Thoughts in Passing
What Belongs In Fiction Submission Guidelines?
Here are the basics of what should be in short fiction submission guidelines. If you follow me on social media, you may have seen me rant about some of these in “Dear Editors…” posts. This post is aimed at editors because that’s how much of it was originally phrased, but as a writer, it’s also helpful to know what you should expect to find in the guidelines.
0. Just starting out?
Are you in the process of establishing your publication? Not sure what your final pay rates or accepted wordcounts will be? That’s okay! It’s fine to adjust your guidelines later, as long as you are clear about what current accepted submissions will be paid, etc. You can say, “We are figuring out our long-term policies. Right now, we are reading for our first issue. Stories accepted for this issue will be paid $.08/word.” Changing your policies after you accept a submission is shady. If you plan to change your guidelines, consider pausing submissions and changing guidelines before the next submission period.
1. What kind of story do you want?
Genre, subgenre, any themes or particular vibes. It would be lovely if every writer had time to read several issues of every publication they ever might submit to, but that isn’t the reality. Putting this info up front will save you a lot of time in the slush pile. Genre magazines are generally pretty good about this. Realist literary magazines are generally pretty terrible at it.
2. How much do you pay?
Per word or a flat rate is the usual. “We pay at or above the industry standard rate” is not actually saying how much you pay. Industry standard can mean many different things. Pro rate changes depending on genre. Paying in “exposure” = non-paying. If you don’t list a pay rate, the assumption is that you don’t pay. One exception to this assumption is “Best of the Year” anthologies, which usually pay $.01/word. (They should still list the pay rate on their guidelines, but they often don’t.) If your pay rate depends on the success of a Kickstarter, be upfront about this! If you don’t pay in U.S. dollars, please specify your currency. Sorry, but USD are the standard.
Note: Charging submission fees is a common practice for realist literary magazines. But in science fiction and fantasy circles, Yog’s Law dictates that money flows to the writer. Charging submission fees is taboo, and patting yourself on the back for not charging fees is … weird.
3. What rights are you buying?
The subject of rights is really a whole essay by itself. Usually this is some version of First Rights for original (never-before-published) stories and Reprints Rights or One-Time Rights for reprints. Often there is a period of exclusivity and a right to archive the story for a particular length of time. Never say, “All rights stay with the author!” That is impossible. If you didn’t get any rights, you wouldn’t be allowed to publish their story. Publishing a story automatically uses First Rights, for one thing.
Don’t try to take All Rights. Don’t be a jerk.
4. What wordcounts do you accept?
What’s your minimum? What’s your maximum? If you don’t specify, please don’t be mad if you get flash fiction or novellas. If you don’t specify because you’re honestly good with getting flash fiction or novella submissions, it’s lovely to say so. Some of us have been snarled at by editors who assume their idea of acceptable story length is universal. It’s fine to say that people must query first for stories over X words.
5. How do you feel about reprints?
Do you accept reprint submissions? It’s also great to specify if they are given the same preference and if they will be paid at the same rate or not. If you don’t say you don’t accept reprints, expect to get some queries about them.
Beyond the basics…
6. Are simultaneous submissions okay?
For bonus points, you could also specify if you accept simultaneous submissions–authors submitting to other magazines at the same time, which might mean a story you like gets accepted elsewhere before you respond.
7. What’s your submission schedule?
Once you figure out a submission schedule (Open all the time? Only open the third week in October in leap years?) and average response time, it’s very kind to include that information too.
Finally, please please please keep submission guidelines up even when you’re closed to submissions. Don’t erase the whole page. Just put a big SUBMISSIONS CLOSED UNTIL X at the top of the page, and temporarily hide the submissions email address if you need to.
What I’ve been up to lately, writing-wise:
If you’re in the Twin Cities area, I have a reading coming up in October at Dreamhaven!
On Wednesday, October 4, ABRA STAFFIN-WIEBE reads and holds a reception as part of the Speculations Reading Series, from 6:30-7:45 p.m. Abra Staffin-Wiebe is a science fiction author who loves futuristic fairy tales, cheerful horror, and dark science fiction. Dozens of her stories have appeared at award-winning publications including Tor.com, Escape Pod, and Fireside Magazine.
Bring a friend! There will be cookies and soda as well as giveaways during the reading. Afterwards, we usually adjourn to Parkway Pizza for some social time.
Things Shiny or Useful
Archive of all shiny or useful links: https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/shiny-or-useful-writing-links/
Five Secrets to Writing Suspense: https://careerauthors.com/five-secrets-to-writing-suspense/
IMHO: What Remedies Do Authors Have When Fraudulent Work Appears on Amazon? : https://hotsheetpub.com/2023/08/imho-what-remedies-do-authors-have-when-fraudulent-work-appears-on-amazon/
5 Ways to Survive a Publishing Draught: https://careerauthors.com/5-ways-to-survive-a-publishing-drought/
My Book is Coming Out This Month. Here are Ten Things I Learned on the Way to Getting Published: https://horrortree.com/my-book-is-coming-out-this-month-here-are-ten-things-i-learned-on-the-way-to-getting-published/
How to Market Your Book to Get Worldwide Exposure: https://insights.bookbub.com/ideas-for-getting-your-book-more-international-exposure/
Rambling About Revisions: https://pcwrede.com/pcw-wp/rambling-about-revisions/
The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World (how people traveled in olden days): https://orbis.stanford.edu/
Nightmare Diaries anthology wants dark speculative fiction, pays $.10/word.
Moonstruck Books will publish an anthology of dark fiction titled Nightmare Diaries in Spring 2025. We are seeking short stories, fairy tales, flash fiction, and novellas of 500-10,000 words.Moonstruck Books
Basics: dark fiction, 500 – 10,000 words, $.10/word, unknown reprint policy, due 12/27/23.
Market List Updates
To see all the details about these new listings and what they’re looking for, go to https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/new/. For all the hundreds of listings, go to Aswiebe’s Market List and download the latest version of the spreadsheet, or view it online at https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/marketlistonline/. Best read on a bigger screen!
Keep writing, keep submitting, and good luck!
Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Keeper of Lists
Feel free to share this blog post/newsletter with others by whatever means you like, as long as you include all of it. The next update of Aswiebe's Market List will be after 9/15/2023. If you don’t want to miss an update, subscribe to the Aswiebe’s Market List newsletter: https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/subscribe-to-market-list/