However, when I look back at those efforts, I can clearly see that I had no idea what a finished manuscript should look like. The internet wasn’t a thing yet, and I hadn’t heard of William Shunn or his instructions for how to properly format a manuscript. I knew my finished story had some problems, but I didn’t understand what those problems were or how to resolve them.
I naively assumed an editor would fix them because that’s what editors do, right?
I soon discovered that few editors have the time to teach you how to write literate prose. You must educate yourself, and so I did just that.
Nowadays, my work is as clean as I can make it. Sometimes my work is accepted, and when that happens, I celebrate. Most of the time it is rejected, and not because it is bad.
Editors usually have a certain kind of story in mind when they put out an open call, and often, less than ten of those in that landslide of submissions will be accepted. Those that are accepted are the few that perfectly fit the editor’s original concept.
When you read the email/letter of acceptance, you go through several stages of emotional reaction:
- shocked disbelief
- Woo Hoo!
So how an author should react when their work is accepted? If you have been wise, you’ll be able to promptly reply with a simple thank you, mentioning how pleased you are to be featured in their publication.
Hopefully, you have not submitted the piece simultaneously to competing publications.
If by chance, you did send it to two publications and it was accepted at both, you must promptly reply to the other publication and formally withdraw your submission.
I keep a spreadsheet listing the date a piece was submitted, the website of who it was submitted to, and the status of that submission so I can avoid simultaneous submissions. This spreadsheet goes back to 2015 and contains these details:
- Title of Short Story
- Date submitted
- Name of publication submitted to
- Website address or editor’s email address
- Date rejected or accepted
- Comment from the editor, if any
If you submitted the piece through Submittable, all this is easily handled. Nevertheless, this record is your way to avoid looking unprofessional. This is an example of how I keep track of my work:
If it has been more than six months since you submitted a piece, and you can’t find any record of a response from them (check the junk mail of your email service), go to the publication’s website and look at their submissions page. They will usually have a paragraph detailing their normal response time and whether or not they respond to authors whose work they reject.
Contests and anthologies with large numbers of entries may not issue rejection notices.
Take the time to calm yourself and re-read the email. Promptly write a professional reply. I recommend you write your reply in a word document, proofread it, and then paste it into the body of the email, so you don’t accidentally send an illiterate mess to this editor.
Be sure to attach any information the editor/publisher may have requested:
- Your signed contract/or form granting them permission to publish. Use your legal name if you write under a pen name. It’s a good idea to make copies and keep them on file. If they are paper, I scan them into my desktop computer and save them in my cloud storage. (I use Dropbox, but Google Drive or One Drive are both free and excellent.)
- Your contact information if requested:
- Mailing address
- Phone number
- Legal name (if you are using a pen name)
- Your press kit (only if requested):
If you don’t have a press kit, go to Brian Klems’ excellent post on how to put one together: How to Create a Professional Press Kit in 8 Easy Steps.
Sometimes authors go into panic mode and immediately try to send revisions. Don’t do it. Your work was accepted as it was, so have faith that it was what the editor for that publication wanted.
If the editor wants changes, they will make clear what they want you to do. This may happen in an anthology. Remember, this editor knows what the readers of that publication want, and you want those readers to like your work. Behave like an adult and make whatever changes they request.
Never be less than gracious to the editor when you communicate with them. The world is full of great authors who want to sell their work. We can’t afford to have a reputation as being difficult to work with, as editors can get good work anywhere, not just from us. No one likes to work with divas.
Always be prompt in answering communications with the editors and publishers. Put whatever else you’re doing aside to answer emails from them. You want the editors to know you are easy to work with and willing to go the extra mile for them.
You have one final task in this process: You must make sure your readers know this piece is being published and where they can go to purchase that magazine/anthology.
On the day it hits the market, tweet about it, add it to your social media pages, and post it on your website. Tell the world to buy that publication.
And in that vein, if you would like to read a flash fiction I was invited to write for Ellen King Rice’s Naked Came A Fungus Project, click on this link: Edna’s Patio. This is a wonderful literary “progressive dinner” that Ellen devised to benefit Feline Friends.
Knowing that someone you respect likes your work enough to publish it is a feeling that is impossible to describe, even for an author.