PUBLISHING


by Lori Sambol Brody

Lori

Your cell phone chirps to alert you of an incoming email.  Will it be an Evite from a friend, a notification from Netflix, or a response from a literary journal you’ve submitted to?  Upon checking your inbox, you see an e-mail “Lit Journal X re: [Lit Journal X] My Fabulous Story.”  Your heart beats double-time, your stomach feels like it’s full of fluttering birds. 

And then you open the email.

You reread it.

Congratulations!  Lit Journal X wants to publish your story!

After celebrating with chocolate, champagne, or 50 year old whiskey, what do you do next?  I’ve put together a checklist to ensure I thank Lit Journal X, notify other publications to which I’ve submitted my story, and, upon publication, market the story.

Before the Story Is Published

  • Send a thank you note to Lit Journal X, addressing it to the editor who sent the acceptance, expressing how excited you are about seeing “My Fabulous Story” in that journal.  Because of course you are.  You wouldn’t have sent it to that journal if you wouldn’t be excited.  Sometimes the editor will need you to confirm that your piece is still available, that you agree with the intellectual property rights you are giving them, and provide a biography.  Timely provide that information to the editor.
  • Immediately withdraw “My Fabulous Story” from consideration from all other literary journals, following the instructions on Submittable or on the journal’s website if the journal accepts e-mail or snail mail submissions or has their own submission manager.  Since you keep track of all your submissions on a list or spreadsheet, it should be easy for you to do.  Tell the journals that the piece has been accepted elsewhere, thank them for their consideration of the story, and let them know that you’re looking forward to their next issue.  Most of the editors for literary journals don’t get paid for their work, and it’s nice to let them know how much we appreciate their dedication to publishing our stories.
  • Lit Journal X may send you suggested edits, questions, or proofs.  Make sure you timely follow up with them.

On Publication Day

  • When you see your piece published, send an e-mail to the editors you have been working with thanking them again for including your piece in the new issue of Lit Journal X.  You should read the issue – or at least a portion of it – and mention to the editors something you liked, another story or poem or the look of the journal.  This is not only about supporting the writing and publishing community – of which you are a part – but also recognizing the hard work of the editors who usually dedicate their time as a labor of love.
  • Market “My Fabulous Story.”  You should modify your endeavors to fit your specific circumstances.  For example:
  • Post one notification each on Facebook and Twitter (you don’t want to annoy anyone by constant promotions).
  • Send e-mails to friends who are (amazingly enough) not on social media or do not regularly check their Facebook pages.
  • Post an entry on your blog regarding the publication of “My Fabulous Story” and update your blog’s publication list.
  • Submit news of your publication to Pamelyn Castro’s Flash Fiction Flash Newsletter (to subscribe send an email to FlashFictionFlash-Subscribe@yahoogroups.com).
  • Send a “yahoo” email to the Internet Writing Workshop list serv, which posts publishing successes once a week on its blog (http://internetwritingworkshop.blogspot.com/; to join see http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/ ).
  • If you are involved in a community author’s group, notify the group of your publication.  (Our local library has a local author’s group with a Facebook page.)
  • Thank anyone who responds positively to your story.  Contrary advice exists on re-Tweeting positive Tweets concerning your story.  Most of the writers I follow do it, although I have read articles that re-Tweeting these comments is a breach of etiquette or bragging.  Re-Tweet if you are comfortable doing so.  I usually do since it appears to be socially acceptable in my Twitter-sphere.
  • If you receive negative feedback to your story, you can either ignore or respond briefly with a note thanking them for reading and giving you constructive criticism.  Do not engage a dialogue with your critiquers or belittle them.

And what if Lit Journal X has rejected your piece?  I have a list for that as well.  After drowning your sorrows with chocolate, champagne, or 50 year old whiskey:

  • Send a quick note to Lit Journal X thanking the editor for considering your piece.  Most journals put considerable time into reading your piece and “Your Fabulous Story” has gone through multiple readers.  Where the editor has given you encouragement or feedback – one journal, in rejecting my story, sent me reader’s notations – mention this in your email.  Editors are writers too and don’t like rejecting work: they know you have sweated (metaphorical) blood over your story.
  • Note on your submission spreadsheet that your story was rejected.  Specifically note if you received any encouragement, feedback, or if the journal asked you to send more work.  While the latter may seem like a form rejection, that request is sincere.  In the future, when you have a piece perfect for that journal, you can note in your cover letter, “Thank you for your encouragement on my piece ‘My Fabulous Story’” or “Thank you for your feedback on ‘My Fabulous Story.’  I made revisions pursuant to your suggestions and it was accepted elsewhere.”
  • Take a look at “My Fabulous Story.”  Was any of the feedback helpful?  Do you feel like it needs another revision?  If so, revise it or set it aside for revision.
  • If your story doesn’t need revisions, send it to two other journals in the same “tier” as Lit Journal X.

These are the steps I follow and can be modified for your purposes.  What do you do?

____________

Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California.  Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, WhiskeyPaper, alice blue review, Atticus Review, and elsewhere.  Her first piece of non-fiction is forthcoming in Pithead Chapel and she will be participating in the chose-your-own-adventure at Lockjaw Magazine.  She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody.

 

by Jim Harrington

jimharrington2Markets Added

Market Change

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Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. His stories have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Ink Sweat and Tears,  Near to the Knuckle, Flashes in the Dark, and others. He serves as the Managing Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Jim’s Six Questions For . . . blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.

by Jim Harrington

jimharrington2

Markets Added

Other Updates

  • Devilfish Review is now a paying market ($, 800, quarterly) Open to most fiction / prefers speculative – visit siteview guidelines
  • Story Shack, The (1500, daily) Open to most fiction / ON HIATUS
  • Kazka Press (1,000, monthly) Speculative fiction / CEASED PUBLICATION
  • one forty fiction (140 characters, varies) CLOSED PERMANENTLY

______________________

Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. His stories have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Ink Sweat and Tears, Near to the Knuckle, Flashes in the Dark, and others. He serves as the Managing Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Jim’s Six Questions For . . . blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.

by Cameron Filas

Cameron_Filas

Have you ever submitted something and then later forgot how long ago you did so? Where you actually submitted to? Whether or not you should have heard back after three weeks or three months? How many times you have previously submitted this piece?

The idea that we are smart enough to keep track of all this in our heads is often prevalent at the beginning of our writing escapades. At some point however we forget the minute details of each item sent out or heard back from. It is for this reason that many authors track their submissions and why you should start if you don’t already. It’s mundane work, I know, but essential to staying on top of things.

There are as many ways to track your submissions as there are writers. Common methods include keeping files in manila folders, using notecards, various online tracking systems, and of course the generic yet eloquent spreadsheet.

I prefer spreadsheets for the ability to create my own tracking system that can be easily edited, sorted, color-coded, and added to without fuss. Notecards and other hard copy systems must be tediously hand written and filed and do not allow you to simply click to sort. This is not to say these tracking systems do not have value, only that they are slightly archaic in today’s technology-infused world and lack the ease that comes with electronic tracking.

More important than the type of tracking system used however, are the items being tracked for each manuscript or submission.

Some people are admittedly anal-retentive when it comes to this process. I know authors who create a different spreadsheet for each individual piece’s submission history, each publisher submitted to, or sometimes both. This amount of detail is certainly not necessary for keeping a simple organized log. At a minimum a tracking system should include the information necessary to identify the submission in question. Here are some examples of data that can be recorded:

  • Title
  • Word Count
  • No.# (the number of times you’ve submitted this piece)
  • Publication (submitted to)
  • Sim Sub? (are simultaneous submissions permitted?)
  • Date Submitted
  • Expected Response Date (if given by the publication)
  • Response Date
  • Response/Result (accepted, rejected, rewrite requested, etc.)
  • Wait Until (some venues don’t want you to submit again for a while)
  • Fee (to submit, if any)
  • Pay (if paid publication, amount earned)

Not all of these items may be of importance to you or what you hope to achieve with your writing. Regardless, tracking more information rather than less may prove to be of some benefit in the future. You may even begin to notice trends in your writing or submissions. Perhaps you discover using the data that you mainly write flash-fiction less than 1,000 words and submit to mostly horror venues. And maybe all of your horror submissions are getting rejected while every humor piece you’ve written was accepted within a week! This could be used to assess your own strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

Another great benefit of tracking your submissions is that you can easily monitor your writing goals. You know, those things you swear you’re going to do every New Year’s Eve? Do you want to submit at least three pieces each month? Should you always have five items minimum pending a decision? Do you want to submit a story of every genre at least once? With a system that you actually use (that’s key here) you’ll have no trouble tracking these things.

You’ll also be able to stay on top of your simultaneous submissions. There’s nothing worse than submitting a story, and then later discovering you had already submitted it somewhere else that doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions. Just as bad is forgetting to notify one publisher when someone else picks up your story.

And you know how you’ve always wanted an author website, or for someone to write your biography someday? Yeah, you’re going to be glad you used a tracking system then. Using your spreadsheet you could quickly find when and where all of your publications appeared.

Once you begin tracking your submissions, don’t become discouraged if you notice a trend of rejections. This is just part of the writing process! Many authors, even famous ones, experienced countless rejections before their masterpieces were finally understood for what they were. And I’m sure those famous authors were submission tracking masters, probably.

There are a plethora of articles on the internet which painstakingly examine what the best submission tracking systems are, the “must-have” items that should be recorded, and the various reasons all writers should track their work. The tips provided here are not meant to be the perfect solution but instead a gentle shove in the right direction. So go forth and track, my fellow writers!

*If you’re uneasy about actually sitting down and creating a spreadsheet from scratch, or too lazy, please feel free to download the example Microsoft Word Excel spreadsheet I created (Submission_Tracking_Workbook) based on the Writers Write method. This spreadsheet includes directions which explain how it has been formatted and what to input.

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Cameron Filas is an avid reader and novice author of short fiction and other various work. Though he has enjoyed writing from a very young age, he has only recently begun a serious pursuit of the craft. Cameron lives in Mesa, AZ, with his girlfriend, a dog, and a demon cat who he is pretty sure is plotting to kill him. You can visit his corner of the web at cameronfilas.wordpress.com.

 

by Bonnie ZoBell

Bonnie ZoBell

We published a similar round-up, only it was of writers’ advice about how to organize a fiction collection in February, and it became a two-parter, Part 1 and Part 2. I said then as I will now, this is one of the main things I hear writers of stories talk about. How can you best enhance your collection by the order you put them in? The answers are all different with some Editors/Publishers getting more involved in the process and others feeling this is definitely the writers’ prerogative. See what the following presses and peeps have to say about the organization question.

Mike Young at Magic Helicopter Press

A chapbook is a strange form, but it doesn’t have to be, or—rather, better, more excitingly—a chapbook can remind us that every form is strange. What I like out of a novel struture is an awareness of what expectations I’m bringing to it but a desire to upend or reinvigorate those expectations. After all, why read yet another anything if not to have a new shake? Same with collections, and particularly with small collections, which because they are small make you think, naturally, “Why just these few stories? Why these really short stories? Why not a whole book? Why this handmade cover? Why this sneaky art?” When I think of how to organize a fiction chapbook, I think of the form itself: small, sneaky, held close, pocketed, stashed away, tucked away. As far as organization goes, there are some straightforward principles: 1) put your hookiest story first, maybe go for a story that is in some way the scarf you’d wear to the party, which is the first thing people are going to see but also the first thing you’re going to take off. 2) Longest story in the middle, the sustained story, the heavy memory in the kitchen. 3) Last story seems like it should be gestural, maybe the most mysterious, leave the reader remembering an inscrutable toss of the hip. But that’s a pretty prescriptive trio of rules, so really what I’d like to return to when it comes to advice about organizing a chapbook is to remember what it will feel like in the reader’s hand: pretty secret, definitely more secret than a paperback, quicker to melt, and maybe something you want to keep digging at with your teeth, something you’ll want to treat a little preciously but you know you’ll end up smudging.

 

Erin McKnight at firthFORTH Books

The best chapbook organization, I believe, should go unnoticed by the reader. As with any individual piece of writing, a well-structured collection will simply work and seem to do so effortlessly and without calling attention to its assemblage. Organizing multiple pieces of short fiction can seem a daunting task because achieving both cohesion and variety is the goal—a linking within the collection should be evident, but each piece should also stand alone in its representation of the greater work. The fight for space in a collection unfortunately often manifests in top- or bottom-heaviness, or hasty inclusions intended to create balance. And what happens if pieces, similar in some way, lie consecutively? Will opposing pieces clash?

Another complication arises when working with a title story: Should it come at the beginning of the chapbook? The end? Should it be used to support a middle section that may otherwise sag? Add numerous additional considerations like length and point of view and narrator characteristics and geographical concerns and stylistic worries and … you get the point. After writing that may have in some cases taken years to perfect, putting together the chapbook can feel a torturous practice hurdled with numerous possibilities and prohibitives. Rely on theme, however, and you can’t go wrong; in fact, think thematically about organizing the chapbook and lace your unifying idea as the connective tissue between story muscles and you will allow readers to make your body of work move for themselves.

 

Christopher Bowen at Burning River Press

Sometimes, I tend to think of chapbook composition in terms of my culinary background. More specifically, menu design. In culinary school we were taught terms such as the workhorse, dog and star. A workhorse will consistently net profit over food cost, the dog will bring people in but will not net a profit and a star will actually cost you to keep it on a menu. But all three define a successful restaurant.

In terms of chapbooks, I think it’s best to understand the stories need to work as a whole and that yes, the reader will see it as this, as a journey. It should have its own climax, dialogue, even plot, between the writer and the reader—very much outside of the tangible stories themselves. That being said, I believe a fiction writer needs to decide where they will fit these literary elements into the story between themselves and a reader, not necessarily where the strongest, shortest, longest or even published story goes, but that simple dialogue of emotions. Does that make sense?

 

Randall Brown at Matter Press

Poets & Writers had a wonderful article by Katrina Vandenberg about organizing a collection using a mix-tape strategy here. I still create mixes for people (now using a CD burner)! Creating the mix focuses me on the experience of the listener, and I like playing with the juxtaposition of songs to create surprise and recognition. My 2013 mix, for example, bumps The National’s “Pink Rabbits” against “The One That Got Away” by The Civil Wars. The last line of “Pink Rabbits”—You said it would be painless / It wasn’t that at all—bumps up against The Civil Wars’ first line: I never meant to get us in this deep / I never meant for this to mean a thing. The National and The Civil Wars might be familiar bands to listeners, so what follows is a song from a more unfamiliar artist, Mark Mulcahy.

So that’s my suggestion, completely stolen from Katrina Vandenberg’s article. Create a mix-tape. Think of the listener moving from one track to the next. Think of where you want to take that listener, where the listener has just been, where the listener is going next. Create a lull to create a surprise. Just when the listener has the quirky pattern figured out, break it. Vary lengths. Mix it up. And then send it out the way you would those precious mix tapes, as something personal, not meant for everyone, but just the right person.

 

Gloria Mindock at Cervena Barva Press

A fiction chapbook of stories should already be in order and done when sent to me. If something would be better moved elsewhere in the manuscript, I will suggest it to the writer. I pay attention to the flow of the manuscript and want the first story to grab the reader. From that point on, looking at it as a whole, the order should make sense and make the chapbook strong. I look for unique and well written manuscripts. Surprise me!

 

Laura Stanfill at Forest Avenue Press

Putting a collection together can be a slippery, delightful, infuriating process, because there’s no such thing as the perfect order. Sure, there are ways to capitalize on synergies, ways to make themes crescendo, and ways to highlight the best pieces or hide the lesser ones. But there’s not one ideal order. And I kind of love that. Because it makes me even more determined to keep playing, to keep printing out stories and laying them beside each other, seeking meaning, discovering how two works change slightly in tone and temperament when they rub up against each other. A collection at first glance may have no theme, but look closer and you’ll find a sense of order, and that’s what to shoot for: making the flow from story to story seem intentional. Sometimes you can sneak two stories together because they share a similar image, or voice, and that likeness will resonate, will surprise, will delight–and sometimes you want to separate them to avoid emphasizing those things. Choose the order of pieces based on the bigger picture, the themes you want to pull out–and those you don’t want to emphasize–paying great attention to the first and the last stories, but also how the middle works, because every piece is as important as every other piece in a collection, and curating how they read one after the other helps give the reader a smooth journey from cover to cover.

 

Sumanth Prabhaker at Madras Press

This is such a case-by-case query that I’m having a hard time coming up with an answer that would be of any interest at all to your readers. I keep forming an opinion (don’t lump similar imagery close together, or establish a clear narrative arc, or whatever) and then remembering a hundred great books with lumpy images, no narrative arc, etc.

I guess in the end the issue of sequencing pieces in a manuscript is not terribly important to me. As you said earlier, a large part of the editorial process is determining the right order of things, and so it’s almost taken for granted that whatever order the MS is in when it’s submitted isn’t very important. Or, maybe more accurately, a manuscript will rarely be accepted because it was ordered in an interesting way. The determining factors, at least for me, are so much more about the quality of prose, the things the author’s mind gravitates toward, etc.

Beyond that I’d say it’s too hard to say. I like the way Infinite Jest is sequenced, but I also like the way cookbooks are sequenced — appetizer, protein, dessert, recipe recipe recipe…

 

Nate Jordon at Monkey Puzzle Press

The most important aspect of organizing and preparing a fiction chapbook, or anything that’s being considered for publication, is something most new writers take for granted: Make sure it is your best work. That seems obvious, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t submit their best work for publication? But I’m not talking about your best work. I’m referring to your best work.

I recently posted a blog on the Monkey Puzzle Press site that addresses this conundrum: 5 Debunked Myths about Getting Published Every New Writer Should Know. To reiterate, keep this in mind: If you’ve written something in a writing workshop, whether inside our outside the auspices of academia, and it received great reviews and applause from everybody sitting around the table, don’t think for a second that it is your best work. Chances are it’s not even yours. Odds are it’s an amalgamation of styles and influences from everyone around the table, as the work has been shopped and edited and changed and restructured, ad infinitum, resulting in a work that is a reflection of its environment, which may have nothing to do with your original voice, style, or intent. What works in a writing workshop doesn’t always work in the real world. Nothing trumps story. If you haven’t told a good story, developed good characters, and/or pulled the reader in emotionally, no amount of playful spacing on the page or fruity fonts will make the difference. That’s the kind of stuff that works in a writing workshop. What works in the real world is a good story, and a good story is original and unique. Make it yours.

 

Tyler Gobble at Magic Helicopter Press

Editing Meagan Cass’s chapbook, Range of Motion, which will be out in February from Magic Helicopter Press, was the first chapbook of the fiction kind I’ve ever had the joy to fall into. And wow, what a stellar one! Like I do with the poetry chapbook, I play the little brother role—asking way too many questions, sometimes saying things that are awkward and/or weird, usually being overly energetic, but ultimately, hopefully, making the family reunions totally bearable with the understanding eye contact, the shared loved, and hopefully some damn bubbly charm. With every chap, we go through similar steps: getting all the right pieces there, line-editing a time or two, and then ultimately the copy-edit goodness that really shines it up. With Meagan, despite not ever having met before, we danced in sync right through this thing, culminating in one of my favorite story collection ever, and for that, I couldn’t be more stoked for this thing to plop into this world.

 

Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney at Rose Metal Press

Drawing the reader in: When you’re submitting a chapbook manuscript to a contest or reading period, consider the editors and judges as the most discerning readers you can imagine. Think about the things that draw you in as a reader, then amplify them and apply them to your work. Make the presentation and layout clean and organized, and most of all, make it impossible for the editor to move on to the next manuscript by putting your best story or stories first. Once you’ve got them hooked, they are more likely to give your manuscript more time and consideration.

Shaping your chapbook: All collections of short fiction and poetry, whether thematically linked or not, need to feel cohesive and of a piece. This doesn’t mean your chapbook needs to be linked thematically or narratively; it could mean instead that the manuscript has a consistent voice or tone or form or structure. Every year when we read our contest submissions, we always receive a set of manuscripts that feel like the author took every finished flash piece they had and dumped them into the manuscript pell-mell. You want your manuscript to feel (and be) more thought-out and planned than that. Even if the stories are all standalone, there should be a reason to put them together and an order that feels right. Tune in to the voice or emotional core of your pieces and create a story order that has an arc or crescendo. Editors and judges will notice that extra work and that the manuscript feels complete and purposeful.

***

If you have any great ideas for organizing collections, we’d love to hear from you, too!

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Bonnie ZoBell‘s new linked collection from Press 53, What Happened Here: a novella and stories , is centered on the site PSA Flight 182 crashed into North Park, San Diego, in 1978 and features the imaginary characters who live there now. Her fiction chapbook The Whack-Job Girls was published in March 2013. She received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in fiction, the Capricorn Novel Award, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award. She has an MFA from Columbia University, currently teaches at San Diego Mesa College and is working on a novel. Visit her at www.bonniezobell.com.

 

 

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