How Not to Get Published

by Phyllis Jean Green

Don’t let the tongue-in-cheek approach fool you. If you don’t follow editorial guidelines, you might as well cover your keyboard and take up ceramics. Throw away your pen! Don’t take it from us. Read some of the excellent guidebooks that have been written to help writers who want their work to be read by someone besides Auntie Softie and Patsy Friend. Writer’s Digest is perhaps the best-known source, but you don’t have to look far to find others. The only unavoidable costs are time and receptivity. Most libraries are brimming with information for writers.

Since the Internet came along, it is possible to study in the privacy of your own home. So unless you look forward to “does not meet our needs,” take advantage of these resources. And be sure and talk to writers who have had work published [personal and 'showcase' sites don't count]. Read authors’ biographies. Most everyone knows that famous writers sometimes self-published. Mark Twain did. What isn’t widely known is the amount of dues he paid before he thought of self-publishing. He wrote stories and newspaper columns, which not only gave him practice but taught him that there were rules that could not be danced around [we would love to know how Twain would have put it]. As for feedback, the people who read his columns didn’t mince words!

At a writer’s conference in Fredericksburg, Virginia, I heard a woman say, “I never send my work out. I can’t stand rejection!” Why she wasted her money to attend, I can’t imagine. Rejection slips are common as fleas. According to PoetWorks Press, one in l0,000 poets gets published. But let’s turn it around. 9,999 poets flop, but one makes it. The purpose of this article is to help you become the one who wins the next race. Or the next, or the next. Talent is also common. Plenty of people are willing to do the work. What wins is willingness to meet editors’ demands, put oneself in readers’ shoes and plain, old, bulldog stubbornness. So vow to correct any mistakes you have made…and hang in!

Many of you know the following rules like the back of your hand. If you have more to suggest, e-mail us. We are already working on a new list.

Ignore submission guidelines. They are for the birds! Try to tell you how long or short your manuscript should be. When to send it, what format to send it in, and a lot of nonsense such as that.

If you make the mistake of reading guidelines, scan them as fast as you can. If you tend to miss things when reading from a computer screen, do not print the material. It will just slow you down.

Never read a publication before submitting. Might not like what you see!

Limit your reading.

Write in rhyme without first checking out what has been done. Especially by well-known poets, past and present.

More on rhyme: if a phrase or sentence doesn’t turn out to rhyme, switch the words around until it does.

Use a limited vocabulary. Do not work to increase it. Close your ears to others if they speak eloquently or come from a different culture or hold different beliefs. Ditto those who read voraciously.

Lean heavily on adjectives. Adverbs ending in ‘ly are a hit with everyone.

In your stories and poems - nonfiction if you write it -, tell people how you feel, rather than showing them. Better yet, tell them how to feel.

This is somewhat redundant. [Redundant's good, right?] But it is more than worth the extra space. To be sure that you tell rather than show, avoid images that will make readers see, hear, smell, e-t-c. For example, if you are writing about a cold day, say “It was very cold” or “I was about to freeze.” Let lesser writers talk about gooseflesh and ice on a doorstep.

Ignore Writer’s Market, Poet’s Market and books like them. Make the mistake of running a market search online, keep it general.

If you look at a guide such as Poet’s Market, remember that any old year will do. And expect everything you read to be accurate.

Stay away from libraries!

Same goes for writer’s groups!

If an editor writes a note on a rejection slip, write back and yell because your work was rejected. Make sure the editor knows it is personal. If it doesn’t go against your principles, curse. Scan the note in case it includes a compliment and ignore any advice that is included.

As soon as you get rejected X number of times, quit.

Be insincere.

Be dishonest. Some people say that stealing copyrighted work is as bad as shoplifting or robbing a gas station. Don’t listen!!

Write rambling cover letters. If you can remember to, brag on your work. Add a few glowing comments about yourself. They are sure to go over big with an editor who has 500 manuscripts to go through (and today’s mail hasn’t come!).

Don’t write cover letters. They’re for the birds, too.

Discouraged-? Don’t be. Competition’s tough, but for those of us who write for love, it’s the only game in town…

Author Bio:

Phyllis Jean Green’s fiction, poetry and essay credits include The Moonwort Review, L’Intrigue, The Pedestal Magazine, The Blue Fifth, Seeker, Pristine Poetry, Wordrights!, Sensations, Three Candles, The Book Lovers’ Haven, Floating Holiday, Survivor Wit, Snow Monkey, Visions, and Sulphur River Literary Review.

The former therapist is the author of Spinning Straw: the Jeff Apple Story [Diverse City Press, l999], editor of Mixing Cement by poet Peter Tomassi [Thunder Rain, 2000], and Associate Editor of L’Intrigue. Her award-winning long poems about Coney Island have been performed in 23 U.S. states. The issue in which they appeared won First Prize from American Literary Magazine. In March, Ze Book Company published her e-collection, Straw-Hat Theater. Editor RC Rutherford calls it “Magnificent!”

Professional associations, a mental health system, ARC’s and the American Red Cross are among the organizations for whom Phyllis Jean [Dawson] Green has written over the years.

Her website, Spinning Straw’s Created Equal, focuses on disabilities. Current projects are “too numerous to mention,” she says. “New ones keep cropping up!” Phyllis Jean Green and her husband, Ray [a 'retreaded' planner whose woodcarvings are popular], live near the southern part of heaven with “human canines, Nicky and Sugar, and too many squirrels to expect a Yorkie to stand still.

More information about Phyllis Jean Green can be found at:

Copyright Phyllis Jean Green 2002


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