09 August 2014

Submission Accomplished

by John M. Floyd

As most of you have heard by now, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine recently introduced a new submission process. Authors can now send their short stories in to AHMM the same way they've been doing it at EQMM, via the shared web site themysteryplace.com. Just navigate to the Hitchcock site, click on "Writers' Guidelines," and then choose "online submission system."

This is of course good news for those of us who regularly send stories in to AH for consideration. No more printouts, no more envelopes (self-addressed or otherwise), no more labels, no more stamps, no more trips to the post office. Easier, quicker, less expensive. A byproduct of the new system is an online tracking program that allows the writer to keep up with the current status of his/her manuscript. What's not to like?

Look, Mom--no hands

I was intrigued to see, at a couple of the Internet forums (fora? fori?) that not everyone seems to be pleased by the discontinuation of AHMM's old-school "manual" submission system. Although I don't agree, I think I do understand the reasons that some are less than happy about the move. It's been said that any publication that begins accepting online submissions, whether it's via e-mail or via a website "submission box," also begins receiving far more manuscripts than before. Why? Because it's now easier, quicker, and less expensive. The one thing that seems to make everything simpler can conceivably also make it harder because of increased competition and an increased workload for those who read the submissions.

Simply stated, it might now be so easy to submit that everyone will want to submit everything, maybe even those who shouldn't be writing and submitting anything. One school of thought maintains that if you're willing to take the time and trouble to print your story, print a cover letter, include an SASE, clip it all together, stuff it into an envelope, print and attach address labels, and drive to the P.O. and stand in line and pay the postage to mail it--well, that means you're possibly more serious about your writing. The more labor-intensive the job is, the fewer lazy workers will participate.

What are your views on the subject? Would you now be more likely to send a manuscript to AHMM? Do you think the pluses outweigh the minuses? I find it interesting that of the four mystery markets I submit to the most, two of them (Woman's World and The Strand Magazine) require snailmailed submissions. Maybe WW and The Strand will switch over as well, one day.

Again, I can see both sides of the argument. But I must admit, as someone who has already taken advantage of the new system (I e-sent AH a new story a few days ago), that I like it. A lot. Nothing can reduce the work it takes to produce a quality story, but anything that reduces the work it takes to get it submitted is--in my opinion--a good thing. I'm also wondering if the new process might allow AHMM to respond more quickly than it has in the past. (That might be overly optimistic, since--as I mentioned--there will probably now be even more manuscripts in the chute.)

Preaching to the choir?

Please be aware, I am not one of those writers who have been reluctant to submit stories to AHMM because of its hardcopy-only submission procedures. I've faithfully read AH since I was in college, editor Linda Landrigan has been extremely kind to me, and I would probably continue to submit stories to her magazine even if I had to send them via mule train. I suspect that most of my SleuthSayers colleagues feel the same way. But this should make the process a lot more pleasant.

Speaking of pleasant things, AHMM recently accepted another of my stories--this one submitted months ago, via snailmail--and as always, that feeling made it well worth the wait. I hope more acceptances, from AH and from others, are coming up for all of us.

No matter how we send the stories in.


  1. I like the online submissions very much, but I do feel for the editors who must read all that copy on the screen.
    Congratulations on your latest AHMM story!

  2. John, congrats on another story. I'm of the age to resist change, and this is not a good time in history to be that way. However, I think electronic submissions are wonderful. My first Callie book was right before that became acceptable, and it was a pain in the you know what. Now I just hit "send" for three or four hundred pages. On the matter of speed of response, we need to remember that the only thing faster with the e submissions is the manuscript actually arriving at the desired place. It takes just as long for slush readers and editors to get through the submissions and respond.

  3. John, it would be interesting to hear from Janet Hutchings, or Jackie Sherbow at EQMM on this issue. They've been accepting e-submissions for some time now. I've wondered how that changed things for them--better, or worse, harder or easier?

    Like you, I much prefer the electronic submission process. In fact, I've become so spoiled by it that I find myself feeling a little resentful when asked to go the old way. After all, so much hard work has already been done, do we really need another task if it's not truly necessary? I say, "No...hell no!"

  4. Thanks, Janice. Yes, one thing I didn't mention is that I assume that all those submissions will now be read on-screen. If I were doing the reading, I would regret not having the hardcopy manuscript on my desk.

    Fran, you're right, the new system wouldn't in itself reduce response time--it just makes it easier for the submitter. But it did seem to me that EQ's response time got a little shorter around the same time that they went to their online sub system. Or maybe I'm just remembering wrong. (That happens a lot.)

  5. David, I would love to know how Janet, Jackie, and others feel about the system, since they switched over to it some time ago. I must assume the work is now harder, first because of what Janice said--the submission will now be read on-screen rather than on paper--and secondly because there will almost certainly be more submissions arriving.

    As you mentioned, and since we're the "sellers" rather than the "buyers," the new process is not only welcome but overdue.

  6. Yes, it's a two edged sword. Easier for the submitter, but it probably means more "junk" for the reader to plow through, as if they didn't get enough of that already.

    WW would save more time in the submission process because of its current procedure. The ms goes to NJ, screened, then forwarded to Johnene in Washington state. For me, here in California, that means two cross country trips.

    Like most of you, I am happy with the electronic submission. Now if they could figure a way to separate the wheat from the chaff without wasting a lot of human reading time it would be perfect.

    Congratulations on your sale. As always I am looking forward to reading it.

  7. Herschel, the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced: I think most places that continue to hang onto the old snailmail submission procedures do it not because of the technology challenges but because it's just easier to read and consider a hardcopy submission than an electronic submission. If I were the buyer rather than the seller I would probably agree.

    I predict, though, that pretty soon all respectable markets will offer at least the option of submitting electronically, either via email or web site. And I really love the ability to check anytime into the status of a submitted manuscript.

    My only complaint now is that all these places seem to want to send me more rejections than acceptances. Wish there was a solution to THAT . . .

  8. I prefer e-subs, though I'd sent in an AHMM submission (my first) via snail mail about two weeks before the e-sub announcement. Still waiting to hear from them, of course, it's been only a month or so. 

    One thing I do wonder: I'd read in forums that some writers kept multiple submissions in play at AHMM. They'd sub every 3-4 months while waiting to hear about a previously subbed mss that sat quietly in an AHMM file cabinet. I don't see anything in AHMM guidelines about multiples, and wonder whether the e-sub system will bounce them out.

    And congrats on your latest acceptance!

  9. Thanks, Peter. Good to hear from you.

    As for your question, I doubt there'd be anything in the e-sub system that would automatically kick out what I've always called "multiple" submissions--but I recently heard someone say Janet at EQ prefers that authors wait to submit a second manuscript until they hear back from the first.

    I have always (at AHMM and everywhere else) felt pretty comfortable having three stories under consideration at any one place at any one time, unless the guidelines tell me not to. (More than three always sounds like too many, to me.) The truth is, when responses sometimes take as long as a year, you almost HAVE to keep multiple submissions in the pipeline; otherwise, you'd never be able to publish often at any one market. (My opinion only.)

  10. I'm with you, John - I've always submitted multiple stories, mainly because it takes so long to hear back. And as long as the submissions are a few months apart, I figure, what's the harm?

  11. Eve, I honestly don't think most editors object at all to multiple subs, as long as you don't overwhelm them with too many or send the submissions (as you said) too close together.

    The one thing I've never done is send two stories in the same envelope--even if both are very short. I've never seen any rules against it, but it just doesn't seem like a professional thing to do.

  12. It would appear that the ease is for the writers, though this also might make it easier for the editors to review submissions on their tablets while sitting at the beach, sipping margaritas, instead of lugging along a few pounds of wood pulp.
    Those who desire to write, send, wait (while writing more) will continue to do so because it is in their blood. Those standing by the mailbox the day after sending in a submission in anticipation may have a longer wait.

  13. Good point, Bradley. I especially like the image of an editor sprawled in a beach chair reading my submission. Seriously, these electronic subs will certainly make the reviewing process more mobile and versatile. It'll be interesting to see if the response time at AHMM gets shorter, longer, or stays about the same. How long has EQMM been using their online sub system? Three or four years now, right?

    You are also correct, I think, that the best way to handle waiting is to write something else.

  14. Thanks John and Eve for posting your views on multiple subs. Your points are welcome news to me. I hadn’t submitted to AHMM at all until I read those forum comments suggesting subbing every few months (to offset long response times). I’d decided to snail-mail three (or so) subs a year, a few months apart, so I guess I’ll stick with that plan with the online system.

  15. Peter, that sounds like a good plan. It's certainly what I do.

    For those places that do require snailmailed subs, I once heard about a smart technique to use, when submitting multiple stories. The person who told me this said that he often sends multiple submissions, but that his rejection letters sometimes didn't specify which story had been rejected (which was, of course, a problem). He said he solved this by lightly printing the name of each story in pencil on the inside flap of the SASE that accompanied that story. Then, if he had submitted three stories to a certain market in three separate submissions and he got a letter from them saying only "Sorry, your story doesn't meet our requirements at this time," etc., he just checked the flap of the SASE and immediately knew which of the three stories had been rejected. I've always done that, since.

  16. Jeez, been using it with EQ for some time, now. I had a deal to do it with Linda a while ago, but my submissions are backed up. God bless her, but she has Jackie print them out, and send them to her by SNAIL mail. Or that's my understanding. Cumbersome process. I don't fault Linda in any way, but with eight or nine e-mail subs sitting in the slush pile, I went back to print submissions for AHMM. I'm getting a mixed message. No disrespect. Still, it's the 21st fucking century.

  17. Thanks, Stephen!

    David, that DOES sound cumbersome. Thanks for the interesting info--hope the glitches get worked out.

    I can only imagine how much work it must be and how much time it must take for Janet and Linda to read and evaluate the number of submissions each of them must receive. I wonder if EQ really did start getting even more subs once they moved to the new system several years ago.

  18. How often one should submit to any specific periodical is a tricky thing to figure out, but I've generally opted for matching my submission volume to the periodical's publication schedule. That is, submitting a story every three months to a quarterly, every other month to a bi-monthy, and every month to a monthly. This presumes, of course, that I can actually produce appropriate stories at that rate, which can be tough to do if one targets several periodicals.

    How many stories one should have hanging around in any one periodical's slush pile is also a tricky thing to figure out. The more I've sold to a periodical, the more willing I am to increase the number of stories under submission at any one time.

    If I've never sold anything to the publication, I might be willing to let only one or two stories sit in the slush pile. On the other hand, I write for a pair of monthly women's magazines that share the same editor, and I have as many as 10 submissions there at any given time. That's worked out well for me as I've had at least one story in one or both magazines each month for 47 consecutive months.

  19. Good advice, Michael. I too find myself more apt to stack submissions up at places I've sold to before. Part of that is of course because I feel I have a better chance of selling those stories there, and am thus more willing to tie them up for a period of time, than I would be at a market that has never bought anything from me. In the publishing world, as in so many other areas in life, time is money.

    Your track record is an inspiration to all of us.


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