Short Stories Are Not Novels!

There’s tons of information on-line about how to submit novels, but relatively little about submitting short stories. I think this has led to the misunderstanding that the novel-submitting process is identical to the short story submitting process. While there is overlap, this is actually not as true as you’d imagine.

For novels, the basic idea is to write a query letter and a summary of your book and to send it to your carefully-researched list of agents and/or editors. Sending a query or manuscript to multiple people is called “simultaneous submission” and is generally okay at that stage in the process. Many novel submitting guides offer techniques to catch an agent or editor’s interest and quickly build a rapport with them.

So that’s novels.

But short stories are different. Unless the guidelines specify otherwise, there’s no need to summarize your story, simultaneous submission is not okay, and you don’t have to work quite as hard to catch our eye with your cover letter. While every short story magazine has its idiosyncrasies, those are the general guidelines. They’re certainly true for Shimmer.

A summary of your story is unnecessary and generally not desired.

Why?

Novels are LONG (70,000 words and up), and the slush pile is deep. There isn’t time to read everything. Agents and editors aren’t only looking to find out if your book is good, they want to know if it’s the right kind of book for them. A summary tells them the arc of a long work before they read it. It lets them know which books to read, and which are simply not right for their line.

But in the short story world, we’ll find out about your story when we read it, and honestly we get a better read going in without any foreknowledge besides the title (just like a reader picking up the magazine.) Summaries are hard to write and often make your story look less cool than it actually is. Let us judge your story, not your summary-writing skill.

More importantly, submitting a correct cover letter gives the editor confidence that you understand common submission process.

But here’s a wrinkle specific to Shimmer.

Our guidelines state that we prefer works of 5000 words or less. Many markets have a firm maximum word-count and don’t want to see anything above it, but we say, “but [if] you believe we would love it, please send us a query briefly describing the story along with the first page…”

Huh, that’s kind of like the novel submission process, isn’t it?

Yep, that’s because we get a lot of manuscripts to read every month, A LOT, but also because it’s less likely that we’ll buy a story over 5000 words, we want a short summary to know if it’s a story we’re interested in before we put in the time to read it.

Sim Subs

Check the guidelines; most magazines don’t allow simultaneous submissions.

It usually takes Shimmer from one to four weeks to get back to writers about their submissions. This may seem like a long time, but it’s actually pretty fast for the industry. This can get complicated and messy when a story is at multiple markets, so we ask that you wait until we’ve given you an answer till you send it somewhere else.

Do you need to catch our eye with a flashy cover-letter?

Nah, a quick hello is often the best policy.

It can be hard to build rapport with people you don’t know, and it’s often better to just go for simple and professional. Tell us the name of your story, how long it is, and if you have previous sales, mention the best three. I have some example cover letters on my personal blog, and you can read Shimmer’s take on cover letters earlier in this series.

So that’s it!

Format your story correctly, put it in the e-mail with a short, polite cover-letter (the cover-letter should go in the body of the email) and hit send! We’ll do the rest. Get back to
writing!

Got any questions or war stories? Leave ’em in the comments section below.

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