25 May 2012

How to Send Me a Story I'll Publish: Know thy editor

All right, Mark, you say. Now that I've gone through this little exercise with you and read your self-important little turd of a blog about how much you hate everything that wasn't written by Ray Goddamned Bradbury, and I've gotten one or two of your "oh man I really liked this story it just got narrowly edged out by a few other pieces" emails, I still inexplicably want you to publish one of my stories.


What's a submitter got to do to get some love, here? I'll bribe you. I'm not above bribing. I want to see my work in print and I'll send you stories until I'm three hundred and eighty years old if that's what it takes. I'll send stories back into the past from a distant future ruled by cyborgs if it means you'll put this story that I've written, which I know for a fact is great, on your site.

All right. I feel your pain. I've got a few more hints and then I'm done with this portion of the blog because I've said all I needed to say and then some about submitting fiction in general and certainly to us specifically. Here's the icing on the cake. The little courtesies that I'll remember when I see the fourth or fifth piece of yours and remember your name, and maybe go rip someone else's story a new asshole and press that green "accept" button for yours this time.

1) When you send me a manuscript, put it in Standard Manuscript Format and then make the following little tweaks: 12 point Times New Roman or Cambria 12, either one single spaced. I like single-spacing because I can get a better sense quickly of how long the story is, and it's easier for me to read on the other end of the Submittable system if I don't have to flip forward and backward pages as much. Regular garden variety Standard Manuscript Format is perfectly acceptable, but I can't fucking stand Courier anything, so please for the love of god, just delete that hideous font from your font folder. I'd rather read something in Papyrus or Comic Sans than Courier. It's like sandpapering my corneas.

2) If you simultaneously submit, that's completely okay. Just let us know with the Submishmash system so I can clear it from the pending pile if it gets accepted elsewhere or if you want to send it somewhere else that doesn't allow sim-subs and we're just taking too long. You can always send it back later if they say no.

3) If I ask you for a re-write, it's because I saw or thought I saw the potential for something superb in a story, but that it wasn't quite ready yet. This does not mean feverishly push out a revision in 12 hours. I can count the number of writers I know that can actually do this well on one hand and not use all the fingers. Take your time. If it comes back to me too fast, there's a good chance it's going to come back to you even faster.

4) If you happen to know us, or know something about us that you've heard or enjoyed, or in particular if there's a story of ours that we put up that drew you to us, just tell me in your cover letter. I don't mind chatty cover letters, and I do read every one with interest. We're a publisher built on community, and we like to know who's sending us work. It's one of the most fun things about the job, actually.

5) We accept material of almost every length limit, but it bears mentioning that the vast majority of our accepted stories fall within a somewhat narrower range. I find our readers tend to prefer stories in the 2500-3500 word size, as do I personally, and unless your writing just floors me, your chances will dwindle steadily the farther you deviate from this.

6) When I say send me more, I'm not just being nice. Chances are, you've got a better than average chance of seeing your stuff get accepted with us. Just keep trying.

7) To every guideline, an exception, and strong writing trumps it all. I published a terrific story last year called "Poseidon's Million Crowns." This thing looked like trouble from the first moment. It was choppy and full of little subsections that seemed too small to be proper chapters. It was almost long enough to be a stand-alone novella, and it was formatted in some sort of difficult two-column document formatting that made it a pain in the ass to read. This story, though, is one of the very best I've ever said "yes" to. It just completely ensorcelled me. If you can write like that, you can safely ignore everything I've just said and just send me whatever you've got.

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