Thursday, September 23, 2010

Your Short Fiction: Queries and Organization

You've polished your short story, searched through likely markets and found the one you think would work best for this particular piece. Now you're wondering how best to ask someone to read what you have to send.

Short and sweet is always best, in my opinion. Remember, editors get hundreds - if not thousands - of submissions a month. They don't need to know about your whole history. And you don't really have to tell them what the story's about, because they're going to find out anyway when they read it. Mention places you've been published, but stop when you get to five or six. Make sure to mention an award if you've been given one. Tell them a little about your current projects if you like. But seriously, keep the letter as short and to the point as possible. Here's a submission letter I sent to Apex magazine, so you can get the idea:
Good evening,

After reading through a few issues of Apex, I believe I've crafted a story that would fit well within your market. I'm excited for my work to run the Apex editors' gauntlet, and hope my work will be well received. Please see attached for my short horror piece, "Knights of the Road".

My short fiction has been published in Fissure magazine, Sinister Tales, A Cappella Zoo, Morpheus Tales, and moonShine Review. I've also finished the first draft of a horror novel, Blood in the Orchard, and am currently up to my elbows in the thorny process of editing that work. I'll be attending KillerCon in Las Vegas, NV this year and hope to find an agent for my book.

Thank you so much for your time, and especially for your consideration of my dark fiction.

Best Regards,

B. Miller
Remember, editors are just people. Treat them with respect, like they're another person on the other end of the connection instead of a faceless email, and don't be afraid of them.

Keep track of where you send each and every story. If you're using the submissions tracker on Duotrope's Digest, this is a no-brainer. It keeps all the information you need on hand. If you're not, that's okay, too. Make yourself a spreadsheet that includes AT LEAST these criteria:
  • Market name
  • Date sent
  • Story name
  • Market web address
  • Notes section 
You can add any kind of criteria you like, of course, from word count to story genre to email address of the editor you sent it to. You can also make your spreadsheet as detailed or as simple as you like. The thing to remember, though, is that you MUST check this sheet regularly, just to keep an eye on things. Don't be afraid to query on a story that's been out there for a long time. Duotrope normally lists the average response rating for a market, but even if you don't know that information, I would query after six months. Your query letter should be as short and sweet as your first one, if not more so. Here was mine to Dark Discoveries when they held on to my story, "Watched", for over seven months:
Good morning,

Just wanted to touch base with you on the status of my story, "Watched". I sent it out for your review on January 7th. I know things must be hectic for you, and I hope I'm not being a bother. Would you please let me know at your convenience where the story stands? Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

B. Miller
Be confident. You're a professional, remember? Not only do you have talent, but you have dedication and determination. You have every right to be corresponding with these editors and asking them to take a look at your work. You've been working hard, and you've got something to show for it.

All right, that's enough for the day. Get your letter together, make sure your ducks are in a row, and then do what you've been putting off for... how long now?

Hit send, my friend.  


Hannah said...

oooh, Blood in the Orchard. Great title!!

I am bookmarking this page for my future short submissions! Thanks for the tips and especially for the format!

Ella said...

Go B; I am feeling swamped these days, online classes, entering my work(artsy stuff) to be published.

Keep us posted!!!