If you want to get your work published, you are going to face a lot of rejection. This can be hard for some people. But it shouldn’t be. Here are some reasons why:
- Some stories aren’t ready for publication and they need work; rejections give you an opportunity to do that
- Writing skill develops over time; you should expect to get a ton of rejections early on
- Even good stories by skilled writers will be rejected
- Rejection is the norm; some markets reject 99.9% of submissions
- Everyone has their own opinions
- People reject things for reasons unrelated to the quality of your work (e.g. they already accepted a similar story; they are full for that issue)
- Getting rejections can be fun; I am usually amused to learn the reasons why someone didn’t like a story
- Experimental and/or heavily stylized pieces are commendable, but these are likely to be controversial and receive mixed feedback; often doing something interesting is risky; if your stories are rejected for being experimental, stylized, risky, or creative, that is something to be proud of
- Your motivation to write should be based on expressing yourself and/or telling your story, not whether particular editors like the story enough to buy it
The Hamthology is the greatest collection of ham sandwich literature in the history of humankind. More than fifty works of poetry, prose, and visual art on the theme of ham sandwiches come together in this anthology, spanning genres from fantasy and science fiction to mystery, horror, romance, erotica, and more.
The ham sandwich has attracted little in the way of literary attention. This books fills that critical lacuna. In “Art as Technique”, the seminal work that became the basis for Russian Formalism, literary critic Viktor Shklovsky identified defamiliarization or “estrangement” as the essence of literature. Shklovsky gave the example of Tolstoy’s story “Kholstomer”, told from the point of view of a horse, which altered the reader’s perception and allowed them to see the world anew. Shklovsky argued that deforming reader expectations and de-automatizing our perceptions is at the heart of literature. Throughout The Hamthology, ham sandwiches serve as a defamiliarizing device, acting as a prism through which to view our world and the human condition. The Hamthology is more than a collection of stories, poems, and art—it is an experimental feat in writing that operates at the very core of the literary enterprise.
The stories in this collection span a wide variety of genres, from fantasy and science fiction to mystery, horror, romance, and erotica. They cover such diverse topics as sexuality and gender expression, biological warfare, space colonization, religion, parenthood, crime and punishment, and mental health. Collectively, they comprise a broad look at various aspects of human life, and they explore a wide swath of philosophical terrain through diverse literary approaches, all united by the ham sandwich. Through these works, the ham sandwich comes to represent something greater than the sum of its edible parts, transforming into a transcendent symbol—of our hopes and dreams and fears, of who we are, from where we’ve come, and to where we might go. The Hamthology is, without a doubt, the greatest collection of ham sandwich literature the world has ever known.
You can pick up The Hamthology here.
Voice artist Jeff Clement has performed readings of two works from the Hamthology, And both are available as free audio downloads from here! Jeff Clement can be found on Twitter @auralstimulate and his webpage http://auralstimulation.net/
The two selections are:
- “Wish Granted”, short fiction written by Gregg Chamberlain, performed by Jeff Clement. Gregg Chamberlain can be found on Twitter @greggchamberlain and his work can be found on his Amazon page.
- “Pig Collector”, poem written by Jim Lewis, performed by Jeff Clement. More of Jim’s poetry can be found on his FaceBook poetry page.
Check it out! Support this awesome project!
Very happy to say that I have four conceptual poems in Soft Cartel!
I’d love to hear what people think of these poems.
They do have a bit of a backstory. In 2017, Grievous Angel Magazine published my short, haiku-like poem about the planet Venus:
the morning star
the evening star
yellow fog on venus
This poem became part of a larger collection of short poems, one for each planet, which was published in Abyss & Apex in January 2018 as “spatial arrangement”. In addition to all the planets, I also included the moon, Pluto, and the mysterious “Planet X”. The poem for “Planet X” was pretty short:
so short, in fact, that I was pretty sure it was the shortest poem ever written.
I was mistaken. Apparently, the shortest poem was by Aram Saroyan, and it’s known as the “four-legged m”:
When I first found out about this poem, I was annoyed. “That’s not a poem!” I thought. “It’s not even a letter! It’s visual art!”
I was mostly annoyed that I didn’t have the shortest poem and, on further thought, I realized that “four-legged m” is (should probably be considered) a poem. The word “poem” is hard to define (if I’m being honest, I really don’t know what a poem is), but a good working definition (not without its difficulties) is this: a poem is a kind of art made by creatively combining elements of language in order to generate new or unexpected meaning. The “four-legged m” works by combining typographical elements of language to create new meaning. It is a poem.
So I decided to make some more poems. All four are shorter than the “four-legged m”. One is a single character (composed of typographical elements from two other letters), one is a single punctuation mark (composed of a typographical mark and iconography), and two of them are blank (they work by placing blankness within an interpretive context). All four are available at Soft Cartel. I’d love to know what people think!
I’m assuming you have some finished products (fiction and/or poetry) that you are happy with and ready to send out. So let’s do that.
This is a completely separate skill-set from writing, but it’s one you should develop. A lot of it is organization and research. Knowing what tools to use really helps.
Keeping tracking of your submissions.
You need a system to keep track of your submissions. You need to know which stories/poems are out where, and how long they’ve been there.
I use a spreadsheet on Google Sheets. I keep all of my stories along one axis, and all the markets along the other axis. When I make a submission, I put the date of submission in the appropriate cell. When I get a form rejection, I put “form” in the cell; if I get specific feedback for the story, I paste that into the cell. (There are other services available for tracking submissions; I like this system because of the flexibility and control it gives me).
This allows me to see at a glance what stories are out where, and how long they’ve been there. I can easily see if a story is sitting idle, in which case I should be thinking about what I want to do with it (whether it needs to be reworked and then submitted somewhere, or just sent somewhere as-is). It is also an archive of past successes and failures.
Here’s the (deliberately blurred) spreadsheet I use, which I include in case it helps to visualize my system:
Next to my stories, I include a word count. Next to the markets, I include notes for that market, including pay, a link to the site, what they’re looking for, and any other important information.
I use color-coding. The pink entries are rejections (you’ll notice there’s quite a few); light green are active submissions; yellow/gold is for acceptances. Bright green on the market listing indicates pro rates. Red on the market listing indicates a closed market. (There’s no need to do any of this color-coding stuff, but I like it.)
If this big chart looks imposing, just remember it is built up over time. You start with one story and one market. You add stories as you complete them, and you add markets as you submit to them.
Being alerted to open submission windows
Often when researching markets you will find submission window openings several months away. It’s impossible to remember all these things, so you need to use an organizational tool.
I use Google calendar to alert me to open submission windows. I put the submission window opening as an event in my calendar, and I get a notification when the window opens up. If I have a suitable story, I can submit it then.
I paste the link to the website for that market in the event information, so I don’t have to track it down again when the market opens up.
Setting these reminders allows me to free up a lot of mental energy.
You need to know the markets.
Ralan.com is a great resource for finding out about anthologies.
Submission grinder is a great resource for searching markets -both poetry and fiction. You should check out the advanced search function, which allows you to narrow your search by genre, length, pay, and other criteria.
The Horror Tree is a good place to find markets for horror and dark speculative fiction.
If you happen have Facebook, you can join “open call” groups, so you can get tips that way.
Make sure to carefully read the guidelines for any market you plan to submit to. Not following guidelines is a quick way to get your story rejected. Often, not adhering to guidelines will mean an auto-rejection. Even when it doesn’t get your story auto-rejected, it still looks bad.
Besides the obvious things, like submitting stories that are the right length and genre, you also want to watch out for:
- Formatting. Most places ask for manuscripts submitted in Shunn Standard Manuscript format. Here’s a template you can use if you want (.doc format): @STANDAD_MANUSCRIPT_FORMAT_TEMPLATE
- Font. Annoyingly, despite the implication of “standard manuscript format”, font is not really standard across various markets. It seems like most markets ask for Times New Roman or Courier, but Arial sometimes shows up as well. If a market doesn’t specify, you can safely submit in Times or Courier, but if they do specify a font, then take thirty seconds and change it to suit their preference.
- Anonymity. Standard Manuscript Format includes your name in three places on the document. But some places ask for anonymous manuscripts for the purpose of blind judging. In that case, make a copy of your manuscript and scrub all identifying information. If a market asks for an anonymous manuscript, and you include any identifying information, your submissions will be auto-rejected, guaranteed.
- “No Simultaneous Submissions”. This means that the editor is requesting that you not submit the same manuscript to any other markets while it is under consideration at their market (your story should only be out to this one place). If you ignore this request, you risk burning bridges in a very small community of editors who absolutely talk to each other. Sometimes it can seem unfair to newer authors, who have to sit for long stretches of time while they wait for what is in all likelihood going to be a rejection. If this bothers you, consider markets that allow simultaneous submissions. Also, keep in mind that you are not sitting idle while your story is out, because you should be moving on to writing the next story.
- “Multiple Submissions”. If “multiple submissions” are allowed, this means you can send multiple stories at once to the same market. This is pretty rare. Most markets request that you only have one submission sent to them at a time. Send your best work, then wait for a response.
- Pasted in the e-mail. Some venues ask that you post the work in the body of the e-mail, instead of including an attachment. This is more common for flash markets and poetry markets.
Form Cover Letter
You don’t want to type the same thing a thousand times.
I use a form cover letter, copy and pasted, and changed to suit the specifics of the market.
A cover letter should be really simple. My template looks like this:
To/Dear [The Editors],
Please consider [story title] for publication in [Publication Name].
[line for third person bio (optional)]
[line to address specific guidelines (optional)]
I look forward to hearing from you.
You can find the name of the editor(s) on the website for the market you are planning to submit to.
The bio line, where it appears, might look something like this:
[Your name] writes from [Someplace], where [pronoun] also works as a [profession]. [Pronoun’s] work is featured or forthcoming in [list of publications].
If you don’t have any publications, just don’t mention it. The first sentence of the bio is enough in that case. If you have special experience or expertise relevant to the story, you can mention it.
The “specific guidelines” section might look like this:
As suggested in your guidelines, the poems appear in the body of this e-mail.
Finally, if the guidelines ask you to specify word count, you can do so following the mention of your story’s name:
Please consider [story title] (2000 words) for publication in [Publication Name].
If the guidelines request particular information in the cover letter, make sure to include it wherever it makes sense to do so. (If they ask for a one sentence summary of the story, for example, you can put that in a sentence following the first mention of the story.)
Good luck! I hope you’ve found this guide useful, and I look forward to hearing about your successes with publication!
I finally got a Twitter account for my poetry and writing related updates. If you’re a Twitter user, please follow @DavidFShultz to get updates on my stuff.
This horror poem was first published in The Literary Hatchet, issue #18, and is eligible for a 2018 Rhysling. An analysis of the poem can be found here.
My poem, ‘the concrete’, first published by Weasel Press in “Degenerates: Voices for Peace, Homelessness Edition”: