"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris ... then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." Ernest Hemingway

Monday, 8 August 2011

When should you query an editor - a happy publication story.

As some of you know, I'm first and foremost a short story writer, even though I have written 2 novels. I was pleased when reading 'A Moveable Feast' to note that Hemingway believed short story writing was excellent practise for novel writing, although I've read articles to the contrary. Never mind! All writing is good for your craft and by targeting the right magazine you can make a tidy sum (half of what you get offered for writing a Pocket Novel, not that we write for money, ha ha ha ha!)

So how do you break into the world of magazines when you have a hot little story written? Many of you know this market has shrunk alarmingly (apt adverb) in the past few years. However the good Brits and Aussies have maintained the fiction magazine. I'm not sure about the Americans, as mostly they only take subs from Americans, unlike the aforementioned, who accept subs globally. But like all submitting, you need buckets of patience...

So! You target your preferred magazine. You do your homework. You know your stories are right for the audience.

You read a few more of their mags just to make sure. You pore over the guidelines again. Get that formatting just so. Oh, they prefer full text in email body! Nearly missed that!

Okay, let's check that story again! Yep, I can tweak it a bit more there. How I love to tweak! When is it enough already! Well, now I've got me a work of art. All polished.

Now, off to editor (better check it's still The Man. Yep. He's current. If he's turned into a she, she wouldn't like to be addressed as Mr I guess.)

Deep breath! Hmm. Re-check that email address yet again. Recheck the story-length info they request for the Subject line - my name, what I had for breakfast, what is my favourite coffee - whoops, just kidding, sorta.

Insert sweet yet succinct salutations. Crawl a little. Don't forget all the pesky details - again - word count, ABN number blah blah blah. Describe my Hemingway-esque piece to The Man. By now hands are shaking! I really want it! I want my story in this magazine! It's so right for it! Where will I go if they turn me down??? The Writers Marketplace? It's so big it hurts to hold it up!

Stop snivelling. Copy that polished prose from Word and drop it into your email body. Oh, it does look small! Better check it's all there. Yep, but it looks about font size 4.6. Oh, well, that must be what they want! Maybe I should make it bigger?

I've had enough! Just re-check it twenty times Denise and send the disgusting 1,000 words of tripe to the magazine. They'll hate it! Who'd want to read that! Delete! Don't send it!

Oh, who cares? Send the ridiculous-amount-of-work thing that translates to -2 cents an hour!


Your message has been sent!

Whoops! Did I mean to do that? No turning back now dearie! 'Tis in cyberspace! Forget it!!!!!!!

Days pass. Weeks pass. Months pass.

I've made a special email account just for this sucker and all the other little suckers I'm going to send to this magazine. After my first success that is. The Man will be begging for more! Special email account? Yep. Which means I have to go in every day and check my mail. Sometimes two or three times when I'm especially anxious.

Check Mail. Eargh!

One New Message.

Hands trembling. Click. Admin rubbish. Grrrrr! Not The Man!

More months pass. Deathly silence. I get on with my writing life. Work on my myriad projects like blogging, tweeting, facebooking, linked-in...sometimes even my WIPs...and more short stories and non-fiction articles...

Hey, I've had enough! I'm going to query this guy. It's been nearly 5 months! I know they've had a few changes at the mag, but enough already! Egad! Maybe they've lost it! They hate it and forgot to tell me! The email failed!

Read some more articles on how long I should wait before making a nuisance of myself. I'm sick of checking emails every day. I'm sick of waiting. Bite the bullet!

Some articles tell me just to wait. The mountain will eventually come to Mohammed (oh, should I say that?)

Nah, I'm not going to wait any longer!

Dear Mr Editor Sir, crawl, crawl, crawl...hate to be a nuisance, er er, did you receive my story perchance? The 1000-words-of-fabulousness one? Hate to be a bother etc etc...

Check email. Sweat sweat.

One new message. Only two hours! What's happening? It can't be! That's right! We're in the same time zone. That makes a change...

Shaky hand, shaky head. This is it! He hates it! Prepare for rejection!

Dear Denise, sorry, sorry, sorry, should have let you know, it's these admin people you know, your story's up for 2011. Just has to pass the whole board (or whatever they call that group of editorial brains.) You'll hear soon. Sorry, sorry, sorry...

Woo hoo! I'm nearly there! He said he loved it. Will the whole editorial team share his view? Wait. Just wait. No problem, I've had plenty of practise...I can use the time to check out a few more mags...well, Stephen King says reading is as important as writing after all...

Open a writer facebook account using the same email. Avoidance issues a'plenty. Forget about the story. It's just a story! You've had others published. Why are you obsessing about this particular magazine? Send 'em somewhere else!

Sifting through the 160 notifications from facebook and networked blogs when kerbang! Right in the middle I see one from The Man! Goodness! I could have deleted it along with all that other stuff!

Reading with one eye open...I'm in! Woo hoo! Story will be published in 2011! It passed muster! The planets aligned!

Now, what was all that about? Well, if it's that hard to get one measly short story published how hard is it going to be to get a novel under contract? 

But...not only did it ease my mind by sending my query off, now I have had a chance for The Man to get to know me a bit better and maybe he'll remember my name in a good way when I send my next 1,000+ words of fabulousness.

Which reminds me, NaNo'll be here before I know it, Christmas is coming, then it'll be New Year's! I'd better get back to writing my stories! Or editing my NaNo novels? Or blogging?  What? What?

I need a break already!

I hope you enjoyed my tongue-in-cheek post. Do you have a similar or different story to tell?

Happy footnote. My story finally came out in print in this particular magazine a few months ago. Now I'm playing the waiting game again...


  1. To chase or not to chase? Always a dilemma, but sometimes it does pay off. Glad you had a happy ending!

  2. Oh Denise,

    It all is so true. I used to get up at 2 am to check email as my 2 am would be UK's 11 am or somewhere there.

    I'm so happy for you and glad that obsessive checking of emails would pay dividents!

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  4. Helen: Yes, you know all about it! Nice to see you!

    Nas: Don't you just hate having to do it. Impossible to relax!


  5. I guess that means I'd actually have to write a short story first!

  6. Hi,

    Hee hee, yep, it happened to me: sent off, heard nothing ... nothing... nothing... Then I thought, hell, I need to know because if its "R" I can send it elsewhere!

    OH no! Worst scenario. They'd contacted months ago requesting the whole ms. Where did the email go? I searched and searched every darn file, and it was missing. I plucked up the courage and relayed my disappointment, and got an email back saying OK, sure, send it again. So I have re-sent ms, and now the long wait for Yes or No...

    There's more of the same attached to the whole saga that led to acceptance of the one to be published July 2012. I often feel the road I tread to publication is one of walking on fire! ;)


  7. Oh, I can SO relate. The agony of waiting! I'm glad there was a pay-off in this tale! :)

  8. There are, very occasionally, times when I'm glad I can't write a decent short story. This may be one of them ;-)

    Congratulations on that win Denise, here's to many more!

  9. Congratulations! I'm glad this story had a happy ending. :)

  10. Glad you can relate! Yes, waiting for publication of any type is agony isn't it?

    Ha ha Alex. Aren't you a crack up then? Some of you manage to leap over the hurdle without too much trouble, not even writing short stories first! But I love writing them so no worries! Just getting them published is the hard part!


  11. A happy story indeed! Many congratulations. Great post too!

  12. Alrighty then.... You've made it CONGRATS. Which story?

    When did you find out? Why didn't you tell me?


  13. Congrats to you for getting a story in there! The process sounds fairly miserable, but I suppose it is just part of what we do, so well done for succeeding!

  14. In the end after all the stress it was good news..yeah...:)

    First time on your blog - and am now following you. I'm a fellow Aussie:)


  15. Julie: Thanks for visiting and reading.

    Michael: I'll send you the link. Thanks!

    Hart: Miserable is the word but patience is the aim.

    Tania: Welcome to my blog. I'll be over to visit soon!


  16. Oh, I know the feeling! The one advantage of being an Aussie while querying was that I could sleep through the US day, so I wasn't constantly poking at my email!

  17. I just love how you set this up & am so happy that your short story got accepted. It's a great feeling.

    Please send the link!

  18. I've submitted short stories for anthologies, but not magazines. When I first started writing, I tried a few times with magazines, but had no success. That's probably because I didn't know how to write a short story then.

    Everything seems to be shrinking at an alarming rate.

  19. Some sweethearts have asked for a link to my story. Here is a link to a net version:




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