Saturday, 7 March 2015

Werewolf Not Included


Previously published in The New Writer Magazine
Making sure your story fits the market

 

We all know how hard it is to find the right markets for our work, but some writers do make it more difficult for themselves. They don’t follow guidelines and they don’t take notice of what the editors want in terms of theme or what the publication has printed in the past. It is vital to take notice of these things if you want to get your work published and raise your profile as a writer. There are ways you can ensure that you reach the right markets with the right story.

 

It is important to stick to the guidelines If the guidelines say that they accept typewritten stories about modern teaching of up to 2000 words and they want the format to be Times New Roman 12pt, on one side of an A4 sheet in double line spacing, then your 3000 word story about Roman soldiers, handwritten in your smallest text on the back of a serviette will not be accepted.

 

If there's a theme, don't go with your first few ideas. Make a list of all the ideas that come to you, and discard the first three or four. They’re the ideas everyone else will have had. Go for your fifth or sixth ideas. Think laterally instead of literally.

 

If there is a theme, you must stick to it, even if you do come at it from a different angle. The editors at Graveside Tales recently put out a call for stories featuring were-creatures for an anthology called The Beast Within. They didn’t mind what type of were-creatures they got and even a were-hamster was suggested on their forum. What surprised the editors was how many of the 400 entries they received managed not to include a were-creature of any kind. Not even the much vaunted were-hamster. Why the writers thought they’d get past the theme is anyone’s guess.

 

Make sure you pick a distinctive title. Don’t pick a title that’s the same as the given theme, unless you’re asked to do so. This advice goes for anthologies, magazines and novels. Avoid titles like The Wedding, The Funeral, The Birthday Party. They’re overused. Draw titles from quotes, pop songs, and make sure it fits your story. Do give your story a title, especially when responding to an anthology call, as it's difficult for editors to discuss the individual merits of 20 stories called 'untitled'.

Read past issues. If you can get hold of previous editions from the same publisher, do so. It will give you an idea of the sort of work they accept. It's also a good way of gauging how long a publisher has been around, so you'll know if they're trustworthy.

 

Spell-check. You might believe that come the glorious revolution spelling and grammar won’t matter, but pending the revolution, it’s wise to try and get this right. You’re up against a lot of other writers who do bother and the editor will be looking for something that won’t take up too much of her time in the editing process.

 

Once you’ve written your story, format your work properly. Most guidelines usually state double line spacing, size 12 font, but may also include other ‘in-house’ preferences. You might think it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a good story to sell, but it does. It shows you’re a professional and it shows you’ve been paying attention. Whilst an editor might not mind if you haven’t adhered to every single rule, the more you do follow the more inclined they’ll be to take you seriously.

 

Don’t just send anything that you happen to have lying around. It must fit in with the publication requirements. Your gruesome horror story won’t sell to the Peoples’ Friend, and your cosy love story won’t do so well in Graveside Tales’ werewolf anthology.

 

If you’re thinking the advice I’ve given is obvious, this is what Geoff Nelder, co-editor of Escape Velocity, a magazine that deals with hard science fact and fiction had to say about his magazine’s first submission call.

 

“[My co-editor] Robert Blevins and I have had to send many rejections to hopeful authors after their submissions ... This is mainly because they didn't read the submission guidelines. You'd be amazed how many submit pieces 2000 words too long; romance lit stories when we ask for hard sci fi; work that is published elsewhere without copyright transferral; prologues or first chapters of a novel where it couldn't be a stand-alone story; and the odd (very) sexist, rascist, illegal content that wasn't justified by the context. And those are subs that were legible and written mainly with correct punctuation, grammar... “

 

Make editors’ lives easier, and increase your own chances, by taking notice of the guidelines. In particular, if they ask for stories about werewolves, please do include one.

 

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