, you necessarily overlook flaws.

Whatever the method, you need to have one. You need balance between your artist persona and your business persona. As to the question of over-marketing work? That depends on your ledger-keeping prowess. If you can manage 25 markets-per-poem, more power to you.

Just remember, if the same poem is rejected by dozens of markets over time, haul it into the body shop for some work, maybe. Or face reality. Acknowledge samsara and set it free….