Shorts, poetry, and flash are great opportunities to exercise your writing skills as well as getting your name on a bookshelf. Yes, we all have a magnum opus either in our heads or on Amazon, but those aren’t written in a mere week. Large works are tough to sell – and guess what? So are the small works!
It’s true, but if you are new to the writing biz, you’ll have a better chance of publishing exposure beyond the indie/vanity presses if you gather the guts and submit. But first, there are a few pointers I’d like to share with you Manaballers. After all, I’ve been published a whopping THREE times this month with a fourth and fifth hopefully on the way. Ahem… So, here’s what worked for me:
Where to Find Calls for Submissions?
Facebook. I know, everyone secretly hates the damn thing, but as an author, this is a powerful tool. Yes, you get to first meet really cool people on Twitter, but hog calls for collections and anthologies don’t always pop up on the feed. It scrolls past faster than goose turds through a tin horn and you only get 140 characters to advertise. Every time I’ve been published (or attempted to publish), I had heard the battle cry on Facebook. It’s as detailed as the publisher wants it to be and it allows other applicants to hook up and compare notes.
Get to Know the Publisher.
I’ve been published by James Ward Kirk’s horror anthologies three times so far. First, in Serial Killers Tres Tria, then in his anthology Bones, and just the other day I had secured a story for Ugly Babies. James and his fleet of editors are now my friends on Facebook and we not only talk about books, we also sit around and bullshit about anything, really. I don’t even consider him anything more or less than a friend now (Heh, I like to call him Cap’n – Trekkies will understand why). I’ve just become part of his scene.
Follow the Rules.
When you read the Facebook post for submissions, you must, and I cannot stress this more, MUST follow the submission guidelines to a “T“. The safest bet is to format your manuscript in the time-honored SHUNN style. If you have any questions about the submission’s parameters, email the publisher and ask. Yes, your story may rival the wordsmithing of Edgar Allan Poe, but don’t send the damn thing in between two pieces of white bread with mayo. You’re not Julian Schnable. Here is the precise format for the SHUNN style. Follow it. You will be thankful you did!
Newbies – Don’t Showboat.
This is just a piece of advice, but not set in stone. Say if the submission guidelines allow for twenty thousand words maximum, I’d err on something smaller. Look at it like this: You’re an indie or self-publisher new to the game. Fair enough, but if you write a tale that is 19,999 words and then Neil Gaiman submits against you, you’re going to get knocked out of the running no matter how tight your story. Why? Ink. Mr. Gaiman is a bigger draw than you just by name alone. A publisher will be hesitant to feature and spotlight an unknown over a bigger, better-established name. Sorry, that’s just business. I’d do the same thing if I were in their position. Don’t be afraid to submit a short story, but I’d keep the language economical until your name generates more buzz.
You’re a newb and you see the call on Facebook and you check the date. THREE DAYS UNTIL DEADLINE! Sure, give it a shot, but expect nothing. By this time, Stephen King and Tom Clancy have signed, sealed and delivered their contracts. I made this error when submitting to Neverland Library at the last minute. The good folks there said: “Yo, M.C. We loved your story, but we could not fit you in because so many well-established names are in the hopper at this point.” They even advised me to submit early in the future. I see their point. These babies fill up FAST! Work!
Don’t Go Broke on Edits.
I have a proofreader I pay to clean up my novels. These are 400+ page books. That really adds up to a pretty penny. For flashes and shorts, find other authors you trust in your social network and have them beta read it. My friend, the U.K. Horror/Bizarro author of Darke Times, David Eccles and I have an unsaid relationship to beta read each others works. Thus far, our efforts have worked well and this is very important. Every thing we’ve beta’d for each other has been published. Not bad. Use the buddy system. Find that author-friend you trust and develop that beta relationship. It really works in the end.
Stick with Your Fave Genre.
If you are a horror writer, I’d advise against branching into an erotica collection. The publisher will probably call the cops on you. (Of course,that would be pretty fuckin’ cool). But, yeah, you’ll have a better chance of acceptance if you stick with your usual mindset, and style. Besides, you’ll get a better buzz in the future if you huddle to your own ship than trying to jump the shark.
The Rule of Cool.
You do understand that you will get rejected in this business, right? Okay, glad we’re on the same page. My friend David Mack, yes, the author of Kabuki, says to always obey the Rule of Cool. Rejection is a part of any business, but definitely common for writing. Again, you WILL get rejections. Don’t take it personally. I’ve gone over the reasons you may not get the ink. but just like McDonald’s, it’s a business. Deal with it. But remember not to be an asshole when you get the boot. The publisher may not accept you THIS time, but maybe tomorrow? Keep your connections in your back pocket. Don’t chew-out a publisher who says “no.”
Okay, you’ve read this and you’re solid. Find it, write it, submit! Godspeed, you!
UPDATE: James Ward Kirk has informed me that he and Shawna Leigh Bernard are the sole editors for James Ward Kirk Fiction. Ms. Bernard is the mastermind behind the anthologies Ugly Babies and Cellar Door. This addenda was posted for clarification. Thank you.