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Where Do I Send My Masterpiece?

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Jan. 7th, 2010 | 09:33 am
mood: hungryhungry

The Dragons fell through a dimensional portal some time ago. We have fought our way through legions of knights-errant, alien space fleets, killer robots and evil wizards (okay, several dimensional portals) but we are BACK! The lair was fairly well-trashed while we were gone, and DRAGON was distressed to find her treasure hoard sadly reduced. B&G’s collection of vintage armor was sadly rusted, and even now, she is hard at work with WD-40™, trying to clean it up. (Hey, some of those dimensions had really useful stuff in them!) But we’ve just about set the lair to rights and are ready to resume our advice line.

So we'll start with this letter, left lying near the lair's entrance. Looks kinda recent...

Dear Dragon,
How do you pick where to submit your stories? I have a fine, finished manuscript in hand, and no idea where to send it.
- Lost Outside Laredo

Where does a 2 ton dragon submit her stories? Anywhere she wants. Of course, threat of death is so gauche.

Dear LOL,
Where to send finished stories is a puzzle that has puzzled dragons for many centuries. Here in the lair, some of us will fiddle and tweak stories for eons past what is required. Some never send stories out at all. So many market lists, so little time!

The thing is, a story that is sitting in the Lair is not a story that is going to get sold. So we start with research.

First, what are your goals? Do you just want to see your name in print? Do you want to get paid big bucks...

(Er, sorry about the scorching. Bob and B&G can’t hold in their flames when they laugh.)

Back to your goals. If you want to become a professional, you need to send to professional markets, meaning markets that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America recognizes as a professional market. The list of these markets can be found here: SFWA Membership Requirements

If remuneration is not a key factor (you don’t care how much you get paid) there are a number of reliable market reports out there. This dragon is partial to Ralan's Webstravaganza, but by no means is that to imply that you should be exclusive. Several market report links are available elsewhere in the lair.

Read the market reports. Read the publications, whenever possible. (This can get expensive; sometimes at conventions, editors will give away older copies for free.) If you don’t like any of the stories in a magazine, or even if you don’t like most of them, chances are, the editor will not like your story, either. Look at the guidelines carefully. Everyone can state examples of people who sold things to Some Famous Magazine that were well outside the stated guidelines, but unless your name is Gene Wolfe, I wouldn’t try it.

Simply put, if the guidelines state, “no excessive violence” and you have a graphic virgin sacrifice on page 2, don’t send it. If the editor indicates that s/he hates dragons (we try not to take it personally) then don’t send your dragon story to that editor.

So, you want to be paid? Start with the highest-paying market that matches your story and work down.

Minimize rejections by not sending work to the wrong editors. If they specifically state in their guidelines that they do not want a particular type of story, don’t waste your time and theirs by sending a story outside their guidelines. (Most editors will say that if something is on the borderline, send it to them anyway and let them decide.) That said, the borderline is not wide. “No vampires with AIDS” means just that. (And how would an immortal being contract a disease, and what would it matter if he did? He’s not going to suffer any ill effects, and anyone he bites is going to be kind of dead to worry about antiretrovirals.)

It all comes down to research, research, research. And remembering that an editor can neither accept nor reject a story that never leaves your hard drive.

At one time, submitting stories always meant trips to the post office, tons of postage and long, long waits. Now, most editors accept email submissions. Which, for some reason, doesn’t eliminate the long waits. But it sure is cheaper, and considering how much of DRAGON’s hoard got looted while we were gone...

Dear LOL:
(Mmmm...I’ve been dormant for so long my claws have gone dull. Must find some steel plate armor to sharpen them.)

Some mortals would tell you to start small, to test your strength against lesser imps and goblins first. I say: Sink your claws in and go for the treasure! (Well, not ours. We’ll roast you for a snack and take turns picking our teeth with your editing pencil. But you get the idea.) After all, how will you know if you have the key to the Hoard of Shiny Brass Rings if you never dare to try the lock?

Moonchild summed it up well. I would add that some markets don’t pay much, but have reputations that make a sale to them worth several lesser hoards. Don’t rule those out too quickly.

Dear Lost Outside Laredo,

Well, little Lost Outside Laredo. Listen here. While you're gobbling up venues think about where your fine manuscript fits and when you do seek a home for it, carefully consider the submissions guidelines. What Moonchild said. It bears re-eating. Check the guidelines. Sometimes the better fit is not the pro-market but if you're bent on sending them to the top markets first consider the faster responding ones. In-Patients doesn't like waiting long herself but must chew on patients in the long bleak waiting room of response times.

Don't feel bad if your short tails are being neglected because you're working on your big tails but don't forget them entirely. The little tails are rudders to help you make the big sails fly straight...

As you know, this issue appears to have caused a kerfuffle in the internets lately. The truth is...different writers have different paths.

Here's Bob's plan. For each story, make a planned submissions list:

1) Research the markets
Do some on-line market research (This Dragon likes Duotrope.), read the guidelines, and do some physical research. Actually look through some of the magazines to which you're considering submitting. Purchase some--you can spread the cost out over several people by swapping copies if the gold horde is running low. But get an idea of what the market publishes before you waste postage or electrons sending inappropriate words to them.
2) Pick your targets, considering:
a) Market Fit, b) Market Pay, and c) Market Response Times
If it fits the big markets, start there. Then work down your list. Does Bob ever submit to lower-paying markets, you ask? Yes, sometimes the story fits better in a niche market. Or sometimes the story will fit well in a market that doesn't pay a great deal, but is so full of editorial awesomeness and quality that the limited pay is offset by that factor.
3) Start submitting.

That's it. Go forth, hatchlings...and devour.

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