Submitting Shorts

Submitting ShortsI’ve seen more than a few of you write or comment about submitting short stories. Some are well into the groove, with plenty of advice to give, and others are still skirting the edge of the pond warily, preparing to dip a toe in. We each have a different process for submissions, and I promise, it’s not as overwhelming or frightening as it seems once you get going.

I think that the scariest part of it is the fear of rejection, which I’ve written about before. The possibility that someone out there won’t like your story is difficult to anticipate, because you likely think that your story is one of the best out there. If you don’t, it probably isn’t ready to publish.

On this quiet Sunday, I’d like to exchange some submission tips with all of you. For those of you that have some to offer, please add them. To those of you who haven’t started submitting stories yet, take hold of the ones that work for your style and your personality, and ignore the rest if they don’t suit you.

Edit like you’ve never edited before. This is important. Your spelling, grammar, and less so, your punctuation, should be, if not perfect, than sparkly clean. If you don’t put time into your story by making it clean and clear, why should anyone else spend time reading it?

Edit for more than just spelling. So, you’ve spelled everything right, but did you look into the intricacies of your story? If you have to, get a friend or two to read over your piece. Ask them to pick out anything that they don’t like and to be honest about it. Where did they get bored? Where were they confused? Where did they find inconsistencies? Take their edits kindly, because they’ll make your story stronger.

Don’t write for nothing. Many submissions offer you the wonderful prize of simply being published in their magazine, e-zine, or whatever else. Ignore those ones. You spent time working on a piece of writing and should be compensated for it if it’s chosen. While it’s nice to have a story credited to you, don’t submit to anything that doesn’t pay unless the recognition is compensation enough. I’m talking a fairly well-known publisher, or even just a “for fun” contest. Those are fine, but your work is worth something. Don’t forget it.

The bigger the reward, the more effort. All of your stories take effort, and they always should. You should never submit anything that you aren’t proud of, or wouldn’t be happy to slap your name on. That being said, if you’re submitting a piece of flash fiction to a simple contest, you don’t need to spend hours looking over it. Save the time and effort to put towards a bigger piece that you’ll be submitting to a bigger publisher.

Don’t pay to submit. You should never have to pay to submit a piece of work. It’s different with full manuscripts, since you do have to pay for an editor or an agent if need be, but you shouldn’t be putting capital into short fiction unless you’re making it into a book or anthology. Avoid places that require “submission fees”, unless it’s a legitimate publisher that you are confident will at least consider your story.

Listen to the guidelines. Whether there are submission guidelines about content, contact, or file types, pay attention. Read them more than once. Disregarding a few simple requests will likely get your story into the “no” pile, just because you didn’t take the time to do what was asked. No matter how great your story is.

Don’t be afraid to say “no”. If your piece does get accepted, don’t be afraid to say “no” to any edits that you aren’t comfortable with. It’s your story, and your name, so you don’t have to agree to big or significant changes just because you’re afraid you’ll make someone angry. In the end, it’s what you are comfortable with, not what anyone else prefers.

The submission process is made up of a delicate balance between writers and publishers. While writers want their work to be understood and appreciated, publishers want to provide the best of the best so that they can continue to put out content. Each submission is different, but the bones are usually the same.

What tips or questions do you have about submitting short stories? Have you submitted any lately?


11 thoughts on “Submitting Shorts

  1. While I agree we should all be compensated for our work, publications that can’t pay do make for a good foundation. I’ve been published in plenty of magazines that don’t pay, and they’ve been a great way to build up my resume and my following.

  2. Pingback: Weekend Wrap-up: killing your best writing, dissecting the hipster (and toast), anthemic writing manifestos, and more | breakfast with words

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