Online Publishing – A Lesson in Patience: Part One

I’m very happy to say that I have now had the privilege of having my work accepted by a few different online-fiction sites. I’ve received a few rejections too, but whatchya gonna do. Overall, if there is one thing I am learning from the process it is patience.

Some e-zines will get back to you in a matter of days. Though I’m finding these sites are few and far between…and a quick response is that much more likely to be a rejection. Often it’s “If you don’t hear from us in a month or two, then you can send us a query.” And even after a query it may take a while to hear back.

For the most part, I’m ok with the waiting. At this juncture, I’m just looking to get my work out there for people to see. I understand that there are only so many slush readers with only so many hours in the day. I even find that knowing I won’t be hearing anything for a while sometimes makes it easier to say to myself ok, forget about that for now and focus on the next project.

A slow turnaround, however, can certainly be the last nail in the coffin if there is something else about the site that I have a problem with. Although I am grateful for all the acceptances I’ve had so far, there are some cases where I know it’s unlikely I’ll be submitting to a site again even if they have accepted my work in the past. In other cases however, the experience has otherwise been so positive that a bit of a wait is worth it, and I may try again even if I’ve been rejected–after my ego recovers, that is 😉

For any short-fiction writers out there who might be interested, I decided it was time to share what some of the pros and cons have been for different sites I have dealt with so far. Note that I only have my own experiences to draw on; maybe your experience has been, or would be, completely different. Also, submission guidelines, pay, etc are always subject to change with time.

I have six sites I want to mention. I’ve decided to break this up into two posts so that I can give you more than a couple of bullet points on each one without writing a novel for a single post:

Mad Scientists Journal:

The recent publishers of Mabel’s Mission, these guys were a pleasure to work with. They are quick to reply to questions — and very enthusiastic — are very clear about what they want for submissions, and are professional but not overly formal. Their response time is good, a couple of weeks. The real wait comes between acceptance and publication, about three months in my case, but that is not unusual. Editors are often planning publications some time in advance.

They pay $20 for short stories and $10 for flash fiction which isn’t huge, but some sites like these, which give away free fiction online, don’t pay at all. Also, MSJ does consider the payment to be an advance on royalties–if there are any. They are fairly new and not yet generating that kind of income, so I wouldn’t factor that in too heavily.

The only potential downside — and it could be a strength depending on the kind of writing you do (I happen to love it) — is that the theme of the magazine is quite specific, essays from the world of mad science. They do, however, accept some exclusive fiction of other genres for their quarterly anthologies. So, if sci fi and mad science don’t sound like your thing they still might be worth a look. Check out their submission guidelines. They use Submittable, a submission manager that allows authors to see/track their submissions’ progress.

I will definitely consider submitting to MSJ again in the future. I also enjoy just reading the stories they publish. The writing quality has been good and consistent in what I’ve read so far and the mad science theme brings out the mildly-twisted side of writers. Personally, I find that entertaining.

Scifia:

When I first found this site I thought it looked great and their subtitle Alien Minds, Alternate Worlds is right up my alley. They pay a flat rate of $25 dollars per story, ok, and claim to have a response time of four weeks, not bad. They also lay out quite clearly what they are looking for — see their submission guidelines.

Well, claim is the operative word. Two months after I sent in my submission, crickets. Maybe not so great after all. At the very least, not very professional. I follow them on twitter and did see a tweet mentioning a backlog, so I plan on sending a query and giving them some patience rather than withdrawing my story. Who knows, if they accept my story and are pleasant throughout the contract/publishing process, maybe they will win me over. However, the fact that they are not keeping their website up to date regarding their backlog/response time irks me. As I said, I don’t mind waiting, but I like to know (ballpark) how long I’m going to wait. They also use Submittable, but don’t seem too worried about keeping that updated either.

Daily Science Fiction:

Ok, I’ve sent one story into DSF and they rejected it. But, putting that aside, they deserve a mention. This site publishes a new story every weekday. Though the content is available for free, they pay professional rates — 8 cents a word. I’m sure the definition is variable, but professional is generally considered 5 cents and up.

Their submission guidelines are not as clear as some other sites, but that seems to be because, genre-wise, they are more flexible. From reading a number of their published stories it’s clear that they are pretty much open to anything under the speculative umbrella: sci-fi, fantasy, slipstream, supernatural, or just a little weird — I read one where there just happened to be a friendly poltergeist in a guy’s apartment. Otherwise, there was nothing really sci fi about the plot. If you’re not sure whether your story fits the genre, I recommend giving it a go anyway. There’s nothing to lose. They don’t have the same mechanism for authors to track their submissions, but they confirm receipt promptly via email and respond within three weeks.

DSF is on my to-try-again list.

That’s enough for now. Part 2 to come.

 

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