Tag Archives: submitting your stories for publication

Submitting to Contests vs. Submitting to Magazines and Anthologies #amwriting

One question I frequently see in various writers’ forums, is “how can an indie get their name out there and gain fans for their work?”

WritingCraft_short-storyMy answer is simple. We write short stories and submit them to magazines, anthologies, and contests.

Every time your short work is published or places well in a contest, you stand the chance of getting your name out there and it’s nice to have a little extra cash in your pocket.

Despite the changes in the publishing industry as a whole, writing short stories is still the way to get your foot in the door and increase your visibility. Anthology calls from traditional large publishing houses and reputable small and mid-size publishers that are willing to pay for your work are sometimes open to new authors.

Also, magazines that are SFWA approved regularly post open calls for submission, so it pays to check each magazine and publisher’s website for opportunities.

Submitting to contests is good too.theRealStoryLIRF01102021 If you have a story that was a contest winner, you may be able to sell it to the right publication.

Writing for anthologies and contests have similar requirements. You must learn how to write to a specific length. Often, you must make use of a specific theme, one that may not be of your choosing.

So, what do editors of anthologies and magazines look for versus how contests are judged? Trust me, editors work hard, and more than anything, they love to read.

And all publisher and editors want to discover brilliant work written by new authors.

I have worked on both sides of the publishing industry. I know the frustrations of the author who waits to hear back regarding their submission, and I’ve seen the publisher’s inbox. I’ve read for many contests and edited several anthologies.

First, your work will receive a far closer inspection from a contest than from a publisher. Contests have readers who are either editors or authors, and who do their best to judge each entry on their merits. This means two people will have read the submission and each reader will have looked at the technical aspects of the piece as well as the overall story and characters.

Contest readers must judge:

  1. Plot: the sequence of events and the overall story arc.
  2. Setting: did the world building include a location, time, hints of the weather, and hints of the environment? Was the world solid to the reader?
  3. Viewpoint/narrative mode: how was the story told? Was the POV consistent or did it inadvertently drift, say between present tense to a few paragraphs in past tense, and then back to present. Was it consistently first-person, (or second, or third, or omniscient, etc.)?
  4. Characters: Were the characters believable, and did they have an arc?
  5. Did the dialogue, both spoken and internal, advance the story? Did each speaker have their own voice and style?
  6. Transitions and hooks: Did the opening lines hook the reader? Did the narrative move from scene to scene smoothly, without jarring the reader out of the story? Did each transition hook the reader, enticing them to keep reading?
  7. Showing versus telling: did the author understand how to show the action?
  8. Mechanics: Did the author have a good grasp of grammar, punctuation, and industry standards? Did they follow word count and length requirements, and obey formatting directions as listed in submission guidelines?

Editors for anthologies will look at each submission with the above guidelines in mind, but they will have two more caveats:

  1. Theme: did the author understand and incorporate the theme into their story?
  2. Appeal: did that story strike a chord, make them want to read more of that author’s work?

Contest readers/judges read every word in each submission and base their opinions on how well the first eight conditions were met.

Anthologies and magazines have a slightly different style of judging what they will accept.

The main difference between publishers of anthologies and those of magazines is the sheer volume of work that is submitted, and the number of people/editors available to read it.

51AvRGmiMQLAnthologies will close on a specific date, or after a certain number of submissions have been received.

The inbox of a large publisher fills up every day. Larger publishers may have a gatekeeper reading submissions, but most editors do their own work. For this reason, the editor will look at the first page of the story and based on what she sees there, she will decide whether to continue reading or reject it.

If all ten of the above criteria are clearly shown in the first paragraphs, the editor will read further. If the work continues to be engaging and professional, they will read it to the end.

At that point, criteria number ten is most important condition to be met—your story must have wowed the editor.

Once you have written a short story  with the intention of submitting it to a specific publisher or contest, you must edit it. Then you must format the manuscript to make it submission-ready, by reading and following the guidelines published on their website.

I’ve said this before, but it bears mentioning again: if you don’t follow your prospective contest or publisher’s submission guidelines, you have wasted your time submitting it.

AFF_MarApr2018_400x570These steps demonstrate your level of professionalism. Editors at magazines, contests, and publishing houses have no time to deal with unedited, poorly formatted manuscripts. Their inboxes are full of well-written and properly formatted work, so they will reject the amateurs without further consideration.

I hope knowing the requirements your work will be judged by will help you find good homes for your work.

If you have any doubts about the quality of your work, consider running it past your critique group to hear their opinions on characterization, story arc, and other features of your work.

It’s hard to hear a bad verdict, but sometimes you should completely rethink certain aspects of a piece before you submit it, and this is where the external eye can help you.

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#amwriting: submissions: discovering who wants them and how to manage your backlist

I’m a member of several author groups who regularly meet in online chat-rooms to talk about the craft. Every member of these groups are published authors, some traditionally, and some Indie. Many are hybrid, with work both traditionally and Indie published.

Much of what we discuss involves the problems we face in developing marketing strategies. While we all agree that only publishing work that is of the highest quality is of paramount importance, one thing is clear: the greatest hurdle Indie authors face is getting our work in front of readers’ eyes.

Therefore, we write short stories and submit them to various anthologies, magazines, and contests. Those of us who write in less popular genres have fewer sales of our novels through Amazon and other eBook sales outlets, which makes it even more important for us to submit short stories to the many contests and publications that are out there, and who are open for submission. However, finding these contests and publications can be challenging, as often by the time I hear about them, the closing date is approaching which means I may not have time to get a rough piece into the right shape for submission.

But even that is becoming less of a problem for me, because I have found an App for that.

The Submittable App.

Many contests and publications use the Submittable platform to accept and review the large volume of manuscripts they received from writers. When a publisher uses this platform, it’s great for us as authors because we can use the app to keep track of what we have submitted, and where it currently is in the process. This is a screenshot of the PC app, but the phone app is just as easy to read.

On your personal page, Submittable lists four stages in the process:

  1. Received
  2. In process
  3. Declined
  4. Accepted

It is the responsibility of the contest manager or publication to notify Submittable as to the status of their entries and submissions, and while most do, some contests managers aren’t as diligent about that. I assume that if it has been more than year, they didn’t want that piece.

But, even better than being able to track your submissions, all the contests that are currently open via Submittable are listed on the Submittable Website in one place on the “Discover” tab, so the question of where to submit your work is easily answered. Every open call for submissions is listed, and any entry fees are clearly shown.

At the top are the contests and calls that are closing that day. But if you scroll down to the bottom, you will find calls closing thirty days from now and beyond.

Just click on a contest or publication that looks interesting and a screen will pop up. Each pop-up tells you what is required for that contest or publication:

When I first began this journey, I didn’t understand how specifically you should tailor your submissions when it comes to literary magazines, contests, and anthologies.

Go to the publisher’s website and find out what their submission guidelines are and FOLLOW THEM. (Yes, they apply to EVERYONE, no matter how famous.) If you skip this step, you can wait up to a year to hear that your ms has been rejected, and they most likely won’t tell you why.

I’ve posted this link before, but it bears repeating: an excellent article that addresses that well is  “What Editors Want; A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines.”

Because I have so many short pieces floating around in the ether and most are not through Submittable, I keep a list on a spreadsheet, organized like this:

I can’t stress this too strongly: only submit your best work. If you have a well-written piece that reads smoothly when read aloud and is rejected for whatever reason, examine it once more with a critical eye and then find a different magazine, contest, or anthology to submit it to. Chances are it simply didn’t resonate with the editor at that place, and who knows–it may be exactly what the next place is looking for.

I like submitting my work to places that use Submittable, because when you can see where your work is in that process, you can better decide what to do with each manuscript. After all they have room for only so many pieces. This means that sometimes your good work is rejected in favor of another author’s good work. Sulking over a rejection doesn’t advance your career, so promptly put that manuscript back into circulation.

When you have a great story that you believe in, you must find the venue that might be interested in your sort of work. This means you must buy magazines, read them, and write to those standards.

If you are stumped for places to send your work and don’t see anything that interests you on the list at Submittable, there are several sites that offer classified ads calling for submissions:

NewPages Calls for Submission

Every Writer’s Resource

Let’s Write a Short Story

The important thing is to write and write and write.  When you are stumped for ideas on a longer piece, writing a short story often fills the gap and keeps you writing. Write that short story, then set it aside for future use. Build a backlog of flash-fiction. You never know when you’ll need a piece for an anthology or magazine.

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