Nathaniel Lee Hansen
Editor, The Windhover
For some time, I’ve intended to write this post, and now that I’m in the final stretches of reading submissions for issue 24.2, I thought it as good a time as any to share my observations. There are many such lists floating about on the Internet, but I hope that these tips and reminders will be helpful. [Note: we reopen for submissions on August 1.]
1. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the publication. On The Windhover website, you can view samples from the current issue and back issues. Most publications have an online presence with which you can familiarize yourself.
2. Closely read and adhere to the publication’s requirements. Do not exceed the word count for any reason. If a publication asks that you submit all of your poems as one file, as we do at The Windhover, please do so.
3. Support the publications to which you submit. Presumably, you are sending your work to a publication that you admire. Buy an issue. Buy a subscription. If you use social media, follow the publication’s accounts, sharing and retweeting, etc.
4. Send the most up-to-date version of your story, poem, or creative nonfiction piece. Double-check that the file is correct. Recently, I received a submission that showed all of the writer’s Track Changes.
5. Do not offer an explanation or analysis of the work you are submitting. Doing so makes you come across as presumptuous and pretentious.
6. Do not offer a summary of your work either, unless of course the publication asks for this information.
7. Don’t identify yourself as an “emergent” or “emerging” writer. Instead, simply note that you are an “unpublished” writer. There’s no shame in being an unpublished writer. All of us who write began as unpublished writers. As an editor, I have had the privilege of publishing writers’ first publications. It’s one of my great joys as an editor.
8. Keep your biographical statement (again, if the publication asks for one) brief. Less is more. I once received a writer’s bio that was over 900 words for a flash-fiction submission that was fewer than 500 words.
9. Do not take rejection personally. You do not know what else the editors have received in the submission cycle. Perhaps your poem about an eclipse was well done, but the editor has already chosen a poem about an eclipse. (That happened to me as an editor.)
10. If the publication asks you to submit your work again, the editorial staff mean it. Editors are busy people, and I for one am very stingy with “try us again” rejections. But when I do send a “try us again” rejection, I do mean, “please, try us again. We want to read more of your work.”
I combed my virtual files for the cover letter template I used when I was an unpublished writer. It worked fine for me.
Please consider the following [insert genre] for inclusion in a future issue of [insert title of publication]:
As of yet, I have no publications. Thank you for taking time to read my work.
Nathaniel Lee Hansen