Recently, Submittable partnered with Skillshare, an online learning community with 7 million members to create a free class: “How to Get Published: A Step-by-Step Guide to Submitting Your Writing.” The class was released in early March and a week in had more than 600 students and 25 reviews, with all of them meeting or exceeding students’ expectations.
Thousands of publishers use Submittable to accept writing submissions. In partnering with Skillshare, we hoped to create a resource for those publishers to share with their submitters, and for the millions of submitters seeking advice on how to better their submissions.
I talked with instructor Rachel Mindell about the background for the class, her experience filming, and what she hopes students will gain.
How did you come up with the topic for the class?
I love the publishing industry and I have for a long time. In my early 20s, years before I considered submitting my own work, I read slush for Harvard Review and The Atlantic (then, The Atlantic Monthly). I would cart around huge stacks of paper and type up reader’s reports on promising pieces. It’s fun to see how publishing has changed and to work for a company that has directly and dramatically impacted the industry.
I’ve been a reader and editor much longer than I’ve been a submitting creative writer, but I got really into sending out my poetry in 2012 when I started an MFA program—and I’ve never stopped. I have received hundreds of rejections and a handful of acceptances (about 10 percent of my submissions). This experience, in tandem with my background in editing and teaching, plus my work at Submittable communicating regularly with writers, makes this subject a natural fit for me (aka. a passion and obsession).
What was the experience like filming a class like this?
It was wild! Exhausting! Exciting! We worked from an outline, rather than a script. This was great for giving the class a conversational feel but challenging for a poet who often talks and writes in fragments. I was also having some health issues during my trip to NYC that made the day particularly, er, interesting. I can’t say enough good things about the Skillshare crew, though. I worked with two topnotch producers and an incredible videographer who were really encouraging and made me feel comfortable. We filmed for a full day in a Brooklyn warehouse space, taking breaks for bagels, lunch, car alarms, and passing garbage trucks. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
You submit a lot of your own work. What advice do you wish you had heard early on?
Although I should have known better, I was so excited at first that I often made editor’s jobs harder. For example, I would submit multiple rounds of changes before publication or reach out way too soon if I hadn’t heard anything back. I would advise submitters to proceed with gratitude, patience, and preparation: Be polite and humble and don’t send out anything you can’t wait on or wouldn’t feel proud about having appear exactly as you sent it. Editors are busy juggling lots of responsibilities and if they like your work, they’ll be doing you a service. Plus, remember that how you feel about things you’ve written and published will continue to shift. Maybe you’re not in love with that old story when it comes out but other people probably will be—and you can always revise it again before you publish your collection.
What is the number one thing you hope people take away from the class?
There are so many strategies for getting published and getting published doesn’t make your writing any more real or valuable—I can only share my own experiences and what’s worked for me. I’d say the number one thing is to try and think of the submission process as one small part of your writing practice, a chance to engage with the literary community and share your unique voice. Submitting will never be more important than writing (or creativity or joy)—it’s just another challenge with exciting potential outcomes.
To view or share the free class, visit https://skl.sh/submittable. You can also check out Skillshare’s more than 25,000 other classes, many taught by writers including Roxane Gay, Hanif Abdurraqib and Susan Orlean.
Illustration by Josh Quick.