Fiction Submissions: Organize Until It’s Almost Painless

The gnashing of teeth, the ligament-stretching, bone-popping rack, the barbed whip and oh please no, the waiting… Yeah. Submitting fiction. Don’t let my enthusiasm put you off.

Medieval torture rack

Medieval torture rack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actually, compared to when I started, printing out and sending every submission by snail mail… no wait, it’s coming back to me. All the way back to the typewriter and using carbon paper for a file copy. Ack!

Submitting speculative fiction in 2013 is pretty sweet by comparison. Even the waiting period is much shorter for certain worthy markets.

One of my favorite things to check out is how other writers do it, so I decided to share my methods. It’s a way to pass along the generosity of all the people I learn from. This submission process works for any kind of writing. I used the same organizing process to support myself writing non-fiction for years.

Study Fiction Markets

If you haven’t checked out the range of markets for what you write, start by setting aside at least an hour a day to hunt for and study markets for your writing.

Pieter Claeszoon - Still Life with a Skull and...

Pieter Claeszoon – Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of my stories fit into science fiction, horror, dark fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, mystery and cross-genre marketing categories, so these are the fiction markets I’m most familiar with.  The (Submission) Grinder provides a free fiction market database and submission tracker to help you find places to submit your fiction and keep track of your submissions.

Keeping up on all the best markets for your genres takes time—and it’s one of the best investments you can make in your work.

The first of the three rules of writing as set forth by master editor emeritus George H. Scithers in a copy of the Weird Tales guidelines from Way Back:

You must put your story before an editor who might buy it.”

Set a Fiction Submission Goal

Make your submission goal specific, measurable and achievable.

Go for having more than one manuscript out, even if you feel as though submitting two is really stretching it for you. This way if one comes back declined, it’s not your whole product.

Torture in the 16th century

Torture in the 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You whip the declined story out to the next target market, which you  cleverly picked in advance so as not to lose momentum, and on you go.

Remember: a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Don’t let your submission-worthy stories sit on the couch.

Back before my life took some off-topic turns, I made a few sales in fiction and even a few bucks on poetry, so focus on paying markets I’d be happy to see my work in, primarily the ones that qualify for SFWA and HWA.

My first task goal in support of my main goal of selling stories to pro markets was to return to my college habit of always keeping five submissions out with editors. I got back in that good habit in May 2013. Now that I’ve kept that going consistently for a few weeks and made first blood, my task goal is to keep 10 stories out with editors by the end of July and write a new novella. All this story submitting isn’t such torture any more.


Foltergeräte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My secondary main goal is to find homes for the kinds of stories I most enjoy writing. I’m happy my flash fiction “Shroud” is coming out in Apokrupha’s “Dark Bits anthology this month. When I read their submission call I found a creepy seedling and grew it just for them.  I’m keen to contribute to publications that resurrect and maintain storytelling in the forms I’m most passionate about.

For your task goal, choose a target that’s a bit of a stretch, yet not overwhelming.

Make a list of places you want to contribute. Include a few that might not meet all your top criteria, yet that you’d enjoy being part of. Keep the fun factor in your writing and your life.

Make a Fiction Marketing Plan

Map out how to reach your goal. I’ve found that creating a task list, breaking the project down into bite-sized chunks—visualize your favorite monster chewing right through this daunting mound of flesh if need be—and getting it done, one chunk at a time, keeps me on track.

English: map of Treasure Island, from the firs...

English: map of Treasure Island, from the first German edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The  submission plan simplifies it, and yes, makes submitting fiction almost painless. I never have to wonder what to do next. I have a map right in front of me.

In a fiction marketing plan, future-tripping is a good thing.

1977 edition cover 1977, Ballantine Books, pap...

1977 edition cover 1977, Ballantine Books (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a fiction submission plan that extends months out to include anthologies and theme issues and publishers with limited submission windows. I also create a plan for each day.

Today’s plan was:

  • Finish one story
  • Run it through three checkers
  • Fix any typos, spelling or grammar bloopers
  • Read it aloud
  • Proof it again
  • Double-check submission GLs for required format, etc.
  • Pop out the cover letter
  • Submit it
  • Take a break
  • Repeat those steps with story two
  • Write a Bat post

I actually wrote two Bat posts, probably because it helps me blast submission stress, yet I’m still on track. Note: these were completed stories in the final stage of editing.

Book the tasks necessary to achieve your goal into your favorite organizing system.

It doesn’t matter whether you set dates on a desk calendar, online calendar, organizing software or your cell phone as long as you make the appointments to prepare your submissions and stick to them.

Create a Submission Routine

I’ve learned the power of routine. Setting up routines helped me overcome a lifetime of obesity—dating from childhood—drop 50 pounds and maintain activity levels that would have knocked me out a few years ago. Setting up routines also helped me recover from being raised by packrats and create a serene, Zen environment in my home and garden.

Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

Brain scanning technology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Think about some things you accomplished in your life and what you had to do to succeed. Use that mindset, that sense of accomplishment and those skills to polish your stories and market them. Even if you’re a person like me who doesn’t do schedules—I’ve been self-employed for years and I don’t work set hours—you can create a routine for marketing your fiction.

Send Your Best Story

Tip: It’s better to send your best work, error-free and publishable, than rush to play a numbers game with submissions quotas.

Stories generally go through assistant editors or volunteer slush readers before reaching an editor who might approve them. Taking great care with each story and following submission guidelines in every detail can improve your odds of getting out of the slush pile.

Stay Motivated

That skull above might have belonged to a writer who wasted away waiting for a response from a publisher before we had instant access for networking with other writers about actual response times. Or it might have belonged to a writer whose work stayed at home, unsubmitted and unpublished. The writer and the manuscripts became worm food.

Today’s a good day to take a step closer to your dream.

English: Richard Arnold, Dorothy Metcalf-Linde...Writer’s Resources:

Angel Leigh McCoy’s Blog

Check out her excellent guide on formatting a short story for submission. This is the best guide I’ve seen that’s actually up to date for electronic submissions and contemporary publishing practices. It’s on page two of her blog. Angel Leigh McCoy’s a speculative fiction writer and the editor of Wily Writers and Deep Cuts.

William Shunn’s Proper Manuscript Format: Short Story Format

Many markets include a link to this format guide in their submission

The Space Shuttle Atlantis, backdropped agains...

Space Shuttle Atlantis(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

guidelines. Although not entirely up to date, it covers basic manuscript formatting and gives a visual example. See the link to Angel Leigh McCoy’s guide for important updates to formatting your fiction to make a professional impression.

The Grinder

Free fiction market database and submission tracker. It’s strong on speculative fiction markets and includes other genres.

Protected by Copyscape DMCA Takedown Notice Infringement Search Toolcs-bk-3d-234x16

color drawing of weightless astronauts


I write speculative fiction, science fiction, horror, fantasy, cross-genre, unclassified, non-fiction, scripts, poetry and dreams. I'm branching out into multimedia projects. My Vampire Madam series is available on Amazon. The first episode is Animals of London. My work has appeared in anthologies, literary journals, newspapers and on websites under a trio of pen names. I made my first sale to the Pan Book of Horror: Dark Voices series.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Fiction, Publishing, Writing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Hughes Enterprise

Entrancing Books for Readers

Platypus Underground

Entertainment ReVamped

Pen of the Damned

...where angst and horror flow freely.

a writer's vanity

Website of Jason B. Sizemore, Hugo and Stoker Award-nominated Publisher, Editor, and Author

Horror Reviews for You

The Best and Worst of Horror Novels


The Horror Classic by Hanns Heinz Ewers translated by Joe E. Bandel

All that withers

Official website for Bram Stoker Award® winning Author John Palisano


Fiction and Reviews by Michael Griffin

Tananarive Due Writes

Writing journal of author Tananarive Due

intense sensations

Independent reviews of exciting writing

Jan Moran's Smart & Stylish: Ideas to enrich your lifestyle

Advice for the Good Life. Books, travel, entrepreneurship, beauty.

Adam Santo

Author Blogs from the Temperature Series.

Dark Whispers

The Official Blog of the Horror Writers Association

Sharkbait Writes

Pursue your dreams... and never look back.


Lisa Mason, Fantasy and Science Fiction Author

Thinking Too Much

Geeky Life -- comics, convention, feminism, and family.

%d bloggers like this: