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Conquer Fear of the Unknown when Querying—Research!

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by Kelly Lynne

Fear is a powerful force to drive you or to stop you. What stops writers from sticking a fork in a manuscript and sending it away to an agent or publisher? Maybe it is fear of choosing poorly.

While I love being an editor, I am at heart a writer.

In 2014 I decided to push myself to write another short story during NaNoWriMo; I managed to complete a draft of around 5,500 words (don’t laugh—I spend most of my time polishing everyone else’s words). This one was different from my usual genre and I had an idea to try the magazine market for it, what the heck. A one-time payment of less than a penny per word would be more than the royalties I’ve ever seen from my other short stories published independently; some magazines pay far more than that.

I sent it off to my critique partner and it came back to me with suggestions for revision. Between Christmas and New Year’s I began my revisions with the best intentions; I planned to query this story in spring.

Then I stopped.

The manuscript sat through the rest of January. February. Spring. Summer. November rolled about again and my critique partner harangued me (as well she ought) to get it done already. This time I buckled down over a weekend and finished my revisions. In December 2015 I sought the opinion of my editor, who gave a few more suggestions to tweak the story and also helped me with the blurb for my query letter.

December got eaten by the holidays. At New Year’s, I took a day to research markets for the story. The magazine I had at first thought I wanted to query was now closed for submissions but I found a handful of other possibilities.

February 2016 arrived. Another of the markets closed for queries until late spring. I had not sent a single query on the finished and polished story yet.

Why not?

Fear of choosing the wrong place to send it. Fear they’d accept it and it would be snatched away from me never to see the light of day or the eyes of anyone I know. What if they liked it and then no one I know could purchase a copy to read?

My critique partner raised an eyebrow at me and gave me a one-word solution to this paralyzing stupidity:

Research.

A two-word phrase also applies: due diligence. Do a web search on each of these quarterly publications to see how one subscribes or purchases and for what price. Look for reader reviews. Read a few of their issues, see what stories mine would be alongside. If you don’t like the looks of a place, don’t send your work there.

This week I did that and eliminated a few publications I’d flagged. One was looking for authors to groom for their larger print publications, another has no print version, another wasn’t the right fit for other reasons. The remaining three I prioritized by desirability, 1 2 3. No more fear.

This week’s task is to aim my query letter at the publication in the #1 spot and follow their submission guidelines. Bombs away.

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Kelly Lynne edits multiple genres of both adult and YA/middle grade fiction.

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