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Life After the MFA Series
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A woman wearing a head scarf sitting at a table in a library
June 2022
Last month, we covered how to secure an agent. Now, let’s talk about publishing your work.
Finding a Home for Your Work
First things first: need some guidance on where and when to submit? Check out our Opportunities page for details on which publications and contests are currently accepting submissions, as well as Poets & Writers' Literary Magazine Database, a carefully vetted, searchable list of open markets.
Of course, you’ll want to figure out which journals are right for you and your work before you submit. For a more in-depth understanding of a journal’s mission and its editorial team’s preferences, check out the Review Review. Every week it offers reviews of literary journals so you can gain a greater understanding of their missions. While you should read any journal before you submit your work to it, the Review Review should help you narrow down which journals might be the right fit.
Now that you’ve identified some journals where you’d love to see your work, make the right first impression with advice from five distinguished magazine and book editors from the Believer, Milkweed Editions, Tin House, New England Review, and Orion. These editors speak candidly about what they love, loathe, and everything in between in this riveting panel from AWP’s podcast series, “What We Hate: Editorial Dos and Don’ts.”
Submitting Your Manuscript
Have a completed manuscript in your hands ready to submit to agents? First, take the time to format it correctly. Check out this helpful guide from none other than Ursula K. Le Guin: “Some Guidelines for Manuscript Preparation and Submission.”
Next, turn your attention to your query letter. Writer’s Digest's fantastic Successful Queries series presents examples of successful query letters alongside comments from the agents who accepted the work. For another useful breakdown of the querying process, check out NY Book Editors' article “How to Write a Darn Good Query Letter.”
Once you’ve crafted your query letter, you might consider using a submission management system like QueryTracker. This website offers a free service that can assist you in locating agents as well as organizing and tracking your submissions.
Considering the world of self-publishing and e-books? Author and literary agent Ronald Goldfarb offers some perspective on the changing literary landscape as a result of the electronic publishing boom spearheaded by Amazon in "What Writers Need to Know About Electronic Publishing," originally published in AWP’s The Writer’s Chronicle.
Shaunta Grimes makes the case in a Medium post that fiction writers should take advantage of blogging services as a vital method of self-promotion. She argues that self-publishing is often a necessary first step to getting the attention of larger publishers.
On Rejection
Of course when we submit, there is always the possibility of rejection, but don’t let that get you down. Below are some tips on handling rejection.
In episode 80 of AWP’s Podcast Series, “Rejection! Everything You Always Wanted to Know (But Were Afraid to Ask),” David Baker, Jill Bialosky, MB Caschetta, Rob Spillman, and Melissa Stein make up a mixed group of top editors and emerging writers who join forces to offer “tips to avoid surefire rejection—and how to maintain faith in your work and your voice even when rejections keep piling up.”
Keep in mind that you are not alone. Romy Oltuski reminds us that when we are rejected, we are always in good company in "Famous Authors' Harshest Rejection Letters," published over at The Atlantic. Similarly, in the Dear Blunt Instrument series over at Electric Literature, Elisa Gabbert asserts: “I know of no level of success where writers stop getting rejected (and stop at least occasionally feeling bummed about it).”
We will end this month with a fabulous roundup of advice from Chuck Sambuchino over at Writer’s Digest. In “What To Know Before You Submit: 28 Great Tips from Literary Agents,” he uses the hashtag #pubtip to collect tweets from agents, with insightful results.
Check in next month, when we’ll talk about finding contests, grants, and fellowships!
Until next time,
Your AWP Membership Team