Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Savvy Submitter

Joyce B. Hicks
The spreadsheet I’ve kept of submissions shows more entries in the red “Accepted” column in the last three years. Naturally, one hopes more acceptances indicate better writing, but I’m also much more savvy about how to find markets and match my submissions to them. Let me share a few observations, and perhaps other IWC readers will add more.
Though your entry may meet submission descriptions of “seeking excellent writing, etc.”, you may have the best luck in markets where you or your submission has a distinct life-phase (or other) relationship. For example, your fiction about a woman feeling depleted by a new baby may be more appealing to Literary Mama or Brain, Child than to the Alaska Quarterly Review.  As another example, poetry, narrative, or fiction about life events or illness could go to the Bellevue Literary Review that “examines human existence through the prism of health and healing, illness and disease.” Exploring markets beyond simple genre matches is definitely worthwhile.
In another angle related to life-stage, new markets are centering on the Boomer generation for readers, writers, and themes. Passager, an attractive print magazine, looks for writers over fifty. The Boomer CafĂ© offers short narratives weekly; Still Crazy appeals to the Simon & Garfunkel set, both readers and writers. These outlets respond to more traditional story telling and poetry.
Markets for younger to mid-life writers and readers may be edgier and encourage experimentation. This may explain why my story, “Harvest Time,” about an Indiana farmer who retired to Florida, was rejected by academic literary magazines in these states. Their readers, and maybe the editorial boards, were not vested in this life phase, and the style was character-driven narrative. The story found a home in a less competitive online magazine, The Feathered Flounder, for an older generation.
Right now the Midwest is hot! Flyover Country and Great Lakes Review are relatively new markets for fiction and personal narrative. So exploiting your Midwest connection is worthwhile. In fact, until September 1, there is a call for narratives for Undeniably Indiana, a crowd-sourced book by Indiana University Press to celebrate the bicentennial. August 31 is the deadline to enter the Lake Prize, and Midwestern Gothic is open to submissions on August 1.
Editors say that they receive many entries that ignore the spelled-out parameters. However, something that meets them in new way may be welcomed. Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined published my story “An Outing for Betty”  about an octogenarian and her daughter—not the usual mother for the magazine. This success spurred me to use the story for the first chapter of my debut novel, Escape from Assisted Living. Another time, after rejection by two magazines and a contest that seemed like perfect fits, I took a chance on an environmental magazine’s invitation for stories on the theme “feral lands or feral people.” “The Bookstore,” about books falling out of the sky, appeared in the summer edition of Kudzu.
The lesson is be creative in matching your work to a market, and include details in your bio the show the authenticity of your voice for that market.
I’ll be trolling sites like Duotrope, Poets & WritersEvery Writer's Resource, and the September calls list on Literary Mama again to place my story “Waiting for Santa” that’s chalked up only rejections. It’s about a grandmother’s fears about dementia as she visits Santa in a Chicago store with her grandkids. An unusual holiday tale, it’s still looking for a home. All suggestions are welcome!
Joyce B. Hicks is a member of Blank Slate Writers and the Indiana Writers’ Consortium. You can find her website at and can contact her at

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Submissions to Small Presses

Mari L. Barnes
Flying Turtle Publishing

This month at IWC, we’re blogging about the submission process. I wanted to tell you something you haven’t already heard a million times about sending your Works of Great Fiction (WGF) out into the world. So, I’ve decided to offer a very personal view from the owner/Chief Everything Wrangler of a small press.
1.   Don’t just “shotgun” your WGF into the literary stratosphere. Figure out what you want to achieve. If you want an agent, submit to agents. Most of them don’t take kindly to knowing that you’re submitting to agents, small presses and “e-only” publishers simultaneously. Do your research and send your WGF to the agents, publishers, and publications that are a good fit for your work.
For me: I’m small, I’m local. You may know me personally or I’m the friend of a friend. I’m a small BUSINESS owner. You should still look at my website to see if I publish your genre and am accepting submissions.
  1. You’ll find submission guidelines on most agents’ and publications’ websites or in the publications themselves. Review the guidelines and follow the submission guidelines to the letter.
For me: Flying Turtle’s submission guidelines are under the Media Room tab. I will be issuing a call for submissions in February of 2016. Most small presses accept submissions for a limited time, perhaps a month, each year.
  1. Keep your query and cover letter succinct. Don’t send your manuscript in a pizza box or use any other cutesy games or fancy tricks to get agents’ or editors’ attention.
For me: “Here’s a piece of my story to wet (sic) your appetite. Email me back if you want to see more.” This approach makes my head hurt. And I never want to see more. Aside from the error, I’m serious about what I do and games waste time that I, as Chief Everything Wrangler, don’t have to spare.
  1. Once you’ve sent your submission, sit back and wait. Do not harass or annoy agents or editors by bombarding them with follow-ups. If the guidelines don’t indicate how long it should take for you to receive a response, wait six weeks before following up.
For me: It’s perfectly acceptable to email and inquire whether I’ve received your submission if I haven’t responded in the 7 to 10 business days’ response time.
  1. If you receive an acceptance, great! If you receive a rejection, celebrate yourself. You’re a writer and you’re working all the steps. Then get back to work. Don’t stop writing! If you’re lucky enough to receive any helpful feedback, be grateful (most agents and editors don’t take time to provide feedback) and use it on your next WGF.
For me: I rarely offer writing critiques, as I’m always working to improve my own writing. My editorial team will occasionally offer suggestions for improvement, and those get passed on to writers.
Finally, please don’t make the mistake of treating small presses as “rebound relationships” or publishers of last resort. We’re not sitting around waiting for you to choose us because: (a) we’re happy that someone wants to publish with us, (b) we’re not busy and are simply waiting for someone to send us something, or (c) we’re better than nothing.
Submit to small presses because you want to work with them, and use the same professionalism you’d use with the Big 6. Good writing and good luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Before Pressing the Send Button . . .

Michelle McGill-Vargas

I am a dog lover. For me, my poodle and Corgi are my children. When the time came to find a place to board them for a couple of days, I took my time looking for the right place. I insisted on a tour of each facility I considered. I checked the crates they’d be housed in, the outdoor pen where they’d be walked. I also wanted to know the feeding and walking schedule. I even talked to the staff to gauge the personality of the place. My goal was not just finding a facility to leave my dogs for a few days. I needed to know that my babies would be taken care of once they left me.
I consider my short stories my other babies. Like my beloved dogs, I nurture each written piece, feeding them the right amount of dialogue, imagery and exposition. I take them around the block a few times, fielding advice from my critique group members. And when the time comes for me to submit them for publication, I make sure I take a look around before giving my hard work over to just anybody.
For any writer, the submission process should involve more than just the idea of having something published. A great deal of research is needed to ensure the likelihood not only of acceptance by the publication but that an audience is available to read it. Reading the submission guidelines is just the beginning. That would be like choosing a place to board my dogs based solely on what the building looked like on the outside. Read samples of recently printed short stories or articles in the publication to determine if they match the style and tone of your piece. Publication mediums—whether electronic, print or both—should also be considered. While some print publications have an established audience of dedicated readers, in my experience electronic publications have the potential of being shared across several on-line platforms, thereby reaching a much wider audience. The frequency of publication, payment, rights, and response time for submissions are additional items that should be researched before deciding on a potential home for your work.
As a reader for Short Fiction Break, I’ve had the privilege of being on the other side of the submission process. Reading work with glaring typographical errors, missing or odd cover letters, and some well-crafted work that just didn’t fit with what Short Fiction Break has published gives me an appreciation for the process. I now think twice before hitting the “Send” button on my own submissions.
Consider the importance of your project when the time comes to submit a manuscript, poem, or short story. Consider all the time and effort you put into creating it. Consider the love you have for your “baby.” Then begin the work to ensure your baby will be taken care of, meaning read and appreciated, once it leaves you.
Michelle is a writer of historical, flash and short fiction. She has published in The Lutheran Witness, Splickety Magazine, The Copperfield Review, and Typehouse Literary Magazine. She is also a regular contributing author at Short Fiction Break and Noir Expressions
Until she makes it big, Michelle pays the bills as a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing. She is a member of Highland Writers Group, Lowell Writers Group and currently serves as interim vice-president of the Indiana Writers’ Consortium. She lives in Gary, Indiana with her husband and two babies: a 16-year-old (poodle) and a 9-year-old (Welsh corgi).

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Don't Be Discouraged

Lily Rex
When I was between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, I sent a great deal of embarrassing poetry submissions to literary journals. I had no idea how to do it right, and I had an even tighter budget than I do now as a college student. Obviously I wasn’t buying sample copies of the journals, so, even if my work had been on par, I would have had a tough time getting accepted anywhere because I didn’t know what they liked. However, submitting (and getting rejected) at such a young age taught me a great deal.
To date, one of my favorite articles about writing is “Go the Distance: What Rocky Taught Me About Submission,” by Benjamin Percy. The title is self-explanatory: You’ve got to go into it like Rocky Balboa goes into a fight—and that means a lot of energy has to go into your submission process as well as your writing game. Think of the writing as the fight and making a submission schedule or researching a journal as running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
I have recently decided to start submitting to journals again. The truth is that when I turned sixteen, I didn’t stop and decide I needed to take a break from submitting. It wasn’t that I was writing less or that there weren’t markets for my work. I lost my Rocky.
I lost confidence in my work, and that is the worst disservice you can ever do yourself as a writer.
There is a market for everything. If you don’t believe me, peruse the journals that publish only cowboy poetry or mystery tales involving cats in the nearest copy of Writers’ Market.
Editors out there want your writing. You just have to find them. You’ll go through dozens of rejections in the process.
In his article, Percy talked about an “unpublishable” beast of a story he wrote that was thirty-four pages long. He got it published in the end, but he had to send it to a couple dozen journals. I’ll leave you with a few more words of encouragement.
·         Publishers told Emily Dickinson she needed to learn to rhyme
·         Gone with the Wind was rejected by 25 publishers
·         John Grisham sold books out of the trunk of his car before he was a bestselling author
·         Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 20
·         Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the Little House on the Prairie books) wrote her most popular work when she was 64