submitting Category

Getting to Know the Market

Re-posted from my monthly column at FFC.

If you’re new to the submissions game, trying to find markets that might fit your work can seem like an impossible task. How do you learn your way around an arena as vast and varied as the world of literary magazines? Mostly, it just takes a lot of time and research, but if you’re looking for some tips on how to get started, I’ve compiled some of my advice below.

  • Read the year-end anthologies. Of course it’s important to support your favorite journals by subscribing, but if you’re strapped for cash, reading the Pushcart Prize volumes or books from the Best American series is a great way to get to know a lot of magazines for one price of admission.
  • Look for themed journals or special issues. Some magazines theme issues by geographical location or subject matter. Looking for a journal with a theme that fits your story can be a great way to learn about new magazines. If you’re looking to find one, Duotrope has a handy theme calendar that’s a good place to start.
  • Don’t just read the magazine, read the bio pages too. When you’re first learning your way around, author bio pages are a great way to find comparable magazines. You already know you like the magazine you’re reading, and other journals that have published the same writers are likely to have a similar vibe.
  • Stalk your favorite writers. If you stumble upon a writer whose work you would liken to your own, see if they have a website or list of pubs somewhere. You can target the same magazines and guess that the editors who liked their stories are more likely to enjoy yours as well.
  • Talk to your writer-friends. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we’re coy about the submissions process. Don’t be afraid to share information about where you’re submitting and why. Everyone benefits from this kind of knowledge sharing.
  • Finally, when deciding where to send your work, be clear about your goals. This is a really important step and one that’s often overlooked. Where you send your stories should depend largely on what you want to achieve. If you’re looking to get a fancy teaching job, you should sub to top print journals. But if your priority is readership, web-based venues are a better bet.

Those of you who have been submitting for a while, how did you learn your way around the literary landscape?

My First Time

This month’s article at Flash Fiction Chronicles is about my first time being published. I’ve re-posted it here:

Everyone remembers their first time. Maybe you’re young and naive, like I was. Maybe you’ve been working up to it so long that you already feel like a pro. But when the moment arrives, it’s always the same: the excitement, the nervous butterflies, the need to share the news immediately with a trusted friend. For this column I thought I’d tell you about my first time–my first time being published, that is.

I don’t know when (if ever) I would have started sending work out on my own, but luckily my first writing teacher was adamant that we all engage with the world outside the workshop. At the end of my first writing class in my junior year of college, I was required to print out a manuscript, compose a cover letter, research a market and (gulp) send the whole bundle off to a real life magazine to be judged by the cold, cruel world.

I spent a lot of time deciding on a market for that first story. I didn’t know my way around the literary landscape at all, so there was no name recognition involved. Eventually, I flipped to the section marked “Special Interest.” Since my story dealt with illness, I was excited to find many magazines dedicated to that topic. I settled on a magazine called Kaleidoscope because it was from Ohio and so was I.

Since the instructor all but promised us we’d each be getting a rejection letter in our little white envelope in four to six months, I didn’t even entertain the possibility that Kaleidoscope would take my piece. But it didn’t matter; I was hooked. I spent long afternoons in the library reading through The Writer’s Market, making copies of my manuscripts and my disastrously generic cover letter. I spent my drinking money on postage.

Slowly but surely, the rejections started rolling in. You know them immediately: addressed in your own handwriting, no return address. I always opened them anyway, looking for any scrawl of pen on paper, evidence that someone took an extra second to reject me.

I could have gone on like this for a long time, forever maybe. But I didn’t have to. The big envelope came two weeks after Christmas. It was from Kaleidoscope and they wanted my story. They were even willing to pay me for it ($75, which went right into more envelopes, copies and postage, after a round of drinks for my my roommates). I’ve celebrated every acceptance since then, but there’s still something magical about that first one. You never forget it.

I also won’t forget how it felt when the journal finally came, and I got to see my words in print for the first time. It was a bit of a wait. Despite having sent the story out in May of 2002, and having it accepted in January of 2003, the issue containing my story didn’t come out until July 2005. It was a long wait, but it was worth it.

Now that I’m someone else’s writing teacher, I have adopted the same requirement. It’s a good skill to learn, I tell my students, and no one will offer teach you once you’ve left. Sometimes I have to talk a reluctant student into it, but I don’t back down. I’ve even had a few students excitedly email me about their acceptances. They feel almost as good as my own.

Guest editing at PANK!

If you follow this blog you are probably aware of my love of science, fiction, and, of course, science fiction. So I’m incredibly excited to be guest-editing a “Science and Fiction” issue of PANK Magazine along with my partner-in-crime (and wedlock), Devan Goldstein.

If you ask me, modern, forward-thinking science fiction stories don’t get their due in land of the literary. We hope to correct that by showcasing just how awesome science-y fiction can be. We can’t wait to see what you all do with this topic, so please send, send send! We think you’ll straight kill it.

You can see full guidelines here, and I’ve also pasted them below for your viewing pleasure.

The December 2011 issue will be The Science and Fiction Issue, edited by Aubrey Hirsch and Devan Goldstein.

Aubrey and Devan are open to anything you’d like to submit as long as it’s “science-y” (please excuse our very technical language). If you need more specific suggestions, here are a few:

Hard science fiction. Jet-packs, food pills, the enslavement of the human race, as long as it doesn’t rely on formula over character. Think more George Saunders and less Tom Godwin, though we do have a soft spot for Rod Serling.

Social science fiction. The discovery of an island where no one can love, a world where insects are the people and people are the insects, an alternate time line USA where Kerry got elected and we cured cancer.

Fiction about science. A story that takes place in a third period biology class, a particle physicist who always wanted to be a cowboy, star-cross cosmologists.

Anything else that surprises us, thrills us, alters our definition of “science fiction” or otherwise makes us drop our beakers in delight.

No formulaic sci-fi, nothing that’s all world-building and no character, no Avatar fan fiction, nothing that comes in an alien language that you invented and we can’t read.

Submissions are open until October 15, 2011 or when the issue fills up. Response times for Special Issues are generally longer than for regular submissions.

Where to Send Your Experimental Writing

Last weekend, I facilitated a workshop all about experimental writing as part of Dzanc Books’ National Workshop Day. During the workshop, I talked a bit about publishing experimental writing and gave the participants a (very incomplete) list of venues that are particularly amenable to this kind of writing. Below is this list. Of course, what is categorized as “experimental” varies largely from person to person, but each of these places in interested is work somewhere along the spectrum. As always, check out some writing from the magazine itself to see what they’re into. Happy sending!

What did I miss? Leave other possible markets for experimental writing in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

What to Do With This Novella…

I’m currently writing a thousand things at once (it works for me; don’t judge) and, among them, I’m polishing up a novella-in-stories and getting ready to…what? It’s a tough sentence to finish for many reasons. First, I’m not even sure a novella-in-stories is a thing. (Anyone ever write one of these? What did you do with it?) Second, assuming it is, what do I do with it?

I’ve done a bit of research on the market for novellas, and I’ll share the results of that here. But I’m hoping others will chime in with other ideas. Please share them if you have them!

1. Apparently, you can send them to regular old literary magazines.

2. Or you can try a small boutique-y press. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few ideas.

  • Tiny Hardcore Press can get down with a novella-length manuscript. And they’ll make it look pretty.
  • Flatmancrooked’s New Novella imprint publishes (you guessed it) new novellas.
  • Mud Luscious Press can handle a novella up to 35,000 words. If you’ve got something really tiny (8,000 to 15,000 words), you can send it to their new imprint, Nephew.

3. You can send them to novella contests. I don’t love this idea because it costs money. $10 doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you send your novella to 10 contests, that’s $100 (for those of you who failed math class). Considering how many times a typical story gets rejected before I place it, those reading fees could really add up. But here’s a few in case you’re interested.

4. Finally (finally?), you can put your novella up against other genres in regular old chapbook contests, like these.

If you have some shorter pieces, you can package your novella together with short stories and try to place the collection with a small press, or send it to some contests. What did I miss? What is everyone else doing with their novellas?

P.S. Interesting little piece at The New York Times about why novellas are the real art form.

Dating Advice for Writers

Today I had a nice long chat with a friend and fellow writer. He was feeling a little down about this business of ours and I gave him a completely unsolicited pep talk. Halfway through my speech about sending work to editors, I realized it sounded like I was giving him dating advice. So I went looking for a little more.

Here it is, my dating advice for writers (with translations):

  • Put yourself out there. Translation: Don’t be afraid of rejection. Maybe your piece isn’t the best fit for a particular editor, but let them tell you that. Don’t reject them before they can reject you.
  • Always look great, even if you don’t expect to meet anyone. Translation: Proofread your work. Revise it until it’s perfect. Send your best copy regardless of what you think your chances are of getting published in that particular market.
  • Don’t play hard to get. Translation: Send your work out as soon as it’s ready and keep sending (revising as necessary) until somebody takes it. If you think editors are going to knock on your door looking for new work, you’ve got another thing coming.
  • Keep dates brief, but your men interested. Less is always more. Translation: Always think about efficiency in your writing. Cut ruthlessly in service of the story. And keep your cover letters brief and to the point.
  • Never ever talk about previous boyfriends. Translation: Don’t mention other rejections when sending out your work. No one wants to feel like they’re your fallback plan.
  • Start listening and stop talking. Translation: Read the magazines you want to submit to. Learn what they like. Extrapolate what they don’t like.
  • Don’t be afraid of internet dating. Translation: Don’t be afraid of online journals. Many of them have excellent editors and high quality content. Most of them have exponentially more readers than their print counterparts.
  • Be patient. Translation: Be patient. Even if you’ve got talent and know-how, it takes time.

Now get out there and get going! The perfect market is out there, just waiting to take your story in its arms and never let it go. So go find it! You don’t want your story to be single forever, do you?

Why Duotrope’s Digest is Ruining My Life

I mentioned this before, but I think it deserves a more thorough discussion.

At first, I used Duotrope’s Digest as an easy way to find new markets for stories and the odd poem. (Just between us, I also used it for non-fiction. Shhhhh.) This was back in 2006 or so, when you could run a search and get a manageable number of results, and when you clicked the links, they would all take you to websites for actual literary magazines. Huzzah!

After a while, I signed up for the site’s submissions tracker. I still keep a word document as a back-up, but their tracker is far superior, especially now that they’re able to mine so much data from their users. I used to log in only when I had a new submission to report. I would look at all the rows of numbers and think things like, “Ah. Look at that. PANK responds very swiftly. I bet I’ll hear from them before next Tuesday.” Etc. Very calm.

But things took a turn for the obsessive-compulsive when I discovered this, a running list of all the responses reported by Duotrope’s users. Updated in real time. And sortable by date received. Eep!

Now when I log onto Duotrope, I’m more like this: “WEST BRANCH STILL HAS MY STORY AFTER 104 DAYS!! BUT THEY’VE REJECTED SUBMISSIONS THAT ARE ONLY 37 DAYS OUT!!!” Refresh. “35 DAYS!” Refresh. “38 DAYS! THEY ARE DEFINITELY TAKING MY STORY!!! I AM ADDING IT TO MY CV RIGHT NOW!!!!!” Refresh. “Form rejection after 116 days? Ah, crap.”

I have become a master at reading the tea leaves on Duotrope. 98 days at One Story means I’m getting the good form. 16 days at Smokelong means maybe… MAY-beeee… 131 days at Crazyhorse means nothing because they are Crazyslow.

It’s a science. And a sickness.