Rejection often comes part and parcel with any short story submission. Sad but true.
But how can you start to make rejection less of a soul-crushing norm (the kind that makes you want to run and hide the moment you hit “Send”) and more of a random, but tolerable, hazard of the profession?
Let’s face it: It’s easy to get caught up in hype or despair over your latest work. With your short opus complete, the search for suitable markets begins — and lo and behold, you’ve found yourself a candidate!
And the temptation is just to jump in and take the shot regardless of what the publisher is specifically looking for. After all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get… right?
Here are a few simple steps — all of which are essential for your success — you should take when making your short story submission to publishers.
1. Research the Publisher
The first thing you should do is thoroughly research the outlet you’re submitting to. Buy previous editions of their magazine or anthologies and get familiar with the tones, styles and stories they publish. If your voice or content simply doesn’t fit amongst those, it’s likely they won’t consider you for inclusion.
If you do feel at home, you’ve just notched up one gold star and moved one step closer to making a sale.
Nothing gets a publisher more riled up than having their time wasted by a completely incompatible short story submission. If they generally publish hard sci-fi, sending your latest whimsical childhood character piece isn’t likely to be a good idea. Know the market.
Submitting work that the outlet has no defined connection to is a waste of both your time and theirs — and may result in them blacklisting you from future publications. Don’t do that to yourself when it’s entirely possible you could create something of interest for them later down the line.
2. REALLY Read the Guidelines
It bears repeating: Read the publisher’s guidelines. Really read the publisher’s guidelines.
It’s a very short trip to rejection city if you demonstrate you have so little care for a) your work and b) the publisher’s wishes that you couldn’t take the time to ensure you’re conforming to their submission requirements.
Guidelines are there for a reason — to standardise the submission review process and lessen the burden on the publisher. Anything you do to make that burden greater will not reflect well upon you or your work — and they aren’t going to feel good about giving you money for stressing them out.
3. Keep Your Bio Short and Sharp
If the publisher’s guidelines ask you to include a bio, do so — but keep it short and factual. Have you won awards? Been published elsewhere? Great — mention it.
But don’t go off on a fluffy tangent about your hopes and dreams, the song of your creative muse or how your spirit animal influences the words that flow from your fingertips like the grace of an unseen deity.
Keep your ego in check and stick to the point. As much as it may sting, your potential publisher cares about your work and your credentials, not whether you see yourself as a universe of wonders housed within a mortal shell.
4. Stick to Standard Formats
Remember what we said about guidelines? If you see any formatting requirements in there, make sure you stick to them before making your short story submission. If you don’t see any formatting requirements, stick to standard manuscript format.
As with flaunting guidelines, little will see your manuscript consigned to the trash faster than random layout choices, poor spacing and a cavalcade of crazy, “creative” fonts.
Keep it clean, keep it simple… keep it standard.
5. Pre-Edit Your Work
Unless you’re insanely talented, your first draft isn’t going to make the grade. Take the time to self-edit your work (or even have it professionally edited) before you consider submitting to markets.
Be as certain as you can be that your story is lean and mean — after all, you don’t have a huge word count within which to tell a fully rounded story, so every sentence is of critical importance.
Keep your dialogue tags simple, root out clichés and ensure your writing is pacy and varied.
All these things, and more, can be accomplished with AutoCrit. Much more than your standard grammar checker or basic line-editing tool, AutoCrit analyzes your text in a multitude of ways to help you edit like a pro and produce writing that publishers will bite your hand off to print.
If you want to turn your stories into the gripping, impactful experiences they should be — to go the extra mile and present the best possible work you can — why not give AutoCrit a try for just $1.
Your publishers — and your readers — will commend you for it.