Guidelines? Who Needs Guidelines?

  • Posted by Admin
  • August 14, 2012 10:49 AM PDT

Guidelines? Who Needs Guidelines?

(from The Market List #3)


Hemingway would beg to be your pupil if he were able to read your newest masterpiece of short fiction. It's brilliant, captivating, full of incredibly witty dialogue, and characters that leap from the page.

You pore over your list of potential publishers, trying to decide which editor to bless with the delivery of your manuscript. Farley's Fantastic Fiction catches your eye. Pays pro rates, stories up to 7,500 words. Aha! Your work comes in at least 50 words less, and feeling that fist full of dollars already in your hand and imagining how you're going to spend it, you attach your standard cover letter, put your story in an envelope, and send it on its way.

--Too bad Farley hates cover letters.

--Too bad Farley prefers 3,500 words--unless you ARE Hemingway and your piece is as awe inspiring as the second coming.

--Too bad Farley doesn't accept cross-genre stories, and your masterpiece is a sf/horror/mystery chock full of time traveling cyber-mages battling it out on the doorstep of Dracula's castle.

--And worst of all: Too bad Farley is dead set against simultaneous submissions, and when you've grown tired of waiting for a response because Farley's desk is piled six feet higher than fire code allows with every other masterpiece on the continent, and is averaging sixteen weeks response time, you impatiently send your story to your next most favorite market. And that market just happens to be edited by Mrs. Farley. Too bad neither she nor Farley are remotely amused enough to consider anything from you ever again, at least until ice-skates are the fashion trend in hell.

And to think, for four bits, a dime, and four pennies, you could have had Farley's very specific guidelines delivered right to your door in a handy SASE, and known (as much as any writer can possibly know) just what Farley wants to see and how he wants to see it. Instead of wasting time and postage, you might have sent your work to another market -- Charlie's Cross-Genre Fiction Cafe -- where your work would have been graciously received, read, and allowed to stand or fall on its merits, not earned a coffin nail with your submission faux pas.

Is reading the specific guidelines for a potential market necessary before you submit your work? Nope. And after all, one way of looking at it is that paying the postage to a market that's not buying your type of story is just a clever way of acquiring very original 'rejection letter' wallpaper. However, if your goal is to see your work in print, you lose more than just postage. If you are making a legitimate effort at professionally marketing your manuscript, every time you send it out you lose not only postage but the time the story is in the mail. Time when your creation could be making its way toward the desk of the editor that will eventually buy it.

Following the same line of reasoning, consider everything that can be learned from a sample issue: What style story does Charlie's publish? Is there a recognizable theme to the magazine's content? Did Charlie just publish a time-traveling cyber-mage story last issue? Granted, it's not cost effective to buy a sample copy of every magazine you consider submitting to. The nature of the small press and semi-pro market is such that it's possible to receive your sample copy just in time for the publication to fold. But you can limit your expenditure by reading reviews of the magazines in genre related listings, in resources such as Tangent and others.

The point behind all this? Apply the same effort you would in crafting your story and preparing a professional manuscript to choosing the right market for your work. It won't be wasted effort. And when you do write a story that's right for Farley's, you'll know just where to send it.

Copyright © 1996 by All Rights Reserved.




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