Okay, so you’ve written a short story. You’ve found a call for submissions or a publisher that deals in shorts, and you’re ready to go. The hard part is over, right? Well, not exactly, but the process of getting it submitted doesn’t have to be torture, either.
In the end, querying a short story for inclusion in an anthology isn’t all that different from querying a novel. My three main pieces of advice are the same, no matter the length of your work: 1) Keep It Simple, Stupid, 2) Follow the Directions, and 3) Keep Your Head On Straight.
1) Keep It Simple, Stupid: Here’s the good news about submitting a short: it’s a short. The query letter should be similarly fun-sized. Remember, if it’s for an anthology, the editor is reading hundreds if not thousands of submissions. All they need are the basics.
Here’s a nice, basic format for a short story query letter:
Dear [Insert Editor Name Here]:
[Title of Story] is a completed, [word count] word short story, written with [name of anthology] in mind.
[One short paragraph about the premise of the story. Hook the editor in. Make it enticing, like a mini-blurb for the back cover of a book. Two to three sentences, max.]
[One short paragraph about you, including your real name and your pen name. Include any publication credits you already have. If you don’t have any, referring to yourself as “a working writer” is a delicate way of saying you’re still working on it. This is good place to mention your memberships in any writing organizations. It is not a good time to bring up the name of your pet or that you’re desperate for money or that your story is JUST PERFECT for this anthology. Just the facts. Keep it simple. Again, two to three sentences, max.]
Thank you for your time and consideration.
[Your real name]
[all of your contact information]
Before you ask, yes, you do need to write a query letter. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, paste it into the body of your email, preferably as plain text. Ta-da!
2) Follow the Directions: Most editors for anthologies will tell you exactly what they want. Give it to them.
- If they ask for your story as an attachment, send it as an attachment. If they specify a preferred file format, send it in that format. (If they don’t, .doc or .rtf are your safest bets.) If they ask for the story to be pasted into the body of the email, for goodness’s sake, paste it into the body of the email.
- They have almost certainly specified a word count range. Follow it. Again, this poor editor is reading a ton of submissions. If you’re outside the requested word count range, it’s the quickest, easiest rejection that editor will ever have to send.
3) Keep Your Head On Straight: Remember, it’s just a short story. It probably wasn’t a huge investment of your time to write, and if it isn’t chosen, it is not the end of the world. If you’re patient, you can probably submit it to a different call someday if an appropriate one comes along, or you can always post it as a free read on your website, which is great for promotion.
Also, a rejection is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of the story or on your writing. The editor’s job is not just to pick great stories—it’s also to assemble a seamless, cohesive collection of stories. If your piece isn’t a good fit for the way the anthology is shaping up, or if it is too similar to another story the editor has already chosen, it might not make the cut, no matter how wonderful it is. (Veteran editor Rachel Kramer Bussel has a very nice article about this, which you may find enlightening.)
Hopefully, these tips will help you get your story ready to submit and give you the guts to click that big scary ‘send’ button.
And in case you still haven’t found any good opportunities to try your hand at short fiction, here are a couple calls for submission for romance short stories and novellas that caught my eye this week:
Holiday Magic with Scandalous
Submission Deadline: July 15, 2013
Guidelines: Any winter themed holiday historical romance taking place from 900-1949 with a word count between 10,000-20,000.
Commanding Desire: Military Erotic Romance
Editor: Kristina Wright
Publisher: Cleis Press
Submission Deadline: September 1, 2013
Guidelines: Erotic romance involving a military hero. 2,500-4,500 words, primarily heterosexual pairings with a female audience in mind.