Your story submission to an editor is the first impression you make to them. Just as you would not go to a job interview barefoot (even if it was for a lifeguard position), there are certain things you need to do with each and every submission. As I write this, it’s been an incredibly curious week in the slush pile, so I thought I would throw some examples/suggestions your way.
“The Bees Knees” arrives and looks pretty normal. Cover letter, and the attachment is in the DOC format. So far, so good. But the story itself is 8000 words long when I open it. I look back to the cover letter. “As per your guidelines,” the author writes.
The problem: If the writer had read Shimmer‘s guidelines, they would know we don’t accept stories longer than 5000 words, unless one queries and attaches the first page of the story.
The solution: Read the guidelines. Always and forever. If you cannot afford to snag a sample issue of every magazine you want to submit to, read their guidelines. Everything you need to know is there. Know them. Follow them. An editor will love you for this simple thing.
“The Honey Hive” arrives and at first glance, there’s not much to see. Looks like the author attached an RTF, but, that’s all there is. No cover letter, no bio, no background.
The problem: Receiving a story like this often feels like a slap to the face with a wet fish. While newspapers are thrown onto porches throughout the world, stories are not newspapers and should not be thusly flung.
The solution: Learn how to write a basic cover letter. We aren’t asking for an essay, and certainly not a summary (these aren’t novels), just a hello. This is your first impression–make it a good one. “Dear Editor, please find my story of #-words enclosed for your consideration. I have published here, there, but not yet everywhere. I am a member of SFWA, thank you for your time.” (Gra has written about cover letters, and so have I before!) There’s no need to include your complete bibliography; your three most recent sales will do. And if you don’t have any yet, don’t sweat it.
“Sweet Stings” arrives, and the author has written a great cover letter; no story summary, just telling us the basic facts, and mentioning our guidelines. At first glance, it looks like it fits what we want, but then, the attachment says DOCX.
The problem: The author has sent us a format we can’t read.
The solution: Shimmer accepts stories in DOC and RTF formats. The end. Word 2010 and onward makes this a challenge, as Microsoft saw fit to change their standard, but it’s not impossible. When you send the proper format, it makes for a smoother process for everyone, and you, the writer, don’t have to go back and do it all over again. Read the guidelines. Submit accordingly.
And write on, bees. Write on!