Processes and preferences

If you’re going to be submitting work to us, here are a few things you may want to bear in mind. We’ll be updating this list regularly, so check for our latest – we may suddenly have an urge for zombie romances (kidding – hell hasn’t frozen over yet).

  • we’ve seen many things many times so be original.
  • we’re picky buyers.
  • we can tell if you know your craft – don’t send us your first draft and make sure you’ve covered the basics. It doesn’t have to be perfect (if an author says they’ve never submitted a story with a typo or an obvious spelling mistake they’re lying) – but it does have to be professional.
  • look at our published stories to get a feel for what we buy.
  • zombies and vampires are a hard sell, but werewolves are always welcome.
  • we’re not into gratuitous gore or erotica – don’t send us anything you wouldn’t want your kid sister to see.
  • my mother used to ask me why, since there are millions of beautiful words in the English language, did I have to use that one? So, please be moderate with your swearing.
  • I’m not averse to a joke or two but ‘humorous sci-fi’ generally leaves me cold.
  • lots of high fantasy names will send us heading for the reject button.
  • ditto lots of backstory about your universe that swamps the plot.
  • thoughtful, character based stories are our thing.
  • don’t shy away from politics or religion but anything racist or deliberately offensive will get you canned.
  • if you’re writing science fiction, we’ve got to buy in to your world building. Hand-wavey pseudo science rarely impresses.
  • no fan-fic – we’ve no desire to get sued.
  • Enthusiasm, perseverance and an obvious willingness to take feedback and respond positively go a long way with us.

Our process for short stories is a first read by one of our team, where our favourites are recommended for hold, a review meeting, then we’ll either hold or reject (we’ll let you know which at this point). Held stories will be further reviewed closer to publication and the best sent contract offers.

I (Mark) do some first reading but chances are the first time I’ll get to see you story (if at all) is at the review stage. I then reformat all the stories still in the running into Palatino Linotype 10 point and single space them (I also change the page size to A4 if it’s in letter format – more to a page). Then I print them out. Clearly if you’ve sent me work in this format to begin with, I’ll be very happy (though please don’t go out of your way to do this) but we’ve specified Standard Manuscript Format to make life easier for you – it should be the default and most people who have been round the submissions block will expect editors to ask for it (particularly in the US and Canada). I’m an author too and it really bugs me when a market insists on quirky or market-specific formatting. It’s a pain and I want to make life straightforward.

I try to look at stories as objectively as possible but if I’m honest it’s hard to feel happy about reading a story when the writer has ignored our (pretty standard) guidelines. For instance, it’s common sense, I would have thought, that if I ask for full contact information I’m expecting an address (just like in the Shunn standard manuscript format example I’ve hyperlinked above). In reality, I don’t really need to know your full address, but I do want to know what country you’re from (and in the US, what State) because I want to do some analysis on that. It helps with our marketing, but it’s also important to ensure our authors don’t all come from, say, Wisconsin.

If I have to open your file to get a word count rather than reading it in your cover note or when I preview the file, I can’t guarantee that my subconsious isn’t going to roll its eyes and make me feel bad about a story I haven’t even read yet. (And please put your contact information in the body of the file and not the header because your header won’t come up when I preview your file).

If your cover note is just your standard bio byline (at best) without any of the things I’ve actually said I want in the cover note (a happy hello would be nice, as well) I have to fight the temptation to bin the story unread, and I’ll probably read it with my subconscious reminding me that the author’s rude and we don’t publish rude people. Apologies to most of you for stating the bleedin’ obvious here – but you’d be surprised at how some people present their work (I certainly am).

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