From The Editors

Submissions… What we’re looking for.

D.L. Winchester handles our business operations and serves as editor for our short fiction projects. He also takes on the occasional novella, but prefers to leave longer works to Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Cuthbert. He is currently working on our upcoming anthology, Stories to Take To Your Grave: Mortuary Edition.

The age-old question in writing is: “Why did you reject my work?”

There’s never going to be a perfect answer, but it usually boils down to: “Lack of resources.”

As an editor, anything I publish requires me to invest two finite resources: time and money. In a perfect world with unlimited supplies of both, I’d be able to work on everything submitted until it was ready to be published. But I’m not a multi-billionaire and my time machine’s flux capacitor is on the fritz, so I have to decide how to invest my resources to make the most of them. Unfortunately, that means sending a lot of rejections.

So how do you avoid getting a rejection? Let’s look at my process first, and once you understand how I work, I’ll tell you what it takes to succeed in the dreaded slush pile.

I’m a writer too, and I hate waiting months to get a response. My approach is to attack the slush pile as often as possible and get the decisions sent out as soon as I’ve made them. 

For anthologies, that means you should receive an email telling you that you’ve either made the long list or been rejected within a week of submitting.

For collections and novellas, that means I’ll either ask for a complete manuscript or send a rejection within a week. 

I’m very picky about anthology submissions. One of my criteria I call the “fifteen minute rule.” If it’s going to take me more than fifteen minutes of work to edit the piece, I’m probably going to pass on it. Naturally, the time requirement varies with the word count of the submission, but in general, I’m looking for pieces that are almost ready to publish that I’m not going to have to invest a lot of time in.

That criteria is a little more relaxed for short story collections and chapbooks. Since I don’t have to run a slush pile, I can devote a little more time to editing. I still want to see solid, polished work, but I’ll be more likely to take a chance on a piece that isn’t quite where I want it.

If I’m looking for a novella, I will usually put out a call detailing what I’m looking for as far as sub-genre and other details. 

So now that you know how I operate, what’s going to make you stand out in my slush pile? I’m looking for stories I get lost in, stories that make me turn off my editor brain and read. The things that do that consist of smooth, polished prose that tells a complete story without too many detours off topic.

Adherence to the call is important, especially when it comes to the theme, but it’s not a complete deal-breaker. An amazing story that’s slightly outside the call parameters is more likely to be accepted than a story that hits every technical detail but fails to come to life as I’m reading it.

The challenge of submissions will always be that you, the writer, don’t know exactly what I, the editor, am looking for. I try to give you as much information as I can, both in the call and in social media posts prior to the deadline, but at the end of the day, all you can do is write the best story you can and submit it. If you write a story that comes to life as I read it, you have a pretty good chance of moving out of the slush pile to the long list, the short list, and an acceptance.

Coming up in 2024 after the Mortuary Edition, I’ve got a pair of anthologies scheduled. 

The first is called Judicial Homicide: Tales from the Execution Chamber. This charity anthology will benefit Witness to Innocence, an organization that works with those exonerated from death row. 

Our second anthology is another edition of Stories to Take To Your Grave. This edition’s theme is “Winter Wonderland,” horror stories that take place in the winter. While stories about Christmas won’t be rejected outright, we are looking for stories that focus more on the season than the holidays.

Hopefully you’ll submit, and armed with this knowledge, be accepted!

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