Maggie Slater’s take on submissions: Darkness to Light

14 02 2013

So here is what Maggie Slater has to say about the questions of submissions and acceptance and getting out of bed. So enjoy and learn something!

 

Well, prior to doing this little exercise, I didn’t have too much trouble getting up out of bed, but NOW… 😄 Looks like for me, as an author, at least on rough average, I get about 6 acceptances for every 73 rejections<–the depressing part is that I only HAVE 79 attempted submissions at *all*. Yikes. That stings the pride a bit. Sign I need to submit more? Yes, please.

 
As for on the slushing side, it’s a mixed bag, because what I push up to the EoC doesn’t necessarily make it in the end. Apex itself only publishes 2-3 new stories an issue, so about 24-36 new stories a year (outside of reprints, which I believe are commissioned/requested). I get about ten to fifteen a week to go through, and we’ve got eleven total submissions editors, who probably get about the same amount as I do, so on the thin side of that, we process about 110 submissions a week, 440 submission a month, which works out to about 5280 or so a year? (How do you like my out-loud math workings? XD) So it’s stiff competition to get in. I haven’t crunched the numbers, but I reject probably about all but maybe ten percent of the stuff that crosses my desk. 
 
Most common reason for rejection? A lack of familiarity with what Apex publishes. Second most common reason? I get a lot of really good, solid stories that fit our magazine’s profile, but just don’t quite stick out from the rest, that don’t quite have the strength to stand up with some of our reprint authors. I typically read a story, and if I like it enough to read it front-to-back all the way through, I’ll flag it and set it aside for a day. If I can remember, the next day, what the story was about/a character/an image/a mood/a location/even a phrase, or have found myself thinking about it when not actively doing Apex work, I’ll push it up. If I look at it, frown for a while, and can’t remember any details, I shoot it back. Lasting power and resonance is important to me. People spread good stories by telling other people about them. If someone reads a story and, like one of those breath-freshener tab thingies, the story just evaporates with a minty puff, easily forgotten, that story isn’t going to generate much buzz, and isn’t going to draw more people to it. You want something that sticks with people, even if only very subtly in the back of their minds, even if only in fragments of “Oh, I totally loved this one story. I think it had a kid in the mid-south with a box or something that contained something evil in it… And I think there was a preacher, maybe, or a travelling snake-oil salesman… Regardless, it was awesome!” <–and that’s one of yours, Sir! 
 
As a side note: Titles aren’t that important, BUT–they do act as a kind of cover for your short story. At first I thought that meant that a story with a more creative title would stick out in my mind more, but I’ve found that’s not always the case. What matters with titles for conjuring up a story (especially if I *haven’t* been thinking about it on my own time, which is usually a guarantee send-up if I do–and it happens more often than you’d think) in my head a day or so later is the applicability of the title. It can sound generic, like “The Horse”, or something, but if that simple title really clicks with what the story is about, I’ll be able to remember it in a heartbeat. Whereas a story with a title like “Joe Barnaby’s Last Chance, or How Bubblegum Was Really Invented” may not conjure up any story at all if the story doesn’t really fit with it (you’d be amazed the rather dull, uninteresting tales that have fanciful, playful titles–it’s hard to imagine a dull story with a fun title like that, but it happens, unfortunately). A title is a powerful element of the story–just like a person’s name can be important, too. It just has to fit. If you’re writing a beautiful, flowery-language tale, a complex and poetic title would be totally suitable; if you’re writing a quiet, one-inch-of-ivory type tale set in a quiet location, a simpler title might fit better. 
So there you go! Now do yourself a favor and check out the nuggets on her blog!
Make sure you scroll down and check her Wil-E Coyote plans… hilarious.
Cheers
The Science of Fiction
Next up: Another story makes it to round two… how will this trilogy end???
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