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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Evaluating Submission Guidelines

   
Author Topic: Evaluating Submission Guidelines
rcmann
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I have been thinking about something, and I would really value some input from more experienced people. It strikes me that there is s significant variation in the way different publication phrase their guidelines. I am not talking about manuscript format, or submission method. Those are fairly standardized I think.

I mean, for example, Clarkesworld has an entire page dedicated to listing, in what reads to me like somewhat testy detail, the type of story that they most emphatically are *not* willing to publish. I can almost hear the growling when I read it. Other places list the things they don't want, but not to the same degree. Still others concentrate on listing what they *do* want, and almost don't bother with going into the negative listing.

What I'm wondering is this - is there a noticeable correlation between acceptance rates and/or how easy an editor is to work with, vs. the type and length of the submission guidelines a publication posts? In other words, are the pickier ones harder to sell to? Easier? And what about working with different places? Come to that, is there a real difference between what gets posted as official guidelines, and the actual approach to reviewing that a mag uses?

Anyone got a clue? I have none.

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Robert Nowall
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Since my history is rejection, and since, of late, the rejection slips come with no indication of why other than form-letter-vague statements, I can't really say. (I admit my stuff "falls between the stools," as they say, stories that fit neither their guidelines nor their published examples---but I send things on to them anyway.)

I can't vouch for Clarkesworld, but some of the markets I do look into (and occasionally read) have published things that violate their stated guideline standards---sometimes under a previous editor, but sometimes right there in the current issue.

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Osiris
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Rather than try to figure out how difficult a market is to break into based on their submission guidelines, just use Duotropes statistics. Clarkesworld is indeed one of the pickiest markets based on statistics, but they are also one of the fastest to reject. So, I send many of my stories there because I know I won't lose a lot of time if they reject it, and if they do accept, than great, I'd be very proud to be published there.

My experience is that you stand a better chance of selling a story if the story fits the market. For my two pubs, the first was a memoir sold to a mag interested in social issues, which is what the memoir deals with. The second was a quirky zombie story, and that sold to an anthology that based on its title and description, seemed to welcome quirk.

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JenniferHicks
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Not to state the obvious, but the best way to know whether there's a correlation between a magazine's guidelines and what it publishes is to read the magazine. And, as Osiris says, Duotrope acceptance/rejection stats are a good way to gauge a market's pickiness. Pro magazines like Clarkesworld get hundreds of submissions per month and publish only two or three. So what you send them not only has to follow the guidelines but also be extraordinary in its own right.

Also some markets are kind enough to post their own stats. Clarkesworld does. Here's the breakdown for January.

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GreatNovus
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Wow they pay pretty darn good to and a two day turn around is top notch.
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BoredCrow
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Well, I can provide feedback from the "other side." I'm a slush editor for Flash Fiction Online - basically, I read half of all our submissions.

I've noticed that pro markets in general tend to have more detailed submissions, but that's just because pro magazines get more slush. And it's amazing how many nearly identical stories or ideas we get, over and over and over and over. Strange Horizon has a list of stories they see too often, in even more intense detail than Clarkesworld. (http://www.strangehorizons.com/guidelines/fiction-common.shtml). My personal view is that the guidelines are meant to be humorous, though surely they're produced out of frustration as well.

Writing the perfect guidelines is tough. It's a balance between being concise but then not getting the submissions you want - and then being so wordy that no one can get around to finishing the list.

Really though, I don't think magazines write detailed guidelines in an attempt to be picky - but in an attempt to answer submitters who want to know the best ways to get published. Wish I could say there was a magical formula - but alas, I haven't found one to use for my stories either.

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