Monday, September 2, 2019

Submitting My Work: The September Submission Challenge

I've written a lot more things than have made it into print. I'm learning, as I work to build a writing career, that submitting your work is another part time job.

I'm working five jobs now, by my reckoning:
  • Full time middle school teaching
  • Full time mothering teenagers and a rescue dog, and running a household
    • This part is getting easier now that my girls are older; and I'm lucky in having a hands-on partner, too. 
  • Part time writing
  • Part time marketing my already published writing
  • Part time submitting my writing (or preparing it for indie publishing: I'm working on my first all-indie project now!)
Whew! Starting to wonder when I'm going to sleep. Still, I love all these jobs and I'm not-so-secretly a work-aholic, so this is a very "me" kind of schedule.

Another writer (Ray Daley) laid down a gauntlet this September, proposing a September Submission Challenge, in which you submit one piece of your writing every day this month. He even made a calendar of suggested venues to submit, too, and since he's a speculative fiction writer like me, I'll be giving a lot of these a try.

So, here on Labor Day, I'm one ahead! I plan to update this post as I go as a way to track what I've done.

Sunday, September 1st: I sent my science fiction story, "The New Guy"  (3172 words) to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. According to my Duotrope stats, they have rejected six of my short stories previously, four of them with personal comments/critique. (That's a big deal, and encouraging from a larger venue like this one).

Monday, September 2nd: I sent "Gifts of the Mag-Eyes" (7577 words) to Clarkesworld, Ray's suggested venue for today. Clarkesworld has rejected five of my short stories previously; they don't generally give personal commentary, but they do have fast turn around, so they don't leave you hanging.

As a bonus, I sent "The Urgings of Ravens" (1652 words) to Lackington's special issue on Birds. I happened to run across the call in an email from Authors Publish with themed publication calls, and took that as my impetus to finish a story I started quite some time back (2015, I think).
  • Rejection: Uncanny: "Under an Orange Sky" (4980 words), submitted on August 29 (so not technically part of this challenge). 
Tuesday, September 3rd: Ray's suggested venue was Speculative City, a new one to me. I worried I didn't have a suitable story since their call is for "provocative works that are centered in a cityscape" and this month, they specifically ask for a theme of "industry." Then, I realized "The New Guy" is a good fit for that and, um, luckily? it was just rejected by F&SF today, so it's available. 
  • Rejection: F&SF: "The New Guy" submitted on September 1st. Told you these guys are fast!
  • Rejection: Clarkesworld: "The Gifts of the Mag-Eyes" submitted on September 2nd. I think I felt the breeze when that one went by. Bullet train fast. 
NOTE: The speed of rejection is actually a relief. Too often in the publishing world, your work languishes in an in-box somewhere before it even gets the first-level glance. Though it always stings to have a story rejected, I'd rather it come quickly and leave me free to try another venue!

Wednesday, September 4th: Daily Science Fiction has rejected seven of my stories in the past five years. Looking back, two of those stories weren't up to snuff. The others, I still believe in and hold out hope of placing. I've been a longtime reader of DSF, and they publish quite a variety of stories. Here's hoping "Chamber of Delights" (584 words) is the first one of mine they like enough to publish.

As a bonus submission, I also sent "Starving Artist" (222 words) to Scum, a magazine I've been interested in for a while. They're open to submissions during the first seven days of each month and I thought of them when I was looking through stories for something to send to DSF.
  • Rejection from Lackington's for "The Urgings of Ravens." Sad. They did mention that their birds theme is open until September 15 . . . (off to look through my unpublished pile for anything applicable)
Thursday, September 5th: Trouble Among the Stars is a new venue for me. I appreciated that they have an issue or two available to read for free. It helps give a feel for what kind of stories and themes they like. So, I sent them "Under an Orange Sky" (4980 words). Wish me luck!

As a bonus, I revised and expanded a story about harpies to give Lackington's another try, hoping that were intending to encourage me to submit again from the wording of their rejection earlier. "Boy Chick" (1529 words) is now under consideration. I'm feeling very pleased with it right now, but the "ink" is still fresh on it, so we'll see :-)

Friday, September 6th: The suggested venue tonight was Asimov's, a prestigious science fiction magazine that has rejected four of my stories in the past. Looking at what I have available right now, I don't think I have a story that's a good fit for them (I have the impression that they like their scifi harder than what I usually write, and they've already rejected the hardest scifi I've written thus far), so I went to my submission opportunity calendar (just a sub-calendar in my google account where I record publication opportunities I run across and have interest in) to see where I might submit instead.

I found Claw & Blossom, a magazine with a focus on the natural world. I sent them "Persistence" (232 words) a bit of flash fiction I wrote last October and haven't yet found a home for, though I think it's among the more sadly beautiful things I have written.

I also had publication news today! Dave Higgins announced the release date for Deadman Humour: 13 Fears of a Clown, appropriately enough next Friday, a Friday-the-thirteenth!

I wrote "The Gleewoman of Preservation" specifically for this call, which was for stories about what frightens clowns. The cover is quite disturbing and I'm anxious to see what the other authors included came up with!

Saturday, September 7th: It's nice to get to this earlier in the day. Hurray for weekends!

Today's proposed venue is Analog Science Fiction and Fact, a professional level magazine (SFWA qualifying) that I'd love to see my work in. Since earning membership in SFWA is one of my personal goals, I've been submitting to this tier of magazines more frequently, though I have yet to have any work accepted by them. Higher, faster, further, baby!

Analog has rejected three of my stories previously.

I sent them "Gifts of the Mag Eyes" (7577 words) today. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, September 8th: Flash Fiction Online accepts stories between 500 and 1000 words, and "She Cries in the Night" is 999 words. That's got to be a sign, right? Guess we'll find out! FFO has rejected two of my stories in the past, so maybe this is a case of "third time's a charm."

No rejections in a few days, but no acceptances either. Having so many pieces out at the same time keeps me from spending much mental energy worrying over any one of them. An odd side effect of this challenge is feeling relieved when something gets rejected, because then I have it in my list of options to resubmit later in the month. My brain is a weird place.

Monday, September 9th: Every Day Fiction has rejected one of my stories and apparently I've only tried them the one time. I sent them "Rorschach's Ceiling" (593 words). It's a little more straight literary than what I usually write, but it looks like they publish quite a variety, so we'll see what they think.
  • I must have jinxed it by saying "no rejections" yesterday. Lackington's declined "Boy Chick" today. 
Tuesday, September 10th: Interzone was today's suggested venue. I hadn't actually heard of this one, though a little research tells me I ought to have. It's got a long and prestigious history. In my reckoning of the relative quality of all of my unpublished work, "Adam of the North" (7801 words) stands out. I'm proud of it and think it has potential to "make it big" so that's what I sent them.

Though I have never submitted to Interzone, poor Adam has had a rough go of it so far. He's been rejected by six other magazines, all of them bigger, SFWA-qualifying venues. Two of those came with comments (getting a rejection with comments is quite a compliment--many places just don't do that at all, and those that do, do so sparingly and a sign that the story was an "almost"), and I have revised a bit with those in mind, so here's hoping!

Wednesday, September 11th: The proposed venue tonight is Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Unfortunately, they clearly ask for stories with a strong secondary world feel, and everything I have ready at this point is more "real world with a twist."

So, instead I sent two short horror stories to an anthology call I read about in a Facebook group I follow for such things (Open Call, which BTW, is also where I found Ray and his September Submission challenge). Horror for the Throne wants 500-2000 word horror stories ("toilet read" lengths). They're offering $20 for reprints, so I sent them "Contamination" (502 words) and "Michael's Miracle" (1528 words), two stories previously published in magazines.

Thursday, September 12th: Three Lobe Burning Eye Magazine has previously rejected one of my short stories. I sent them "Boy Chick" because their submissions page says, "We like voices that are full of feeling, from literary to pulpy, with styles unique and flowing, but not too experimental. All labels aside, we want tales that expand genre, that value imagination in character, narrative, and plot." Sounds like they might like it.
  • Rejection: "Adam of the North" was rejected by Interzone with a simple, but friendly form letter. Poor Adam. No one loves him like I do. At least not yet.  
Friday, September 13th: Busy busy night here at home. And I'm ahead on number of submissions, so I let tonight go. No submissions. And hey, also no rejections :-)

Saturday, September 14th: Today's proposed venue is Electric Spec. I sent them "Wonderboy's Last Flight" in late June and haven't heard back yet (their own estimates on the website say: "This can take a few days, or, up to three months."). The submission guidelines specifically ask that you only send one story at a time (which is my general policy anyway), so I can't send them anything right now.

So, I went to my own calendar of publication opportunities again and found Shenendoah. I'm intrigued by their enthusiasm to publish excerpts from novels-in-progress: "NOVEL EXCERPTS under 8,000 words will be considered with great enthusiasm. Beth plans to publish an excerpt from a novel-in-progress during each issue of Shenandoah, with a note from the author about their process and what it’s like to be in the middle of a big project. She knows writers at this stage need support, and would like Shenandoah to be a place where they can get some." I sent them some of The Architect and the Heir, my current WIP, a gothic romance novel.
  • Rejection: "She Cries in the Night" was politely declined (form letter) by Flash Fiction Online.
Sunday, September 15th: Halfway through the challenge, I sent "She Cries in the Night" to Not One of Us, a venue looking for explorations of the problem of "otherness." As of today, I've sent out 18 submissions (some of them the same story rejected and sent back out), and received six rejections.

Monday, September 16th: Today's proposed venue is Strange Horizons, a magazine which has previously rejected four of my short stories. I'd tried my longer work on them in the past and noted today that they while they accept stories up to 10,000 words, they state a preference for stories under 5,000 words. So, I decided to send them something shorter. "Moondance" (1502 words). Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 17th: The Future Fire is a new venue for me. Their submissions page "welcomes submissions of speculative fiction with progressive, inclusive and socially aware disposition. We are particularly interested in feminist, queer, postcolonial and ecological themes, and writing by under-represented voices." I sent them "Urgings of Ravens." Let's see what they think of it. 
  • Polite rejection from Horror for the Throne, salving the wound by talking about the large number of submission received. 
Wednesday, September 18th: Chrome Baby is another magazine I'd not yet encountered. I read a couple of stories as I poked around the site trying to decide what among my own work might appeal to them. My quick reconnoiter suggests that they prefer their fiction dark and angsty. I sent "Black Birds at Dawn" (696 words) a piece I ran back across when looking for something else in the past few days.

This challenge definitely has me combing through old documents seeing what I've got that I never did anything with. For that alone, I value this work, though of course I still hope that at least one of these submissions will come to fruition.

Thursday, September 19th: Instead of Ray's proposed venue for tonight, I went to my personal submissions opportunity calendar and found The Furious Gazelle's Halloween contest. I'm a huge fan of Halloween (hence my 31 days of Halloween posts last year) and had a few different stories I thought might do well.

The contest allows for up to 5,000 words in whatever combination you'd like up to five pieces. I sent four flash fiction pieces: "Element of Surprise" (593 words), "The Captain's House" (249 words), "What Geraldine Saw" (1419 words), and "Cure for Pain" (266 words).

Three of those began as part of #nightmarefuel a flash fiction prompt writing event I often participate in during October. "What Geraldine Saw" had felt unfinished to me when I last revisited it, so I worked on it tonight before sending, adding about 700 words and bringing it to a much more satisfying ending place.

Friday, September 20th: The proposed venue today is Syntax & Salt, a new venue for me. The tone of the submission page is maybe just a bit, well, salty. I like that, so I went digging for something to send them. I found "What I Can See" (711 words) which hopefully strikes that balance of "speculative fiction with a literary bent" they asked for.

At this point, most of my previously submitted work is back out there being considered, so I'm pushing through work that has been languishing in my Finished? folder (literally the name of the folder: where I put stories that I "finished" but haven't spent the time to work over and make publication ready, or stories I have doubts are actually finished and plan to come back to some day). So, that's a bonus for me, in that it creates more work, that at least in my own opinion, is publication ready.

Saturday, September 21st: Too much life in my life today and I didn't get to submit anything at all. Luckily, I am ahead on number of submissions, so I'm still on track with my challenge.

Sunday, September 22nd: It's a home project heavy weekend, but I found a little time for submissions today and sent "Adam of the North" (7801 words) to AGNI. AGNI is a new venue to me.

This line from their submissions page caught my eye: "We do not publish genre romance, horror, mystery, or science fiction; however, we are open to writing that borrows elements from any of these." I take that to mean that if a story "feels" literary, it can use nonrealistic elements and be welcomed at AGNI.

I have mixed feelings about that. As a "genre writer" I do get frustrated with the literary snobbiness and how some speculative fiction is okay so long as its not categorized as speculative fiction, like it's the category and not the actual quality that matters. I read and write both, so we'll see what they make of Adam, a story that's "literary" in its origins (in Frankenstein: one of the oldest "genre" books there is, but one that gets studied in college).

  • Rejection: Claw and Blossom passed on "Persistence" with a polite form letter. 
  • Rejection: Speculative City declined "The New Guy." They use a system called Green Submissions as their submissions manager. I've submitted to a couple of other magazines that use it, and it is my least favorite of all submissions managers I've worked with so far. Even though I carefully track my passwords, Green Submissions always tells me my password is incorrect, so I had to go through a password reset process just to read my form rejection. Annoying. 
  • Rejection: Scum passed on "Starving Artist," with a polite form letter. 
Monday, September 23rd: Today's proposed venue is Sirius Science Fiction, a blog based magazine from Lou Antonelli. I enjoyed the humor of the most recently published story, so I thought I'd given them a try and sent them "The New Guy" freshly returned from the publication mines. No other writing news today.

Tuesday, September 24th: The Weird and Whatnot sounds like my kind of magazine--thanks for the tip, Ray. So, I sent them "Starving Artist" (2011 words, the longer version). No other writing news today, though I did make some revisions on the beginning of my novel (which I've let languish while I spent my limited writing time each day on the business of submitting my work).

Wednesday, September 25th: Wordfire Press is putting together a fun anthology. The Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem Anthology asks for "Original short stories that feature a monster in a movie setting, to include a mix of science fiction, fantasy, horror, alien, magical, witchcraft, AI, and romance elements. Must be appropriate for a “PG-13” audience. Please, no copyrighted characters and no real movies."

Sounds fun. I'll have to watch for this one to read, even if they don't take my story. I'm a fan of old monster movies. The Gill-man is my favorite, though I haven't written any stories with him, so I'm sending them a vampire story "The Cleaning Lady" (643 words).

  • Rejection today, but not technically part of this challenge, since the submission was from July. Oklahoma Pagan Quarterly also uses Green Submissions, which also did not accept my password and made me go through a password reset process just to read a form rejection. I don't think I'll submit to anything else that uses Green Submissions. Too annoying. 
Thursday, September 26th: Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores has previously rejected one of my short stories. Today, I sent them "The Satyr and the Maiden" (583 words). I took the opportunity to revise it just a little, and I like it all the better for the small changes.

Friday, September 27th: Oh my but today is busy! I've got a teacher workday followed by a girl scout meeting and then an evening reading event at the library.

But I was determined to fit in a submission. It appears that today's proposed venue, Compelling Science Fiction, is closing. So, I went to my own collection on my submission calendar and found Event, an interesting-sounding Canadian literary magazine. I have a little piece called "The Beginning of You" (688 words) which is a sort of hybrid, hard-to-categorize piece. I've begun trying it in more literary venues, so we'll see what Event thinks.

I also received acknowledgement of a submission from last week, a note from my audiobook editor letting me know that she'd making progress on the first book (yay!), and a note from an anthology editor checking to see if I can meet a deadline to be included in the next volume (which I totally can!). So, pretty good for a day when I feel like a chicken with its head cut off running about the barnyard.

Saturday, September 28th: I did my submission early today since it was a busy one. I had a table at the Local Authors Book Fair held by my Friends of the Public Library.

Today's recommended venue was Mithila Review, a brand new venue for me. I sent them "Persistence." Fingers crossed.

I had the odd sensation of success mixed with failure in that I received two rejections while I was at the Book Fair successfully shilling my books.

Writing life is nothing if not a roller coaster, but it's disconcerting to go up and down at the one and same time.
  • Not One of Us rejected "She Cries in the Night" with a simple form letter. 
  • Daily Science Fiction rejected "Chamber of Delights" with a kindly worded form letter.  
Sunday, September 29th: The Overcast is a podcast out of the Pacific Northwest. I decided to try them for a bit of superhero fiction: "Moonlighting in the Park" (4865 words), featuring Patricia of the Menopausal Superhero series.

Monday, September 30th: Alas, I learned *after* I had submitted last night that The Overcast was *not* actually open for submission right now. So, that submission will likely be deleted unread. I wish more venues made that information the top line on the submissions page, so we could easily avoid wasting each other's time.

So, today, I sent a drabble to Alban Lake Publishings Drabble Contest #15. "Legacy" fit their theme of "Treasure Hunt" and I enjoy trying out this microforms. Writing something this succinct is its own special challenge.

Since yesterday's submission doesn't count, I also sent "Breakfast at the Twilight Café" (803 words) to Tell-Tale Press, about whom I heard in the discussion on Open Call about this very submission challenge.

So, there we go. I made it! 30 days, shooting for one submission a day. At month's end I have:

  • Made 35 submissions
  • Received 13 rejections
  • Revised/Finished 6 pieces, adding to my "ready to submit" catalogue of pieces
  • Submitted to 19 venues I had never submitted to before

I appreciate the challenge Ray set out. It got me "off my duff" when it came to submitting my work. Now, I'm anxious to spend next month writing all the words, because I found that I don't have enough hours in the day to both submit a story a day and make progress on my current WIPs at the same time. 

Ray's running the challenge again in January, and depending on where I am with my other projects, I may participate again. It's good to give the "business" end of a writing life the focus of my energy and despite the thirteen rejections so far, I'm hopeful that at least one of these will lead to publication for one of my stories or at least a new contact for future projects. 

Tonight, though? I'm glad it's over. I'm not going to submit anything tomorrow!


  1. Good luck with submitting this month.

  2. You know, it never occurred to me to re-submit to places that have rejected my work. Maybe I need to re-think my submission strategy.

    1. When I get a kind rejection, it often says that they hope I'll keep them in mind for future work. I take them at their word and keep trying. :-)

  3. My rejections have been just as quick. Charlie Finlay at F&SF is always quick, Neil Clarke is known for fast turnarounds & The Dark Magazine shot me down the same day I subbed. Black Static only took a few days as well.

    It's all part of the subs process, learning to handle your rejections as they come, and moving on in a professional manner, rather than taking them personally.

    It's really lovely to hear someone blogging their way through the challenge, all my stats are going up on Facebook & Twitter as usual. @RayDaleyWriter to follow my stats progress and see ALL market links I'm sharing this year.

    1. Yeah. I mean it when I say I appreciate a fast rejection. Way better than languishing unread for months.

  4. The Weird And Whatnot were the 1st market to pay me for a horror story. Very nice folks, loved working with them. This is why they made my list.

  5. Wow! This is so helpful for me.
    I am joining the challenge, a month late, but still, I can do this.
    Thanks for sharing :)

    1. The Overcast were actually closed, not open until next month. Use Constellary Tales or F&SF. Or any of the spare horror markets.

    2. Bummer! I'm sorry I missed that. I made up for the mistake with an extra submission today though!

  6. Massive congratulations on 35 subs, that is brilliant! I'm so pleased you got so much out of a simple idea. I was really knackered yesterday bit still managed to get my write-up done:-