It feels like I can't do a simple test today without somebody involved asking where it's going to be submitted. Or "Can we submit?". Or stating "I only test if it's for submission".
Yeah. We'll submit to 125. Or Purple. Maybe Vogue. Love. Wonderland. They're doing a feature on local designers shot in provincial towns this month. Perfect.
The subtext of "Can we submit?" is "Do you know any obscure web-only zines that will stop being updated forever in 3 months? Preferably with 25 Twitter followers and a Facebook page that so far only their Mother liked?".
I simply don't understand why.
For every online fashion magazine that lies rotting and unloved with their last post hailing Mary Quant and the Beatles as the next big thing there are two new ones to take its place. Photographers, stylists, makeup artists, models, postmen, council workers... all go through a 'lets's start an online magazine' phase*. The internet is littered with dying fashion blogs each with a clutch of 'exclusive' editorials of dubious quality.
There are some big hitters that have risen to the top through stringent quality and great marketing. Ben Trovato is one of the best known. Some beautiful imagery on a par with - or better than - a lot of print magazines. But if you can't shoot natural light pseudo-American Apparel/Wildfox campaigns in California then probably don't bother submitting. In fact, their submissions are currently closed. So…don't bother submitting.
There are also some real hidden gems that are run with a clear identity, integrity and passion. C-Heads is somewhere I visit often - there's a coherence to their submissions and some great photography. They're currently closed for submissions. In fact, the proof of a great site that runs submissions is that they're actually usually closed for submissions.
Institute is usually open for submissions. Because they charge you £90 to submit. And then take your copyright. Really.
But the vast majority are short lived ventures that rehash news from Fashionising.com and Glamour magazine peppered with the obligatory 'exclusives'. Most of these are followed only by the people who have featured in them. Which kind of defeats the object. Like phoning yourself to offer yourself double glazing. Yet they survive (however briefly) because…"It feels like I can't do a simple test today without somebody involved asking where it's going to be submitted". Anybody at any level can get work featured by moving low enough down the submissions ladder. Seriously, I could shoot my cat shitting and somebody somewhere would accept it. Their as desperate for content as people are for submissions. But - what exactly is the value? What is the point?
There are perceived social media benefits - a tweet, a link to your site…but a recent magazine I sent a set to (and subsequently pulled when I had a word with myself) didn't even link to my site. Or tweet. Unbelievable. Granted, they also had less than 10% of the Twitter followers I have, so I'm unsure who was actually benefitting here. The set was also published exactly as I sent it. Come on guys - at least put some creativity in. Lay it out. Add some typography. Y'know, make it into an editorial. Isn't this part of the point?
The other is the perception that your work is good enough to have been 'accepted' for submission. If it's Ben Trovato et al, then yes - that's kudos. The bar is high. But like I said…the lower down the ladder you go, the less of an accolade it is. And there's always the fear of rejection…so people tend to submit slightly below the level they really should be aiming at. Like somebody who rates themselves as an '8' hitting on somebody who's a clear '5' - nobody likes rejection…
Or maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm alone in finding the whole submissions thing slightly hollow. I've had work accepted to Ben Trovato, to C-Heads. I've had umpteen real print magazine editorials. Covers. Etc. And I also genuinely don't think that every test I do deserves submission. For every test I do that pulls from Topshop somebody is shooting a test with styling from Gucci, from Prada. People who are seriously submitting are applying to Wonderland, 125 etc for letters of intent giving them access to a whole better world. Shooting to a loose brief specifically targeted to that magazine's future issues. Not shooting a test then desperately searching afterwards for somewhere to see it 'published'.
In the words of somebody or other - and if you have a decent enough social media presence of your own - Self Publish & Be Happy. Enjoy your work without the pressure to submit.
I'll shortly post a test from earlier in the year. I love it. So instead of hanging around waiting for somebody to decide to publish it - instead of holding off being able to give anything to the model or the makeup artist for 6 months so that it remains 'exclusive' - I'll self publish. And I'll make sure that I've linked to myself and everybody else involved.
For the time being however, here's a short video to introduce the set (also apparently essential now for submissions - multimedia baby).
Now - about that double glazing...
* I haven't done one yet. I reserve the right to yet go through that phase.