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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kicking a Novella out of the Nest

I admit my first reaction to a form rejection for EVFiL was the usual reaction to grief: numb shock, questioning whether the editor had even read the manuscript, debating giving up on the manuscript, deciding to quit writing all together - or not, even jumping up for every phone call sure that it was the editor calling to apologize for accidentally sending me a rejection letter...

The truth is, anthologies are devilishly hard to get into. Not only do you need to match what the editor was looking for in term of theme, but you need a style and Voice that match all the other stories that make it in. I've played the anthology lotto before and come up short. For short stories getting into a major anthology is the equivalent of becoming hitting the NYT bestseller list with a dark elf fantasy story. It could happen, but the chances of it happening to you are pretty slim.

Once I recovered from my grief-fueled delusions I realized the only sensible thing to do was sub EVFiL to the rest of my submission list. My IMAGINARY submission list. I'd been so focused on the anthology that I failed to have a back-up plan. *ouch*

I hadn't even researched the genre thoroughly. Sure, I've read romance novellas (all right - SFR novellas). Usually they're written by friends from the SFR Brigade. I never paid a ton of attention to the fine details like who edited the book or who published the book. I have lists of agents for sci-fi, but my files turned up nothing on novella publishers...

How To Submit a Novella

Step 1: Make a Short List
Figure out what genre you have, and then figure out where it goes. Ask for recommendations, check duotrope (I didn't know they has a list for novellas or novels until this week), and then check the submission guidelines to make sure your story will fit. Every publisher has a different word count for novellas and for several of the recommended publishers EVFiL was 3000-20000 words short.
Step 2: Cull the Short List
Duotrope and recommendations aren't always the safest place to find a publisher. Especially the random Twitter recommendations that included a vanity press and one blacklisted press. Before you even consider submitting, cull the weakest links. Go to Preditors and Editors and check each press with them.

Once P&E vets the publisher check the list of published works. Do you like the covers? Do the blurbs interest you? Have you heard about any of these authors? If the covers make you gag and the blurbs bore you to tears it's a safe bet that you aren't a good fit for this publisher. Cross them off the list and move on.

Step 3: Streamline the Submission Process
I'm a list freak, and a very visual person. Some people like querytracker.net for keeping track of their submissions. Me, I like an excel worksheet that I can access even when the internet is down. Get the important stats down: who you sent the piece to, the web address, the email contact, the date you sent, what you sent, and when you should hear back from the agent/editor.

It's important to note whether the press has a "No Response Means No" policy. Unless it is clearly stated, never assume that no response is a rejection. Most publishers will list their expected reply dates. If you don't see those dates listed the standard is three months on the short side, six months on the long side. If you haven't heard from them in six months go ahead and poke the press. Although, with any luck, you'll retract your submission long before then because most the novella presses seem to have a 2-4 month turn around time.

My excel sheet looks something like this... Title - Date - Publisher (web address, email, simsubs?), Sent (query, synopsis, partial, full), Response (expected, late date) Y/N?

Step 4: Format and Submit
Every author will have a different approach, but for me the easiest way to submit is to open two tabs next to each other on your internet browser. One tab is the work email you are sending from (authorname@something.com) and the second tab is the submission guidelines. Every press has their own submission guidelines. Twelve point Times New Roman is common, so is Rich Text Format, but do they want the query addressed to Editor, Acquisition Editor, Editor's Name, or Press Editor? Should your subject line read QUERY: Title_Author_Genre or Sub:Genre_Title or something else entirely?

Save yourself a massive headache and fill in the blank email page as you read through the submissions page. Edit your manuscript to fit, and save under the required title and format. RTF is always the safe bet. I have yet to see anyone who accepts files as .docx.

I recommend tweaking your query letter to fit each press. You might have a UF and they have historical romance or contemporary, change the query to say contemporary instead of urban fantasy and stress less.

- I don't recommend doing more than two or three submission packs at a time, and probably not more than five in day. Formatting requires mental gymnastics and after a few your eyes start to cross. You don't want to miss something important (like Courier rather than TNR) because you're mentally drained.

- The formatting rules are there for a reason. The editors are used to looking at one thing, and they are expecting to focus on your story, not the pretty font. Most places won't delete your manuscript because you have the wrong font, but if you send .docx and all they can read is RTF? That's not even going to earn a rejection letter.

- Make sure you send everything requested. Some places want a synopsis and query, other want a partial and query, others want a full, cover letter, query, and synopsis. Most of them won't chase you down if forget a piece of the submission packet, they'll just delete you. If you realize you've left something out resubmit with a note that they should delete your previous submission packet.

- Unless specifically requested never send an attachment. Editors and agents are very paranoid about computer viruses. If an unrequested attachment shows up the email will get deleted unread.


  1. Good luck. You know I liked the story but alas I don't edit an anthology. :(

  2. I'd also suggest using multiple sites to vet your list at. Great tips for all forms of writing, not just novellas. Good luck with these subs!

  3. Thank you, Shellina. :o)

    We've had a complaint about the comments not working. Hit the email button if you have a problem and let me know what happened. Thanks!

  4. There once was a Ninja from Nantucket,
    Who put all of his swords in a bucket.
    He started to spin,
    And exclaimed with a grin,
    "When I let this thing go, you best duck it!"

    This is a test post for troubleshooting.

  5. Hi Again, Will try this one more time. I tried to comment about your Shark. Blog....Loved it. Anyhow this advice I am sure will help also. I have not submitted yet. I keep putting it off. Someday I will feel ready. Maybe, hopefully.

  6. I figured out the problem I think. One went thru so this is a test, Just a test. If you have two from me I know why. I was using the top button for my Google account. This time I Picked open ID and it worked fine.

  7. So if a publisher doesn't accept simultaneous submissions, that means they want an exclusive? Or does that mean you shouldn't have more than one story sent out to them at a time? (I figure it's the first, but I'm just making sure.)

  8. Emily - Simultaneous means they don't want that story going out to more than one person at a time. Multi-sub means they accept more than one of your pieces queried at a time (rare).

  9. First post I've seen about publishing novellas--refreshing.

  10. Lauren - The steampunk and SFR writers are exploiting the novella niche like there is no tomorrow. It's the perfect length for an afternoon read, and with the rise of e-publishing it's affordable. Most novellas stay in the ebook format, but you can build a loyal following and solid fan base from writing and publishing novellas.