Reprints: Easy or Hard Sell?

Reprints are a great way to get extra mileage (and maybe a little extra cash) out of your stories, and there are a lot of markets that take them, even some that prefer them. But are they easier or more difficult to sell/place than standard story submissions? I think a lot of that depends on the publisher, but let’s see if we can’t dig a little a deeper and put some numbers on the question.

What follows is a list of all my reprints submissions and their outcome. I send out a reasonable amount of reprint submissions, though it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to my normal subs. So, this is the very definition of sample size, but let’s see if the numbers show us anything.

Story Submissions Rejections Acceptances Pending
Beyond the Block 2 2
Big Problems 2 1 1
Caroline 4 4
Masks 1 1
Night Games 1 1
Night Walk 2 1 1
One Last Spell, My Love 4 4
Paint-Eater 1 1
Paper Cut 2 2
Scare Tactics 2 2
Shadow Can 2 1 1
The Father of Terror 3 2 1
The Food Bank 1 1
The Rarest Cut 1 1
The Sitting Room 1 1
Time Waits for One Man 2 1 1
Where They Belong 2 1 1
Total 33 21 9 3

I’ve sent 33 reprint submissions over the last eight years or so, and I received 9 acceptances. That’s an acceptance rate of around 27%, which is higher than my overall acceptance rate of 16%. Again, this is a small sample of my overall submissions, but I do seem to have fairly good luck with reprints. Why is that? I can think of two possible reasons.

  1. Publisher confidence. A reprint says something that a standard submission doesn’t. It says another editor/publisher liked this story enough to publish it. That might hold some small weight with some editors, especially if the reprint’s original publisher is one the current market recognizes and has similar taste/style. I said small weight because the reprint story still has to be a good fit for the new publisher, and, in fact, some publishers might give less consideration to reprints simply out of a desire to publish more original work.
  2. Reprint-friendly markets. There are certain publishers, primarily audio markets and anthologies, that seem to be more disposed to the reprint or even prefer them. Five of my reprint acceptances are with publishers I’d consider reprint-friendly, and I generally try to target these markets with my reprint submissions.

Reprints still live and die by two unwavering truths of submissions and publishing. One, you have to put the right story in front of the right editor at the right time, and, two, good stories (and reprints can likely lay claim to that title more than general submissions) still get rejected all the time. That said, in my experience, they are a bit easier to sell, and a reprint acceptance can be a welcome infusion of confidence and allow you to crack new markets and reach new readers. So get ’em out there.


What are your experience with reprints? Easier to sell? Harder? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 1/27/20 to 2/2/20

Well, I got the lead out last week and managed to make progress in a number of areas. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from novelist E. L. Doctorow.

Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.

-E. L. Doctorow

I think there’s something quite valuable in this quote by E. L. Doctorow. What I take from it is a warning against a very specific and subtle form of procrastination: overplanning. You can fall down a rabbit hole of research and outlining that while valuable (and I say this as a strict outliner) must give way at some point to, you know, actually writing the book. For me outlining is a crucial step that reveals much of the story before I start plodding away at the first draft, but I can get caught up in a kind of tinkering that’s probably best done in the draft. In other words, it’s easy to tell myself I need to keep preparing rather than committing myself to the terrifying task of writing.

The (New) Novel

Finished off the second act in the outline last week, and I’ll compete the third act and the outline this week. I have a plot issues to work out in the transition from act two to three, and that’s why I’m not finished outlining yet. I think I know how to resolved it, though, and I’ll see how that resolution looks on the page in the next couple of days.

Short Stories

Finally got motivation in the ol’ short story department and sent out some submissions.

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

Four submissions is a solid week, and I ended up with nine for January, which is on pace for one-hundred subs for the year. I have so far sent one submission in February, but there a couple of flash contests this month that’ll push that total up. I also have a brand new story making the rounds and collecting rejections, and that’ll swell my February submission total as well. Only one rejection last week, but I’ve got a bunch pending that are past the standard response time for the publisher, so I expect a deluge of responses soon.

Microfiction

Here’s another batch of #vss365 microfiction. I struggled with a few of the prompts, and, well, this ain’t my best work. Still, it’s a good exercise, and that’s really the point.

January 27th, 2020

“What is this one, Sam? Nine?”

The old hitman sipped his scotch. “You wound me, Rico. This is our tenth.”

“Apologies.” Rico lifted his martini. “To another year of trying to kill each other.”

Sam clinked his longtime foe’s glass with his own. “Happy #adversary, Rico.”

January 28th, 2020

After each one I tell myself I’m in control and not the thing that lives in my head. I clean up the blood, destroy the evidence, cover my tracks. Then I dig a hole, and with each shovelful of dirt over yet another body I repeat my mantra. I #could stop if I wanted to.

January 29th, 2020

“How big you think Tony the Giant is?” Sal asked.

Lucky rubbed his chin. “Well, you’re large, I’m huge, and, you know Cossack Carl?”

“Yeah.”

“I’d say he’s gigantic.”

“Tony’s bigger than all of us,” Sal said.

Lucky nodded. “I’d put him at #tremendous at least.”

January 30th, 2020

My parents only wanted one child, but they had twins. Ever the pragmatic scientist, my father put my brother in a nutrient vat and let him grow. On my 18th birthday we were introduced. Dad said, “He’s an insurance policy. You never know when you’ll need an #extra part.” 

January 31st, 2020

When Max was born he had #rosy cheeks, chubby little legs, and a mouthful of shark-like teeth. He’s six now, and I tell him he’s a good boy. I also ignore the missing pets in the neighborhood or how he watches the other kids play, clacking his teeth together and drooling.

February 1st, 2020

“You remember the #script?” Sal asked.

Lucky snorted. “Yeah, it’s one line.”

“So say it like we practiced. It’s a branding thing.”

“I got it. No sweat.”

#

Lucky kicked open the door and pointed his pistol. “Mr. Ranello, I’m kill to here you!”

“Goddamnit, Lucky.”

February 2nd, 2020

Max Sims killed five people with a claw hammer. Through the one-way glass he looks normal, like a man in full possession of his #sanity. I know the type. When I sit down to question him, he’ll pick at the blood beneath his fingernails and act like I’m the one who’s crazy.

Goals

Once again, I aim to finish the outline for the new novel and send more submissions out. I’m shooting for three submissions at a minimum, and I think that’s doable.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 1/20/20 to 1/26/20

This is one of those weeks where I’m almost ashamed to post. To say I did not accomplish what I set out to accomplish is an understatement. That said, accountability (and shame) can be particularly motivating. 🙂

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from one of my favorite writers and dispensers of writerly wisdom, Elmore Leonard.

“I don’t think writers compete, I think they’re all doing separate things in their own style.”

-Elmore Leonard.

I really like this quote because it addresses a fear I think every author has, especially when you’re starting out. That fear is that you’re writing something exactly like another author or that by sharing your ideas they might be stolen. I think the truth is simply that if you gave two authors the same premise and had them write novels, you’d end up with two wildly different stories. Once you actually develop something resembling a style of your own, everything you wrote is probably going to sound much different than another author, even if the concepts and tropes are identical. I mean, think about how many vampire and zombie novels are out there. With a few rare exceptions, there’s not a lot of new ground to cover with those particular monsters, yet authors keep (sometimes quite successfully) putting their own stamp on them. So write what you want and don’t worry about what other folks are writing. Yours will be yours and theirs will be theirs, and there’s plenty for room for both.

The (New) Novel

The outline continues, far slower than I would like, but some progress was made last week, mostly with figuring out character motivations and the like. It’s important work, but it bugs me I didn’t get more done. These little hiccups are part of the process I’ve found, and it’s important to not let them deter you. So this week I’ll be forging ahead and focusing on wrapping up at the end of the week.

Short Stories

Yeah, this is pretty depressing. Nary a submission to be found.

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

Very quiet week. I didn’t even get a rejection, which is odd when you have nine subs pending. I have that sinking feeling the rejections are coming, maybe all at once. I still have time to hit my monthly goal, but I need to get moving. The good news is I did finish two new short pieces I can polish up and start submitting, so, hopefully, I’ll get those January submission numbers up.

Microfiction

I think this week’s batch of #vss365 microfiction is pretty solid, better than last week’s anyway. I believe the January 25th entry is one of the better micros I’ve written in a while. Anyway, click the links in the dates to go to the tweet and like, retweet, etc.

January 20th, 2020

His murders stank of #jasmine. The smell floated on top of the latrine odor of death, mixed with it, until the combination was fouler than dime store perfume or the ruptured bodies beneath it. Now, over twenty years later, even a hint of jasmine makes me want to vomit.

January 21st, 2020

The big mule Sir #Obstinate listened only to our son James. The beast followed him everywhere, obeying every command. When brigands killed James, Sir Obstinate disappeared. We found him days later, his corpse hacked and bloody, six brigands crushed dead beneath his hooves.

January 22nd, 2020

“He talk yet?” Sal asked.

“Nah, still doing the crying and begging #rigmarole,” Lucky replied.

Sal tapped the magazine he was reading. “Says here the key to communication is honesty.”

“Well, I told him I’d honestly beat him to death, then he honestly shit himself.”

January 23rd, 2020

My mind blares with a #cacophony of foreign thoughts. It’s disorienting at first, but I quickly separate the good from the bad. Thoughts of impending violence I lace with telepathic poison and send back to their owners. The stroke usually keeps them from hurting anyone.

January 24th, 2020

When people complain “That’s not supposed to #happen!” I laugh and show them the scar behind my right ear where I was struck by lightning in ’97. If they’re unconvinced, I pull up my pant leg so they can see the chunk I lost to a great white in ’01. That usually does it.

January 25th, 2020

At my tenth birthday party I was angry I didn’t get a new bike. Instead my parents hired a magician. He asked how he could #amaze me; I said make Mom and Dad disappear. For thirty birthdays I’ve told myself the car accident wasn’t my fault. Some years I almost believe it.

January 26th, 2020

“Anything in our #range interest you?” the Best Possess salesman asked.

Moloch glanced at an array of inert, youthful human bodies. “Anything older?” the demon said. “After five millennia I feel I’m just not possessing these twenty-somethings to their full potential.”

Goals

Finish. The. Outline.

Send. Submissions.

Yep, that about covers it. 🙂


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 1/13/20 to 1/19/20

One more week of writing in the books. Let’s see how I did.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from novelist Hallie Ephron.

“Outlining is like putting on training wheels. It gives me the courage to write, but we always go off the outline.”

– Hallie Ephron

Since I’m deep into the outlining stage of my novel, I really like this quote from Hallie Ephron. I outline for a number of reasons, and one of them is it lets me dip my toe into the story before I dive into the deep, cold water of the first draft. It’s that training wheels aspect from the quote. Sure, an outline has a ton of other benefits too. It gives me a roadmap to write the story and lets me work out some of the plot and character issues before I get into the thick of a draft. Still, I do find, as Hallie Ephron says, that the outline gives me the courage to write the book and the courage to stray from it when the novel and its characters need to go off script.

The (New) Novel

I’ve mostly outlined the first act of the novel, and I like where it’s headed. I’ve also done some character plotting, using aspects of my own experiences in certain things for the background of the protagonist. My hope there is her backstory and motivations will ring truer to the reader. My outlines are always three acts and thirty chapters, so I’ve still got a bit of work to do. I hope to finish up by early next week with an outline that clock in between 8,000 and 10,000 words.

Short Stories

A sad week for short story submissions, unfortunately, as I didn’t send a single one.

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

I need three more submission this month to stay on pace for one-hundred for the year. One would think I could do that, but we’ll see. The rejection was a simple standard form rejection of no particular note. I might pad my monthly total with a few reprints, as there’s a few anthologies coming that might work for some of the horror stories I’ve sold in the past.

Microfiction

Here’s this week’s batch of #vss365 microfiction. I’ll admit I struggled a bit with the prompt words this week (a failing entirely my own and not the prompter’s), so it’s not my brightest and best bunch of micros. I do like the last one, though. As usual, you can click the link in the date to go to the specific tweet.

January 13th, 2020

“Look at that beautiful #opaline sky.”

“Opaline? It’s gray. It’s always GRAY.”

“Nah, you just have to learn to appreciate the weather here in Seattle.”

“Weather? WEATHER?! Weather changes, dude. This shit hasn’t budged from morbid murder clouds for six fucking months!”

January 14th, 2020

He found the first growth on his palm. Hers bloomed on one pale cheek. They sat in the warm dark apartment, watching their growths multiply and extend #fibrous tendrils that laced together and intertwined. Soon, they were bound together by malignancy, closer than ever.

January 15th, 2020

“Is that a revolver?” Lucky asked.

Sal drew the old single-action from its holster with a #flourish. “Yep, gonna try something new.”

“What? Like a gunfight?”

“Uh huh. I wanna see how fast I am.”

“Sal, it ain’t a good sign when just murdering folks loses its thrill.”

January 16th, 2020

We had shelter, food and water for a lifetime, but as the immediate danger passed and years mounted, we all felt a terrible #yearning. The grim truth inside our concrete savior loomed over everything, and one by one we chose a quick end over decades of pointless survival.

January 17th, 2020

The ancient ruins on the planet’s equator indicated a #riparian culture. The towering idols and strange domed structures hinted at a deeply religious society. Lastly, the mangled remains of the inhabitants spoke of a people plagued by sins we humans could easily recognize.

January 18th, 2020

All contact guys drink. Unless you’re a psychopath, you gotta quiet the demons. But it makes you sloppy, #muddles your thoughts, puts you in situations that’ll get you killed. The truth is you hope for those situations. The drink just gives you the guts to look for them.

January 19th, 2020

I’m not as #articulate as I once was. The bullet they dug out of my skull makes thoughts and words distant cousins at best. I don’t really need to speak, though. As I thumb back the hammer and point my pistol, the man who tried and failed to kill me understands perfectly.

Goals

Outline, outline, outline. Then, in between outlining, finish a short story or two and submit them. It would be great to finish the outline by the end of the week, but I feel like it might take me a tad longer.


That was my week. How was yours?

The Way I Write Part 4: Something Resembling a Style

Over the past month I’ve explored my writing as it’s developed these past twenty years. I’ve been using the Flesch-Kincaid readability scores and the old fashioned eyeball test to chart changes in my work. We’ve looked at some of very early pieces, purple and laden with adjectives, a more transitional phase where I started to reign in my wordier impulses, and then some of my published work, where my voice and prose began to resemble something similar to how I write today. In this last post we’ll look at recent work, and see how the writer I am today is different from the writer I used to be.

Before we get into to those recent examples. Here are the other posts in this series for reference.

“Night Games” (circa 2014 A.D.)

This is passage from my short story “Night Games,” which I completed in 2012 and sold in 2014 (after a revision or two). I sold it again to Pseudopod in 2016 (click this link to listen). “Night Games” is an important story to me because it’s one of the first pieces I wrote where I really felt like I knew what I wanted the story to accomplish, and then I went and did that (and it mostly worked).

Randall Simmons only plays night games. As he steps into the right-handed box and taps his bat on the plate, he reminds me why. His smile, aimed at the pitcher’s mound, is wide and predatory. The bright stadium lights catch for a moment on his teeth. Even from 60 feet, 6 inches away, those teeth are too long and too sharp.

Randall is showing me his secret smile, some of it anyway. His smile is for me because I’m here to preserve the Kansas City T-Bones’ one-run lead in the top of the ninth against his team, the Wichita Wingnuts. It’s also for me because I’m the only person in the stadium who knows Randall Simmons is a vampire.

Anytime I step out of the bullpen it’s a big deal. It’s a chance to earn a save, win the game, and even make someone notice a washed-up twenty-five-year-old pitcher trying to make it to the bigs. That’s a tall order in the independent leagues, where dreams of big-league baseball and big-league money go to die. Unlike most nights, I’m not thinking about my fastball, my curveball, or the good slider that got me drafted by the A’s five years ago. I’m thinking once the game is over Randall Simmons will kill me.

I’d had the idea for this story rattling around in my brain for a few years, and then one day it all clicked, and “Night Games” became a thing. I’d say it’s the first story I published in, well, my current era of writing, for lack of a better word. With this story I started to figure out what my strengths were and how best to utilize them, but let’s have a look at the numbers.

  • Passive Sentences: 0%
  • Flesch Reading Ease: 73.3
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 7.0

You might notice those numbers are a little higher than where I was trending in the last post. The difference here is that I am trying for a specific voice, one that’s going to come across as technical and a little wordy (baseball is a pretty nerdy sport). That voice is borne out in the numbers, but, as opposed to the wildly purple prose of my stories from the early aughts, this is still very readable.

Let’s move on a couple of years and look at another piece.

“Scare Tactics” (circa 2016 A.D.)

With this story I started using a voice and style that is very much what and how I enjoy writing. This story is one of the first of my horror/noir/urban fantasy mashups that features a healthy dose of black humor. It’s also one of my most successful stories, as I’ve sold it three times. The Dunesteef did a great little audio version of the piece you can listen to right here.

She got out of the car, popped open the trunk, and made a face at the awful stink within. A pungent mix of the worst fart overlaid with rotting meat and old garbage wafted up from the dark enclosure.

“Jesus,” Lindsey said, covering her mouth. “Can’t you control that?”

A jumbo-sized Raggedy Ann doll that had seen better days lay face-up in the trunk. Moth holes pocked its pinkish cotton, and its once-bright dress was dirty and stained. Only the red yarn hair retained its original color.

Adramelech’s voice drifted up from the doll, faint and irritated. “You know I can’t help it. You keep a demon in physical form, you get the stink. That’s the way it is. Maybe you shouldn’t stick me in a small, enclosed space.”

“And have that stench up front with me? No thanks. Hey, switch to silent mode. It’s almost show time.”

Ugh, are we doing this again? Adramelech’s voice spoke in Lindsey’s head now, as she’d requested. It wasn’t quite telepathy. He couldn’t read her thoughts, like she couldn’t read his, but they could “hear” each other when they wanted. It’s demeaning, you know. I’m a demon of the first order, a goddamn chancellor of Hell. I’m not some bullshit scare artist.

Lindsey stifled a chuckle. Chancellor, my ass. I’ve read de Plancy. He says you were primarily Lucifer’s fashion consultant.

I had so much fun writing Lindsey and Adramelech, and I’m about to write a whole lot more about them. Anyway, this story just clicked for me, the characters, the subject matter, the genre mashup, all of it. I think a lot of having any success as a writer is figuring out where you belong, and for me, this is probably it.

Okay, what about the numbers.

  • Passive Sentences: 0%
  • Flesch Reading Ease: 80.5
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 4.4

Yep, that’s right where I want it. Nice and conversational. These stories have a ton of dialog (and a fair amount of four letter words), and so they make for quick and, well, easy reading, and that too is where I live now.

One more story.

“A Point of Honor” (circa 2019 A.D.)

The final story is one I published last year, and it’s a bit of a departure for me in genre and tone. It’s near-future dystopian sci-fi that deals with a real-world issue–cyberbullying–in a Twilight Zone-esque manner. You can check it out from the publisher, Radix Media, right here

Jacob opened his mailbox and froze. The sight of the scarlet envelope between the bills and advertisements twisted his stomach into cold knots of dread. He’d never seen a declaration from the Bureau of Honorable Affairs in person. 

Jacob glanced around the street, empty and quiet, terrified someone might see. He snatched the declaration from the mailbox, tucked it into his robe, and hurried inside.

Sara stood at the kitchen counter drinking coffee. “Anything in the mail?”

He pulled the declaration from his robe and tossed it on the counter. It looked like a fresh bloodstain on the white tile.

Sara’s eyes widened and she covered her mouth with one hand. “Why do you have that?” 

“I don’t know. I haven’t hurt anyone.”

“Of course you haven’t. You’re a forty-year-old computer programmer.” 

He grimaced at his wife’s blunt assessment. “Maybe it’s a mistake. They’re a big government agency. They screw up, right?”

“Yes, a mistake.” Sara seized on this scant hope. “Has to be.”

The difference between this story and “Scare Tactics” is mostly tone. The writing is fairly similar I think, with direct, even Spartan prose and a lot of dialog, but let’s check the numbers.

  • Passive Sentences: 0%
  • Flesch Reading Ease: 75.1
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 4.5

Yeah, that’s still in what I’d call my sweet spot. The reading ease is a tad higher in this passage, but if you run the entire 5,000-word story its right at 84.


Before I wrap this thing up here are the readability numbers for all the stories in the blog series.

Date Story Reading Ease Grade Level
2000 Lullaby 53.5 13.4
2005 Rearview 37.9 14.4
2006 The Tow 61.6 10.7
2007 The Fate of Champions 62.9 8.7
2010 Blasted Heath 75.1 6.0
2012 At the Seams 85.8 4.7
2014 Night Games 73.3 7.0
2016 Scare Tactics 80.5 4.4
2019 A Point of Honor 75.1 4.5

So what have I learned from this exploration of my writing over the last twenty years? I think the easiest conclusion to draw is as the writing became simpler and more direct, i.e., more readable, I started getting published. This is not the only way to get published, of course, but for me, stripping things down, focusing on dialog and action (things I’m good at) instead of long descriptions and beautiful prose (things I’m NOT good at) has allowed me to publish a fair amount. I’m certainly still a work in progress, and there’s more growing and learning to be done, but I like where I’ve ended up. I don’t think I’m trying to sound like other published fiction (at least not on purpose), and I now have something resembling a style. But who knows? Maybe in five years I’ll change my mind and start trying to sound like H.P. Lovecraft’s dictionary again. 🙂

2019 Writing Rearview Review

Well, it’s that time of year when writers the world over tell you all about the stuff they wrote and published for the prior year. So here I go! 🙂

Short Story Submissions

Okay let’s start off with short story submissions, rejections, and acceptances:

2019 2018 Difference
Submissions 81 120 -32%
Rejections 61 100 -39%
Acceptances 14 19 -26%
Accept % 17% 16% +1%
Publications 17 16 +6%

As you can see, my production in 2019 was down significantly from 2018. The only thing that increased were the number of publications and my actual acceptance percentage, which is good, though I can’t help but think if I’d had the same output in 2019 as I did in 2018, I might have 20+ acceptances for the year (or maybe just 20 more rejections).

So, why fewer submissions this year? Mostly because I was focusing on long-form fiction, a novel, and more specifically revising that novel, and it ate up a lot of time. Also, I didn’t write much new stuff, and the new stuff I did write was, well, harder to sell until I figured out where I should be sending it (that happened late in the year). The truth of the matter is that some of the old stories I’ve been shopping probably need to be retired, and I need a new crop of pieces for 2020.

Words, Words, Words

Okay, so the above is what I submitted, but how much did I actually write in 2019? Let’s have a look.

  • Written in 2019: 183,632 words
  • Published in 2019: 90,494 words
  • Written AND Published in 2019: 74,978 words

That total written number includes 54,745 words of blog posts, 12,455 words of microfiction, and 6,950 words of stories I began but did not finish (yet). The published numbers do NOT include blog or microfiction totals. I spent a lot of time revising my novel and a bunch of old stories, but it’s hard to quantify that in terms of words written. It feels like another 50,000 or so, but, hell, it could be 100,00 for all I know. Anyway, I stuck with the most easily quantifiable numbers.

Those numbers on a whole aren’t bad, but if you look a little deeper, there are some things I want to change for 2020. For example, of the words written and published in 2019, a measly 2,068 came from submitted short stories, the rest are the novel I wrote for Privateer Press. I simply did not write enough new material this year. Most of my short story publications came from material I wrote last year or the years before. I need to finish and write more new stories for 2020 and stop being lazy and trying to sell old stories that, well, aren’t selling.

There were 260 work days in 2019, and I average a bit over 700 words for each of those days. I’d like to get that up to 1,000 in 2020. That shouldn’t be too difficult, as I’m starting a new novel and revising another.

Goals for 2020

You gotta have goals heading into the new year, right? Well, here are the broad strokes of a few things I’d like to accomplish in 2020.

  1. Write and submit more short stories. Let’s say a solid 100 submissions and at least 20 new stories. This year, I’d also like to crack more pro markets. You know, markets like Fantasy & Science Fiction, or The Dark, or Nightmare, or any of a dozen others. That’s no small feat, and I know I’ll need to up my game, but I think I learned a thing or two in 2019 that might give me a fighting chance. We’ll see.
  2. Release at least one short story collection. I’ve been threatening to do this for years, and now that I have enough published pieces for a respectable page count, it’s time to pull the trigger. Gonna shoot for first quarter, but I won’t hate myself too much if it’s second quarter.
  3. Write a new novel and revise the one I have. I spent a lot of time last year revising my novel Late Risers, but it’s still not where it needs to be, so I’m taking a short break from it and I’m writing another novel, something more inline with what I normally write, more me. That’s not to say that Late Risers isn’t me, just that it’s more experimental, and I struggled with it in places. So the goal is to write the new novel in the first quarter of the year and return to Late Risers after that. It generally takes me about two to three months to bang out a first draft of a novel, so this should be an achievable goal.
  4. Redesign Rejectomancy. The blog needs a fresh coat of paint and slight refocus in 2020. Don’t worry; it’ll still be chocked full of rejections and advice about rejections and all that jazz, but you might have to endure a few more shameless plugs of *gasp* my own writing. 🙂

And that’s my rambling review of 2019. How was your year? Tell me about it in the comments.

Submission Spotlight: The Do Not Send List

Today we’re exploring another potential submission guidelines surprise. This time it’s not about formatting or regional preferences, it’s types of stories publishers would rather not see at all. I call this the Do No Send List  As usual, you should read the guidelines completely and thoroughly so you don’t miss publisher preferences. The Do Not Send List is usually pretty obvious, but not always, so read carefully.

The Do Not Send List is fairly common in submission guidelines and comes in a few different versions. Let’s take a look at them.

1) Send at your own risk. The regular strength version of the Do Not Send List is more suggestion than command, but you should still be aware of the publisher’s preferences when sending them a story. This version usually looks something like this:

Originality demands that you’re better off avoiding vampires, zombies, and other recognizable horror tropes unless you have put a very unique spin on them. 

They’re not saying you can’t send vampire and zombie stories, but you’d better come up with some mind-blowingly original shit if you hope to get one published. You’ll see this kind of thing in guidelines pretty often, and I think it’s because, yes, the publisher is tired of getting Dog Soldiers and Twilight knockoffs, but they still recognize it is possible to make those old tropes fresh and interesting again. So, sure, if you think you’ve got a truly original take on a vampire story, send it to a publisher like this. You never know.

2) Do not send. Like, seriously. For really reals. Some publishers,  tired of seeing the same old tropes again and again and again, take a more aggressive approach to the Do Not Send List, in that it is truly a DO NOT SEND list. Those generally look like this.

We do not accept stories with the following: vampires, zombies, werewolves, serial killers, hitmen, excessive gore or sex.

As you can see, most of your standard horror tropes are included in the guideline above, though hitmen is one I don’t encounter as often (but if they put it in, it’s because they’re getting too many). In this case, absolutely do not send a story containing these tropes. It’ll just make you look like you didn’t read the guidelines, and that, my friend, is a real bad look. Most of what’s on the list is pretty straight forward. If your story contains a vampire, a zombie, a werewolf (or other lycanthrope), a serial killer, or a hitman, just don’t send it. Seriously, don’t. But what about the other stuff? The stuff that has the word excessive in front of it. That’s a tougher call because what’s excessive to one person may not be excessive to another. The best thing to do here is read the publication in question to get an idea where they draw the line is on such subjects. Of course, the question then becomes is the example story right up to the line or a few feet behind it? For me, excessive usually means gratuitous, but even that’s open to interpretation. In the end, you’ll likely have to use your best judgement.

3) A list of hard sells. Some markets expand on the send at your own risk example and give you an entire list of stories and tropes that generally don’t work for them. Like with example one, they aren’t saying don’t send them, but if you do, you better do something very different with that serial killer werewolf story. Below are some markets that have hard sell lists, and I find they’re pretty informative, especially when you’re starting out and you think every idea you have is super original (it’s not).

  • Clarkesworld: This market’s hard-sell list is right in their general guidelines and hard to miss. It’s also pretty exhaustive.
  • Strange Horizons: This list, called Stories We’ve Seen Too Often, is part of Strange Horizons submission guidelines. It’s a long list of cliches and overused tropes compiled over the years, and it’s an informative read.
  • Flash Fiction Online: FFO’s list of hard sells is shorter than the others, but they go into a lot of detail why a certain trope or theme is on their list.

You can learn a lot from these lists, and not just about the preferences of markets that include them in their guidelines. If one publisher considers a trope or plot device to be overused and cliched, well, then others might too. Keep in mind, though, that just because you write a story that includes an element that’s on these lists doesn’t mean it’s a bad story or unsellable, just that it probably is going to need an original spin to set it apart from all the other zombie apocalypse, vampire romance, werewolf soldier, and serial killer turned detective stories out there.


If you’ve read any of the other entries in this series, you probably know what I’m going to say now. Yep, read the guidelines completely, carefully, and every time you send a submission. Sometimes these little nuggets of information are buried in a publisher’s guidelines, but it’s still your job to find them, read them, and implement them.

Have you seen anything else pop up on Do Not Send Lists? Tell me about it in the comments.