Submission Etiquette 101

Greetings and salutations, Apparition Lit Readers and Submitters! 

I’m back! Last submission round, we shared stories we liked (and some we didn’t) to give insight into what we are often looking for when we open our submissions. In this edition, we are going back to basics to “Submission Etiquette 101” or, “what you should or should not do when submitting to our publication.”

Every submission window we get some wild hares that seem to spit in the face of our submission guidelines. We also get some well-intentioned folks who maybe just missed the mark. We rounded up the most common offenses and missteps and presented them here in clear, easy “rules.” 

Keep in mind, these are the facts according to Apparition Lit. Spec fiction publications are not a monolith. However, we have learned in our time that plenty of sites see the same issues, and so I am also inviting you to view this list as a learning tool for all your future endeavors. 

Let’s get to it, shall we? 

1) It must be speculative

Why is this number one? Guess! We are a speculative fiction magazine. If you don’t got it, we don’t want it. See numbers 3 and 4 for elaboration. I’m sorry, but this has to be said! No, wait, I’m not sorry! Stop sending us your fluff! Get outta here with that nonsense! 

2) Do not unnecessarily gender your editors

Perhaps as an all femme-identifying team, this has stood out to us as the most blatant example of not knowing your audience. Leading your submission email with “Dear Sirs” when we have no “sirs” on staff tells us you just flat out did not look at our publication. Also, you did not need to tell on yourself like that! It’s 2021. Gender neutral greetings are very appropriate and when in doubt…just leave it out! 

3) Submit in the appropriate timeline/window

Our publication has had profound and wonderful success with having specific submission windows for general submitters and BIPOC submitters. It also means that when you submit in the wrong batch, we can tell you do not take us seriously. Getting a non-BIPOC author in our BIPOC window is like nails-on-the-chalkboard for us. It’s also VERY popular for the trolls to submit at inappropriate times, and that leads us to bunch all those folks together. You don’t want to be lumped in with trolls, do you? So please, just don’t. 

4) Don’t ask for feedback/why you were rejected

Listen, it’s not you. It’s us! But also…sometimes it’s you. Regardless, most publications are VERY clear on this one: we do not have the time or availability to provide personalized feedback for every rejection. If we did, we would offer it up front as a consolation. When you demand something we can not, and do not, offer, you come across as *waves hands dramatically* difficult. Please, let us go and move on to your next great opportunity. 

5) You don’t have to include a summary of your poems/story, or tell us how you think it relates to the theme

Submitting your piece with a brief, short email works for us. You can do that. You are allowed. This one seems motivated by a need for authors to fill in a cover-letter type email. In the case of Apparition Lit, our readers do not even *see* the summary you have worked so hard to craft. It takes your time and energy, and it’s wasted on us. Your work will speak for itself.

6) If you take more than 4 pages to work up to your plot, then it’s not for us

You have some tough competition. We love authors who can take us someplace very special in the 5,000 words or less we allow. If we are trudging through your work just to start the story, our readers will lose interest and we won’t even get to the parts that make your piece great. As many a great editor has recommended, be ruthless, and only send us your choicest cut!

7) Writers don’t have to respond to rejections:

Hey, pal. It’s okay. It happens to all of us. Literally. Everybody gets rejected at least once in their lifetime. If you’re doing it right, you’ll get rejected hundreds of times! It’s not personal. We just need to do our due diligence in advising; we don’t need to hear back once we have sent that notice. I get that sometimes your feelings are hurt and you want us to know all about it. It’s okay! Take a deep breath. Go outside, get some sunshine. Drink some water. Walk it off. Please, don’t respond. For those of you who respond with “Thanks for your consideration,” that’s nice! But also no worries, friend. We got you.

8) No erotica, rape, child abuse

Why is this one 2nd to last? Guess! We are a speculative fiction magazine. If you’ve got it, we don’t want it. We make that really clear on our submission page. And yet, every time, we get horrific or sexy stories that just make us go “why??” in the collective slack. Cut us a break! 

9) Consider a sensitivity read when you include diverse populations

We have quite a few running jokes in our group slack about the most atrocious microaggressions (and outright hate) we have collected. And we’ve seen it all: racism, misogyny, homophobia, antisemitism, and xenophobia. It’s a bad look, y’all. If it has slurs, we pass. The truly jarring thing about these reads is that it’s clear the authors really thought they had something valid to say. Please, folks. Get a reader/editor when discussing cultures outside your own. We are a pretty diverse crew, with badass guest editors to back us up. We will catch you. And we will reject you. 

There we have it! Not so bad, right? Now we will just sit back and wait for the trolls to roll in…For the rest of you, the real decent folks out there with actual lives and hobbies, I wish you all the luck in your future submissions and hope this helps give you some insider tips to make it past the first round of reads! 

Until next time, friends!

Blog Photo by Wulan Sari on Unsplash

  • Marie Baca Villa
    Marie Baca Villa Blogger/Submission Reader

    Marie Baca Villa is a Chicana writer and artist in California. She has a master’s degree in psychology and used her education to build a long career in crime victim advocacy. As a fan of speculative fiction, she loves anything involving strange worlds, complex characters, and unexplained phenomenon. She’s a bonified cat lady, covered in tattoos, and she loves cussing, beer, and flaming hot cheetos. You can find Marie on Twitter @okay_its_marie

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