Submission Protocol: Further Consideration Letters

A recent discussion with another author about further consideration letters (sometimes called short-list letters) prompted the question of whether or not you should respond to them. It got me thinking about how I generally handle short lists and further considerations. So let’s talk about that. First, what is a further consideration letter? Here’s an example:

Hello Aeryn, 

The editorial team has read your story, [Story Title]. They have decided to put this story on the “short-list” to be considered for publication. We want to respect your time as an author, so we will make a final decision as soon as possible. 

Thank you, 

Should you respond to a letter like this? I don’t think it’s necessary, and here are two reasons why.

  1. It’s really just a status update. In my experience, a lot of further consideration letters are form letters to let you know what’s going on with your story. They’re not too dissimilar from the auto-generated notifications you get when your story is initially received (in other words, they are meant as one-way communications). Basically, no response is required. The letter is just a “Hey, here’s what’s up with your submission.”
  2. It’s not expected. Piggy-backing on point number one, I personally don’t think editors expect a response to further consideration letters, even if they sent a short personal note. Like responding to a rejection (or generally anything but an acceptance), it’s not necessary and is probably just clutter in an inbox already filled to bursting.

I have not responded to most further consideration letters (but see below), and it doesn’t appear to have affected my chances of publication.

Okay, so are there times you should respond to a further consideration letter? That answer is yes, when the editor asks you to. See below:

Dear Aeryn,

Thank you again for your submission. We really like this story and would like to add this on our short list, if that is okay with you. We will have the final decisions by July 1 at the latest. Let us know!

Thanks!

This is something I’ve seen a few times with further consideration letters, especially if it’s going to take the editors a while to make decisions. Like in the letter above, the editors will a) tell you how long the decisions is going to take and b) ask you if you mind letting them hold on to the story for that long. In this case, yes, absolutely respond to let the editors to let them know what you decide. I really appreciate a letter like this, as it allows me to make an informed decision about what happens to my story. I’ve never pulled a story back after a letter like this, but it’s nice to have that option.

I have kind of a funny outlier story about responding to a further consideration letter. I once sent a story to a pro market (now sadly out of business), and after not hearing back for over six months, I sent a query letter. When I received no response to the query, I sent a withdrawal letter. About a week after I sent the withdrawal I received a further consideration letter from the publisher. In a panic, I sent the editor a note explaining I’d withdrawn the story, but if he didn’t mind too much, I’d like to, uh, withdraw my withdrawal. Luckily, he was a very understanding person and added the story back into his final review. I received an acceptance about two months later. (Yay! Happy ending.)


Thoughts on responding to a further consideration letter? Tell me about it in the comments.

Deadlines: What Can They Teach You?

I’m currently writing on deadline, something I’ve done a lot in my career. From short stories to novels, I’ve frequently had to bang out the words under the gun. That got me thinking. What has writing under a deadline taught me and how has it shaped my writing? Here are three deadline-induced skills I’ve developed, which I’ve reduced down to acronyms because it’s more fun. So, lets talk about ABO, GID, and FIP.

1) ABO (Always be Outlining)

Look, I’m not saying outlining is the one true way. A lot of writers prefer to fly by the seat of their pants, and that clearly works for them. For me, however, outlining a fiction project does two things. One, it alleviates a lot of the worry that goes hand-in-hand with writing under a (tight) deadline. If I know where the story is going, and I have a solid road map to get there, I worry less about that and can focus on the writing. Two, it makes it easier to get started. An outline is kind of like a practice run or a warm-up, and it allows me to dive into the story without all the anxiety-inducing baggage of actually writing it (yet). That, for some reason, make the whole thing easier.

What ABO has Taught Me

Well, this is pretty simple. I’ve become a dedicated plotter in my own work for the same reasons I describe above. I write detailed outlines for short stories and novels, and it’s made both starting and finishing my own projects much easier. As I said above, outlining is not for everyone, and I get that, but it’s been an invaluable tool for me.

2) GID (Get it Down)

When I’m writing on a deadline, I don’t have time to let self-doubt and fear get in my way. That’s not to say they aren’t present (they are), but the only thing that frightens me more than getting those words on the page is, uh, not getting those words on the page and missing my deadline. So I sit down and write, no matter how I’m feeling, not matter how my brain is screaming “THIS IS ALL TERRIBLE.” I just forge ahead, word by word, paragraph by paragraph, at a pace of 2,000 to 3,000 words per day until I have a first draft. Basically, I tell myself “just get it down,” which is to say get it on the page, get that first draft done, and, most importantly, you can worry about the rest later.

What GID has Taught Me

With my own writing, I often pretend I’m on a deadline. For a novel, I figure out a writing schedule that requires a pace of about 10,000 words a week. I write my outline, and then, well, I just get it down. It allows me to knock out a first draft in about nine to twelve weeks. Really, what GID has allowed me to do, in conjunction with outlining, is finish things. It’s often a struggle, but if I can allow myself to not care about everything being perfect as I write it and really just focus on getting words on the page, I can get things done, and it’s never as bad as I think it’s gonna be, which leads me to the next skill.

3) FIP (Fix it in Post)

The bosom buddy of get it down, fix it in post or FIP is another mantra I recite as I’m writing a first draft. It’s more of a film/TV term than a writing term, but the concept of cleaning up and editing raw footage still applies. Working in the gaming industry as an editor and writer for all those years taught me just about everything can be fixed (often at the last minute) once you have a complete draft to work with.

What FIP Taught Me

Like the rest of these acronyms, FIP is all about finishing. It’s another way to do an end run around the fear and doubt that might keep me from writing. When I’m working on that first draft of a story or a novel, and I start to get a little freaked out that it’s not going well or whatever, I tell myself “fix it in post,” often right after I tell myself “just get it down.” Those two together are a powerful force that lets me forge ahead and keep working.


Armed with ABO, GID, and FIP, I feel I can go into just about any project with the understanding that a) I can complete it, b) it won’t be nearly as bad as I fear it will be, and c) even if it needs work, I can DO that work. They’ve been a great confidence booster, and I learned them all because of the looming threat and ticking doom clock of years and years of deadlines. Those skills–though I guess they’re more mindsets than actual skills–have definitely paid dividends in my own work.

So that’s what deadlines have done for me. What have they done for you? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 5/13/19 to 5/19/19

A day late again, but here’s another writing week that was.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote is another from Stephen King.

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to makes speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

– Stephen King

This is a great quote, and in my experience it’s definitely true. I always feel like writing is done in a vacuum. You’re sealed away with all your doubts and fears while you create. Yes, you can seek out input from folks you trust after you have a draft finished, but that initial act of creation? That’s all you. Alone. So, yes, having someone who believes in you and your ability, be it a spouse, a good friend, or supportive people in your writing group, can often be the difference between those previously mentioned doubts and fears eating you alive and actually getting something finished. Like Mr. King says, they don’t need to make speeches, just knowing they’re there and rooting for you means an awful lot.

The Novel

The novel is on a temporary back-burner while I complete the next Privateer Press novella I’m contracted to write. I should polish off the first draft this week, though, and then get back to the novel shortly thereafter.

Short Stories

Another slow week for submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 1
  • Rejections: 5
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Yeah, not great. Better than the week before, but that’s only because I didn’t send a single submission. Three of the five rejections were personal rejections, and one was a bit of a heart-breaker, but that’s all part of the gig. Rejections hurt sometimes, but you gotta roll with it and never take it personally.

I now have 40 submissions for the year, which is off my pace of 100 for 2019. If I can send 5 more submissions this month, that’ll put me back on track. I’m not gonna make any promises, though. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

5/14/19: A Week of Writing: 5/6/19 to 5/12/19

The usual weekly writing update.

5/17/19: One-Hour Flash – Blood Sport 

Another installment of flash fiction that wasn’t quite up-to-snuff for submission.

Goals

I’ve got a deadline to hit for the Privateer Press novella, so that is my number one goal. In between pounding out the words, I’ll try to send a submission or two, but, that’s probably more wishful thinking than actual priority.


That was my week. How was yours?

One-Hour Flash – Blood Sport

Got another one-hour flash fiction for you folks. Again, this is another story I wrote in an hour based on a visual prompt. Many of these prompted one-hour stories go on to publication, and others, like this one, uh, don’t. So instead of letting the piece collect dust on my hard drive, I’m gonna inflict it on all of you. You’re welcome. 🙂

Here’s “Blood Sport.”


Blood Sport

“Who am I fighting?” Hector said as Manuel worked the kinks out of his shoulders.

He felt Manuel shrug. “You know how these things go. We won’t know until you step into the ring.”

Hector shook his head. Since the UFC had banned him for steroid use, he took whatever fights he could get. Many times these were unsanctioned bouts in the filthy basement of a bar or an abandoned warehouse. They paid okay, and since he’d been a pro; the losers that fought him rarely stood a chance. Still, the promoters of these bouts promised to use UFC rules, but they rarely did, and the fights were little more than blood sport.

“I fucking hate this shit,” Hector said.

“Calm down,” Manuel replied. “You can’t get tense before a fight.”

“I am Hector Villanueva, goddamn it. I was the fucking UFC welterweight champion. Now look at me.”

“Yes, look at you,” Manuel said, and stepped around to stare at the man he’d been training to fight for twenty years. “You are still fighting. You are still making money. This fight will pay you twenty-five thousand dollars. Soon we will have enough to hire the attorneys you need to get back into the UFC.”

Hector drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I know but this feels so low. Beneath me.”

Manuel nodded. “Sometimes we have to dig ourselves out from the bottom to get to the top.”

A knock sounded at the door to the makeshift training room–the employee’s locker room in an old meat-packing warehouse. Manuel went to answer it. He opened the door, and one of the fight promoters stood. He was a weird looking guy: tall, shaved head, with squiggly tattoos on his skull. They might have been writing, but Hector couldn’t tell what language they were.

“Is your man ready,” the promotor said. His voice was low and flat, like a computer. It gave Hector the creeps.

“He’s ready,” Manuel said. “What about yours?”

“Nearly,” the fight promoter said. “I need one more thing before we begin.” The man pulled a short jagged knife from his pocket.

Hector hopped off the training table and slid into a classic Muay Thai stance. “What the fuck, man?”

The man stopped and smiled. “I mean you no harm,” he said. “I only need a drop of blood.”

“Fuck you,” Hector said. “I’m not giving you my blood.”

Manuel came up behind the man, ready to spring to Hector’s defense. Though nearly sixty, Manuel held a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu.

“I know this seems odd,” the man said. “But it is necessary.” He reached into his other pocket and pulled out a roll of hundred dollar bills. A fat roll. “I can offer you another five thousand up front.” He tossed the bills to Manuel.

“On top of what we’re already getting, right?” Manuel said, and looked back at Hector with a what-do-you-think expression on his face.

The man nodded.

“Not my hands,” Hector said. It was hard to turn down another five K. “Cut my arm or leg.”

The man smiled, showing a lot of straight white teeth. “Of course. We need you in top form tonight.”

#

The ring was in the middle of the abandoned meat-packing plant. It was sorry attempt at an octagon with chicken-wire fences and a dingy mat within. There was a small crowd, all dressed in black. Hector’s opponent stood inside the octagon, his face hidden by the hood of a black silk boxing robe.

“Jesus, this is weird,” Hector said to Miguel as the approached the octagon.

“No shit,” Manuel said. “Fuck this dude up and we’re out of here, thirty grand richer.”

Hector made his way to the gate where the fight promoter waited. The man opened the gate and allowed Hector inside, following after him.

Hector went to the other side of octagon, across from his opponent, and begin throwing punches into the air, shifting from foot to foot, anything to get the blood flowing.

His opponent stood still, arms at his side. He looked to be the same height as Hector and of similar build: muscular and lean.

Maybe this asshole will give me a real fight, Hector thought. It would be a first in these unsanctioned bouts where he usually won in the first round with a knockout or submission.

The fight promoter stepped to the center of the octagon and cleared his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “This is what we have gathered for.” A soft murmur of appreciation rose form the small crowd. “A man comes to us to fight his demon.”

What the fuck is this? Hector thought and looked to Manuel standing outside the octagon. His trainer was staring at the fight promotor and listening.

Something was very wrong. “Manuel, what’s going on?”

His trainer smiled sadly. “I’m sorry,” he said. “They paid me a lot more than thirty grand to get you here.”

Movement from across the octagon drew Hector’s attention away from Manuel. His opponent had removed his hood, and Hector’s breath caught in his throat. The man he was fighting could be his identical twin save for the flat black eyes and shark-like teeth crowding his open mouth.

“We give thanks for this vessel,” the fight promoter said. “We honor you with this sacrifice, Abbadon, destroyer of men.” He exited the octagon, and the crowd pressed close, blocking the gate.

Hector’s doppelganger slid into a perfect Muay Thai stance, one with which Hector was intimately familiar.


As with many of these failed flash stories, I like the set-up and the characters, but the story doesn’t really go anywhere. It sets up what could be an interesting conflict but then just fizzles out because we don’t see that conflict resolved. If we were to see Hector fight for his life against the demon, change and grow because of it (even if he doesn’t survive), there might be something to this. As it stands, I think I have a solid premise and setup, but that’s about it. The ending is definitely rushed as I ran out of time and word count.

Want to see more failed flash? Check out the previous installments in the One-Hour Flash series.

A Week of Writing: 5/6/19 to 5/12/19

One more week of writerly endeavors.

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from Robert Hass.

“It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written.”

– Robert Hass

This one sounds severe; I know. That said, I do feel like this a fair amount of the time. When I’m writing, it’s often an exercise of sheer will to keep writing, keep putting those words on the page no matter how much self-doubt and fear eat away at my resolve. It’s so easy to quit, to say “I’ll write tomorrow or the next day,” than it is to push past your own bullshit and get the work done. Is it hell? Maybe not quite that bad, but it’s often challenging. Now, not writing carries it’s own price. It’s called guilt. If I don’t work on the novel or a short story or whatever for a day or two, that guilt creeps in and can be just as destructive as fear and self-doubt. Finally, the best state of mind is having written, the golden panacea for all writing woes. When I complete a first draft or send that final revision to my editor or agent, that feeling of accomplishment is so grand it makes all the other shit fade into the background for a while. So, yes, this quote is tough, and it may not be that way for all writers, but for many, myself included, it’s can often be the reality.

The Novel

I made excellent progress last week. I finished the last bit of completely new material I needed to add (about three thousand words) and then pieced the first act back together. I was expecting a wild mismatch of tone and style and plot points that would require hours more revision, but, as these things often go, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. In fact, the first act is pretty cohesive and now the pacing is better. I’ll need to do some minor tweaks to match everything up, but it’s not that impossible task I feared. That feeling of starting downhill after a steep climb is definitely there. That feels pretty good.

Short Stories

Big fat goose egg of a submission week.

  • Submissions Sent: 0
  • Rejections: 0
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 1

Yep, zero submissions last week. Hell, I didn’t even get a rejection. The only thing of note was a further consideration letter for a story that has really been around the block (to the tune of like fifteen rejections). I’m crossing my fingers it’s found it’s forever home at last.

The Blog

Not only did I send no submissions last week, I barely blogged too.

5/7/19: A Week of Writing: 4/29/19 to 5/5/19

The usual weekly writing update.

Goals

The novel revision is on hold for a bit as I turn my attention to the next Privateer Press novella I’m contracted to write. I’ve already got an approved outline, and I’ll knock out the first draft this week and next. Beyond that, I’ve got some new stories near completion, so it would be great to get those done and get three or four submissions out this week.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 4/29/19 to 5/5/19

A day late, but here’s another week of writing wins and woes.

Words to Write By

The quote this week comes from Ernest Hemingway.

“Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”

– Ernest Hemingway

I’m featuring this quote not because I think it’s how everyone should write, but because it’s how I tend to approach writing. Hemingway is famous for spare, unadorned prose, and I tend to write in a similar fashion (note, I am not making any kind of qualitative comparison between my own writing and Hemingway’s). I certainly look at my prose as a means to and end rather than anything approaching the end product itself. What does that mean, though? Generally, it means I don’t spend a lot of time describing people, places, and things; I rely heavily on dialog to express plot points and develop characters; and I weed out passive voice, most adverbs, and try not to get too complex with my sentence structure. If I do it right, I end up with lean, fast-paced prose that conveys a story efficiently and is, hopefully, compelling. So, why do I write this way? Simple. It’s a style that tends to highlight things I’m good at, like action and dialog, and downplays things I’m not so good at, like truly stylish prose and expansive descriptions. Once more, this is not the best way to write (there’s no such thing), but it’s how I write. Looking at my prose like architecture, as Hemingway suggests, has helped me do what all authors must–finish stories and novels.

The Novel

I was out for a few days last week for a badly needed vacation, but I did manage to get a fair amount done on the current revision of Late Risers. I’m confident things will speed up once I get out of the first act where the bulk of the heavy revisions are taking place. This week, I’m working on the last bit of completely new material, and my goal is to finish that, integrate it into the manuscript, and get beyond the halfway point in the revision.

Short Stories

Finally, a respectable submission week.

  • Submissions Sent: 4
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

I got 4 submissions out last week. That’s solid, and it’s a good start to May. That gives me 39 for the year and puts me back on track for 100 for 2019. I’d like to end up somewhere around 10 to 12 submissions for the month.

The Blog

Three blog posts last week.

4/29/19: A Week of Writing: 4/22/19 to 4/28/19

The usual weekly writing update.

5/1/19: Submission Protocol: For the Record

In this post I discuss why it’s important to keep detailed records of all your submissions.

5/3/19: Submission Statement: April 2019

A detailed account of my submission endeavors for the month of April.

Goals

Keep revising the novel and chugging toward that finish line. As usual, I’d like a side dish of short story submissions to go with my revision main course.


That was my week. How was yours?

Submission Statement: April 2019

April is in the books, and here are all my submissions, rejections, and acceptances for the month.

April 2019 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 8
  • Rejections: 6
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 3
  • Submission Withdrawal: 0

That’s a decent month submission-wise. A reasonable amount of rejections against one acceptance and three publications. I give this month a solid B. April’s numbers give me thirty-six submissions for the year. A little off my pace for one-hundred submissions, but I’ve already fired off three subs in May, so I should turn things around this month.

Rejections

Six rejections for April.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 3
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 3
  • Personal Rejections: 0

Nothing really exciting or new in the rejection department this month. All six rejections were form rejections and likely ones you’d recognize. That gives me twenty-six total rejections for the year. I got one-hundred right on the nose last year, and I’m on pace for a paltry seventy-eight this year. I’m okay with that. 🙂

Acceptances

Just one tiny little acceptance this month, a microfiction story called “His True Name” at 50-Word Stories. I’m two for two with microfiction subs so far, and I might send a few more this month to some other markets. That’s six total acceptances for the year. I’d really liked to beat last year’s total of nineteen. I’m more or less on pace for that same number, but hopefully May will be a multi-acceptance month to let me pull ahead.

Publications

Three publications this month, the aforementioned “His True Name” at 50-Word Stories, a flash piece called “Big Problems” at Jersey Devil Press, and a short story titled “Paint-Eater” at The Arcanist. All three are free to read by clicking the links below.

“His True Name”

Published by 50-Word Stories (free to read)

“Big Problems”

Published by Jersey Devil Press (free to read)

“Paint-Eater”

Published by The Arcanist (free to read)


And that was April. Tell me about your month.