On Publishing

Somehow, I was able to snag another internship with a publishing company. This one is pretty different from my British internship, but just as amazing, so far. In general, I feel like internships are supposed to build off of one another, and that’s happening!

First and foremost, both publishing companies are small and independently owned. This means that the British company was funded by the Arts Council, and the American one where I am working now operates under a board and is listed as a non-profit. This is great, because both presses are able to select their work based off of quality and edit effectively, as well as design the book itself. This makes beautiful books, let me tell you. I never knew how much the cover mattered until I was face-to-face with the selection process and saw what went into creating a work of art that has physical beauty as well as literary appeal.

At the British company, I didn’t do much physical editing beyond proofing a book and checking a reprint for errors. At this job, I have been proofing everything from manuscripts to handouts, screening poetry, and going to the bank and post office on a daily basis. It’s great, honestly. In my process, I’ve learned a few things that could be helpful to aspiring writers and editors everywhere.

1.) The Chicago Manual of Style will be your literal lifeline.
I cannot stress this enough. In the past, I edited only my own work, and it was to the effect of, “This paragraph/page/chapter is shit. Start over.” There was a lot of red crossed out jumbled-ness and notes that would only make sense to me. Obviously, this does not work for a professional editor. Publishing has a language of its own, and this manual will help ENORMOUSLY if you have no idea what you’re doing (like me).

2.) Read the submissions guidelines before even considering submitting.
A lot of places just don’t accept unsolicited submissions for full length works. This is a fact of life, and I’m sorry about that. Trust me, as an unsolicited writer myself, it sucks. Either way, I can promise you that simply emailing the editor or info account is not going to help you. If you have a short piece or poetry, there are dozens of literary journals and websites that accept unsolicited submissions. Submit to one of these and save some poor intern the time from sending you a rejection. It hurts me too, friends. Beyond that, if a place does not allow simultaneous submissions or charges a reading fee, it is important to take note. Your work has a much better chance of being considered if it follows the submissions guidelines, especially if they are incredibly specific.

3.) Cover letters are daunting, but they don’t have to be.
In screening, I have seen a mighty number of cover letters. Some are three sentences. Some are three paragraphs. The point is, you don’t need to tell your life story in a cover letter for a submission. When I submit, I follow the guidelines that I found on some author’s page. Basically, I explain what I am attaching, give a brief synopsis of the topics of the pieces, and say where I’ve been published before. It does not have to be a stressful process.

4.) Submit everywhere. Submit often.
This is less about editing and more about person experience. I’ve submitted to about twenty different places, and I am getting my first ever piece published on Friday – a short piece in a former literary magazine’s weekly selection of poems. I just submitted to eight other places last week. You can’t just hold out for one or two magazines. Simultaneous submissions are great because let’s face it, not everyone can write a new piece every day. What works for one magazine or website won’t work for others. If you don’t submit, you’ll never know.

5.) Editors are people, too.
I get quite a few pushy emails and phone calls and I’m not even a real editor. I know that your work may be great, and quality does matter, but we can’t publish everything that comes to us. It’s a struggle to even read everything that is submitted, but my presses have been great in that they really do read every single submission. It hurts my heart every time I have to write a rejection letter, because I’ve gotten dozens of them myself and I know how much it sucks. But rejection letters shouldn’t be a reason to hate the press, or stop writing. Keep trying. Keep crafting. Keep submitting. Have faith.

Thanks for reading, guys! Even though I suck at posting, I really do love this blog because it keeps my thoughts in order and allows me to share my experience. In other news, I have a Twitter now! Follow me @toribov while I try to figure out my life and how to actually use Twitter.