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Suggestions for Writers
by Terry W. Ervin II
Youve just submitted your short story
after several days spent locating the perfect market. Now
what do you do? Common advice suggests that you begin
another project and write while youre waiting for a
Makes sense, but theres that nasty, dreaded
seven-lettered word in the previous sentence. Waiting.
Its often followed by the question: How long should
I wait? Then the next question: Wait for how
until I do what?
Do I begin thinking about other potential markets? Do I
query about the status of my submission? Do I pull my
A lot of questions, to which I dont have all of the
answers. Every writers situation is different. But
I do have a few suggestions.
you begin thinking about other potential markets?
No. The best way to handle this is to make a list of
potential markets while finding the first one to submit
your story to. Note in the list items such as rate of
pay, windows of when the market may be open to
submissions, print or online (or both), and any notes
about stories or information provided in the guidelines
that caught your attention. Jot it all down because in a
few months with other projects at the forefront,
If you stumble across another potential market for the
story already out, add it to the list. What this does is
help resist the urge to invest time surfing online for a
just in case I get rejected market. This is
true even if youve submitted to markets that accept
you query about the status of your submission?
No. At least not right away. Sure, the submission
guidelines may indicate a response time of three months.
Sometimes itll even happen, and if so, more often
if the story is rejected. Editors mean well and do the
best they can. But, in addition to the hundreds of slush
submissions a month, they are also editing and formatting
already bought stories and dealing with printers,
budgets, contracts, distribution, advertisement and more.
Often assigned slush editors sift through the pile,
weeding out the stories that are not well written,
incorrect genre, dont conform to the guidelines
(wrong file type, weird fonts and spacing, etc.),
arent quite good enough and a variety of other
reasons earning the submission a rejection letter. The
slush editors pass on up those they see having potential
to make the cut into a new, ever-growing-never-ending
pile waiting for attention.
Beyond that, sending a status query to the editor on the
exact day the posted guidelines say a submission
shouldve been read may not win you any points. It
is another hassle an editor has to deal with. Editors are
dealing with dozens of issues mentioned above, including
their own deadlinessuch as meeting press dates and
paying bills. Why involve themselves with a writer who
could potentially make the experience of running a
magazine/ezine/anthology a little more unpleasant,
especially if the content or tone of the status query is
What to do? Be patient. Check websites such as Duotrope (
http://www.duotrope.com ), Submitting to the
Black Hole ( http://brain-of-pooh.tech-soft.com/critters/blackholes/ ) and Ralans
Webstravaganza ( http://www.ralan.com/ ). There you can
find information on what to expect from different
markets, such as shortest, longest and average time for a
submission to be read and accepted or rejected, rates of
acceptance and rejection, and if a market has closed its
doors, among other things.
If you do decide to contact a market about the status of
your submission, if for no other reason than to know if
it did arrive (yes, this question does bounce around just
about every writers frontal lobe and on very rare
occasions weird things do happen in cyberspace), provide
the relevant information for them to easily search and
identify your story. Title of the work, genre, author
name, date of submission, return email address are all
important. In your contact be brief and polite.
you pull your story?
Thats up to you. How long you wait is an individual
choice based on many factors. Is it a market you really
want your story to appear in? How many other markets are
likely to accept the piece youve written? Have you
given the editors enough time to make a decision?
If you do decide to pull your story (and sometimes it
becomes the right thing to do), just as when you may have
queried about its status, be brief and professional and
give adequate information for the editors to locate and
delete the story from their queue.
Getting a bit snotty may feel justifiable for about 90
seconds after youve hit the send key. It is
doubtful, unless youre someone influential in the
field or genre, that your email announcing that youre
pulling your story because you gave them over nine months
to read and accept your story when their posted
guidelines said to expect three! What an unprofessional
magazine they run and how you wont submit to them
ever again and intend to tell your friends and writing
associates not to eitherand not subscribe to boot! will
change anything except to solidify your name in that
editors memory. And they just might share their
experience with some of their peers.
Setting fire to a bridge may initially feel rewarding
until one sees the flames devour that bridge, resulting
in its inevitable collapse. What work might one day be
necessary to rebuild those collapsed bridges, if the
foundation on which to start isnt already forever
Waiting is hard but its a section of the road a
writer must travel toward publication.
© Terry W. Ervin II. All Rights Reserved.
Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys
writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. His short stories
have appeared in a number of places including
MindFlights, Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and The
Sword Review. His novel, Flank Hawk is scheduled for
release by Gryphonwood Press in late 2009.
To contact Terry or learn more about his writing
endeavors, visit his website at www.ervin-author.com
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