Submitting Short Fiction

Literary/Realism Edition

Holly Lyn Walrath
Mar 27, 2019 · 32 min read
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Image Courtesy Element5 Digital

1. Finish the Story

“A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.”
— Flannery O’Connor

What is a finished story?

The truth is, you have about three paragraphs in a short story . . . to capture that editor’s attention enough for her to finish your story.
— Nancy Kress

How do I know when a story is ready?

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.”
— Erica Jong

2. Format Your Manuscript

3. Research Publications

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?

— Albert Einstein

Resources for Submissions

Tools for Evaluating and Finding Magazines

Calls for Submissions

Evaluating a Magazine’s Quality & Fit

Tiering Submissions

4. Create a Cover Letter — And Don’t Overdo It

The first thing I’ll tell you is relax. Cover letters shouldn’t stress you out, because they’re relatively simple to write. An effective cover letter is mostly professional, a little personal, and concise.

— Matthew Limpede, Carve Magazine

Writing a Bio

5. Follow the Guidelines

6. Decide on a Submission Tracking System

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Thoughts on Submission Volume

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My submission numbers in the past year

7. Don’t Self-Reject

Create it. Send it. Create more. It is hard. It is painful. It is scary. Acceptance is never guaranteed and might be harder to obtain. But — we need these voices. We need our own voices. Don’t self-reject.

— Rose Lemberg

8. Go Do Something Else

9. Be Prepared for a Lot of Rejection, and Some Acceptances

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”

— Barbara Kingsolver

Standard/Form

Higher Tier

Revise & Resubmit

Dealing with Rejection

The Elusive Acceptance

Now What?

Promote Your Story

10. Don’t be a Jerk

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.

— Ursula K. Le Guin


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