Last week I had a bit of excitement with a short story coming out in Issue 35 of Sanitarium Magazine.
Yeah, looky there. That's my name on the cover (among others, but JUST LOOK AT MINE!) <--Just kidding. Mostly.
It's available all over the place:
Google Play Store
Print Edition via Create Space
Google Play Store
Print Edition via Create Space
I already got my PDF e-version, but I get my hard copy around August 12! I can't wait to finally have a print copy of something I'm published in.
Fun fact: One of the authors in this magazine was also in the issue of Under the Bed Magazine I was in. I feel like we should be Facebook friends or something (no, I'm not actually going to stalk that person--it was just an interesting coincidence. The only thing I stalk is my Duotrope page.)
Hello, my name is Shannon, and I'm a Duotrope stalker.
Really, how many times can a person look at the submissions page without going nutso?
I thought since I'm posting about a magazine publication, maybe it would be good to go over the submission process for magazines/anthologies for those who haven't tried it yet.
Then I thought, "Crap, I don't know what people want to know." So if I don't address queries or fears you might have, please leave me a question in the comments, and I'll answer you there.
I'm going to assume here that you've written your story, brought it to a conclusion, and that you've given it a few reads and edited it to where you think it's shiny and polished. (Note: If you keep editing and editing and editing, stop! Don't overdo it. Sometimes the magic is lost that way.)
Format your piece to Standard Manuscript Format.
Your next step is to figure out the genre of your story (if you don't know it already). Here's a post by literary agent Rachelle Gardner on figuring out genre (it's for books, but the principle is the same).
Now that you've written a story and know its genre, it's time to do some market research. First, consider magazines and publications you enjoy. Does your story fit any of these places? If so, go on to the next step: Submission Guidelines.
If not, check out a place like Duotrope or The (Submission) Grinder. These sites allow you to enter the specifications of your search, however detailed you want to get, then create a list of possible publications that are currently accepting submissions. (Note: Duotrope is a paid service, The Grinder is free, but is still in Beta. If you will be submitting quite a bit, it's worth it to join Duotrope. If not, maybe stick with The Grinder.) Start looking through the publication descriptions until you find one that appears to fit your story. If they offer a free example of the publication, read it!
If you can't find something that works for you, search around the internet using related keywords until you find something. Or go to the bookstore and comb through the magazines. Another possibility is to check out where someone else is published, if they publish in the same genre as you.
It is VITAL that you follow the submission guidelines of each magazine. They will often differ, even if just in one small way. Carefully review them before submitting. Check the requested font, document type, submission windows, cover letter requirements, email or mail (or submission form), bio letter or headshot requests, other requested information, other formatting information, and anything else they might specify. I've seen one specify that the quotation marks had to be a specific type. I've also seen several that do not want you to have pushed "tab" to indent your story (you can look up how to change both of the above online.)
Read these five billion times before you attach and submit your piece.
I don't feel terribly qualified to tell you how to write this. I have no idea if my format is actually a good one. I always review the submission guidelines for what they want in the subject line and cover letter. I write the cover letter directly in the body of the email, unless otherwise directed.
One thing I do know for sure is that you must research the editor's name. If there are multiple editors, I typically address it to the managing editor, or whoever is listed at the top of the line. Some magazines/publications make this step incredibly hard, and I don't understand why. I've had to search out interviews or other publications by them to find an editor name. It's frustrating. But you need to do it.
Dear Mr./Mrs. [Editor Last Name],
Cow Tales is a Romantic short story of about 5200 words. Love in the time of the milk harvest can be painful, but Harvey and Delilah find ways to make it work.
I've been published in X and Y, and I won first place in Z contest. I'm a member of P writer's group, and have Q job with this writing related thing or R expertise in such and such job that lends itself to the story I'm submitting. I blog at www.mywebsite.com. (Or my author website can be found at www.mywebsite.com.)
Thank you for your consideration.
[Email Address, especially if different than where you're sending it from]
[Phone Number, though a lot of places don't need this anymore]
Now, you've written, edited, and formatted your story. You've established your genre, narrowed down the market, researched the submission guidelines and editor name, and you've written your cover letter.
Check your story over one more time. Any typos? Any changes they've requested to format? Is it in standard manuscript format (minus any changes they've requested that differ from SMF)? Great, save and close. Attach that sucker to the email.
Now, check that you have the submission email address correct. Check that you have made the subject line whatever they've requested. If they have no request for the subject line, make it simple: Fiction Submission-Last Name-Cow Tales.
Check your cover letter. Did you include story name, story genre, word count, and some brief information about yourself? Did you include any information that might tip you over the top when they're considering your story? Do you bring a specific type of expertise or belong to a writer's group that has requirements to get in (such as 3 pro-market story sales)?
Check for typos. Good?
Hold your breath and hit send.
Then record somewhere that you submitted X story to Y publication (you can do this on Duotrope and The Grinder. I also keep a spreadsheet on my computer). If it allows for simultaneous submissions, look for another market to send it to. (Note: I used to do simultaneous submissions until I sold a story, only to have the magazine tank before publication. I had withdrawn the story from the place I'd submitted to at the same time, so I could not send it to them again, whereas I could have sent it to them once the other place tanked. Even worse, they'd held it long past when they usually held stories, which possibly meant they were considering it. So I may have made a sale to them if this situation hadn't occurred.)
When you get a rejection, which is inevitable unless you're the most amazing writer ever, do not reply. Though I've been told it's sometimes acceptable to write a quick thank you if they've taken the time to give you solid feedback on your story. Just file or delete the email (depending upon your preference--I keep them so I can print them up and place them behind the acceptance I ultimately get), find a new market to submit to, and submit that puppy, making sure to comb through their submission guidelines and make any necessary changes to your submission.
First, jump up and down and scream a little. Oh, is that just me?
Carefully read everything they have sent you. Read what they're offering you. Read the contract. Research any terms you're not familiar with. Research the type of rights they're purchasing. Make sure you're comfortable with what they're offering and expecting. Don't be hasty.
If you're good with it, follow whatever next steps they have laid out. If it isn't clear what they expect now, send them an email asking for that information. Sign. Provide any additional information. Send that puppy.
Then go write another story and submit that, too.
Did I miss anything? Do you have tips that differ from mine (share them!)? Do you have any questions about the submission process? Was anything unclear? Is there something you'd like me to expand on? What is the oddest request you have seen in submission guidelines?
May you find your Muse.