You just happen to forget that a literary journal has submission guidelines. Please, oh, please send me your 75 page tome. Please send me your entire pile of poems written on scrap paper plus a few short stories thrown in for good measure. Please single space everything, submit in Comic Sans font, please draw little pictures on your submission. Because us editors make up these guidelines for fun, of course. A diversion between all of our projects, which should be ignored at all costs. We have SO much time on our hands. Of course you can’t be expected, writers you, to actually read submission guidelines, oh perish the THOUGHT. But of course, a staff of volunteer readers and editors should read every last fucking syllable of your work.
Felica Sullivan, Editor
I receive a lot of emails asking to work for me. A lot. I would say out of the thousands I receive, perhaps two of them I would even consider if I had jobs available, which at the moment, I do not. The letters I receive are almost always unprofessional, written to a BFF or from a “fan” point of view. A lot of them talk about “feelings” and “blessings” and the “journey they want to take with me.” I have people pleading, begging for a chance at something they think I have and that if I gave it to them, everything would be great.
Then I have people who want to write for the popular Girls Guide to City Life and yes, I do need writers there. However, it’s been hard to find great people because out of the hundreds of queries I receive again maybe only two are worth looking at because they did not follow the guidelines.
It’s not that I don’t receive queries from talented people – I do. There’s degree’s and experience coming from everywhere but somehow, all that goes out the door when it comes to the application process. The people who query almost never query the correct email (which is SUCH a pain because this site and that site are run separately and to switch emails and deal with it – well, I’m not going to). They never follow the guidelines and never submit the right kind of writing. A lot of people come across as insecure “please? Could I maybe write? I don’t write good but um, I’d like to if I could have a chance? I’m nice. My mum says so. Honest!”
I’m creative and, for the most part, like a relaxed atmosphere. It’s true that I have a chaise in my office for napping, I drink a lot of tea, I wear a lot of pink but I also run a business. And when I talk to people, I make sure I’m professional, I’m on the ball, I have the info they need and nothing less. I work hard, follow the rules at first (don’t think of even breaking them before you’ve worked with people) and that’s why all the work I get is referral based. I’m put together so people know they can trust me. They see me as creative but also as someone who gets the job done. I think a lot of people who want to run creative business forget the “business” part of it – especially women. They think if they’re nice that should be enough – it’s not.
When I have people apply for a job and write to the wrong address, I ignore it. If they don’t follow the guidelines, I delete. If they send me a business proposal that is terribly weak it’s out the door. I’m busy – I don’t have time to weed through potential and I don’t think anyone else does either.
I understand that when a person is starting out, you hope to be “discovered.” When I was young I used to think each time I walked past an on-location movie set that somehow the director would see me, come running over and say, “That’s her! That’s the talent we’re looking for!” I never got one movie job that way; studying the industry, connecting with the right people, working my ass off on every shoot or in every development meeting – that’s what got me in and kept me in.
It’s frustrating on my end because when I delete all these bad submissions I feel as though I’m destroying a little bit of hope in someone when I do. But at the same time, I don’t want to be “nice” and just say, “Sorry love, not today” because that doesn’t help anyone get any better.
I’ve said it many, many times that it’s great to have a dream but just dreaming doesn’t make things happen. You have to do to be and there’s just no way around it.
So my advice to those who want to write/work for me (or anyone else):
1. Be professional and put together. You can still have personality in your email/query (and people love when you do) and be professional. Don’t write as you would to your mother or girlfriend but to a stranger whose respect you’re trying to get. No smile’s, no LOL’s (I get that a lot), and please, for the love of everyone involved, no “blessings.”
2. Know the person and/or company that you’re applying for and figure out how you will add value to them. Inexperienced people always want a mentor, a guide, someone to show them the way. I can tell you that while I’d love to do this, I do not have the time to teach someone. But if an inexperienced person says, “I know how to file, to edit, to code to something you really need” then I would consider them because then they’re not a drain but an asset.
3. Follow the rules. There are guidelines for a reason people. Nothing pisses an editor or potential employer more than someone thinking they can “get around the rules.” I cannot tell you how many people write to me at this site for jobs I’ve posted elsewhere.
4. Be committed. If you start a job, finish it. Give it your all while you’re there – even if it’s not always 100% what you want to do. Trust me when I say you learn from every job. I don’t complain about corporate America anymore because without that experience I don’t think I’d be as successful as I am today. I learned a lot about marketing, meetings, communicating, structure, finance, and PR from jobs I thought weren’t my passion. Think of something you’re doing as a semester at college; it’ll teach you something so you can stand on your own someday.
5. Be Professional. Just worth repeating.