21 May 2008

Submission Dos and Don'ts

I've just gotten through my share of the submissions for our next issue of Electric Spec. If your story didn't make it past the first cut, keep in mind this list for next time:

  •  Trim, trim, trim. Is your story as tight as it can be? Just because we have a 7000 word limit does not mean your story should be 6098 words. Too much unncessary exposition or plotting is one of the most common problems I see. Even for may of the stories we end up publishing, the editors end up cutting out the extra.
  • Follow the guidelines. Remember to include a word count in the cover letter. You won't get rejected if you forget, but stuff like that puts the editor in a bad mood before he or she starts reading the story
  • Hook me in the opening line, opening paragraph, or opening page. If I have no idea what your story is about, where it is going, or what's interesting about it after the first page, I may decide not to read much more of it.
  • Personalize your cover letter. If we've met you at a conference, workshop, or convention, remind us. If you've ACTUALLY READ our 'zine, tell us what you read and why you think your story fits. All of this will not guarantee that we'll publish your story, but a personalized touch does add a spark of sunlight to the hours we spend in a dark room in front of a computer.

  • Include information about your family, pets, day job, etc. in the cover letter. It's not that we don't care about these things . . . well, actually it is. 
  • Include information about the plot or theme of your story in the cover letter. Hopefully, we will be able to figure that out when we read the story. If not, we won't end up publishing it anyhow.
  • Use a cover/title page. It makes your story look like it was written for 10th grade creative writing class, and it makes us scroll down the screen more than we have to. Yes, we're that lazy.
  • Include as a credit in your bio that you have a "novel coming out this fall." That doesn't mean anything. I have a couple of novels that I wrote sitting on my hard drive, but that does not mean they are publication credits. If you want to impress us (and it's true) say this: "My novel, The Vanquishing Sword of Death is coming out this summer and is being published by Tor." (The "published by" part is key).


Anonymous said...

Good Morning Mr. Hughes,

I wanted to first say I appreciate the encouraging nature of the rejection I received from Electric Spec. I'm working on an interesting story and when it's polished and tight, I'll try again.

The blog here is also very helpful. It's enlightening for us, at the other end of the computer in the dark room, to get a feel for your editorial tastes. I printed the pdf of Volume 3.1 and I'll read it this weekend. After I get a stronger feel for the content, I'll work on some things.

This type of communication will lead to better stories. I think that's the ultimate goal of any publication--get the best work in there and make it an irresistable read.

Take Care,
Daniel W. Powell

Anonymous said...

Ditto what Dave said.

Thanks, Daniel. I think our stories not only reflect our varied tastes, but the height of today's style in short works. We at Espec feel it's an important, oft neglected form.

We love to see bunches of submissions, so keep 'em coming!

David E. Hughes said...


I'm glad you found the post helpful. By reading this blog, you're certainly giving yourself and advantage over those who submit their stories blindly. Good luck with your future submissions!