More About Working Out Where to Sub

This subject continues to bother me.

As I wrote last week, I find it difficult to assess whether or not to sub to a particular publication just by reading stories in previous issues. All too often, I have worked through several very different stories in one issue and come to no conclusion.  In their blurb on Duotrope,  many editors use words like ‘eclectic’, or indicate, in so many words, that they know what they like but can’t put it in words, and it seems that this is exactly the way it is.  Only a few mags, like the Jersey Devil Press, expand, in candid detail, on what they are looking for.

Over the weekend, I listed all the points I should consider, with a view to analysing published stories:

Published story name
Published story author
Magazine title
Year of publication
Word length
Tense (past or present)
Gender of mc
Point of view (first, second or third person)
Major characters (number)
Minor characters (number)
Age of mc
Age of second most important character
Age of third most important character
Period (for historical only)
Percentage dialogue
Swears (yes/no)
Explicit (sex, violence or both)
Language style
Date record entered
Other comments.

For those of you who like techie stuff, I included all the items above as fields on a new table, ‘mag-analysis’, on my pre-existing ‘subbing‘ database (see ‘Writers and Computers’ page on this blog) using Access 2010.  ‘Magazine_title‘ was the foreign key with a many:1 relationship to the (pre-existing) magazine table.  To make data entry easier, I created a form ‘frm_mag_analysis’ based upon magazine_title table.

I then read four stories from a particular ezine to which I was considering subbing a piece based upon the Bible story of Daniel in the lions’ den, completing the form, ‘frm_mag_analysis’, as I went along.  I have to confess that I didn’t get the mix right first time round and I needed to keep adding fields.   Did it help me to understand what sort of stuff this ezine took?  Yes, Dear Reader, it did… but not in the way I expected.  Certainly, I worked through a few points of detail.  Did they mind swears?  Did they accept 1st and 3rd person pov?  But, more importantly,  simply by picking out the pieces of data for my form, I noticed other things which I would not have spotted in passive reading.  Several stories had pov shifts – if I had been editor, that would have been a no-no.  And adverbs – everybody else’s no-no.

I didn’t find a story so like mine that I could say, with assurance, ‘Oh yes, I’ll certainly gain a hit here’ – but then you never do!  Ultimately, though, a decision had to be made.  Sub or not to sub?  Dear Reader, I subbed.  It still felt like a stab in the dark, but less so.   They can only say No, can’t they?



3 thoughts on “More About Working Out Where to Sub

  1. It is hard to define what some editors are looking for. I do try to analyse stories in the magazines I sub to, but quite often I read a story in them that I’m surprised was accepted.

    1. Me too, Patsy! Surprised in seeing published a story which, imo, is not well-written and surprised in seeing something which seems out of keeping with other stories on the site! I’m starting to think that editors practise a dark art when accepting pieces!


  2. Several months ago, I took it upon myself to write a short précis of every story I read in Fiction Feast thinking I could analyse them to work out a pattern. There wasn’t one. I was no clearer at the end of the exercise, than I was at the beginning. I understand your frustrations; I feel your pain.

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