top of page

Short Story Publishing Secrets

I shared this a while back on Facebook (where you should really follow me because I post more often there) and thought I'd share it here as well.

Short Story Publishing Secrets: Or why every writer will get rejected some (or most) of the time.

Now this varies some from publisher to publisher, but generally, if the publisher is in a position to pay its authors and is fortunate enough to have enough staff, author submissions go through several rounds of consideration.

The first round is generally more of a first glance. A dedicated opener of submission acts as sort of a gate keeper. This person does a quick check to see if the submission should be rejected right away. Is the submission the right genre? Did the author follow the submission guidelines? Did the author spell the word "the" wrong in the title? Is the author that jerk that got into a drunken brawl with the lead editor of the magazine in a small English pub just outside Liverpool? If the submission passes these tests, it gets moved on to a formal reading.

The second round is an in-depth look at the submission. Publications have a lot of variation in how they do this. Some do a blind reading where the readers have no idea who the author is. Many rely on a dedicated group of volunteers. The stack of stuff they have to go through can intimidate a seasoned mountain climber. Much of the stuff they end up reading is simply awful. I mean, garbage disposal stopped up for a month bad. I've sent them some of that stuff. As an author, you kind of have to. No one ever writes anything good without writing something really bad first.

Those submissions that shine and appear to be right for the publication get sent onto a final round, also known as the "do we have room for this anywhere?" round.

There are final checks by the editor. Is this story really good enough to be featured in our publication? Are we sure this isn't that jerk I met in Liverpool? If it's decided that the submission is a worthy piece, then it's a matter of seeing if there's a place for it. Is there room in the current issue? What about the next one? Does the piece fit in with the theme of that issue?

Publications get sent a ton of bad submissions, but they also get sent a lot of really amazing ones. They may get so much amazing stuff, that there isn't room for it all. They'll hold onto the amazing stuff for a while, hoping to find a place for it, but they don't want to keep an author's work hostage forever, so even good stuff gets rejected.

This is all a very long way of saying that I haven't heard back from any of my submissions for a while now. My submissions are making it through the initial review rounds more often now, which is great, but it also means it can take a long while before I hear back. The best way to wait, is to write and submit more stuff to other publications. That way you always have something going out and coming back. But I'm involved in a couple of long term projects right now, so I can't keep my churn rate up like I normally do.

So I just have to be patient, which I'm terrible at.

On a side note, I don't drink and I've never been to Liverpool. That totally wasn't me.

bottom of page