My Experience Sending Submissions through Submittable

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Since 2014, I have been using Submittable to help manage my writing submissions. It has been an invaluable tool in the submission process, allowing me to easily keep track of which pieces I have sent, where they were sent, and whether they have been accepted or declined by a publication. As a writer, Submittable has streamlined the process of submitting to publications, eliminating unnecessary paperwork while also offering updates on the status of your submission.

What is Submittable?

Submittable is a submissions management software, which basically means it is a way to keep your on-going list of submitted works organized. If you are a writer who submits your work to online magazines, literary journals or contests, chances are that some of the publications you will run across require you to submit your work through the Submittable platform. Although I have never branched out from submitting short non-fiction and prose, Submittable does also offer opportunities for submitting poetry, longer length non-fiction and prose, and even photography.

How Do I Use Submittable?

My experience with Submittable is solely as a contributing writer, as I have never used it as an editor. As a writer, I was required to create a simple account through the Submittable site. Whenever I am looking into submitting a piece of work to a certain publication, the submissions section of that publication’s site typically includes a link to their Submittable page. Typically, it is a very easy process of typing in the title of your work, a short note to the editor and possibly a short author bio as a well, and then you upload your file. I always check the publication’s site for official submission guidelines for information regarding the preferred font size, spacing, and heading formats. Many publications charge a nominal fee (averaging around $3) to cover the cost of using Submittable.

After you submit your work, it now appears under your “Active” tab as “Received.” This means the work was delivered successfully to the publication’s inbox.

What Happens After I Submit a Piece?

Once your work has been received, the (probably long) wait begins. Submittable offers features to track the progress of your submission. When the work has been assigned an editor, its status will change from received to “In-Progress,” which is the longest status works will typically have. The piece is in-progress as the editors are (hopefully) reading over your work and, undoubtedly, the many, many more submissions they have been assigned. When a decision has been made on your work, its status will shift to either “Accepted” or “Declined” and will no longer appear under your “Active” tab, and instead will fall under the appropriate Accepted/Declined tab.

How Long Does It Take for a Decision to be Reached?

The length of time it takes to receive a decision update is determined by the individual publication, not Submittable. The submissions section of the publication’s website usually offers an idea of the average amount of time it takes for its editors to make a decision. I have occasionally had pieces immediately rejected, never showing as “In-Progress.” I attribute this occurrence as maybe the publication has capped its number of submissions already for that time period, or, I suppose, maybe my writing really is that bad and the editor did not want it sitting in their inbox for even a moment longer.

The average wait time that I have experienced has been between two and three months. The essay I had accepted by Hippocampus Magazine took four months for a decision to be made. Unfortunately, I have also occasionally had a few pieces inexplicably remain in the “In-Progress” status indefinitely. When this has happened, it appeared that the publication was no longer around or maybe it was an oversight on the part of a busy editor.

Are the Fees Worth It?

Writers are notorious for not having expendable cash, so it stands to reason we would be hesitant about paying any out-of-pocket expense without good reason. I consider Submittable fees to be one of those good reasons. First, the cost is typically not more than $3, which approximately equates to a cup of coffee, and most publications state they charge this fee simply to cover the cost of using the Submittable platform. Some publications charge more than that amount, in which case, I try to find out more information about why the publication is charging more, perhaps it pays its editors or has other fees. Contests across the board often cost more, sometimes between $15 and $20.

Pros:

  • Submittable is easy to use
  • The status updates make the submissions process seem less like I am sending out my work into a black hole, never to be heard from again
  • There is a (fairly) new Discover feature which allows you to find new publications in your genre which currently have open submissions. This feature also clearly lists the submission fee

Cons:

  • None, except the rare, perpetual “In-progress” status occurrence

Have you used Submittable to submit your own writing? What was your experience? Or maybe you have tips for using other submissions management software? Feel free to share your own experiences in the comment section below!

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Living a Life of Writing

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Contrary to the popular expression, time does not fly, especially as you get older. No, time is a twenty ton freight train tearing down a set of railroad tracks at an abominable rate. This past year, I realized the uncomfortable truth — that train is never going to slow down.

Over the past twelve months, in an effort to make the most of my time, I have made an active effort to live a life of writing. Prior to that time, I journaled extensively and wrote a few incomplete short stories here and there, never really having a focus on my writing goals. In late 2017, I realized that time was slipping away from me, and I was tired of putting writing on the back burner of my life. I schedule time for work, for friends, for families, but why wasn’t I devoting that energy to writing? I finally decided to buckle down to produce not only more writing, but writing with a purpose.

What did I do differently? The most important change I made was to stop viewing writing as a solo adventure and to instead, write in the company of friends. When I stopped thinking of writing as something I did holed up in my room, writing became more of a social activity during which I actually accomplished more than if I were working alone.

Some fellow writers and I formed a writing group in Asheville and met at least once a week to write in the same shared space. We met at coffee shops and spent a few hours working on our individual works. Each of us had our own aspirations for how we wanted to improve our writing. Some members wanted to complete novels, others wanted to create a more consistent writing habit. I made a choice to focus on actually completing pieces and submitting them to online magazines and literary journals, mostly using the site Submittable.

In mid-2018, I had a small success getting a creative non-fiction essay accepted by Hippocampus Magazine and published on its site. This publication, while seemingly minor to some, was a huge moment for me because it was the first time I had been paid for my writing. As of now, a few of my short fiction stories are still in pending status with other online publications.

As it is nearing the end of the year, I am considering ways that I can continue to focus on my writing in 2019 and to become more deeply involved in the writing world. So far, I have a few things on my list:

Begin (and maintain!) a blog

Starting a blog has been on my to-do list for some time now. I plan to use this format to share my personal writing journey with you, including sharing writing strategies that have worked for me and ways that I am working to be more connected to writing.

Enroll in an editing certification course

I stumbled across the Poynter ACES Certificate in Editing and am considering spending the $75 for a certificate. I am hoping a certification will help beef up my resumé and hopefully offer extra skills for, at the very least, editing my own work and possibly editing the work of others.

Devote one evening a week to writing with others

I just recently moved to a new town and looking for a local writing group, I joined a Meetup group.  Through this group I met three other writers in the area. The organizer is a writer with her own editing business and the other two members are mystery writers. We will be meeting every other week to write together and to offer feedback on one another’s work. On the weeks we won’t be meeting, I plan to drop into the Shut Up and Write meetings which are also offered through Meetup. These meetings are what they sound like: writers come together, set a timer, and basically shut up and put words to paper (or to computer screen, as the case may be).

Writing groups give me a sense of accountability that I unfortunately do not possess on my own. When I know other writers will be asking about my work each week, I am more inclined to focus. They are also great supports for bouncing off plot ideas and swapping information about writing conferences and events around your area.

Do you have any other tips for incorporating more writing into your life? Or maybe you have experienced challenges when trying to do so? Leave a comment below – I would love to hear from you!