Dear Fellow Writer,
We write fiction ourselves and have been published in small press publications. Also, we edited a small press journal years ago. We have seen the publishing world from both sides. We know the joys and frustrations of being writers and the joys and frustrations of being editors. While we don't pretend to offer a magical formula for guaranteed success, we can offer you some basic advice to help reduce your frustration when submitting and to help make editors happier when reading your work.
Do . . .
- Be professional and polite when corresponding with editors, even through email. This includes using full sentences and avoiding informal abbreviations such as "BTW", etc. Also, it should go without saying that you should never respond rudely to a rejection or attempt to enter into a debate with an editor—nothing will get you on their bad side faster!
- Target your submissions. Sending a story to an inappropriate market does not increase its chance of getting published. Instead it keeps the story in limbo longer.
- Read and follow the publisher's guidelines. Always. No exceptions. Even if you've submitted to the market in the past, re-read the guidelines. You never know when they might change. Also, if you can manage it, you should try to read at least one issue or book they've published to get a better idea of what they're looking for.
- Use standard manuscript formatting unless otherwise instructed. 12-point Times New Roman (or Courier if the editor prefers), wide margins, double-spaced for prose, single-spaced for poetry, etc. Why? Most editors find it's easier on their eyes (and the easier it is for them to read, the more of it they'll read).
- Keep track of your submissions. Know where you sent what story and when. That way, you will avoid embarrassing, repeat submissions, and you'll have a better idea of when it's appropriate to send the editor a query on the status of your submission. We offer an online submissions tracker to our individual subscribers.
- Use your common sense. Not every editor knows what he or she is doing. If it is clear to you that the editor can't spell (or use spell-check) or doesn't know the basic rules of grammar, perhaps you should submit elsewhere.
- Be wary of markets that offer critiquing or editing services for a fee. Publishers are in the business of publishing. You have to wonder when they venture into the dubious world of fiction doctoring for profit. Besides, there are plenty of excellent, free writers' workshops around.
- Support your favorite publications. Many publications, particularly small press ones, teeter constantly on the brink of destruction. Without the support of readers—and all writers should be readers—they can't support themselves, let alone writers. Subscribe to your favorite magazines, buy books and anthologies that interest you. It benefits us all—writers, publishers, and editors alike!
Don't . . .
- Post an unpublished piece on the web unless it's in a password-protected forum of some sort. Most publishers consider works that have been freely available to the public to have been previously published. You won't be able to sell First Rights on such a piece. If you join an online critiquing group, make sure people need to register and log in to read your story.
- Pay a fee to enter a contest or to submit your work unless... you are familiar with the publication's reputation and wish to support them financially.
Following the above suggestions won't guarantee acceptance, but it will put your odds above most of the slush pile's.
We hope Duotrope has proven to be a valuable resource for you! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on how to make Duotrope better,
let us know. Also, if you run a website or blog about writing, please consider linking to us.
— The Duotroopers