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Today we’re going to do PART ONE of the submission process.
The first step…
Select a story: obviously pick one that you feel is in a final version form. At this stage there should be no typos, spelling errors, or loose ends in the writing. Now get the following demographics regarding your story (jot down somewhere):
word count: most editors say you can round off, but in this age of computers I see no reason for that
genre: I don’t categorize my stories, per se, but I’ll keep in mind what my story feels like while I’m looking for a market
rights offered: meaning there are some mags that take reprints and some that only want previously unpublished work
Then you have to consider how much money you expect for this story, and whether you want to see it in hardcopy format or online, and whether you only want to submit to editors who will take your story through email or if you’ll be willing to print and mail off a hardcopy, and how much you care about prestige.
These things will help you narrow your selection of places to submit.
Look at some markets
On my main page here, there are several good market lists mentioned, both online and off. You may need to look at my entire list of URLs to find one you like.
Peruse the markets : weed out ones that are obviously not going to work (more on that in Part Two).
Select at least 10 markets : that your story may be a good fit for.
GO TO EACH MAGAZINE’S GUIDELINES: meaning go directly to the magazine’s own website to double-check the submission guidelines; do NOT rely on marketlist info. If a magazine doesn’t have a website, request the guidelines via post.
That’s it for now. In the next installment of these articles, we’ll do a walk-through with one of my stories and how, exactly, I selected markets for it.
Decide who’s first:
rank your 10 chosen markets in order (1 to 10) for where you want to submit to first. This is a very personal thing, usually, as some are more concerned with trying for the “big score” first while others might consider trying to “start out small” and work their way up. Others might rank paying markets as much more important than non-paying, while others rank prestige over everything else.
Prepare the manuscript for submission:
meaning I’ve written notes for each of my ten market listings stating their particularities for submission. So starting with my #1 ranking, I do what the guidelines say. If they want hardcopy only, I prepare a copy for mail (see previous article on this subject). If they want email subs, I either prepare a file for attachment or I format the story to place in the body of an email (again, editor’s preference). For this example, we’re going with my story called “Connections” and we’re submitting it to “Twilight Showcase”. I chose that as my #1 choice based on the following facts: the guidelines make it sound like this story would be a good fit for their magazine, they pay (not big, but they DO pay), it’s online and although I’ve been reluctant to publish in ezines… I like this magazine and being published in it would be a good opportunity to get some of the online exposure I’ve been curious about.
Submit the story:
Twilight Showcase is a good example of a mag with hard to find submission guidelines. I finally found them, after bunches of bios in the “about” section of the magazine. I check to make sure I’m doing things the way they want… then “woosh”, off my story goes into submission land.
To remind you… This article is a practical run-through of the submission process, from selecting a story to selecting which magazine you’ll send it to; from preparing your story to sending it off and following up on its progress.
Everyone does this differently, and I am in no way trying to tell other writers what to do. I will, however, show you a step-by-step version of how I submit a story because there may be something I do that will spark a new idea for your own submission process.
Last time was PART ONE of the submission process. We got as far as selecting 10 potential markets for the story we’re trying to publish.
And now to continue…
Here’s what happens after I pick places to sub one of my stories to:
It’s way cool if a mag sends you a note for an electronic submission…. Just so’s you know they GOT the sub. Sometimes they’ll even tell you about how long you’ll be waiting, but often it’s just an autoresponse. TS didn’t want any bio info in the email and since they wanted both an attachment AND the story pasted into the body of the email, I didn’t want to get chatty there. If they hadn’t sent a response telling me they got my sub, I’d query in a week just to make sure they got it and it’s in the sub queue. So now I log the entry in my submission tracker and wait for the response.
Tenth step …
Enjoy or start over:
Enjoy if you get an acceptance. Start over with market choice #2 if you get a reject. BEWARE of changing your story in between. This is a very bad habit of beginners. (Maybe I’ll do a whole article on that subject… so we’ll just leave it for now.) There is another option and that’s what happened with my sub to TS… they wanted to consider a rewrite. The editor liked my story (yes, this example is taken from real life) and asked if I’d consider rewriting the ending for more clarity. I was okay with that (although it’s not always worked out in the past), so I did the rewrite and resubmitted. The story was accepted and was published in the February issue of TS.
The good side: the story got read by a lot more people than if it had been published in a hardcopy magazine and I got more email from people who’d read it and wanted to comment or congratulate me.
The bad side: the issue was only up for one month and there are no archives. Basically, my story is absolute history. At least with a hardcopy mag, even if it’s not on the stands or even available anymore… you can still SHOW people.
Ah well, I love the mag and I was thrilled with the opportunity to showcase my writing in it. The editor was a joy to work with and he pays his writers promptly.
They don’t all work out this well. I definitely have more reject slips than acceptances, but my odds get better all the time.
Pretend for a moment, you're in a writing group and the first lesson you have is an exercise in writing beginnings with the following instructions: Write a beginning (one paragraph) that you think would not fail to catch an editor’s attention.
This should be fairly easy because you are in no way required to have any thoughts further than this first paragraph. You will not have, hanging over your head, the formidable task of conjuring a brilliant plot and engaging characters.
We’re only concentrating on beginnings. They are--for the short story anyway--crucial.
A few samples to show the huge variety of techniques:
There’s the ever popular… jump right into the action:
When I came out of Paradise they were shooting at me. Shotguns and pistols mostly, whatever they could grab hold of. I jumped into my old green pickup truck in the parking lot and drove off. I couldn’t shoot back because I’d already pitched my .44 pistol away. I wouldn’t have shot back anyway, so I stepped on the gas. Probably it was rocks thrown up against the undercarriage, but it might have been bullets hitting the truck, so I ducked my head down. (the opening paragraph of “Embers” by Fred Chappell)
Then there’s the tantalizing… “I’m going to tell you something remarkable” hook:
I have had what I believe to be the most remarkable day in my life, and while the events are still fresh in my mind, I wish to put them down on paper as clearly as possible. (the opening paragraph of “August Heat” by William Fryer Harvey)
There’s also the ever subtle… faint hints of description that touch the mind with foreboding:
We went up on deck after dinner. Before us the Mediterranean lay without a ripple and shimmering in the moonlight. The great ship glided on, casting upward to the star-studded sky a long serpent of black smoke. Behind us the dazzling white water, stirred by the rapid progress of the heavy bark and beaten by the propeller, foamed, seemed to writhe, gave off so much brilliancy that one could have called it boiling moonlight. (the opening paragraph of “Fear” by Guy de Maupassant)
There’s the “How could you not want to know where this is leading?”:
The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o’clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 26th, but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours so it could begin at ten o’clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner. (the opening paragraph of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson)
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