Helping Dark Recesses & Horror Library with submissions has opened my eyes in a lot of ways. Before last year I thought that editors would only publish big-name authors, that they got all the breaks just because they paid their dues. I had, out of ignorance, believed what I’d wanted to; what I needed to justify my failings in placing a story with some of my favorite markets.
So, I was surprised when I helped with 500 submissions (for Dark Recesses) in a short period and only 10% were shortlisted. That’s the fifty best in the editors’ opinions. Out of the 50 best, and comments from multiple readers of the team, only a handful of stories (about 10 of them) were chosen for publication because there is only so much room per issue. Out of the 1,000 submissions to Horror Library, there are only 30 slots to fill. It’s staggering.
There are a lot of well-known authors who don’t make the final cut. My illusion of being an author with a book out and the easy ride into short story publication from there, shattered. It just doesn’t work that way. The space, the tastes of the editors and so many other things come into play.
Another thing I noticed was that all the themes we use are limited. We could receive five amazing stories from five talented writers, but only one of those stories running along a certain theme is accepted or there is no balance and every story will feel the same, no matter how entertaining and well-written.
Some people don’t read the magazines they’re subbing too, and it’s obvious when they don’t. I used to do it myself all the time. Until I realized what a waste of time that is for everyone involved. There’s a lot of wasted energy that way. Know your markets.
Follow guidelines. They’re not all the same. Some want double spaced, some single. Some only want your manuscript in Courier or Times. It shows respect and professionalism when you give it to them the way they want it. To ignore or shrug off their guidelines is to say, “I don’t respect you. “ Or “I’m lazy.” Editors like someone who is easy to deal with. Why be a pain in the ass?
The Cold Hard Truth is this: An editor has to LOVE your story to buy it over all the equally well-written stories.
Write the best story you can. Be professional. Don’t take rejection personal. Keep submitting. Keep improving.