a time a man made a birthday cake for his fiancée. It was the first
thing he had ever baked for her. In fact, it was the only time he had
ever cooked in his life. He emptied the contents of the box into a
bowl, tossed the box into the trash compactor, and started mixing.
First the eggs, then the . . . uh-oh . . . he had no milk to add to the
mix. Of course, had he read the instructions on the box, he would have
known he could use applesauce in place of the liquid and still have a
Instead, he added a can of pork
and beans, and instead of
having a special treat for the love of his life, he had a lumpy orange
cake that could blow out its own candles.
The sad thing is some writers
approach the task of marketing their
writing the same way. For example, you may have written the most
amazing bit of Christian vampire erotica ever to hit the printed page,
but regardless of how many times you send it to Field and
Stream or Southern Living,
they are not going to buy it. That’s why they print thousands of those
little sheets called Submission Guidelines. Heck, they even post them
on Web sites and send them out in e-mails just so folks like you and I
will know what they want and what they don’t want.
But sadly, some folks who read
the guidelines ignore them. They use
the boiled okra line of reasoning: “Well, I know you say you don’t like
boiled okra, but you’ve never tasted my boiled okra.” The writers’
equivalent is: “Well, I know it says you don’t buy humor pieces, but
you haven’t read my humor piece.” It’s the same difference. For you
northerners and other folks who have never been subjected to a bowl of
boiled okra, it is the consistency of runny boogers, it leaves a slime
trail, and it is just plain nasty. And unless Elvis cooks up a batch in
my own kitchen, serves it for supper, and brings a note from Heaven
stating that I have no choice, I will not eat it again.
And that is the same attitude an
editor takes when a writer starts the I know, but you haven't
read my . . . gambit. The register is going to ring up No
To be published regularly, some
facts are an absolute necessity:
1. Study the markets: Invest in a good market guide
(Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide and
Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market are two of the
best) or a reputable market list, and use them.
2. Write to the editor’s specifications:
If the guideline says no fiction, it means no fiction. If they are
looking for historical romance, a history-based action adventure piece
will be cheerfully rejected. And if the word limit is 1,200–1,500
words, don’t send fewer than 1,200 or more than 1,500.
3. After you target your publications and study the
guidelines, send query letters based on salable ideas. Then
write the pieces once you have a contract.
Too many authors write a story, article, essay, etc., and then spend
countless weeks and months trying to find a home for it. So often the
piece becomes an orphan.
Remember . . . a lot of
competition is out there, and if you aren’t
doing the market research, sending your work to the appropriate places,
and following the specified guidelines, the nice editor you contacted
is going to buy a piece from someone who did.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have
to go explain to my mama why I put the word booger
in a column.