The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Favorite Authors

DSC00444Shadows Wake was published July 15, 2015, and since then I’ve learned so much more about the aspects of getting a book seen. And there is one element of this challenge that is directly on the readers.

Books live or die by their reviews.

Does that surprise you? It’s true. Authors cannot submit their books to book lists without a certain number of reviews with a four-star average (the number varies by list). Amazon’s visibility algorithms don’t work until reviews begin stacking up. Some say 50 is the sweet spot, others set a goal for 200.

The best thing you can do for an author you like is to review their book, whether that’s on Goodreads, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Amazon. I’d encourage any reader who enjoyed a particular book to review it both where they bought it and on their favorite review site (e.g. Goodreads) if they have one.

Authors have more promotional opportunities based on their reviews. And honestly, we write for our readers. It’s absolutely wonderful to read good reviews (and educational to read bad ones).

Buying your favorite author’s book is always appreciated, and borrows are great, but it’s the reviews that make others willing to buy the book you enjoyed. It’s the reviews that allow a book to get more exposure. That’s why so many authors are more than happy to give away copies of their books if there’s even a remote chance a review will come of it. The publishing world is different today. Indie authors aren’t paid an advance and most traditional first time authors receive tiny advances. Reviews help books sell, which keeps your favorite author at his or her desk working on the next book you’re dying to read.

Your review doesn’t have to be fancy or wordy. Just write an honest view of the book in a couple lines if that’s all you feel like doing. It helps more than you know. Also, if you are used to reviewing on GoodReads, keep in mind that a four-star on Goodreads isn’t an equivalent review on Amazon. Often a five-star review on Amazon is equal to a four-star on Goodreads.


Think of the last book you loved or that made you feel. Go review it. The author will love you for it.

Ready To Submit your Writing? Get a Submission Tracker

Ready To Submit your Writing? Get a Submission TrackerA couple weeks ago, I discussed the importance of getting your work out there, and a couple months ago, I gave some pointers about submitting to literary magazines. Now that I’ve given you the how and why, you’re at the stage where it’s time to start defining your submission plans. What would I suggest?

Make goals

Aim for one hundred rejections. That’s right. This may sound like a glass-is-half-empty kind of approach, but I’ve put a positive twist on it. If you set a goal of one hundred rejections a year, then that means you’ve submitted your work one hundred times. Think about that for a minute.

But if 100 rejections feels like a little too much your first time out, then lower the goal. Either way, make one. Lay out your plan.

Don’t hang your hopes on one piece

The more work you’ve completed and prepped, the better your odds that something gets published. While one piece is away, don’t stop to wait around for the responses. Put it out of your mind. Work on something else; make it even better than what you’ve sent out. You’d be surprised how quickly time passes when you’re focused on something else.

Track your progress

Keep track of when and where you send your stories. If you’re — like me — ridiculously lazy, then I’ve got great news for you! There are tools out there to help you keep track of your story submissions. Thanks to Robyn, I was acquainted with one some months back, and I’ve been using it ever since, but I’ve since learned of others that I think may be beneficial to share with you all. See below.

Submission Trackers

Sonar: A simple, free program developed by author Simon Haynes. It lets you plug in your manuscript name and when/where you send it. When you get a response, you simply check a box, fill out any relevant information, and Sonar does the rest. It tells you how long the submission has been out, too. This is the one I am currently using.

Duotrope: Not free, but apparently quite extensive. Membership (after a free trial period) is $5.00 a month. They have a search that allows you to sift through the market, which makes finding the ideal submission places much simpler. They also have their own custom submission tracker.

Writer’s Planner: Unlike Sonar, this one is an online tracker. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve seen it recommended elsewhere, so if you’d rather keep it online, then perhaps this one will work better for you.

The Writer’s Database: This one is also an online tracker, and I quite like the layout of it. In addition to the submission tracker, they have a searchable market database and a word count tracker. It’s free, too.

Matt Bell’s submission tracker: For the Excel lovers, this one is a pre-made template, so if you like Excel, but you’re too lazy to make your own tracker (as I would be), then you’re in luck.

In conclusion . . .

The submission process doesn’t have to be a stressful, daunting task. Using current technology can greatly ease the transition into publication. If you’re dealing with multiple or simultaneous submissions, then tracking your output is one way of ensuring you don’t bite off more than you can chew. And since so much of it is free, there’s really no excuse not to give it a try. So there you have it. Submitting made easy! Get your work out there!

Have a special tracker you use that you’d care to share? Any experience with the ones listed above? Let me know in the comments!

Things To Know If You Want To Publish in Literary Magazines

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ll start this off by saying: I am not a master of getting published in literary magazines. Rather it’s probably more accurate to say that I’m an expert in getting rejected by them. But there are a few things I’ve learned along the way that may be of use to you. Reading the fine print, familiarizing yourself with your chosen venue of publication, drafting cover and query letters—all of these things will bring you one step closer to seeing your name in print.

And besides, there are a ton of opportunities out there for writers—you just need to know where to look.

Cover Letters

Most literary journals require a cover letter. I’ve noticed that some of the speculative fiction magazines are more lenient about this, but as a habit, I send them one, too. Cover letters are not as daunting as they sound. In general, magazines want something simple—a few sentences that state who you are, any previous notable publications (don’t list every single one; they don’t care), the title of your piece. That’s about it.

The Review Review gives a good overview of how to write a cover letter: Your Perfect Cover Letter

Take the time to address the editor by name

Having a cover letter template to use as a basis is fine. But I have a suggestion: take the time to individualize each letter. Try not to just address it to “Fiction Editor” or “To whom it may concern” unless specified by the magazine. In general, when you specifically name the editor, it shows that you have at least read through the guidelines and the magazine’s site.

Follow submission instructions

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many stories get rejected simply because the author didn’t follow the magazine’s submission guidelines. There is a submission standard, and many magazines do follow this, but always, always check to see if they require something more (or less). Some magazines have a strictly anonymous reading procedure, for instance, which means your name shouldn’t be anywhere on the story.

Here is the typical standard formatting as written by William Shunn. If there aren’t any specific guidelines for the magazine, follow these: Proper Manuscript Formatting

Familiarize yourself with the magazine

The easiest way to familiarize yourself with a magazine is to read what they publish. Naturally most writers can’t afford subscription fees for every magazine on the market, but many magazines release a story or two from back issues for public consumption. Look for these on their websites and do take the time to decide whether your story will fit the magazine’s mission.

Prepare yourself for the rejection

You will get rejected. A lot. It’s inevitable. But eventually you may just get that acceptance letter, so keep trying. DO NOT GIVE UP!

Don’t expect to pay your bills

You probably already know this, but literary magazines don’t tend to pay. You may get a little compensation; you may get a free copy of the journal with your publication in it. But that’s about it. Mostly your reward will be seeing your name in print.


If you’re new to the literary journal game, then here are a couple of resources to get you started:

Poets & Writers is a great resource for new and established authors alike. They have a listing of literary magazines HERE and offer a plethora of information—from schools that offer programs in creative writing to small presses to literary agents.

Be a Better Writer: One of the things I love about this site is that the author takes the time to list upcoming writing contests (including deadlines and how much they pay the winners). I highly recommend checking it out.

The Review Review: This site hosts a great database of calls for submission and writing contests. Additionally, they offer reviews of magazines, which is invaluable information for getting familiar with the literary publication world.

Do you have any other advice to offer writers trying to publish in journals?