Writers: 7 hardly-mentioned tips for submitting to zines


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.

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of the New England Horror Writers. Follow her adventures at kristipetersenschoonover.com.

Posted on March 24, 2013, in The Writing Life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Haha! I read this thinking, “Everyone knows these things!” and then I remembered that I learned them from you so long ago that it just seems common sense now.

    Thanks for being a great teacher! <3

  2. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing. Now- to get writing!!

    • Thanks, Karen! Actually, that’s why you haven’t seen much of me around these parts lately…I HAVE been writing! I have such a backlog of posts and news, I don’t even know if I’ll get around to them. DAMN, but it feels good!

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