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Tips for Writers Preparing to Send Work out into the World by Claire Hennessy

Writing.ie | Resources | Getting Published | Submission Tips
claire hennessy

1. Take no single piece of advice as the ultimate authority. Including this list.

2. Become obsessed with the acknowledgements pages of books. Where did these poems or stories first appear? Who’s this person’s agent? Use this information in conjunction with Professor Google to identify opportunities for yourself – literary journals or magazines to send work to, competitions to enter, agents to approach.

3. Bookshops (the brick-and-mortar ones) and libraries are also places to frequent. Bookshops will give you a good sense of the ‘now’ of the publishing world, while libraries often have books you can use as a resource (ask a librarian about their creative writing section – it is highly likely you are not the first person to ask if they have a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, which comes out every year with lists of publishers, agents, etc.)

4. Read the submission guidelines. I say this a lot. Almost everyone who has ever given advice on this topic has said this. Sometimes the guidelines will have details about themes, topics, and other such things that can help you identify if a particular place might be a good fit for your work. More often than not, they will have details about how to send your work so that it doesn’t get lost among the hundreds or thousands of other submissions, so that it can be tracked and recorded. Submission guidelines are, a lot of the time, about practical issues.

5. Never open a response from a journal, magazine, editor or agent if: it’s after midnight and you have a glass of something alcoholic in hand; you’re having a bad day at work and hoping for the Big Break that will let you quit your job; or your partner has just left you and you’d love to show them what they’re missing… The urge to type an email in reply will be too strong. You are only human. Remove that temptation from your life.

6. Send work out into the world when it’s ready, and when you’re going to be OK with a ‘no’. Almost always the answer is a ‘no’, because you’re seeking a particular kind of magical connection with a decision-maker. That’s tricky to find, and it doesn’t mean your work is No Good and you should Just Give Up Immediately. Keep going.

7. Find people – in ‘real life’ or online – who understand the ‘keep going’ bit. If there are people in your life who feel that one or three or seventeen rejections is a sign to throw in the towel, they don’t get it, even though they might be lovely people. Find a comparison that works for you in terms of thinking about finding the ‘right’ fit for your work – is it like finding your work’s soulmate? Like finding the perfect outfit for a special occasion? Like all the fates aligning so that a brilliant goal can be scored just before the whistle blows?

8. Your creativity lives in the work, not in your Unique Approach to the submissions process. For example: writing a query or cover letter ‘in character’ might seem very creative, but if that character is a serial killer, it may alarm the reader. See also: sending photos. Of anything.

9. Remember that a journal, magazine, publisher or agency is not going to suddenly change the entire way they do business on the basis of your work. If you are writing erotic fiction set on a spaceship, the publisher of educational textbooks is not going to be the right place for it, even if it’s the best erotic-spaceship-fiction the world has ever seen.

10.Don’t apologise for your work, even if you are Irish and/or female and therefore conditioned to believe that anything other than hanging your head in shame is Pure Notions. ‘This is probably no good’ in a cover letter can seem either a bit compliment-fishy or a sign for the reader to quickly reject it (they’ve lots of other things to read, after all).

11.Read the submissions guidelines. I know we’ve had this one before but really. Really. Really.

(c) Claire Hennessy

About Like Other Girls:

Here’s what Lauren knows: she’s not like other girls. She also knows it’s problematic to say that – what’s wrong with girls? She’s even fancied some in the past. But if you were stuck in St Agnes, her posh all-girls school, you’d feel like that too. Here everyone’s expected to be Perfect Young Ladies, it’s even a song in the painfully awful musical they’re putting on this year. And obviously said musical is directed by Lauren’s arch nemesis.

Under it all though, Lauren’s heart is bruised. Her boyfriend thinks she’s crazy and her best friend has issues of her own… so when Lauren realises she’s facing every teenage girl’s worst nightmare, she has nowhere to turn. Maybe she should just give in to everything. Be like other girls. That’s all so much easier … right?

‘Magnificent … I recommend highly’ Marian Keyes

About the author

Claire Hennessy is a writer, editor, book reviewer, and creative writing facilitator based in Dublin, Ireland.

She is the author of twelve books for young people, and her most recent YA novels Like Other Girls and Nothing Tastes As Good are published by Hot Key Books. Her work has been nominated for the Irish Book Awards and the Carnegie Medal.

Her shorter work (fiction, poetry) has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies, including Necessary Fiction, Southword, Correspondences, and The Lonely Crowd. She won the Doolin Short Story Prize in 2015. Claire has received three Arts Council bursaries (for both short fiction and YA) and holds masters’ degrees in both Popular Literature and Creative Writing (TCD).

She reviews YA fiction for The Irish Times, children’s fiction for Inis, and other bits and pieces upon request. Claire regularly delivers author visits, writing workshops, and other book/publishing-related events for schools, colleges, libraries and festivals.

Claire is a co-director and co-founder of the Big Smoke Writing Factory creative writing school in Dublin, and a mentor for Words Ireland. She takes on a limited number of freelance editorial projects, with past experience in both commercial publishing (as an editor with Penguin Random House Ireland) and small-press/literary-journal publishing (as co-founder of and editor at Banshee). She is powered mostly by tea.

Claire is represented by Sallyanne Sweeney at MMBcreative.

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