So you have been submitting your work, and maybe even received your first rejection. Boo 😦 (Don’t worry they will be just as mind-numbing as sending out job applications for jobs you don’t have a spit in hell in getting). But after awhile, you’ll notice a pattern when you submit pieces just like your writing habit.
Wait, hold on, for those who have no idea (or just a bit murky) on the different writing habit styles (beyond the one you’re using, obviously) there are two ways of writing:
Write, write, write first revise later approach: As said on the tin, pouring out the ideas out onto the keyboard to be brutalized later with a red pen
Plan plan, plan later write later approach: Plan what the protagonist’s first cousin twice removed like their eggs on a Tuesday, before the first word is written.
Got it? Cool, now with that (quite educational) example is chugging in your head, there are also two different submission styles.
The Two Submission Styles
You got your carpet bombers and you got your tactical strikes.
Carpet bombers: Like their namesake who wanted to level every German city to nothing higher than a garden hedge, the point is to cover as much ground as possible. It’s quantity over quality and that’s what gets the most responses in the end (even if it does mean more rejections) just for that lucky spin of the roulette wheel, when the response email to your submission reads “We are pleased to inform you that your piece…”
Tactical Strikes: In an effort to avoid sending submissions that could get caught in the spam filter and be considered a merciful rejection, this method is to let the magazine choose the submission. It’s reading the magazine, getting to know the style of the magazine better than the chief editor, to know the perfect match of piece and magazine. For every twenty or so submissions the carpet bomber is able to send, the tactical strike only sends one, but at least that one at least has a spitting chance in hell and will actually be taken seriously.
Differences between the two styles
Now both of these strategies differ, on a couple points, and if you want to try both of them, take note of them below.
While the bulk of literary journals out there cater to the “literary fiction” genre, (fiction, poetry, non-fiction and artwork being the four healthy submission groups); something that might work with Prairie Fire isn’t going to fly with Descant (Prairie Fire has a more cloying style, often with a very meditative pace and a more local setting, while Descant is what you would expect from an atypical literary magazine.) That said, carpet bombers will ignore this, they will embarrass themselves shamelessly by sending poetry to a fiction only magazine, or a horror Biopunk story to Granta. They will not buy copies of the magazine, no matter how much the website pleads them to and may even skip reading the submission guidelines (or just not bother if the submission guidelines are picky.)
Tactical Strikers will make sure that their story style fits the magazine style, will even buy a copy, buy a subscription (or better yet explore the site to read free samples) and they will stick to submission guidelines to the letter.
Carpet bombers have to simultaneously submit. It’s the spoken necessity of the submitting world. While the carpet bomber may piss off half the magazine editors of Canada by retracting a piece because it already received a gushing acceptance from one magazine editor in a small town university, it’s still an acceptance, gained from the high chance of submitting 50 times as opposed to one.
Tactical strikes have to simultaneously submit. It’s the spoken necessity of the submitting world. However tactical strikers only do this in small quantities (3-5 magazines at a time) and all magazines submitted to are informed of this fact. However simultaneous submission is not done if the response time is short (within a week perhaps) or there are pretty good odds that the magazine will accept their work. A much more plodding sort of pace, but at least no rejection letters.
Note: The quality of work is paramount. If the work is shit, it doesn’t matter how it’s submitted, no one is taking it.
Cautionary Note: The carpet bomber and the tactical striker are extremes like black and white. Like writing styles, you have to find the one that you prefer to work with.
By a North York Writer