|Where to submit my writing? Hmm...|
Is it better to try getting published in print or online?
This is a popular question, and I understand why, but I think it's dangerous to focus too much on the format. Especially when you're getting started, I believe it's essential to diversify. Submit to print publications, online publications, cell phone publications, or whatever else gets a foot in the door. Early on, it's important just to get experience submitting, dealing with editors, and hitting deadlines.
How much do editors edit? Do they give back edited pieces?
Editors are used to making at least some changes in nearly every piece they receive. However, they've all got different rules on when to give back pieces to writers. Some have writers double-check proofs regardless of any changes. Others send material back to writers only if they've made significant changes. Still others avoid back and forth with writers at all.
AFTER your work has been accepted or you've received an assignment, it would be completely appropriate to ask an editor what to expect as far as the review/rewrites process.
What if I want to write for mainstream publications? Should I avoid sending work to niche publications?
In the beginning, writers should just work on their writing and try to get published wherever they can. Traditionally, some venues are going to be easier to break into than others, though very few are easy. Some online publications are more open to new writers. Regional magazines and publications are good for many writers too.
Shooting for mainstream national magazines is a good goal. I believe in the diversified portfolio approach in which writers query beginner-friendly publications, middle tier publications, and the highest paying markets. As a writer finds more success with the better paying markets, they can cut out the beginner-friendly publications and be more selective in where they write.
Should cover and query letters be short and to the point? Or should they drip with personality?
Every editor is different. For me, I prefer queries that are short and to the point. Also, I like a little personality. Writers who can send me a concise query that's also interesting have the greatest chance of getting accepted for publication, because those writers demonstrate they know that writing with concision doesn't mean writing without a personality. They also demonstrate that writing with personality isn't an excuse to ramble.
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Check out previous Not Bob advice on getting published: