Lesson 9

Submitting Your Work

Submit your short story

OK, so you’ve found a few places that sound like a perfect fit for your short story. Now comes the interesting part: creating a great submission that will get an editor’s attention (in a good way).

Crafting a cover letter

Most, if not all, magazines will require a cover letter with your submission. This is not the time to be funny or clever or show your fabulous personality. The “readers” who vet the submissions for the editors are reading dozens of submissions every day or week, and they don’t have much time to devote to deciphering your humor. So it’s important that you show that you are respecting a reader’s time by keeping cover letters short, professional, and to the point.

Follow this simple formula for your cover letter: 

  1. The title of your piece & the word count
  2. Whether your story is fiction or non-fiction
  3. Your previous publishing history, if applicable

A little note on your publishing history: If you’ve been published in fifty magazines over the years, listing them all will not impress an editor. It will bog down your cover letter. Choose the top three as part of your publishing history. Keep it short, sweet, and simple.

Following guidelines

Each magazine will have their own guidelines for submission. Read these instructions carefully and follow them to the letter. If they tell you to submit your story to a special submission address, don’t think you’ll get ahead by finding the editor’s personal email and letting them know you think you’ve written a story they will enjoy. An editor will not even open this email; it will go right into the trash. And if you do this enough times, you run the risk of being blacklisted from the publication. There’s nothing worse than a pesky writer who tries to cut the line.

A few important notes: 

  • Don’t try and submit when submissions are closed.
  • If a magazine says they take up to three months to reply to your submission, wait three and a half months to follow up.
  • If a magazine rejects your story and does not give a particular reason, it’s ok to follow up and politely ask if they would mind elaborating on why they rejected your story. Knowing your story’s shortcomings can be helpful in your rewriting process. You may not always get a response, but there’s no harm in asking. Nicely.
  • Remember to withdraw your story the moment it is accepted elsewhere. Part of an editor’s process when choosing to publish a story is measuring how it fits with the rest of the issue. This takes time and careful consideration.

We only have one lesson left, and it’s a pretty significant one if you see your short story as a stepping stone to greater things.


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