Submitting can be easy. Very easy. I imagine a writer could put a dozen publishers on a wheel, spin it, and submit to whatever publisher the needle landed on. Or, you could spam all the publishers with complete disregard to what each publisher is looking for, submission guidelines, specified formats, names of editors, word counts, genres...
Apparently, this is a common tactic. If so, good luck with that. Doesn't sound like a successful tactic, but to each their own. I, for one, don't see the point in sabatoging my own name and all the work I just put into crafting my perfect short story by telling every editor in my market that I'm an idiot. Maybe I'm crazy.
Here's my strategy when it comes to submitting: A. Don't disqualify myself before the editor ever gets a chance to read the actual story. B. Find a publisher who is looking for something like what I wrote. Or, write something that an editor is specifically looking for. Let's take a look at each of these in turn.
A. Don't disqualify yourself. This should be simple, but doing the simple things right distinguishes those you have a chance to be published between those with no chance. What are the simple thing? Read the submission guideline. Format your story the way they wants it formatted. Address the editor by name. Don't prove yourself an idiot with a rediculous cover letter. You know, the simple stuff. Sounds easy, but I've read plenty of editor's rants about writers who refuse to nail the basics.
B. Find a market for your story. For me, this is the harder part. Got a realistic horror story? Well, filter out all those spec fic/horror publishers. Got a story that's 4,000 words? Well, that's not flash fiction. Have a PG13 horror story? Time to weed out all those horror publishers looking for extreme gore and eroticism. Most publishers aren't too keen on multiple submissions, so you're really weilding a sniper's bullet. Sure after each rejection you can (and should) reload and take another shot, but when you're submitting to one publisher at a time it pays to make every submission count. Editors appreciate this too. After all, they don't enjoy having to reject a thousand stories that don't fit their brand just so they can find ten publishable stories. I'm sure they'd rather read ten stories that nail it, publish those ten, and not bother with the 990 others. A lot of submission guidelines contain a phrase similar to, "Read our magazine to see what kind of submissions we're interested in." I think some readers see this and think, "Well, they just say that so their magazine gets more subscribers." While I'm sure every mag out there would enjoy a bump in subscribers, I think any good magazine is really just looking to find good writers that fit their niche brand. Chuck Palanuck could submit to Scholastics, but why would he, and if he did, why would they care? Both are very successful in the publishing biz, but they're not a match. Editors need that match. Writers need it too.
So about this short story I wrote, this Miley Cyrus inspired realistic horror piece. I happen to come across an open call for an anthology with themes and a readership that fits what I got. I read their submission guidelines. I read some other things they published. I formatted my story to the font and pica they asked for. I addressed the editor by name. I resisted the urge to bloviate in my cover letter. I think I did the simple things right. I think I have a story that matches what they're looking for and one that their readers will enjoy. Time will tell.
And if I get a rejection? Hey, reject letters are like water on a duck. They don't mean a thing other than telling me I can submit to the next publisher. We have to be that way. Let the rejections roll right off your back like rain drops on a duck already swimming through a lake. I've got a few acceptance letters. I got a few contests I've done well in. Hang on to your successes. Ignore the rest. Don't believe me? Take it from the King: "Talent is a wonderful thing, but it won't carry a quitter."
It's tough out there fellow writers! I won't say it's easy. But write as best as you can, do the simple things right and don't quit. I'm keeping my chin up and with a little luck, hopefully my next entry in this series is a link to a mag with my story in. Good luck!