Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Preparing a Story for Submission in 3 Steps

Your story's done. You've hacked it up, chewed on it, and spit out what is clearly the work of a brilliant storyteller. Ingenious, you say! You've even found a market, which will most assuredly adore your masterpiece as much as you do. (If you need help finding markets, check out our Market Research page.)

But wait...

What's next? What do you do now? You're in a panic, sweating a little, and are those tears?

Worry not, masterful wordsmith, for I shall illuminate the pathway through the murky woods that is the submission process. Really though, it's not that hard and only hurts a little.

1. Follow the market's submission guidelines. I know it seems like common sense, but the largest error in most submissions is a failure to follow directions. Make sure you read the submission guidelines carefully. They will have information on how to properly format your manuscript for the market, what file format to attach it in, where to email, etc.

2. Use standard manuscript formatting unless the market's submission guidelines state otherwise. The industry standard for short story manuscripts is a double spaced, first-line indented, 12 point font in either Courier or Times. Full details can be found at

3. When it comes to cover letters, less is more. Unless the guidelines specifically ask for a full bio, just include your story title, word count, and relevant publishing credits. That last bit is key: relevant. If you have an extensive publishing history, choose your biggest and most successful sales. If you don't have any history, just say Thank you for your time. You can also include professional memberships, such as the SFWA or RWA, or creative writing degrees like an MFA. But a full list of everything you've ever done is not necessary and often makes an editor's eyes glaze over. When in doubt, keep it short and sweet.

Now, happy subbing W1S1ers!


  1. Thank you for such helpful points. Greatly appreciated.

    1. You're welcome! I hope they help make the submission process as painless as possible. :)

  2. Thank you, Stephanie! I especially appreciate #3. I always stumble over the cover letter and what to include. Now I know! :)

    1. Anytime Von! If you have specific questions, feel free to reply to the comment and I'll see if I can help. I read a ton of cover letters and would be happy to share whatever insights I can.