Duotrope: Current Obsession

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The publishing stage of any written piece is usually that mythical place that many writers dream of reaching. You can draft and draft and draft, and once you reach that point where the idea of drafting this piece anymore makes you consider drinking the bleach from under the sink, you know it’s time to start sending out your work for possible publication.

Because I am nowhere near a decent manuscript with any of my fiction work, my focus for publication has been on a rather large collection of poems that I’ve been desperately sending out to different literary magazines across the country, politely and softly offering my digital manuscripts that hold, you know, nothing major or anything, just the contents of my soul, to my editor overlords with shaking hands and swirling stomach, not unlike a homeless bag lady who holds out her paper cup for change, hoping to eat that day.

What it’s like to receive a rejection email first thing in the morning.

“Please look at my poem and maybe like it and if you don’t, please be gentle! I’m just a baby!” is sort of what I want to write in all of my emails to these journals, but that seems like an easy way for these people to do the complete opposite of what you’re asking and opens the door for them to tear you a new one.

The last time I seriously submitted my work to lit mags was in college, and I was lucky enough to have twenty pieces published in a variety of magazines. But that was after something like 100 rejections, as is usually the case with lit mags; the rejection rate is incredible. That’s why you want to be selective on where you send your work, especially if the rejection rate is something like 99%.

But offering your work to publishers isn’t even the hardest part most of the time. The hardest part is finding who to offer your work to and who is accepting work.

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That’s where Duotrope, my new obsession, comes in. According to their website, Duotrope is “an established, award-winning writers’ resource” that essentially gathers as many literary journals into one database for you to search and submit your work to. The magazines and journals have full descriptions of what type of work they are looking for, their conditions, their requested formats. But it’s fabulous because it means the writer no longer has to search endlessly through the bogs of the Interwebs finding literary mags to submit to on their own. It’s all at your fingertips!

There is also a submission tracker to note where you sent your writing and which pieces you sent to which literary journal. This is a fabulous tool because it will also keep track of how long it takes for your to get a response from the lit mag, as well as the time it takes for other people to get a response (it is not unusual for it to take close to 200+ days for a literary magazine staff member to respond to you, and by that point, you’ve long forgotten you even bothered to send anything in).

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It’s not really difficult to see how this would make the publishing life of a writer infinitely easier. I’ve only been using the service for about a month now, and though I’ve had no responses back from any of the publications I’ve submitted to, I feel leaps and bounds better about myself as a writer because I can physically view the number of times I’m willing to risk rejection (which is a lot), and I think that’s pretty vital for writers once they reach that step. Writing, like beauty, is pain.

Obviously, using Duotrope isn’t going to make the pain of rejection go away any sooner or lessen the sting when your work is rejected (and it will be rejected, probably hundreds of times), but it is a really helpful tool for motivating yourself to actually submit your work, to get it out there in the ether, instead of letting it sit on your hard drive until something tragic happens to your computer.

Plus, you get a week free! Who doesn’t love free?

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