Submission services

Dear Ms. Snark,
What do you think about submission services, such as Writer's Relief?

I think they're a waste of time for submitting novels to agents.

They may be useful for getting a list of places to send short fiction. It's hard to track down some of those smaller journals that only pay in copies, and pub credits are a good investment.

Anyone who says they can find the right agent for you for a fee is wrong.

If they couch it as "help you find an agent more efficiently" they're still going to cost you more in money than the postage you'd buy to find out for yourself.

I routinely reject anyone who submits work indirectly. I think it's the mark of someone who thinks there's a secret to getting noticed or published that doesn't involve writing well.


Don said...

I don't think it makes sense for submitting short fiction either. The Novel & Short Story Writer's Market book is $17.81 at Amazon. Toss in a good novel for free shipping and you're going to come in well under whatever the submission people will charge. If you're the impatient sort, take out a highlighter and mark the places that accept simultaneous submissions while your printer is churning out copies of your story and then make a short form letter to cover your story (if you have no pub credits, there's no reason to write anything more than 'please look at my story, "life in rabbitania,"' and even with, many editors don't bother reading them in any event). If you really want to spend money, you could buy the on-line WM subscription, although realistically, if you're submitting to more than ten-fifteen publications, you're wasting your time.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend whose stories are highly publishable--he just didn't know if his work had merit back when he signed up with one of these services. He's got ADD or ADHD that makes it nearly impossible for him to do what you and I do: research the litmags, keep a submissions log, write our cover letters, track the responses. At any rate, the service did as promised--it got his stories in print--no problem. Unfortunately, they got them into fairly obscure litmags. It was a shame; he could have done better. After seeing that, I'd rather hire an MFA student a few hours a week to run my submissions log like a business. At the very least, make sure you approve the list of magazines to which a service submits your work.

Kit Whitfield said...

It's a common assumption among editors, in my experience, that if someone doesn't have the sense to put together a reasonable submission plan, they don't have the sense to write a good book either. Going to agents through a hired intermediary is an example. It's getting off on the wrong foot.

Anonymous said...

Don's right. Don't use submission services for submitting short fiction either. Short fiction markets are quite easy to approach and it would be a waste of time. Even if you don't buy the book Don recommended. There's plenty of free short story market search engines online who will get you all the details you need to submit. All the writer has to do is make the effort. Spending any more than the cash to buy such a book is a sure sign of nitwittery.

If I were to receive a submission through such a service for my mag, I'd return it unread.

Joel Derfner said...

I talked to WR at one point and they said (since I asked specifically) that if I joined they'd be happy to give me a list of places to which I should send my short fiction. Then I filled out the forms and all and sent them in and was like, okay, where's my list so I can send my stuff out, and they said, oh, we don't do that, you have to pay our total fee and we'll send your short fiction out for you. Then after I said thanks but no thanks they kept me on their mailing list and kept on sending me their monthly newsletter. It wasn't until like the third time I wrote them and asked them to stop that they did.

Ryan Field said...

I get an e-mail at least once a week from someone who runs one of these services. I know he's a published writer; I even know his agent. And, Miss Snark, without knowing I'm sure, has even published his name here on the blog regarding a quote he gave for a conference. I've actually seen him on the six o'clock news pushing his quasi horror books around Halloween time (of course I gagged, but I'm sure most people watching thought it was a cute segment).

The point is that as long as there are people willing to pay for these services, and at the very least they learn something, it's not always a bad thing. I learned how publishing works in the trenches at Conde Nast, and on my own by working with editors (while keeping my mouth shut so I wouldn't look stupid). Not everyone has that opportunity. The people who go to this guy truly believe they are getting something out of it, and in that context I don't see anything wrong with it.

archer said...

The problem is there are many competing submission services. I can find the right one for you.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I've been quite pleased with the results I've had using Writer's Relief on the short story front. I found them very upfront about what the service they were actually providing was, and although it is a bit pricey on the bohemian budget, it's certainly gotten me to get my stuff out there, and led to a couple of bigger and better things. I'd say it's more a matter of budget than anything else, at least that's the part I find myself questioning. But hey, I'm not really trying to convince anyone--it's a competitive enough market out there as it is. but

Anonymous said...

duotrope.com is a good database for the short story market. You still have to do your homework, write your letters, etc but it's the most comprehensive list of small journals I've seen, and I believe they have a submissions tracking feature.