Notes on Submitting

I’ve been putting some work into the slushpile and organizing the email account. The job’s not by any means done. The chaos of August, with Armadillocon, putting out the new issue, and the whole media firestorm that was the clay tablet issue, that really kicked my butt. I’m only now catching up, performing the tasks that are egregiously late and then working up to the embarrassingly late.

But while I was going through the slush, a few things occurred to me that aren’t explicitly stated in the submission guidelines that we should go over.

First, we have this soft limit on length, which you may be familiar with. Basically, most of the stuff we publish is under 1k words, so that’s what we would like most of the submissions at. But we also publish one story or so every issue that is 5k words or more, so we need to get some of those submitted too.

What we really don’t talk about, is the implied minimum length. As editors, we’re looking for a story that is worth five bucks, the time of setting it up, the effort of making a contract, and the personal cost of begging an artist to make an illustration. Once a story gets under 200 words, that’s a hard sell. And I’m not sure that under 50 words will ever make the cut. But by the same token, in the current batch of second- and third-rounders, there were two stories that were in the 200 word and under range, and they were awesome. It’s just something to take into consideration.

The last thing I want to talk about is the RTF versus DOC attachment. Now, we’re not huge hardasses about following an exact submission formula. I’m not even a stickler about standard manuscript format, because I know that some of the freshest writing comes from people who haven’t been put through the wringer of sci-fi writer acculturation.

But it does annoy me when people use DOC instead of RTF attachments in their submissions. First, it means that they didn’t read the submission guidelines. I can understand if you don’t want to read a FREE copy of the issue. I mean, sure, it’s FREE and all, but that takes time and mental energy. But not reading the submission guidelines? Seriously?

And second, the DOC takes me more time to read. We use the Gmail framework to read the slush. After I open an email, I click the “view” link on the attachment to open the story in another window. If it’s an RTF file, it goes straight to an HTML window. It happens faster than I can blink. If it’s a DOC file, it opens in the Google Reader app, which takes about five to ten seconds to load up, and when it does, it’s in a narrower window.

I’m spending that five to ten seconds, staring at a fuzzy screen thinking, why didn’t this dude read the submission guidelines? Do you want a slushreader to spend several seconds being annoyed by you before reading your story?

But whatever. If you didn’t bother to read the submission guidelines, you probably won’t bother to read this blog entry either.


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