Rosemary’s Guide to Subbing

Dagger, possible murder weaponA proper post this time.  And, before I forget, the deadline for the  Association of Christian Writers/ Alfie Dog Fiction Crime Fiction Competition is fast approaching – Tuesday, 18 April.  1000 words, please.  More information on ACW website.

Do you remember the first time you ever submitted a story to a magazine or ezine?  What were your thoughts as you posted Cartoon writerthe envelope/clicked the send button on your email application/ clicked submit on the online submission form?  That your literary career began here?  That your work could never be good enough?  Or relief that you’d actually done it?  On Saturday, for the first time for a long time, I subbed a story, to Alfie Dog Fiction.   (My last successful submission (Burnt Down) was also to Alfie Dog Fiction btw.)  As I’ve been concentrating on The Novel, I’ve let the subbing slip (yes, I know, I know), so the process was fresh enough for me to stand back and survey what I was doing.  Below is Rosemary’s Guide to Subbing:

  • Research possible markets (print magazines and ezines).  You may find calls for submissions from some of these: (online) Duotrope (you have to pay) or  The (Submission) Grinder (free), Patsy Collins’ blog (free competitions) or Morgen Bailey – Creative Writing Guru.  And watch the classifieds in (printed) writing magazines, such as  Mslexia,  Writing and Writer’s Forum.   This takes time.  Ideally, you should browse markets in general and get an idea of what sort of writing is getting published, before you have a particular story to place.
  • Don’t dismiss the weird themes.  Nordic folk characters as vampires and set in Milton Keynes.  You don’t have a story like this tucked up your sleeve?  Write one, quickly.  The editor for this ezine will receive fewer submissions and you could be in with a chance.
  • Enter writing competitions.  Competition managers actually want to hear from you.
  • For each market, look at the submission guidelines first.  Is there some very good reason why you can’t submit?  Are submissions only open to writers under 25?  Do they only take poetry and you only write fiction?  Has the deadline passed?  (Many websites are very bad at taking down calls to submissions which have expired.)  For ezines, check the last update; if it’s over a year ago, move on.
  • If the market still looks suitable, read what’s on there already.   Don’t just read; ask yourself some questions.  Are stories reality-based,  fantasy or dystopian?  Upbeat or downbeat?  Literary, with lots of descriptions and navel-gazing, or written like two people talking to each other?  How much dialogue?  Any swear words?  Any explicit sex?  Are settings all in one country (usually the USA)? Are mcs of a particular type eg women, middle-class?  Most importantly:  who is the magazine/ezine’s audience?
  • Market still looking suitable?  Time to open the file containing your story… and to look at the submission guidelines again, this time, in intense detail.  Save a new version of your story, then edit it to fit the submission guidelines (document format, margins, line-spacing, whether to display your name or not)… to the letter.   Do this before you get distracted by editing.
  • Even if you think your story’s ok, read through it.  Reps and incongruities will suddenly hit like lamposts in the dark.  Edit again… and save.  If you find a portion of the story doesn’t work, don’t delete it;  cut it and paste it into a blank document, which you can then save.  (You might change your mind.)  When you think you’re almost ready, read your text aloud. Edit again.
  • Re-check the submission guidelines.  Does the editor/comp manager want you to send story as an email attachment or in the body of an email?  (Very important, as editors say they delete attachments as potential malware!)  For a comp, the very worst thing you can do is to include your name on your story document. 
  • For an email submission (most submissions nowadays), create a new email (on your own email application) and type the appropriate email address.  Some are written without @s, as in editor dot submissions at webzine dot co dot uk, which is meant to be helpful but is actually quite confusing. 
  • Are you required to include a cover sheet?  If so, what should be on it?  Check!
  • Write introductory blurb (if required), the shorter the better.  And anything else required by the editor/comp manager.
  • Write bio (if required).  Don’t keep reusing an old one, as there’s bound to be something that doesn’t quite fit.  ‘Rosemary has had stories published in the urban fiction magazine, Radgepacket’, although true, would not go down well with a Christian ezine.
  • For a competition asking for an entry fee, work out how you’re supposed to pay.  You may have to pay before you can enter.  Use PayPal if possible, as this seems easier all round and, if the website was dodgy (or no longer functioning), you would be protected.
  • For email submissions and online form submissions, check that you’ve actually attached story document (and cover sheet, if required).  Yes, I know.  We’re grown-ups, but we’ve all done it!
  • Now press the Send/Submit button.
  • Make a cup of tea.  Ah, that having written feeling!
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