Hints and Tips for Submitting Work to Pushing Out the Boat

Because of the number of submissions we receive, we cannot comment on an individual piece of work, nor explain why it was not accepted for publication. But it might help you in preparing for submission to know some of our most common reasons for rejection..

  1. The work did not follow the submission rules: We select the work anonymously, so it’s essential that you follow the submissions procedure for each category of work submitted, and ensure that the actual piece does not contain your name. We also have length limits in order to present a varied mix of work to our readers; and the requested formats are designed to make the job of the selection panels as straightforward as possible. All our team members are volunteers, working in their own time: so time we may have to spend, say, deleting names or converting file formats/arcane fonts is time we would rather spend appreciating and assessing the work itself. Give yourself your best possible chance right from the start.
  1. It was not submitted via the online system: We are working against a fixed and tight production schedule and have adopted a web-based submissions system to streamline the submission process. Submitted work is downloaded automatically and your registration details securely stored – saving us time and ensuring accuracy.
  1. Prose piece was structurally flawed: Eg work that starts strongly and peters out, unresolved; work that heaps on the minor details yet skates over the important bits (perhaps to keep the length down); work that ends strongly but started so vaguely that the reader lost interest; work excerpted from a longer piece that doesn’t stand on its own: these are problems we see a lot, but could have been fixed before submission.
  1. Prose/poetry – had potential, but was poorly prepared: Amazingly, every year we receive submissions that are full of typos, errors, inconsistencies of spelling or syntax (even if you’re bending the rules, it has to be done consistently enough for the reader to know you’re doing it on purpose), and things that are just plain incomprehensible – all problems that would have been caught by judicious use of the software language tools and a good final proof-read before submission. If you don’t care how your work presents itself, why should we?
  1. Artwork topics: Difficult one this. We often have to reject lovely pieces of art because they are difficult to place within what is essentially a literary magazine. Oddly, it is the literal type of subject that causes most problems, especially as we try hard to avoid ‘illustrating’ the stories and poems. Thus the more abstract pieces, plus photographic work, tend to be selected. And we love ‘concrete’ poems. The shape of a piece is important too – it has to fit with the magazine’s format.  We suggest a browse through past issues to see how the artwork is incorporated.
  1. Prose/poetry – had potential, but it was marred by cosiness: This is a particular temptation for dialect writers, and it’s easy to see why – there’s a long tradition of using ‘incorrect’ English for comic or sentimental subjects, and tradition is hard to break with. But we believe Scots and Doric, done well, can be used for any form of writing– and should be!
  1. It had potential, but it was marred by sensationalism: Nobody wants art to be merely comfortable, but shock for its own sake is getting to be as hackneyed and obvious a tactic as anything in the Kailyard School – and so is that sudden twist in the tail, if it hasn’t been well set up. Our readers come to us to be entertained, seduced, unsettled, surprised, and above all given something to think about. When they want cheap thrills, they tend to read a newspaper – and so do we.
  1. We liked it, but it was one of twenty submissions on that theme: Eg there are some literary themes we see a lot of. In writing: childhood, midlife crisis, crime, marital discord; in artwork: lots of landscapes and seascapes. Good as your work may be, if it’s on one of these themes, it’s immediately up against stiff competition for a place in the magazine: we like to present a varied mix of work to our readers, so we try to avoid too many similar pieces.
  1. We liked it, but we just didn’t have enough space: This is the rejection that we hate most. Like every magazine, we are faced with a trade-off between how much we can include and how much the magazine costs to produce: beyond a certain point, more content means a higher cover price and fewer sales. Every year there are more submissions that we like than we can include in the final layout, and it could be that your work was one of those – assuming it didn’t arrive a fortnight late, in six-point purple Haettenschweiler, and finish ‘and then I woke up!’, of course…

ABOVE ALL, please don’t be discouraged by rejection – it happens to every writer and artist. Keep writing/painting/printing, keep revising your work, and keep sending it to us. If it’s good, we want to see it out there in the published world just as much as you do!