Skip to content

Eyes on Your Prize


(or The Importance of Having Your Story Read by a Bunch of Other People Before You Submit it for Publication)

By Bowen Gillings

You’ve written THE END. You did your editorial pass-through once, twice, maybe ten times or more, so you’re darn sure that story is ready for the world to see. With a little research, you build a list of periodicals, online e-zines, and anthologies right to feature your glorious little baby. And thus, you begin the submission process.

And crickets.

Perhaps a form rejection or three trickle in.

What gives? It’s a great story. You’re sure of it.

And therein lies the problem, dear reader. You are sure the story is good. What you failed to do before sending it off to the world was find out if anyone else agreed with you.

It is essential for writers wishing to publish to get additional eyes on their work before clicking submit. There are many ways to do this. The most common is through a critique partner or group. Have them read your story and ask for broad-spectrum feedback (in addition to pointing out typos). Did they want to keep reading with every page? Were they connected to the characters? Were there places where the narrative lagged? Any recommendations for improvement? Questions like these. Take their feedback and adjust as necessary.

Great, your critique partner gave some feedback. You’ve made alterations and now everything’s good to go.

Not quite.

There is a danger in relying solely on the input of critique partners and that is that they are your partners. They know you. They know your writing. Theirs is tainted advice. You need to go a step further and have strangers read it.

Beta readers are people who specialize in offering unbiased feedback to writers. They don’t know you. You don’t know them. The arrangement to read and respond is contractual, and by that, I mean you pay them for their services. They in turn agree to have the story read and comments submitted to you by an agreed-upon deadline in an agreed-upon format.

I’ll wager half of you have immediately dismissed the necessity of beta readers. Perhaps if you’re a well-published author with a reader following thousands strong, you are confident in your popularity to get you into that anthology. That may be enough. However, if the publishers did not reach out to you and request a submission from you, you need to make sure your story is tight. Beta readers will help with that.

Beta readers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are professional readers with websites and Square accounts and preformatted contracts ready to go. Beta reading is their business. Others are on group chats in spaces like,, or through the Author’s Guild. Many beta readers are also authors and with those, you can offer an author swap: they read for you; you read for them. Your contract becomes an exchange of services, not money.

By whatever means you can get added eyes on your prize story, get it done. Your story’s chances at publication will increase, as will your skills as a writer.

This year Pikes Peak Writers will open submissions for its fourth anthology, set to publish in 2025. Before you (or I) submit a piece, be sure it’s passed through the hands of several other readers. Take the feedback they give you, use it. Make sure that your submission is the absolute best it can be so that your chances of getting published are at their best as well.

Bowen Gillings writes to bring fun back to fiction. His debut novel, EXCEPTIONALS was released in 2023. He has short stories featured in PPW’s anthologies Journeys into Possibility and Fresh Starts and periodicals, too.He facilitates a variety of writing workshops and is an active member of Pikes Peak Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, the Colorado Independent Publishers Association, and the Author’s Guild. He holds a Master of Education, five martial arts black belt certifications, and is an Army veteran. Travel enthusiast, outdoors lover, and RPG nerd, he also enjoys cooking big meals for family and friends. Find out more at

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.