Friday, August 17, 2007

Submissions are funny

I've got 12 short story submissions out right now, which is a lot for me. I usually have 4 or 5, at most, floating around. But right now I've got 12, plus a novel.

This got me to thinking about my submissions. While I always try to make sure what I'm sending an editor is something he or she MIGHT be interested in, I can't always be sure they WILL be interested in it. I don't randomly send out stories. I write what I want, then I try to find a market for it. Sometimes my eyes are opened by another editor or reader, and they will give me a new way of looking at a story, other markets that might hold possibilities.

But overall, I got to thinking that I basically have three different types of submissions.

First, there is the "there's no way in hell they will buy this, but I could get lucky and win the lottery" submission. These are to the BIG boys. The New Yorker. Playboy. I'll even place Weird Tales in this category, along with a few others, Glimmer Train comes to mind. Just by the sheer volume of their slush pile, I realize I have next to no chance to make it into one of these publications at this point in my writing career. But every once in a while I'll send them off something anyway. This might seem stupid, but I do have an ulterior motive, one beyond hoping I'll just get lucky. This secret motive is name recognition. If I keep sending stuff to a particular editor at one of these magazines, it has been my experience that after a while they will send a personal response or two. This means my name has become at least somewhat recognizable to them. AND, it means I'm getting some feedback from someone I consider imporatant within the publishing industry. Ten or so years ago, George Scithers at Weird Tales always had nice notes for me; the gentleman never purchased one of my stories, but he always left remarks letting me know where I had gone wrong or what I had gotten right. I still have Mr. Scithers' letters, and in a way cherish them.

Second, there's the "this is right up their alley" submission. Again, I write first and consider markets later, but sometimes I find I've written something that feels to me as if it is a perfect fit for a publication. My "Hot Off the Press" short story felt that way when I sent it to Ray Gun Revival, and guess what? They bought the piece!

Finally, there's the "okay, this is sort of their kinda story, but I'm not a hundred percent sure" submission. Honestly, this is the majority of my submissions. Once I've finished a story, I have to start thinking about its genre, especially today when their are sub-genres and sub-sub-genres and sub-sub-sub genres. For example, it used to be magazines published fantasy, then fantasy got broken down into things like dark fantasy and sword & sorcery, but nowadays even those sub genres have sub genres ... modern dark fantasy, goofball fantasy, sword & sandals, sword & sails ... it goes on and on. So, with this type of submission I do a little market studying, find a publication I think comes close, then send off my story. A little prayer might help too.


Howard von Darkmoor said...

Another interesting post - a good read. Hey - I just visited Playboy's site (for the first time, I might add!) and I can't find how to submit anything to them. I've a flash piece that several different people have said might be worthy of them, so I finally thought I'd give it a try.

Have you really sent subs to them?

Ty said...

I haven't submitted to Playboy recently because they stopped taking unsolicited subs a while back. But I've sent them a few pieces over the years. Right now I've got a piece at Glimmer Train. And yeah, I know I don't have a hope in hell, but I've got my reasons as mentioned.

Also, if you've got something more literary or mainstream, there are usually plenty of smaller publications online and off available. You've just got to look for them. If nothing else, most big universities have a fiction periodical of some sorts, and not all them require you to be a student or alumni or local.