Skip to Content

Editor Interview: Saddlebag Dispatches

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: HiQuality Western Content

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: My personal favorites include Elmer Kelton, Louis L'Amour, Don Coldsmith, Paul Colt, Velda Brotherton, Dusty Richards, W. Michael Farmer and Sharon Frame Gay..

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: We love the traditional western story, but we are not strictly limited to that era. We have published stories and articles about modern ranches, mysteries, detectives and rodeos. So long as the setting is west of the Mississippi and the themes are appropriate, we're interested. In addition to articles and short stories, we are open to poetry, serials and graphic novels. Our pages feature the work of new talent along with major award-winning writers in every issue.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: For fiction writers, tell a compelling story, one which grips the reader from the first paragraph and entertains throughout. Do the research. Don't decorate your character or setting with arms, clothing or features which were not there until after the time your story is set in.
For non-fiction articles, keep it conversational and informative and check your facts.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Our ideal submission is one which follows our guidelines to the letter, tells a compelling story and evokes an emotional response from our editors. Sounds easy, but it isn't.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: Improper format. We still get a lot of submissions which are not in standard manuscript format (Shunn format). If the writer can't be bothered to submit in a professional manner, it's very unlikely that it will receive the consideration which the story might otherwise deserve.
We also get frequent submissions from writers who haven't done their research. If you don't know how to saddle a horse, please don't describe your character attempting it. Know how far it was possible to travel and how long it would take. Understand what clothing, weapons and food were in use in the time and place you write about.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: We want to know the author's name, pen name if any, mailing address, email address and telephone contact which we use if we have questions about the submission, to notify the author of acceptance or rejection and to assist the carrier in delivery of contributor copies. We ask for a short bio and a hi-res photo with submissions. That is the only information we require. If the writer is a member of a professional writer's organization and wants to list that, it is an indication that they understand the process and will interact with us professionally, but it's certainly not required. The same can be said for previous publishing credits.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: We attempt to read each piece through to the end. A few are simply too painful to an editor's eye to get that far. If it's not right for us, but shows promise, it's not unusual to offer some editorial advice with the rejection.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: It's a painful fact of life that we get more high quality submissions than we can publish. Our final evaluation is a side-by-side comparison of submissions with an eye to length and space available. At this point, we also consider how each piece fits with the other pieces accepted or recently published pieces.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: I like to read submissions for Saddlebag Dispatches early in my day when I'm not tired and have fewer distractions. I and my Senior Editor, Bob Giel, read each story through and then score it. We use a scoring system which takes into account the opening, the denouement, overall story, grammar, emotional impact and, probably most importantly, historical accuracy. Only then do we move on to the next submission. In this way, we ensure that we are selecting the very best stories and articles for publication regardless of whether they were written by a new and previously unpublished author or an old hand with a shelf full of Spur and Peacemaker awards.
I generally read and score the non-fiction and poetry myself using the same criteria. I stop reading when I begin to feel tired or don't think I'm concentrating fully on the writing. Again, this aids in leveling the playing field for all submissions. Later in the day, I may come back a read some more. On a good day, I'll get through 20,000 to 25,000 words or 5-6 individual pieces.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: Our business is run on modern technologies. We insist on electronic submissions, use both electronic and POD publishing options, and maintain a social network presence. I can't imagine the extra work and extra staff requirements to publish without modern technologies. Additionally, our senior staff are located in at least four states as well as Canada, so technology is a requirement.

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: We will edit for grammar, spelling, and some light fact-checking, but we expect submissions to be a polished product. There are some quirks to our house style guide which may require corrections such as no colons or semi-colons (we feel they are so formal as to momentarily disrupt the reader), and we use a .22" indent. These style guide quirks are never a reason for rejection. We'll simply make the changes.

Q: Do you nominate work you've published for any national or international awards?

A: Yes. We are very proactive at submitting work which appears in Saddlebag Dispatches for awards such as the WWA Spur Award, the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award, and The Will Rogers Medallion award. When appropriate, we have nominated published stories or articles for the Women Writing the West's Laura or Downing awards. We love to see our authors collecting awards.