Through Saturday, May 2, Vince Gotera—poet, writer and editor of the North American Review, the longest-lived literary magazine (established 1815)—will give pointers on how to make your literary submissions shine. The event, hosted by Help Support Independent Publishers!, will be held at Bertram’s Blog. For more info, check out the Facebook invite here.
As an intro to Gotera’s guest appearance, ASF has culled some tips from one of his own notes that might be helpful to our submitters. (Check out his full comments at Bertram’s Blog.) Readers should feel free to replace the word “poem” or “poems” in the following excerpt with “fiction” or “piece” . . .
Today, I want to address professionalism in submitting to literary magazines. What I will say below . . . are part of what many people—both writers and editors—refer to as “unwritten rules.”
(1) The Cover Letter. . . .Our grandmothers told us we should send nice notes, and that’s what the cover letter should be. Sorry if I seem fussy here; I just think the transaction between the writer and the editor should be civil and friendly. A cover letter certainly can dispose me favorably (a little) toward the submission. Especially if a cover letter is fun or entertaining.
. . .
Definitely do not explain the poem in your cover letter. As an editor, I’m trying to gauge how readers will understand the poem.
(2) Résumés and Vitas.
Whatever you do, never send a résumé or a vita; that really smacks of inexperience. Of not knowing the “unwritten rules.” There may be fields or disciplines in which one sends a vita with a submission, but not in the literary magazine world.
(3) Copyright. The experienced writer should be aware of how copyright law works: that as soon as you write something, you own its copyright; in other words, you only have to show that you wrote something and when to defend your copyright. Inexperienced writers, on the other hand, will sometimes fear that their poems are leaving their hands and could be stolen by someone at a magazine. So they will include a copyright notice on the poem itself.
(4) Fonts. Something that we see quite often is a poem that has been printed out in 9- or 10-point font. Sometimes even smaller. I’m not really sure why people do this. Perhaps they’re trying to save postage.
I would dissuade you from using a typewriter font like Courier. Those are harder to read than Times or Palatino or Georgia or some other standard non-typewriter font. Remember that the editor must read quickly. . . . Ditto with fancy curlicue or script fonts. Hard to read. Bad. Also sans serif fonts like Helvetica. A little easier to read but not as easy to read as Times. You may think Times is boring, but it could help you get published.
OK, that’s it for now. I hope you will see the sense of these “unwritten rules.” Basically, for me, it’s about friendliness and civility, again. Editors are your friends. They want to publish your work. Good luck with your writing and with your submissions.
See the entire cheeky and informative 2007 article from Gotera on the subject here.