My goal for this series of blog posts is for writers to save themselves a lot of time and frustration. This series is meant to get you on the path toward publication, provided you put in the work of writing and revising. Don't worry if you don't follow all these recommendations--who could? I'll be the first to admit that even I'm guilty of sometimes not using my time wisely--look for my tip on social media! But overall this series contains hard-won truths on how to make writing a bigger part of your life. I hope it clarifies the publishing guidelines, professional etiquette, and protocols you may have been unsure about in the past. More than anything, I hope it puts you on track toward opportunities you may not have imagined.
If the literary publishing world is the world that you want to be a part of, then why not help support indie presses and publishers by buying books and subscribing to a few literary journals and magazines?
Before I understood how thread-bare many presses budgets were I used to hate paying to enter book contests and poetry contests. What I didn't know was that many presses are staffed by editors who work on a volunteer basis. And the work published by many literary presses is astonishingly good. I don't mind paying contest fees too much anymore. I look at it as me helping the journals I admire continue their operations.
I do think that simply subscribing to a few journals or magazines is probably the best way to ensure the health of the publishing world you really care about. For example, as I write this I subscribe to The Atlantic, Harper's, and Poetry. Where I subscribe tends to change from year to year and I also don't mind paying the $2 or $3 fee to submit to some journals online (many journals are now charging fees to read your work).
I subscribe because I want to show my support and also because I want to have a clear understanding about the work each journal publishes. In general, submitting your work for publication without a clear sense of the editor's preferences and the journals aesthetic is a bad idea. Show that you've read the magazine before. When you send your work out to a specific place and its clear you're familiar with what they publish it sets you apart in the best possible way.
If you're worried about progressing through a novel-length project, consider attending a writing residency at a place like the Vermont Studio Center where you can get meals, space, and time to work. Places like Ragdale, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony are other options. Places like this can be a great way to make some solid progress on your work-in-project because they allow you to devote time toward your work. Some include meals and scholarships to help enable you to attend.
Tasha Cotter, @TashCotter, is a poet and fiction writer based in Lexington, Kentucky. She is the author of two chapbooks of poetry and the full-length collection, Some Churches (Gold Wake Press, 2013). You can find her online at www.tashacotter.com.