Posts Tagged ‘submission’

Troubleshooting: How Many Rejections are Too Many?

All right, Squiders! Let’s get into the troubleshooting portion of submission and publication, which will be the last section included here on the blog. Please let me know if this book blogging thing is working for you, and if you’d like me to continue with the other books.

Today we’re going to talk about how many rejections are too many. Rejections fall into the following categories:

  • No response
  • Form rejection
  • Personal rejection/Send others
  • Revise and resubmit

As a quick recap,  no response means exactly what it sounds like–you send your story/query off to a publisher or agent, and never hear anything again. Emails to follow up go similarly unanswered. A form rejection is a basic rejection that agents/publishers send out when it’s a definite no. These two kinds can be very discouraging, because they give you, the author, no information. Was your query/story bad? Was it good but not a good fit? Did they like aspects of it, but they’re too busy to send feedback along with the rejection?

A personal rejection means the publisher/agent took the time to go off-script from their form rejection to give you some feedback. This can be things like aspects they liked about your story along with things they didn’t, it can be a note that they liked the story but do not have room for it in their current line-up, etc. In some cases, the agent/publisher may ask you to consider them in the future for other stories.

A revise and resubmit means that the agent/publisher will seriously consider picking up your story if you make some specific changes to it. This is very promising–it means you’re close–but you will have decide if you’re willing to make the changes asked for, especially since this isn’t a guarantee of representation or publication.

So perhaps the question shouldn’t be “How many is too many?” but “What kind of rejections are you getting?”

For a short story, if you’re regularly getting personal rejections or requests to send other stories, that’s a good sign. You may just need to keep trying. For novels, if your query is regularly getting partial requests, that’s also a good sign, because it means that your query letter is working.

With a novel, you can often tell where, if anywhere, the process is falling apart. If you get partial requests with a query but not with a query plus five pages, then your beginning may need tightening. If your partials are spawning fulls regularly, then your writing is probably fine, but your plotting may be off. Many agents/publishers will send feedback if they’re rejecting a full, however, so this can be helpful.

If you’re routinely getting the same comments, that might be something to consider updating.

But if you’re getting no responses or form rejections, you may need to consider that something might be wrong with either your querying materials or your story itself. If you haven’t had the story critiqued or beta read, you should consider doing so. Critiquers or beta readers can be invaluable for helping figure out if there’s problems with a manuscript. If it’s the querying material that’s getting you rejected, many writing forums have areas where you can get help and feedback on queries and synopses. Going to a local writers’ conference can also be helpful for that, as oftentimes these offer the opportunity to meet with agents or editors one on one.

So, let’s say you’re getting fairly regularly personal rejections/partial requests, have had your manuscript looked at by someone else and have vetted your querying materials run by other people. Then, how many rejections are too many? Well, on some level, this is a personal decision. Some people are lucky enough to have a story picked up after a few tries, but others have successfully sold a story after 100+ rejections.

But never wait on a story selling. Work on the next one, and if the current one doesn’t sell now, it might later when you have some publishing credits under your name. Or you might find that, as you learn as an author, you figure out an awesome way to fix the story.

Tuesday we’ll talk about issues with selling, for both self and traditionally published stories.

Publishing Short Stories Traditionally (Part 3)

Here’s our final stop on this particular story type/publication method combination, Squiders.

Short Story Collections

Like anthologies, short story collections are, as the name implies, a collection of short stories. The main difference is that an anthology features the work of multiple authors, while a short story collection includes the work of only one. As such, short story collections tend to operate more along the same principles as novels than selling a single short story at a time.

The first step toward submitting and publishing a short story collection is to have written a number of short stories. These can be ones that have been previously published, or they can be new ones. A number of stories is necessary; most traditionally-published collections are equal in length to novels. These stories can be related, such as all featuring the same characters, or the same universe, but they do not need to be.

If you have an agent (see agents section–note for blog: not written as of yet, so don’t be confused that you can’t find it), you can have them submit to publishers for you; some publishers will accept submissions from unagented authors. Like novels, you will need to write a query letter that you or your agent can send out. The query letter will need to have statistical information about the collection (number of stories, word count, genre if possible, etc.) as well as some sort of hook to inspire a publisher to look closer at your stories. An interested publisher may ask for a sample, or may ask for the entire collection to aid in the decision-making process.

NOTE: Short story collections are notoriously hard sells, especially if you are not an established, traditionally-published author. Publishers typically find them hard to market, and readers may not pick up a collection if they are not previously familiar with the author in some way. Previously published stories may be an easier sell in this case, especially if they’ve been published in top-tier markets or have won industry or genre-specific awards. Alternately, short stories that are linked to a novel series can also be easier sells, since readers are more likely to seek them out to augment their reading of the series in between novels.

A publisher will have a contract you will need to agree to before they’ll publish your collection. If you do not have an agent, you might consider asking one or a rights-specific lawyer to look over the contract to make sure that you’re getting a fair deal. Some publishers will pay some amount of money up front, called an advance. You have to “earn through” your advance before you can start earning royalties. Others may not pay an advance at all.

All right! That’s it for traditionally publishing short stories. Please let me know if you feel I’m leaving anything out, or if anything is confusing.

I’m going to take about a week off of the book posts (I’m reading a terrible Star Trek novel to share with you guys on Friday) and then we’ll jump into self-publishing short stories (which is a massive beast). And then another break from those sorts of posts and then into the novels, egads.

Happy Tuesday!

Publishing Short Stories Traditionally (Part 2)

Continuing on from Tuesday. If you missed that post, I recommend clicking the handy link at the top or bottom of this entry (depending on whether you’re on the blog or website) or simply scrolling down and reading that one first if you’re on the main blog page.

Picking up where we left off:

Anthologies

An anthology is a collection of short stories (or longer works, such as novellas) that center around some sort of theme. These themes can be very specific or very broad, depending on the publisher and the particular anthology in question. Publishers that regularly release anthologies may have the next several themes available on their website so you can plan ahead.

Submissions for anthologies work in two distinct ways:

  • You can be invited to submit work for an anthology. This is more common if you’re an established, decently-selling author who has been traditionally published by major markets, or if you’ve worked with an editor before and they’ve been impressed with your work.
  • A publisher releases a call for an anthology, which is open to established and new writers alike. (In some cases, publishers may be looking specifically for new authors; the submission guidelines for the anthology would state this.)

Like magazines or journals, market websites like Duotrope and the Submission Grinder list open anthology calls on their websites, and you can search specifically for anthology markets by using their advanced search function. Anthology calls often have a deadline associated with them (i.e., stories must be received by November 15), though some publishers may keep submissions for a particular anthology open until they feel they’ve received an appropriate amount of acceptable submissions. Often, an anthology call will also include the intended publication date for the anthology.

Pay rates for anthologies follow the same methodology as magazines and journals, falling into pro, semi-pro, token, and non-paying or exposure. Anthologies are more likely to pay a flat rate per story, and also may include a copy or two of the anthology. Some anthologies may pay authors a share of the royalties, either as the main form of payment, or in addition to whatever the original buying rate was. Some anthologies are created to make money for charitable causes–the submission guidelines will normally specify this.

Like magazines and journals, you can try to fit a previously written story into an anthology, or write a story specifically to match an anthology theme.

NOTE: Depending on the anthology theme and how specialized it is, it may be hard to place an anthology-intended story elsewhere if the anthology does not accept it.

In many cases, the submission process for an anthology is similar or identical to submitting to a magazine or journal, with most using either an email submission process or an online portal. An anthology may accept a wide variety of story lengths or be focused on a specific type of short story (such as flash fiction), and pay rates may be different depending on the length of the story. For example, some anthologies may pay a pro rate for very short works, such as flash or micro fiction, but pay semi-pro or token for longer works.

If your short story is selected for inclusion in an anthology, the publisher will send you a contract specifying rights and when/if the rights will revert to you after a certain period of time. The editor or publisher may also ask for some edits to be made to the story. These are normally fairly minor–small plot issues or copyediting–as the time frame and demand for an anthology does not allow for more major changes; if a story is not working on a larger level, it is very unlikely to be selected.

Here’s part 2, Squiders! Again, let me know if anything is confusing or if you feel I’m leaving something out, or let me know if the format isn’t working for some reason. I’d hate to go through the whole thing if the format is inherently wrong! Otherwise, we’ll continue next Tuesday with the third and final part of traditional short story publishing and then take a bit of a break on the subject before we jump into self-publishing short stories.

Otherwise, I hope you have a happy weekend, Squiders!

Publishing Short Stories Traditionally (Part 1)

Okay, Squiders! Let’s get into the meat of things. Today we’ll be talking about “traditional” methods of short story submission and publication. As a short recap, “traditional” publishing is the method of publishing that has been the norm for the last several decades, where authors send out a story to a market with the hope that said market will buy it and pay them money.

For short stories, your traditional paths fall into three main categories:

  • Magazines (including e-zines) and journals
  • Anthologies
  • Short story collections

We’ll take a look at each of these in order.

Magazines/Journals

A magazine is a soft-bound publication that often features a mixture of articles, advertisements, and pictures, often centered around a theme, that is released on a regular basis. A journal, in this case, is similar to a magazine but tends to focus more on publishing stories. These are sometimes known as a literary journal, but many people use both magazine and journal interchangeably. There are publications that combine the two, featuring a mixture of articles and stories.

And e-zine or online journal is essentially the same idea, except the final product is digital. These can be an e-book type file, which can be downloaded and read on e-readers, or everything might be hosted on a website.

When submitting to a magazine or journal, it’s important to do your research beforehand and make sure the publication in question is open for submissions, and that they publish the type of story you’re trying to sell. Most publications will clearly list their submission guidelines on their websites.

Various websites will list open markets. The most well-known of these is Duotrope. Duotrope keeps track of short story markets and also provides acceptance and response time stats. It is a subscription-based website, costing $5/month at this time, which can be somewhat costly if you aren’t using it regularly or aren’t selling on a regular basis. A free alternative is the Submission Grinder, which also keeps track of markets and stats. There are others, and websites also exist for specific genres.

Markets tend to be divided by pay rate. Short stories tend to be paid on a price per word, though many markets pay a flat rate per story as well. The highest rate is known as pro, and tends to be at least $.06/word, though some publications do offer higher. So, for example, if you had a 2500-word short story, you’d get $150 for it at a pro rate of $.06/word. Some professional writing associations, such as the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), will only accept pro-level short story sales as a consideration for membership.

The next highest level is semi-pro, where pay rates are greater than $.01/word but less than $.06/word. Then you get into token, which is where you get paid something, but it’s typically $.01/word or less. A lot of token markets pay a flat fee, often somewhere between $5 and $25 per story. Markets that pay a larger flat fee (such as $50 or $100) may be rated as a semi-pro or pro market, depending on the word count on stories they accept.

The final payment category is non-paying or exposure markets. With these, you’re not paid in money, but in exposure and experience. This means that you often receive a bylaw at the top or the bottom of the story where you can advertise or link to something else, such as your website or a recent novel release.

Many websites that list short story markets allow you to search specifically by payment category, as well as genre and accepted word count. They also allow you to search for anthology calls and contests, which will discuss later.

There are two main ways people go about choosing submission markets. The first is to write and polish a short story, and then do research to see what markets would be acceptable; the second is to choose a market and then write a story that feels like it would be a good a fit. Either way, once you choose your market and finalize your story, you can start submitting.

WARNING: Some markets only accept submissions during certain times of the year, called reading periods. If you submit a story outside of these periods, or while a market is closed to new submissions (which sometimes happens if a publication gets too backlogged), your submission will be deleted unread and you will have wasted your time.

Most short story publications accept submissions one of two ways:

  • Through email
  • Through an online submission portal

Some publications still accept or insist on snail mail submissions, though these are lessening. When submitting a short story for consideration, you will need a cover letter. These can be very short and essentially just need to include the story title, genre, and word count, as well as your name. Some publications will also ask for a short bio. If your story has been previously published elsewhere, you would also note this in your cover letter.

NOTE: Not all publications will consider a previously-published story, also known as a reprint. Their submission guidelines on their website will specify. Publications that do accept reprints often pay less than they would for an unpublished story.

In almost all cases, you submit the complete text of your story with your cover letter. The publication will specify their preferred format in their guidelines, but many accept a standard manuscript format, which you can find through an Internet search. (This is mainly for email submission; oftentimes online portals strip out most of the formatting and a block paragraph style may be the most readable option.)

Once you’ve made sure your story is in the proper format and you’ve met all the submission guidelines, you can go ahead and submit.

BEWARE: In many cases, you’ll have to send your story to one market at a time. Sending it to more than one market at a time is known as simultaneous submissions, and many publications don’t accept them. Though, in theory, they may never know, if you’re caught in a situation where more than one publication has accepted the story, you’ll be stuck in the awkward situation of having to explain to one what’s happened, and you might find yourself unwelcome from submitting to that market in the future.

Short story publications will have you sign a contract upon acceptance of your story that specifies which rights they’re buying (varies by publication, but may include first publication rights, serial rights, audio rights, etc.) and how long it is before the rights revert to the author.

It often takes several months for your story to appear in an issue or on a website, as many publications buy more stories than they immediately have slots for. The publication should tell you when your story will appear and, in some cases, may offer you that issue for free.

Tada! That’s part 1, Squiders. Hopefully it’s helpful. Please let me know if any steps are unclear so I can tweak them! Part 2 will be on Thursday.

Notes on the Submission/Publication Posts

So, as you know, Squiders (or if you missed it), I’m going to be interspersing in blog posts about submitting and publishing to help me put together a book on the subject. We talked about the types of publishing last week, but I wanted to let you know how the posts will be working going forward.

The bulk of the posts will be on a publication type combined with a type of submission/publication process. So one post might be Self-Publishing Short Stories, for example. For the blog, I’m going to focus on novels and short stories; in the book, I’ll also touch on nonfiction books, articles, and poetry. (If you have other prose-based types you’d like to see included, let me know. But I would like to stay away from things such as screenplays, music, etc., both because those aren’t my specialty as well as the fact that I think you can go too broad.)

There might be two or three posts on a particular subject, depending on the amount of information. In the book I intend to also address the pros and cons of using a particular submission/publication process with that particular publication type, but I’m unsure as of yet if I’ll do that here.

Once we’re done with that, we’ll move into troubleshooting topics, such as how to tell if an agent/publisher is reputable, things to do if you’re having trouble selling or getting bad reviews, how to tell how many rejections should be your limit, etc.

And then that should be that!

Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like covered that you don’t see above, and I’ll see if I can fit it in here, or perhaps in one of the other nonfic books I’m planning. (I have a series of seven planned, with a book and a half written at the moment.)

Anyway, Squiders, I hope this week hasn’t been too tough for you. Have a good weekend.

Revisiting Query Letters

A branch of my library system had a talk last night, given by Kristen Nelson and Angie Hidapp of the Nelson Literary Agency here in Colorado, about querying and query letters.

My husband said I should go, and so I did, and there were free cookies, so woo! But it served as a good reminder of the process.

If we go back to 2009, back before this blog, I was somewhat seriously querying. I’d finished my first revision ever, had done all my research, crafted a query letter and a synopsis, and had started sending queries out. And I got some requests, all of which came back with a “good, but not great” rejection. And I entered that story in some contests, with the same results, and then sent out more queries and got nothing, so I shelved that story and went on to other things.

But now I’m back in the querying saddle, and it was good to go through the process again, because admittedly I’ve just been working on my query, and it wasn’t until last night that I realized a refresher was actually not a bad idea, since it’s been so long.

A query letter, to recap, is like a cover letter on a resume. It’s a short letter (or email, these days) that explains the basics of your story. If it catches an agent’s/publisher’s attention, they then go on to read or request pages (depending on whether that particular agency/publisher asks for pages with the query). That’s its whole job–attract attention so the actual manuscript gets looked at.

There’s generally four parts: an intro (Hello, I think you would be a good fit because we both like plesiosaurs, and also we talked about plesiosaurs that one time I cornered you in the elevator at that writer’s conference), some basic story stats (word count, genre, title), a pitch (this is what my book is about, look isn’t it fascinating), and a bio (I have relevant experience which makes it sound like I may have a clue what I’m talking about).

The bio part has always been a bane of mine (I mean, alongside the pitch, but I think most people have pitch issues). I’ve generally gotten the impression that it’s no good to mention you’re an indie author unless you have major sales. I also have no major publication credits and have won no awards, so my instinct has always been to just…not do that part. But I did ask about that, and they said it was fine to just put a brief biographical statement like “I live in Colorado and 15 cats and a landsquid.”

Which is news to me, but hey, what can it hurt? It’s not really relevant until I manage to find a pitch that doesn’t suck, so, you know.

How are you doing, Squiders? (Don’t worry, it will all be over, one way or another, tomorrow.)

Let’s Talk Format (also MileHiCon)

Okay, Squiders. The winner of the nonfic subject poll was submission and publication, so I’ve gone ahead and outlined that subject. I’ve tentatively called it a “quick” guide, but now that I’ve outlined it, it’s kind of massive, so I may have to rethink that.

Anyway, my general plan is to talk about the different types of publication, and then go through the submission/publication process by type of work (short story, novel, novella, etc.). I’m also going to have a “troubleshooting” section.

Which seems more logical to you?

  1. Organize the topic by publication type. So have all the self-publishing together (with the different work types as subsections), all the traditional publishing, and onward.
  2. Organize the topic by work type. So have a section, for example, for short stories, and then have subsections inside that for self-publishing, traditional publishing, etc.

Both seem like they could be equally useful (for example, if I do by work, someone who writes only short stories would have all the information they want in a single section, but if I do it by publication type, then someone who’s only interested in traditional publishing would have all that information in one place…), so I thought I’d see what you guys thought, especially since you’re my guinea pigs.

I suppose I could try it both ways here and see which works better in the end. Anyway, thoughts? Which would work better for you?

Also, if you have specific submitting/publishing questions or topics, let me know and I’ll incorporate them if I’m not already.

Also, as a reminder, I’m going to have a table at MileHiCon again this year! (Well, technically, it’s a table for Turtleduck Press, but since I shall be the only one manning it due to life eating people…) So if you’re in the general area of Denver, Colorado the last weekend of October, you should come and say hi!

Anyway, hope you’re having a lovely October! Let me know what you think about the format.