There are loads of articles about good submission practices. As a co-editor of Read Short Fiction, I’ve picked up on a few things that many articles don’t mention as often regarding submission etiquette. So here they are.
Keep cover letters tight. The purpose of a cover letter is to give the editor a few basics, and mostly, we skim them. Unless the publication asks for specifics in its guidelines—i.e., “Give us a one-line summary of your story”—keep it simple. Here’s an example.
Attached, my story “Below the Birch Trees” for consideration in Read Short Fiction. It runs 6,702 words, has never been published, and is simultaneously submitted. I will inform you immediately if is accepted elsewhere.”
Then, either add your bio in the first person as the next paragraph, or simply write “my bio appears below” and paste it underneath your closing, which should contain your name, address, phone and email.
Keep cover letters free of TMI. Keep your cover letter as professional as you would one for a job. We don’t need to know you got laid off so you thought you’d try writing, you have drinking problems or that your story is about your hellish divorce but you’ve changed everyone’s names. The only time it is permissible to mention anything of that nature is if the market specifically asks for it (“we are looking for stories by people who suffer from chronic depression.”)
Be confident. Don’t write things in your cover letter like “this is the only good story I’ve ever written” or “This story has been rejected many times.” If you don’t believe your story is good, then why are you asking us to read it?
Don’t pummel. We have rejected pieces, and sometimes within the hour, get another one from the same writer. When we reject that one, yet another comes in—sometimes in an entirely different genre from the one before. What this tells us is that you didn’t read our magazine, and you don’t particularly care about what we publish. It also tells us you’re desperate, and that you probably have a drawer full of orphans for which you’re trying to find homes. Wait a few months. Or years, even. Show us you are actually thinking that your story might be a good fit for us.
Know when to say when. After the third or fourth time the magazine has rejected your story, consider that the market may not be an affinity match for you and send your work elsewhere. You’ll cut back on your level of frustration—and on the editors’.
If you feel the need to reply, don’t be rude. It’s best not to respond to a rejection. If the rejection you get says a few nice things to you or gives you some advice, it’s okay to write a brief thank-you. But the number of nasty or snippy responses we get when we reject a piece seems to be increasing (and I am personally wondering when this became acceptable?)—even though we pretty much send out a form letter. Keep in mind that editors talk to other editors—you don’t know who we know. So don’t slit your own throat. Suck it up and move on.
Check for accuracy before clicking send. Simultaneous submitting is a practice that today is widely accepted, but that also means you will probably have the same cover letter going out to several markets at once. Make sure that you are accurate—i.e., don’t send “…for consideration in Read Short Fiction” to the editors at Stupefying Stories. And don’t send your story “37 Birds” when your cover letter states the story’s title is “Regrets, Paradox Lake.” Mistakes like these send the message you’re careless, and we might wonder what kinds of errors we’ll find in your work. Be certain your letter is up to snuff.
I’ve always loved those t-shirts that proudly declare “Careful, you’ll end up in my novel” or “I’m a writer. Consider yourself warned” (and if you think these are in jest, I’ll give you the phone numbers of three of my ex-boyfriends).
Seriously, though, I frequently model characters on people I know. Most of the time, this is positive. And I wondered what it would feel like on the flip side.
When horror writer Stacey Longo wrote her creepy little children’s tale Pookie and the Lost & Found friend, I got my chance.
Yup, she killed me off.
But it was in a way I’d love to go: swimming—which I love so much I’ve always envisioned heaven to be full of swimming pools—in the Loch where a creature with which I’ve been obsessed my whole life is said to lurk. It shows a true understanding of me, and in turn, illustrates a measure of how much she loves me.
So remember, if some piece of you shows up in someone’s story, it means you are important. You came to his mind, and you inspired him. You’re loved in a way not everyone gets to be loved.
Even if it means you get killed off.
If you want to check out Stacey’s Pookie and the Lost & Found Friend, you can do that here: http://amzn.com/0615660886. Or, you can stop up at Colchester, Connecticut’s Books & Boos and have it signed by Stacey herself.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
One of life’s great joys is finally finding something for which you’ve been searching a long time. I’ve written about this before: in 2011, I finally found a short story called “Obstinate Uncle Otis,” by Robert Arthur, which heavily influenced me (http://kristipetersenschoonover.com/2012/07/11/the-other-shoe-drops-robert-arthurs-obstinate-uncle-otis/); I also was able to find a short story my father had referenced only once, many years ago, but had never uttered its title or who had written it so I had to search by key word (“The Light of Other Days,” by Bob Shaw: http://kristipetersenschoonover.com/tag/the-light-of-other-days-by-bob-shaw/).
There are many such things on my list, and I’m happy to report yet another has been found.
Back in the 1980s, I was a fan of the “new” The Twilight Zone, an anthology-style series which ran from 1985-1987 on CBS and from 1988-1989 in syndication (interestingly enough, I have a special connection to the series in another way: you can read about my first rejection letter here http://kristipetersenschoonover.com/2011/07/28/the-goodbye-project-letting-go-is-good-yo-episode-16-rejection-slips-part-one-keep-your-favorite/).
At some point, I remembered seeing an episode in which a woman in a mental hospital is terrified of patterns. The last scene, which I won’t spoil, scared the hell out of me and has haunted my nightmares ever since. In fact, it was a direct inspiration for my novel Bad Apple, which was originally penned in 2005 and is now published by Vagabondage Press Books.
In 2011 and early 2012, while working with my editor on the final revisions for Bad Apple, the scene began to haunt me again. I wanted to find the episode, but after searching on all kinds of crazy key phrases like “patterns in the walls” and “Twilight Zone Episode where woman is afraid of patterns” and searching through The Twilight Zone series episode summaries, I began to wonder if it was even The Twilight Zone at all; anthology series saw a resurgence in the 1980s, and I was a fan of all of them: Amazing Stories, Tales from the Crypt, Ray Bradbury Theatre—you name it, I watched it. I was wondering if, perhaps, I’d seen this in one of the other series and had gotten confused over the years. But after searching through all of those—some of which I own on DVD—I still came up short.
While conducting an interview for my podcast, Scary Scribes, last February, the subject of this episode came up as my guest (I think it was John Palisano, author of Nerves) and I discussed inspirations for and influences on our work.
My husband Nathan was downstairs in the living room, listening to Scary Scribes via live stream. He had heard me mention my search for the episode periodically since 2005 had been in vain, and by the time our show went dark, he had located it. It turns out that yes, it was an episode of The Twilight Zone, and it had aired in the series’ syndicated season in 1989. It was called “Something in the Walls.”
I asked him how he found it, because apparently, after reading and re-reading the series’ episode summaries, I’d missed it.
“You were thinking it was a story about the woman, so that’s what you looked for,” he said. “I decided to search the descriptions based on the male psychiatrist you mentioned instead.”
Sure enough, he’d found it through this description on Wikipedia: “A doctor (Damir Andrei) arrives at his new job in a sanitarium. He discovers the case of a woman (Deborah Raffin) who is terribly frightened of things that appear on her walls.”
So now, I give you a direct inspiration for my novel Bad Apple: “Something in the Walls.” If you’d like to read all about the episode instead of watching it, you can visit Postcards from the Zone here: http://postcardsfromthezone.blogspot.com/2007/04/319-something-in-walls.html
If the embed doesn’t work, the direct link to the episode is below.
Wikipedia, “List of The Twilight Zone (1985 TV series) episodes,” Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Twilight_Zone_(1985_TV_series)_episodes (accessed October 16, 2012).
I’m not a fan of snow. In fact, I’m a chionophobe. But our decorative miniature cemetery looked very different the first time it saw snow…somehow a little dusting made the silk flowers look real, the Styrofoam marble and the statues menacing.
I might even be tempted to leave it up through the winter next year. What do y’all think?
While I’ve never been completely behind the idea that “all good things must come to an end,” I do believe that some good things have to come to an end to make way for new good things.
As part of my new “Less and More” initiative in 2013, I have decided to no longer continue doing Scary Scribes. I have very much enjoyed the show and the opportunity it has afforded me. I’ve read some fantastic books, learned the basics (I do mean the very basics) of podcasting, and interviewed some amazing writers whose inner lives have enriched my own. I will always be proud of the project and recall it fondly, but there are other things I’d like to pursue—mainly, focusing on my own writing again (I am working on three drafts right now), reading more books, and working with Rob on re-tooling Read Short Fiction—a project I truly love that deserves more time and attention than I have had to give this past year.
I plan on keeping the website–www.scaryscribes.com–up for the rest of 2013, and will add a Scary Scribes page beneath my “Projects” tab on my full site, www.kristipetersenschoonover.com. The page will contain all the show’s episodes, so you can listen to them whenever you want, as well as links to the guests’ websites. The “Projects” tab, in case you’ve never visited, is where you can see some other short-term projects I had fun doing, but which also needed to end to make way for new things.
Tune in tomorrow at 6 p.m. ET for J.G. Faherty and The Burning Time, and on February 24 for J.S. Watts and A Darker Moon.
Sci-Fi Saturday Night’s The Dome and Zombrarian gave Bad Apple rave reviews! Zombrarian noted “You know a book is really good horror when it leaves you feeling set adrift and raw—and Bad Apple did that for me,” and Dome wrote “The characters are real and that reality is stark, bitter, and at the same time maddeningly beautiful.” To read both reviews, visit SFSN’s site at http://www.scifisaturdaynight.com/?p=6592.
If you know me, then you know my past is peppered with some pretty cool theme parties. You also know, then, that photos and ephemera from all of those parties, held between 1998 and 2003, are down in my basement, awaiting, well…what, back then, was the preferred method of chronicling: scrapbooks.
Obviously, my life got busy with other things, and so the scrapbooks went by the wayside. But that doesn’t mean—thanks to the changes in technology and sharing over the past decade—that the stuff has to stay down there, seen only by me and remembered only by the guests.
Over the next couple of years I plan on getting all of these up on my site for others to enjoy, and for me, it will be fun taking a trip down memory lane in a way I didn’t expect: prints that weren’t so great, because we had cheap little film cameras and we couldn’t see what we were getting until the rolls were developed (and let’s talk about budget: I had X number of rolls of film for the night and that was IT—I didn’t shoot like a crazy person, I had to carefully mete out my shots!); invitations that were cut and pasted together on white paper and then run on the desired stock through a copy machine (no average-Joe In-Design programs or websites like VistaPrint and Shutterfly openly available to the public!).
Here was one of my favorite parties: The Masque of the Red Death, a celebration of Edgar Allan Poe, held November 4, 2000. I recommend watching it full screen.
Oh, yes, and while we’re at it…happy birthday, Mr. Poe!
Generally, I do well with meeting my goals (I don’t think of them as “resolutions”) for the year, even though they are usually large (if they’re too large, then I don’t give myself more than one). The goal I set at the beginning of 2009 was to land a writing residency. Mission accomplished: I applied to and was accepted at the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. 2010’s goal was to publish every short story I had in my drawer as well as build a better blog and website and actively engage in marketing. Missions accomplished: I placed/sold a record 22 pieces plus one new commission and a best-of selection, and I followed through on my website/marketing plan. 2011’s goals were to get my books in Cons and judge a contest. Missions accomplished: through the New England Horror Writers, I sold books at several events, among them Rock and Shock and the Enfield Zombie Walk; I was approached by New York City Midnight to judge their short story contests and, of course, took the position.
2012 got a little derailed. I hadn’t had time to think of a goal before our New Year’s Eve gathering, assuming I’d figure out what I wanted the first week in January. But then Nathan popped the question, so the goal for the year was throw a wedding on September 15.
So what will be my goal for 2013?
Recently, a close friend and I had a conversation about how we’ve both been so crazy-busy with marketing, events, and yes-ing everyone to death (on top of everything else in life) that we’re not writing (much less getting feedback on it and having consistent camaraderie with other active writers). Or reading. We fondly recalled the days we’d hole up in our home offices with music playing and candles lit for a whole weekend to just write. When we hung out and talked about writing for hours on end. When we sat around on, say, a Monday night and just read a whole book of short stories. Those anonymous days (2004, not that long ago)—when there was no social networking, not everyone had email, books were paper, cell phones were just phones and personal websites, let alone blogs, were unheard of—loomed in our memories like paradise. And it occurred to us both that we want that back. We want to enjoy life again reading, writing, and critiquing, instead of doing all sorts of other junk that on many days is drudgery.
So this year, I decided my goal wouldn’t be so grand. It’s to simply do less and more. Less blogging/marketing/things I said yes to I dread, more writing, reading and critiquing. Fewer events, more time at home. Fewer new projects, more old ones. I’ll have more time to do what I like, which means that time will probably go even faster (gulp) than it does now.
What are your goals for 2013? How will you make time work for you?
Get out your blanket, light a candle and pull your chair to the hearth! On a special Fireside Read episode of Scary Scribes, hear the first two chapters of Don Franklin’s Reaper’s Walk: Hellstone here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/paranormaleh/2012/12/30/scary-scribes-ep-11
If you’d rather download it directly to your portable device or listen directly from this website, you can do that here: Scary Scribes Ep 11 – Don Franklin, 12-30-2012
Enjoy, and Happy New Year from Scary Scribes!
Tonight on Scary Scribes, Don Franklin, author of Reaper’s Walk: Hellstone from Greyhart Press. Listen live here at 6 p.m. ET: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/paranormaleh/2012/12/30/scary-scribes-ep-11
Hellstone is the first book in a planned five-installment Reaper’s Walk series; he got the idea in 2006 while looking at a stretch of land that was unused. He thought, “what if a piece of land that is today in a metro city was cursed hundreds of years ago?” You can check out Don’s site and read an unedited excerpt from the book at…