Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Submitting for Dummies

“Once one learns to write a literate English sentence, the ability to sell a story is based on only one talent: the ability to give an editor what her readers want.” -- Marion Zimmer Bradley in Why Did my Story Get Rejected?
This speaks to my need to carefully read author guidelines and a few stories from previous issues of a magazine before submitting a story. In addition, I read any staff bios on a publisher’s website. This helps me decide if my story is right for a particular magazine. For example, a publication may accept horror stories, but not those with a lot of blood and gore. Or in the case of Flash Me Magazine -- I’m on the staff -- the editors prefer stories that contain a character arc (the character has a problem, struggles to solve it, comes to a realization, and arrives at a resolution). Ninety percent of the stories submitted don’t contain a character arc and are rejected.

A couple of months ago I sent in a submission for a contest. The editor wrote me a nice note saying that the story was well written, but it didn’t meet the guidelines. I had read them, but missed/forget/skipped a section that impacted my story. This wasn’t the first time I’d done this. It may not be the last. :)

Sometimes there’s important information that’s not stated on a site. I submitted to one magazine that only accepted stories from European authors. I live in the U.S. I reviewed the guidelines, and there was no mention of this restriction. Some sites state they only accept stories by women authors, or stories about a particular region. I don’t submit to most of those publications. It would be a waste of time.

I use Duotrope to find places to submit my short stories. I can limit the search to certain genres or word counts and to magazines that pay for accepted stories. The site provides a brief description of the kinds of stories the magazine wants and a link to the publication’s website. As important, it lets me know if a site is currently accepting submissions. It wouldn’t be professional of me to submit to a site that’s on hiatus.

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