Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Short Story for the Editor, Part Six: Submit it.

Her name was Tiffany. She was a tall girl, all arms and legs. She had brilliant blue eyes, at least I remember her having blue eyes. Her nose had a slope to it that made me weak in the knees. Weak. It probably made me weak in the knees. I can't remember, well maybe not, she probably did have a nose. It doesn't matter. That was a long time ago. I was 15, maybe 16, and I was in love. And Tiffany the object of my desire did not feel the same way about me. She was the object and I the rejected. I think a little literary license is making more out of the Tiffany heartbreak than was really there. I would hope so, it was a long time ago and the rejection I've had in my life since then has been so much more painful, so much more personal, and yet it is all like the rejection of a skinny, blue eyed, sloped nosed, teenaged girl.

The point it, that's life.

If you've been paying attention at all for this write the short story for the editor series, you know that we have the chance and the challenge to do our best work, write our very best using all the faculties and tools available to us. We have the confidence to know the best ways to construct out stories using our lessons of character, conflict, plot and exposition. We have shared some examples of good writing, and we have the tools to read as writers. It's been a great couple of months for thinking and reading and writing and doing.

Hopefully all your stories have been working out, both in the practice and in the result.

Now what? We've discussed the reading of magazines to understand various elements of the fiction short story. Hopefully you have been looking at magazines. I come from the background of the online magazine. Online journals as such have grown in popularity in recent years and for good reason. They reach a larger readership, they're “green,” they make it possible for that typo to never be permanent. They are easy to design, easy to change, and very inexpensive to run. And with the vast number of them they are free to read, free to subscribe, and they're always available.

These are by no means the only magazines out there. There are the college/university journals, the larger independent and the magazines with millions of copies in circulation. I don't need to explain this further than I already have in the “small press” series. The point is simply: at this stage of your short story, it's time to get it off your desk. It's time to let it go. It's time to tell Tiffany how you feel about her. There are only three possible outcomes:
1) You send your story out and that's it. There is no word back, there is no closure, it's all a mystery. If you haven't heard back in 4 months, or 16 weeks, you can either send a reminder to the editor (include your name, the title of your story and the date it was sent) or you can simply abandon the magazine the way they abandoned you.
2) You send your story out and the editor sends you a rejection letter. This is the Tiffany rejection all over again. Remember a few thing when you get rejections. Most editors will publish less than five percent of what they receive. The more reasonable number is about one percent. When you get than form rejection letter, don't beat yourself up asking “why?” this doesn't help. It waste time and energy. Your story may be fine, their magazine may not have space and they may have had hundreds of submissions to sort through. I know at I Umbrella Factory Magazine select five of the best pieces for jury. After jury we generally run three of those pieces. Three pieces from the one hundred I get initially. Do you see? It may not be you. Occasionally, you will find an editor who sends you a personal note. These editors have taken the time and whatever they say, it's probably worth listening to what they say. I became a fiction editor because of two rejection letters I received. One letter was from Jason at Fiction Weekly, and the other was from Nate at Monkey Puzzle. I admire both of them for the work they do and I'm grateful that their rejection letters did what they did to me.
3) You send your story out and it gets accepted. Great. You've succeeded. During my time as editor I have developed great relationships with some of my writers. It's great to get a writer, whether they are established or not, and put their work out for the masses. It's been my experience that most writers are very gracious too. Some however, were not. When an editor accepts something, it really does behoove you, the writer, to behave properly. I've had writers who suddenly owned my magazine and me. I've had writers who now know the intricacies of my business. I've even had one writer who after we accepted their work, even ran it through our copy editor and then coded it, decided to retract the piece. I'm sure there were good reasons for this. Needless to say, why go through all the trouble and hassle of writing, then submitting, then acceptance only to fink out in the end? Don't be afraid of it, that's all I can say. Trust that the editor will treat your piece with the respect that it deserves.
If your story is something you might be ashamed of in the future, submit it anyway. I've got at least three of my earliest publications as points of embarrassment. Fortunately, those three will never resurface. But it was a wonderful feeling when they were accepted.

There are a few items of business to tend to with you and your submission process.

These points will increase acceptance:
Research the magazines in your market.
Read the magazines in your market.
Subscribe to these magazines.
When you choose one:
Follow the guidelines.
Be respectful and professional in your cover letter. Editors do not need the flashy sales pitch, the confessional, the personal or the arrogant in your letter.
If you submit the same story elsewhere, let both magazines know. A simultaneous submission tells me that the writer has one story and fifty magazines. Why not have fifty stories and one magazine? Also, should the story get accepted, you must send notification to everyone else.
Keep notes. Know where you sent what and when you sent it. I use a simple spread sheet. Organization will help you away from embarrassing situations.

Good luck and happy submission.

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