The Perfect Fit

If you’ve come from the same (largely outdated) school of thought that I have with regards to breaking into traditional publishing, you learned a few unbreakable rules when it came to submissions.  Of these, the biggest was likely:  FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.

It’s not unusual for a market’s guidelines to include the provision:  Any submission not adhering to these guidelines will be automatically rejected.  This is one of the walls put up by Big-Pub to help keep out those that aren’t serious and will likely waste the editor’s time.  The slush pile is huge and the guidelines are means to help keep it manageable.  Even still, an editor will generally stick with the first five pages or less of a short story before deciding to read on or have his secretary stuff your return envelope with a form rejection for your collection.

Word Count is the one that gives me the most trouble.  Most of my stories end up hovering in the 15,000 to 20,000 word range after I’ve cut out the pork.  In my experience, these lengths are harder to sell.  The major science fiction magazine will accommodate them, but usually only one per issue.  That’s a lot of words to have just out there in submission limbo competing for such limited real estate.

Maybe I’m showing my lack of patience here, but it seems like a waste of time – especially if you have a backlog of stories in those hard-to-sell lengths. 

So what do you do?  How do you get that material to work for you as soon as its ready for primetime?

Electronic publishing, of course.

Since I’ve started to self publish on Kindle and other formats, I’ve found a new sense of motivation to write.  I don’t have to wait months for my writing to get to my audience.  I’m not blocked by that 15,000 word barrier.  I can write as much, or as little, as I want and all it takes is a few hours of work to prep it, format it as an E-book, create a cover, and put it out there.  If it’s priced right, and I’ve let my audience know that new material is available, someone will buy it.  After that, it’s up to my writing to keep people checking back for more.  And thanks to this new digital publishing revolution, I can put out stories right when the audience will want them most to maximize their interest.

That’s not to say their still aren’t submission guidelines (of sorts).  Your .doc or .html file has to be set up properly to convert over to .mobi, or whatever format, to display correctly on e-readers.  But rather than a road block to discourage a writer from submitting, these guidelines serve to help make you look like a professional.  If you’re self-publishing, this is second only to writing a good story.  Stephen King had it right in On writing.  You have to show up looking like a professional.  This, to me, is the biggest thing that carries over to e-publishing from traditional publishing.  Time and time again, I see in reviews for self-published e-books, the reviewer enjoyed the story, but the e-book had lots of formatting issues.  A good many reviews are not nearly as kind.

I’m still new to self-publishing, but I learned a lot from my first e-book.  The second one is going well and a sample will be available soon.

Don’t let the stigma of the old submission guidelines that has kept those books and stories that aren’t quite the right size for (insert market here) in your inventory.  They have a place, and an audience, waiting for them online.


About Thomas J. rock

Writer of Science Fiction

Posted on April 22, 2011, in The Daily Grind and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. This sounds like sound advice. The publishing world has evolved much in the last few years. Writers need to evolve with it, or perish. It is good to have blog entries like this to learn from.

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