We continue to discuss Tom Piccirilli's excellent crime fiction novel THE LAST KIND WORDS over at the DSD book club page.
Tips for Subbing to Mags
As the editor over at NEEDLE: A Magazine of Noir, I see quite a few stories on a weekly basis. I've also worked on some more "literary" magazines, including New Delta Review (when I was MFAing and teaching at LSU).
So I thought I'd pass along some tips if you're 1) interested in submitting to fiction/literary magazines and 2) give a damn about anything I have to say.
At NEEDLE, I'm joined in reading stories by Matt Funk and Stephen Blackmoore. Naomi Johnson is on hiatus after long, grueling hours I forced on her. And DSD's own Scott Parker was with us at the beginning helping out before he thought better of it. So it's a team effort. These are just my thoughts.
Do not blather on in your cover letter.
Look, it's super neat that you were published in Burning River Monthly. And Triangulation. And Far Flung Fiction. And those other 19 mags and websites. Honestly, I've never heard of any of them. And even if I had, it won't matter. You'd think if you said, "This is my first submission I'm sending out since having had my last three published at The New Yorker" would matter. It doesn't. See, we're going to look at your story whether you were loved by The New Yorker or just your mom.
Do show you know the mag
This is a big one. When we started out with the magazine, we got listed at Duotrope. Very pleased, of course. Love those folks.
And, yet, what happens is that we get many, many, many, many submissions from people who are sending the same story out to 50 magazines and sites.
If you say something to show you're not carpet-bombing the world with your story, you'll be better off. We'll look at your story either way, but it's better to say, "I really liked 'The Hung Nut' in your fall issue."
Do really, actually, for reals -- know the magazine
You'd be surprised how many horror, sci-fi, fantasy stories we get at our noir publication. Unless you think the number is 100 a week. Then maybe you wouldn't be surprised. Some people who write stories want that story published. They don't care where. They don't care that no one who gets a noir mag is looking in that noir mag for a story about the mining revolt on New Jupiter. If you're a real writer, seriously, you want the best audience for your work. Choose wisely.
Do not send us a chapter from your novel
Seriously. I did not get up from my futon today to promote your crappy novel. If the magazine you're sending to says that they accept "stand-alone chapters" or something along those lines, you're probably better just passing it off as a story. Seriously. If you say -- "This is an exciting chapter from my historical noir series featuring beat detective Nick Nickleback and his sidekick and lover, Quartermayne, in the quest to discover the true identity of Jack the Ripper. In this chapter, they come face to face with their biggest foe so far. I think you'll enjoy it." -- then I shall share your home address with my twitter followers, telling them you need advice on how best to kill your neighbor's puppies.
We accept simultaneous submissions, but you need to let us know immediately if your story is accepted elsewhere, because we don't want to accept your story only to find out that you already had it accepted elsewhere.
This means you, James T. Sessions, Jr. of 1223 East 10th Street, Apt. 2-C, Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Do not send us the story as soon as you finish it
There's no rush. We're not going to read it today. We might not get to it this week. We have a backlog. Everyone has a backlog. So take your time. Finish it. Do something else. Come back to it in a week and walk through it again. Let the thing breathe a little. Please.
Do not act like a dick if your story gets rejected
Look, pal. I've had stories rejected by magazines you've never heard of. So don't think I don't know what it's like to get a note back saying, "We really didn't connect with this character, though we do appreciate your creative grammar." You know what? They weren't right for my story. And maybe the magazine you sent to isn't right for your story. Maybe the editor goes to the trouble to give you an explanation of why your story wasn't a good fit for the magazine.
And guess what? When an editor sends a note along with a rejection, the editor is not entering into a debate with you. Editor: "Some of these details seemed to throw our readers off." You: "Throw your readers off? LOL. Your readers are probably morons because I spent 83 hours researching this story and making sure the facts are correct because I am a real writer and you are an ill-fitting colostomy bag." Yeah, don't do that. Just use that anger to write a better story. And maybe take a closer look at those details.
Do not send in a PDF of your collection and ask the magazine to pick a favorite story to publish
Yes. This has happened.
Oh, and your mileage may vary and all that.
OK. Now your turn. What tips am I forgetting? What tips did I screw up?