Tag Archives: literary magazines

It’s Not You, It’s Me: A Truth About Rejection Letters

Introduction

If you’ve ever received a rejection letter from a publisher or literary agent, then you know just how much it sucks.

pexels-photo-278312

But there is some good news.

Really, it’s them, it’s not you.

The Biggest Reason Why Your Writing Gets Rejected

I have a close friend who has an almost ungodly amount of perseverance. Usually, that’s an amazing thing to behold. Usually.

pexels-photo-925960

A friend of hers is a poet. I’m the editor-in-chief of a literary magazine. Hey, wouldn’t it be great to feature her poetry in your magazine, Alfonso?

Nope.

While my friend’s friend’s poetry is strong, and she’s quite accomplished, this woman’s work was completely outside of the parameters of the writing we publish at Beautiful Losers Magazine.

Does the fact that this woman’s writing was rejected for our magazine mean she was a bad poet? Absolutely not.

The truth is that every agent, publisher, and literary magazine has VERY specific requirements of what they’re looking for. If you aren’t an exact match for those parameters, your writing will probably be rejected.

pexels-photo-998850

And it doesn’t mean you suck as a writer.

And it doesn’t mean that particular piece sucked.

It just means that you need to find a better home for your writing.

If you’ve received tons of rejections, you’d better spend a little bit more time finding an appropriate place for your writing.

Now if you’ve been doing this legwork and still are receiving tons of rejections, you may want to consider having your work edited by a professional editor. I’m available, kids!

pexels-photo-271265

Conclusion

Treat agents and publishers like members of your preferred sex. You wouldn’t marry just anyone, would you?

Don’t send your writing to agents and publishers without screening.

Unless you like being left at the altar, you fucking masochist.

pexels-photo-924885

Like What You Read? Like What You Read!

pexels-photo-267355

If you found this post helpful, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, then share this post on social media.

Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

 

Inside A Publisher’s Mind: Slick by Erric Emerson

5-10% Of the many submissions of poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction that we receive at Beautiful Losers Magazine, only around 5-10% of them are accepted for publication. If that sounds competitive, it’s because it is; and many literary magazines are actually quite a bit more difficult to get into than Beautiful Losers Magazine.

With that in mind, I’m proud to introduce a new concept to The Literary Game. Inside A Publisher’s Mind is going to be a running feature detailing the rationale behind the poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction that we’ve accepted at Beautiful Losers Magazine. While every publication has their own unique style, it is my hope that this can shed a little light on some of the core qualities of excellent literature and help writers improve their craft. I hope you find this of help!

Without further ado, here’s why I accepted Erric Emerson’s Slick.

slick

  1. Slick was consistent with the type of poetry that we publish. We’ve rejected a poetry submission from a poet who was published in The New Yorker. Credentials don’t matter to us, especially if a poet or other type of writer doesn’t send writing that is a fit for our magazine. Slick is edgy, literary, and accessible – exactly in line with the type of poetry that we publish.
  2. Slick was provocative. Lines like “When she came in my mouth, it tasted like a three-years-held / thank-you, / that sweet.” caught my attention. The entire poem was bold. Emerson didn’t dance around the sexuality intrinsic to this poem, he embraced it.
  3. Slick was exceptionally well-crafted. First, the basics: There were no typos, no grammatical mistakes, and no odd formatting, all of which turn me off because they indicate that either a writer doesn’t understand the basics of the English language, or that they don’t take their writing seriously enough to give it a proofread. Beyond the basics, Emerson showed that he wasn’t a novice through his strong use of imagery and the push-pull in the language’s subtlety. A less-skilled poet could easily have lost the artfulness of this poem and turned into a shock piece with little literary merit.

If you want to read Slick for yourself, just click here. If you’ve read Slick, what did you think?

If you found this post helpful, please like, comment, repost, or subscribe to my blog – all are appreciated! Thank you!

Five Benefits To Starting A Literary Magazine

hands-people-woman-girl

It’s been a while! I apologize for the lack of posts, but I’ve been extremely busy with other projects since last November. Quick update: I’ve been commissioned to write a screenplay for Supersonic Productions and a non-fiction book for a New York City-based nonprofit. In combination with my duties as co-founder and publisher of Beautiful Losers Magazine, free time has been at a minimum. Still, no excuses, right? On with the show!

Right here on WordPress, when I was scrolling through my feed, I found an incredibly talented writer named Dario Cannizzaro  We became friends, and he introduced me to his friend Austin Wiggins. They told me about their plan to start a literary magazine, and I was intrigued. I had started a couple of literary magazines in the past, but they had fizzled out for various reasons. Now, with a couple of high-character partners, we set out to start a literary magazine, and the rest is history.

Has running a literary magazine been easy? Not always! But it has definitely been worth it, and for many writers, choosing to start a literary magazine can be an incredibly valuable experience. Here are a few reasons that I’ve found as to how starting a literary magazine can be extremely beneficial for writers. If you know of any that I’ve missed, make sure to leave them in the comments below. Hope this helps!

  1. Networking. If you’re not Cormac McCarthy or Junot Diaz, you probably could benefit from gaining some new contacts to help advance your writing career. Running a literary magazine affords you the opportunity to network with talented writers. If you accept an author’s work, or even if you send them a personal rejection, you can start a conversation that can lead to some incredible contacts with ties to editors, publishers, and literary agents. Personally, I’ve become good friends with someone who’s collaborated with elite-level Hollywood directors. Pretty good for a budding screenwriter, right?
  2. Immersion. I understand that you might have to hold down that 9-5 until your literary dreams come true, but what are you doing on your time off? Starting a literary magazine gives you the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the culture of writers. You’re responsible for reading countless submissions, so that means putting Netflix aside, logging off Facebook, and learning from your contemporaries.
  3. Credibility. If you’re submitting short stories or poetry to literary magazines, or manuscripts to literary agents, running a competitive literary journal shows that you have some skin in the literary game. If a journal or agent is on the fence about your work, this could be what tips someone in your favor.
  4. Friendship. Whether you choose to go solo or partner with others on your litmag, your dedication will likely attract the attention of other likeminded people, and many of the most valuable friendships of your life may develop.
  5. Discipline. Starting a literary magazine is a form of leadership. Your readers are dependent on you putting out excellent content. Your writers are dependent on you screening submissions in a timely fashion. As a writer, discipline is critical, even more so than talent. Working day in and day out on your magazine can instill the necessary work ethic needed for success in the literary game.

Have any questions about starting a literary magazine? Comment below and I’ll do my best to share my thoughts! If you found this post helpful, please like, comment, repost, or subscribe to my blog – all are appreciated! 

 

How To Balance Writing, Publishing, and Networking?

My cousin Jerry, by most any account, has a pretty good life. He’s successful doing work that he loves, makes a nice amount of money, has a beautiful and charming wife, and three great children. When I talked to him about some of the initial challenges I was facing after I quit my job as an educator and planned to make a go of it as a writer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Jerry told me a story. As a man in his early twenties, he quickly earned more than double the salary of many of his middle-aged coworkers. How? When others put in 40 hours on the clock, with maybe 10 hours spent actually doing their jobs, he put in 80 hours, working beyond what was expected. Now, he doesn’t have to work so hard, though he still puts in a great deal time in projects he cares about. Those other guys, who knows what they’re doing now?

The point of this story is simple, if you’re serious about not just writing in your spare time, but making a career of being a writer, you’d better work hard. Still, even if you put in 80 hours per week, in such a competitive position as creative writing, if you’re not working smart, you just might end up stuck in as bad a position as Jerry’s former coworkers.

chess

One of the most difficult concerns for any writer looking to not just break in, but succeed, is the balance of writing, publishing, and networking. Here are a few suggestions that should help you work smarter, not harder:

  • Above all, write. One novel, three short stories, five poems – that’s not enough. Don’t even think about publishing or utilizing contacts and networking until you have a solid body of work. One success wouldn’t make a career, and the amount of time spent doing so is counterproductive. Make writing a consistent habit, have a lot of work to show around, and then start thinking about networking and publishing.
  • Understand that writing probably won’t make you rich. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are the extremely rare exceptions. That said, many writers can make a living off of writing alone, many times even off of creative writing alone. It helps if your budget isn’t extreme. If you are single and live in an area with a low cost of living in the United States, you could probably get by on around $1000/month. While you wouldn’t be living well on that, you could survive. Then, through perseverance and building your reputation, you could make a good deal more.
  •  The Internet is your friend. Creating a blog centered around your writing, or other topics of interest to writers, could be a great way to attract attention. Taking a participatory role in the culture of the writing community online will open yourself up to many new opportunities. Helping others will lead them to helping you. Websites like Upwork and Craigslist present many opportunities for publishers looking for ghostwriters. The pay may not be great, but with a body of work, a high-character approach, and determination, you can get those jobs and build traction. Do so.
  • Don’t be an outsider. Jumping off the previous point, many communities on the Internet are niche. If you write science-fiction or romance or mysteries, find where those writers and readers gather and become a part of their communities. Above all, help as many people as you can. Being a self-serving renegade can kill your chances of succeeded in today’s literary world.
  • Understand your markets. Don’t submit a 80,000 word science-fiction novel to an avant-garde poetry site. Respect publishers by being familiar with the writing that they publish and reading a significant amount of it. When you read the work that publishers put out, you’ll quickly know if it’s similar to your own. If it’s not, don’t waste your time and the publisher’s time with a submission. There are so many magazines and publishers that there is bound to be one that’s a good match for your style. Use Duotrope, Poets & Writers, or the Writer’s Market and find it!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a favor. In the words of new wave singer Morrissey of The Smiths, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” If you have a friend or other contact that could potentially lead to a solid break, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. The worst they can do is say no. Of course, make sure that you’ve done the basics first. Above all, follow their suggestions afterwards. Nothing burns out a good contact more than asking for a favor and not following through after someone does what you ask.

Taking these suggestions into account, you’ll be in an excellent position to advance your writing career. What do you think? What advice would you give to a new writer seeking to follow their dreams? Let’s start a dialogue.

 

A Guide To Publishing Etiquette

Maybe I have some sort of undiagnosed personality disorder, but one of my biggest pet peeves is writers who don’t follow the submissions guidelines for Beautiful / Losers Magazine. When a writer sends us an email with their poems or stories attached as a Word document, I become visibly filled with rage. My blood pressure shoots up. My smile turns upside down. And then I delete it, but not after having soaked in my righteous anger for a bit. If you don’t believe me, just ask my fiancee.

portrait-angry

The last thing any writer hoping to get their submission accepted for publication wants is for an editor’s face to look like the one of the man above. Chances are, if an editor has that face before even reading your submission, it’s toast.

So, how do you avoid making editors displeased? It’s simple, etiquette!

  • Always read the submissions guidelines and follow them to a T.
  • Find out to whom you should address your cover letter.
  • Send a respectful cover letter.
  • Don’t get angry if they reject your writing. Don’t respond at all in such a case.
  • Read their magazine first.
  • Submit work that fits with the aesthetic of their magazine. To find out what the aesthetic is, read it!
  • Be patient. Sometimes it can be a spell before you hear back from a publisher.
  • Don’t paste your submission in the body of an email if they want attachments.
  • And, of course, DON’T SEND YOUR SUBMISSION AS AN ATTACHMENT IF THEY WANT IT IN THE BODY OF AN EMAIL 😉

How to avoid making editors displeased? Treat your submission to a magazine or publishing house with the same respect you would take to a job interview. Put your best face forward, do your homework, follow the rules, and you’ll be in the best potential situation for success.

Did I miss anything in this post? What do you think are some of the things to avoid when submitting writing to a publishing house or literary magazine?

Drinking At A Soviet Bar On My 33rd Birthday With The Guy Who Did The Song From Revenge of the Nerds

Running a literary magazine has its perks, believe me. Sure, it can be a chore to read through countless submissions, strategize on how to build engagement with readers and writers, and plot on how to scale up at an appropriate time, but there are some interesting things that come along with the job. Like meeting Leslie Bohem.

Les Bohem is an accomplished screenwriter (he wrote Dante’s Peak and wrote and co-produced, with Stephen Spielberg, the SyFy Channel show Taken), and musician (ex-member of Sparks and Gleaming Spires). More than his accomplishments, he’s a hell of a guy, and funny to boot. So, of course, the story of how I met Les Bohem started with a rejection letter from Beautiful / Losers Magazine.

Running Beautiful / Losers Magazine with two other editors, Dario Cannizzaro and Austin Wiggins, while simultaneously having a policy of pieces only getting accepted if they’re voted in unanimously, means that many amazing writers get rejected. Austin, Dario, Drew Gorman (who no longer is an editor with us,  but was at the time) and I all have different tastes, yet we all desire to uphold extremely high standards for publication. And so good pieces get rejected. Like Les’ first piece he submitted to us.

What made me reach out to Les after the rejection letter? Well, I did vote yes on his initial piece, but more than that, he was the frontman for Gleaming Spires. Gleaming Spires! If you’ve ever seen Revenge of the Nerds, you must remember their iconic song “Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?” A classic, one which I admitted to Les that I pirated off Napster when I was in high school. A pardonable offense clearly, although I do owe him a round for that. It’s justified.

Through our correspondence, we built a friendship, and when I learned that his son (Charlie Keys Bohem, a talented writer in his own right) was a student at Vassar College, the alma mater of my fiancee Lauren Rubin, well then, the bond was cemented. With an impending move to Baltimore from Norwalk, Connecticut the next day, I invited Les to join me and Lauren for some drinks at KGB Bar, a super chill hipster bar decorated with tons of Soviet paraphernalia in New York’s East Village. And he accepted.

We had an amazing time hanging out and drinking with Les Bohem. Sparks were a seminal band in the LA scene, Dante’s Peak was a great movie, and Taken was one of the most ambitious miniseries I’ve ever seen, but I’ll remember that night as the night I drank with the guy who did the song from Revenge of the Nerds. Cross that one off the bucket list.

 

 

 

8 Questions To Ask Yourself If You Aren’t Getting Your Writing Published

 

In baseball, some of the best players in the game only get a hit roughly one out of every three times they are at the plate. The same can be said about writers and publishing.

Ty Cobb, one of the legends of the game, had a .366 batting average, the highest of all-time in Major League Baseball history. On average, 634 out of every 1000 times that he was at the plate, he would fail to get a hit.

Writers looking to publish can learn a lot from batting averages. A position player in the major leagues will generally hit between .200 and .360 during a full season. A writer successfully targeting journals relevant to their style, tone, and themes will have a success rate roughly equivalent to the average baseball player. If you get in a particularly hot streak, you may get a few acceptances in a row without a rejection. You may also get into a slump. In time, everything will average out.

If you are submitting your poetry or short fiction to competitive journals, contacting agents, or submitting your manuscript to publishers, and you are getting rejected consistently without any acceptances, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Have I had my writing edited? Does it read well, or is it choppy? Are there major problems?

2. Am I targeting the right literary journals, publishers, and agents? Would they actually be interested in my type of writing, or is this completely off the mark?

3. Do I need to build my platform? From where I am right now as a writer and a person, can I do anything to attract some attention to myself?

4. Do I know where to find agents, publishers, or literary journals? Duotrope.com, PW.org, and the Writer’s Market 2016 are all great places to start.

5. Have I been writing consistently enough to develop my skills to the point where my work is of a publishable standard? Do you treat writing as a part-time hobby or a fatalistic dream, or are you serious about it? Your writing will improve the more you actually write.

6. Did I ever learn the fundamentals of writing, or have I gone into creative writing with a lot of passion, but little education in the workings of craft? If you never learned how to write well, you won’t.

7. How is my mindset? Am I visualizing success or am I anticipating another rejection letter? Your thoughts become reality. Create a reality where you expect to publish your writing.

8. Have I been reading other writers who write like I do? Absorbing ideas and style from other writers is critical, and writers who don’t read are writers who don’t get published.

If your writing is almost never accepted, or is never accepted, with around 95% certainty, I can say that you are probably doing at least one of these things wrong, and most likely many of them.

Now, once you correct your mistakes, you will not get accepted to every literary journal you submit your poems or short fiction to, or every independent publisher that you submit your manuscript to, or every agent that you contact. Far from it. But, you will get some successes.

I hope that this post motivated you to move forward. If you need to learn more about the basics of writing, take a look at my free Writing 101 course. If you have a specific question, use my free Q&A service and I’ll either answer you directly, or turn your question into a post if I feel it would benefit other writers, as well. If you need an editor to shape up your writing, or a publishing consultant whose versed in targeting effectively, I’m also available to help you.

I know that if you work hard and make the appropriate tweaks, you will become a successful writer.

In success,
Alfonso