Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do's and Don'ts for Submitting to Journals

When I announced the launch of my short story project, Small Tales, a few of you asked for a post on how to submit to short story journals. Et voila!

Keep in mind all the information I'm about to slaver about below is a) my opinion, and b) based on what I've seen from submissions thus far to Small Tales.

So with that, here are some do's and don'ts for submitting to small journals/magazines/short story collections:

Do check and follow the submission guidelines. If you can't find any, you might consider whether you really want to submit to something without clearly defined parameters. Submission guidelines shouldn't be difficult to find, nor should they make you jump through hoops. But if they do say "no attachments, please-- paste your submission into the body of your e-mail," then do that. Because guess what. No one wants to open your virus-laden attachment.

Don't disrespect the guidelines. If the guidelines say "no stories about antelopes with tapeworms," then for heaven's sake don't send a story about antelopes with tapeworms. And don't argue with the guidelines either. Don't send a sassy e-mail saying "I verily disagree with your rule about no stories about tapeworm-ridden antelopes. So therefore, here is my story about an antelope named Bob with a tapeworm."

Do make sure your submission is ready. You wouldn't send a query to an agent or editor for an incomplete manuscript, and nor should you for short stories. Send your most polished, final draft.

Do make sure you are comfortable with the way the journal handles your submission. This means that if the journal takes all the rights to your story forever, you should carefully consider whether you want that. If the journal says "By submitting, you agree for us to use your name, story, likeness, social security number, and your first-born child for any and all purposes as we see fit, including promotion about tapeworm fundraising" then you might want to scoot away and not submit. (For the record, Small Tales does not have outrageous rights-holding rules. One of the things I didn't want is for people to submit and then lose their rights to their story.)

Do feel comfortable asking questions about how your story will be treated. This is your story we're talking about. And I know that I would want to know where my story's going to end up. Is the end product clear? Will it be sold for profit and will you, as a contributor, see any of that money?

Do you have any to add? Tell me in the comments!

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