03 July 2021

Hope to Hear from You Soon


  

If you write and sell short fiction, there are three steps you have to take, over and over again: (1) write the story, (2) send it off, and (3) wait for a reply. That third task is the only one you can't control, and often seems to be the hardest.


No one likes to wait a long time to hear back from a story submission. I mean, you've created a masterpiece and you're ready to share it with the reading world, right NOW, and here you sit, waiting for months for some editor to decide if it's worthy. The final insult is that in some cases the best publications can take the longest time to respond. What's an impatient writer to do?

The simple answer: Don't send stories to those publications. Send only to those that respond promptly.

The problem is, that doesn't work for me. I want some of my stories to be featured occasionally in those long-responding publications. So my answer is, submit to them anyway. Send the stories off and wait, like everyone else. But meanwhile, also send stories to places that don't take so long. As in most things in life, it's a balancing act.

In the case of markets for mystery short stories, which ones take the longest to respond? Which are the quickest? Here are my thoughts on that, based on my own experience, for a few of what I consider to be prime markets in terms of quality and/or compensation.


Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine -- Editor Janet Hutchings usually responds to my submissions fairly quickly. It might be a rejection note and it might be an acceptance (I'll let you guess which I get most often), but either way, I usually know within three months, and sometimes two or less. One of my acceptances came after four months, so maybe longer can be a good sign--has anyone else noticed that, or was this a fluke? FYI, payment for accepted EQMM stories is pleasingly prompt, but it might be months before your story is published.

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine -- Linda Landrigan makes no secret of the fact that it takes her a long time to respond to story submissions. For me, that's usually been around eleven months, for both rejections and acceptances. A few of my stories have been accepted after a shorter time, and a few have taken a full year--but eleven months seems to be about right. Do I still send stories to AHMM, despite the long wait time? I sure do--and so do a lot of other writers. (The thrill and satisfaction of an AH acceptance is enough to outweigh the delay.) Also, be aware that AHMM, like EQMM, usually has a backlog such that publication might not happen for many months.

Strand Magazine -- Andrew Gulli is not known for responding right away to submissions, and in fact he sometimes never responds unless he wants to buy the story. When he does want a story, he usually tells you right away, within a few weeks. I have to agree with those who say it can be frustrating to never hear back from a submission--but remember, if you don't like that policy, don't submit a story. I choose to submit to them anyway. If a story's accepted, great, and if it's not, I write them a polite withdrawal note after several months and then send the story elsewhere. On the plus side, my accepted stories at the Strand have usually been published right away, in the next issue.

Black Cat Mystery Magazine -- Editor Michael Bracken often makes all this a bit easier by announcing when he'll be open to new submissions. When the window is open, I've found that he's fairly prompt in responding, and payment is prompt as well. It can sometimes take awhile until your accepted story is published--most magazines plan way ahead, on this kind of thing--but it's worth the wait. Something else I should mention: BCMM, like most of the others I've listed here, seems to be a popular source of award-nominated and "best-of-the-year"-selected stories.

Mystery Weekly -- Kerry Carter is another who responds quickly, and there's the added benefit of having a submission status link that can tell you how many stories are ahead of yours in the reading queue. My response time there, for both acceptances and rejections, has usually been less than three weeks, but--once again--publication of accepted stories can take a while.

Woman's World -- Editor Alexandra Pollock still publishes mini-mysteries (they call them Solve-It-Yourself mysteries now), and although I don't submit to WW as much as I used to, I still send them stories from time to time. In my experience, they either respond after a few weeks or they (like the Strand) don't respond at all, and if I haven't heard from them in three months I send a withdrawal note, after which I change the "format" of the story and submit it elsewhere. Again, I don't complain about their no-response policy--that's just the way the mop flops. If you don't like it, don't send them anything. But be aware that when they do accept a story, payment is quick and generous (for a mystery, it's $450 for less than 600 words) and publication comes soon afterward, usually within a couple of months.

 

Remember, don't take the above observations as fact. I think they're good indicators of recent response times, but they're all based on my own stories to these markets--and besides, I suspect those wait times could change at any point. What are your experiences, with the short stories you've submitted to these and other markets? If you would, let me know in the comments section.

 

Meanwhile, do what I do. I'm not the most patient person in the world, but when I send a story out, I then try to forget about it and work instead on writing and submitting more stories. That's the best way I know to relieve response-time stress. And when you do get a reply, may your answer be a contract and not a rejection.

That's the best medicine of all.


35 comments:

  1. As always, good marketing advice.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've had pretty much the same experience as you with these same magazines, John, but with far fewer acceptances. It's comforting to know that you have to wait eleven months for Linda Landrigan, too. I have never heard a word from Andrew Gulli.

    Let me suggest Tough as another market. Rusty Barnes usually responds in two months or less, sometimes as quickly as two weeks, and he's taken a fair number of the stories I've sent him. Tough recently raised their pay rate, too, now paying a flat $50 for a story, which is better than many other markets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve, thanks so much for mentioning Tough--they're certainly a great mystery market, and yes, Rusty responds pretty fast. I wasn't aware of their recent change in pay rate.

      I think the secret, if there is one, to AHMM is to try to keep several stories in the queue there, so the wait seems shorter. I now have four stories that have been accepted there but not yet published, and I need to send them some more.

      Andrew, a fine editor and a great guy, is indeed a man of few words, and few emails. Don't give up on sending stories to the Strand, though.

      Delete
  3. Thank you, Janice and O'Neil.

    One thing I didn't mention is that it's good to keep (if you can) a lot of stories circulating at the same time. Waiting for responses is much easier that way--or at least you're less aware of the long time many publications take to reply. Having only one or two stories under consideration seems to make waiting a lot harder.

    Take care, you two. O'Neil, I hope to see you in New Orleans next month.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Another good column, John. My experiences with these markets also mirror yours. Anthologies, of course, add another layer of complexity, especially since they're less predictable. Some answer almost immediately, and some take so long that you wonder if the project has been abandoned.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Joe--thanks! As for anthologies, I've noticed they'll sometimes give you a "to be published date" and/or a "will notify by" date, and--as you said--sometimes not. If they do take too long, I usually send them a note asking about the status of my submission, etc., and they'll usually reply.

      Also, not that it matters, I've found that I usually target my new stories (unless they're done specifically for an anthology) to magazines first and anthos second--and I've also found that some anthologies are far more likely to consider reprints.

      I hope you keep you keep up the great run you've had lately--and stay in touch!

      Delete
    2. I used "usually" a lot of times in that past response to a comment. I think folks who use a lot of usuallys are usually trying not to be pinned down on anything specific . . .

      Delete
  5. Hi, John. As usual, you have written a useful column.

    My experience with AHMM, lately, is Linda takes about 11.5 months to respond. As for stories she's purchased, one ran six months later, but my impression is that's unusual. Often it's more than a year later. I had a story run this year that Linda purchased two years beforehand. EQMM, on the other hand, seems to run the purchased stories within a year. Of course, my experience might not be representative.

    With Black Cat, they've changed how they pay. They used to pay upon acceptance. Now they pay on publication, which likely is months later.

    And I think Woman's World might have lowered what they pay for mystery solve-its to $400, but don't quote me on that.

    Like you, I hate waiting, but that's part of the job. When I send stories out for consideration, I try not to think about them. To do otherwise is the way of madness.

    Have a great day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barb, thanks for those details on AHMM. I too had a story there recently that took two years from acceptance to publication, AND one at EQ that took one year. As you said, though, mileages vary.

      You are correct, about BCMM--I should've remembered that about pay on acceptance vs. pay on publication because I was paid for one recently. But they do still seem to respond with the yea/nay decision pretty fast. Mystery Weekly, by the way, still pays on acceptance.

      Nope, Woman's World pays $450 for mysteries, and I know only because I signed a contract with them for one last week. Not sure what the pay rate is for romances--I haven't sold them a romance since they paid $1000 each for them years ago--but it went down fairly recently from $800 to (I think) $720. As you said, don't quote me on that.

      Thank you as always for your thoughts. Have a great Fourth!

      Delete
  6. Great post. I agree the best way to wait is to keep writing.

    My AHMM response time is 11-12 months. Longest was 13, the shortest 7. The story that just ran was accepted at 10 and was published 14 months later. It's always been a year or more post-acceptance to get into print.

    Kerry at MYSTERY WEEKLY is great on response time. So easy to work with and get the contract done. I usually hear back in 2 weeks but never much longer. It's been as few as 2 months to see the story in print.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks, Bob--yep, I guess that 11-month mark happens more often than not, with AHMM. And since everyone knows it usually takes a long time for accepted stories to make it into print there, no one's disappointed when it does.

    I agree that Kerry's a pleasure to work with. My latest accepted at Mystery Weekly was a few days ago, and it too came within two weeks. My latest stories there, though, have taken several months to show up in print, so I never expect them until I see them.

    Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's encouraging to read that your experiences are not so different from mine. Waiting to hear can be frustrating but at least it gives me time to be optimistic. I haven't cracked The Strand yet, nor EQMM, but I'm glad to say AHMM has been good to me.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Totally agree with all of your post, John. I'm willing to wait for the right place; but as soon as I know for sure it's a rejection, after a quick sulk and check for anything I can do to improve it, the story goes out again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too, Eve! Awhile back I got a rejection, and within an hour that story was back out to someone else with NO changes--and it sold right away. All this is an inexact science for sure, and the only way to be successful is to keep trying.

      Many thanks for the comment!

      Delete
  10. Susan, I know well how successful you've been at AHMM--congratulations!

    I love your note that these long waits can give us time to be optimistic. How true! What's funny to me is that I often have such high hopes for stories than eventually get rejected, and how surprised I am that others get snapped up right away. Just shows what a poor judge I am of my own writing.

    Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts here.

    ReplyDelete
  11. John, as always a very useful column! My experience on wait times has been similar. And I love Mystery Weekly not only for the fast responses one way or the other, but also because I know I can check where my story is in the queue (sort of like counting other shoppers ahead of me in the grocery store checkout line). Anyway, happy 4th!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy Fourth to you too, Adam! Yep, I love the fact that you can check your submitted story's status, at Mystery Weekly. (It seems you can wait a few hours and check again and it's always changed, right up until the time you get the go/no-go decision--so they move fast in every way.)

      Thank you as always for stopping in, here!

      Delete
  12. My experience matches yours, John! I do find it takes longer to get replies now than it did before digital submissions. Back 10, 15 years ago, there were a lot fewer writers willing to spend stamp and envelope on submissions, I guess. Wish we weren't still stuck with no simultaneous submissions, and have to report that the one time I ignored the rule, I got caught with two mags wanting the story. Not my classier moment. Lesson learned.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Melodie. I once heard that the best thing ever to happen to writers was electronic submissions, and the worst thing ever to happen to writers was . . . electronic submissions. Because of the fact that it had now become so easy to submit, everyone was doing it and the competition was now bigger than ever.

      What a scary thing, to have violated the simsub rule that one time and get caught! I bet that WAS a lesson learned. It's always made me nervous, to the extent that I very very rarely submit simultaneously.

      Thanks so much for the thoughts!

      Delete
  13. I just checked my spreadsheet. I currently have 14 stories in submission purgatory SOMEWHERE, and four of them are at Alfred. I received a rejection from them about two weeks ago and am revising that story, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good luck with that revision, Steve, and with the four outstanding stories too.

      I too have four stories sitting at AHMM awaiting a decision.

      Delete
  14. John, you're so modest you didn't mention the six stories you have in the little book "2 minute mini mysteries" recently published by Woman's World! Subtitled "40 cases, can YOU crack them all?" On the last page, there's an incomplete set of guidelines for writing & submitting a mystery to them. It's all good advice, but doesn't mention anything about the fiction editor's name, story length, payment, & other things that might factor into a decision to publish a story or not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very kind, Elizabeth--thank you. Those six stories' inclusion were a real surprise to me!

      As for WW guidelines, they're often hard to come by. For what it's worth, the ed.'s name is Alex Pollock, advertised wordcount for the mysteries is 700 (though they prefer much less), and payment (as mentioned earlier) is $450. Wordcount for romances is 800 and payment is (I think) $720.

      Delete
    2. I hadn't seen that, Elizabeth. Thanks!

      Delete
  15. Thanks for the insights! I got word around March that a story I sent to an anthology and had been accepted in 2015 (!!!) is going to be published after all! This after waiting about five years and the editor saying the book was in Limbo (and after my sending it off to a few other markets in 2020---all rejected!) May come out in October after six years! I don't have a lot of patience, but I can fake it! :) Glad you have patience, John!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeff, that's great news! I once had a story accepted after a two-year wait, but six years?!? Keep me posted on this--I look forward to reading that story!

      Delete
    2. Thanks John and Leigh! (Keep your fingers crossed!)

      Delete
  16. I had written off hearing back from an editor when I received a surprise phone call from her, saying she wanted to publish my story. It became my first published story and later won an award. You never know.

    In the meantime, I've submitted numerous stories to Godot Publications (Vladimir and Estragon, editors).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great way to start publishing, Leigh! As I've said before, early acceptances give the writer a lot of needed encouragement and confidence. And to get an award for that story, too . . . Wow!

      Delete
  17. My experiences with the pubs you've mentioned fall right in line with yours, John.

    A couple of additional comments re Mystery Weekly. Over the last year or so, I think Kerry's begun receiving a lot more submissions than she used to, and that explains why it's taking her a bit longer to respond than it did say eighteen months and more ago. On the other hand, when she takes a story she sends a contract almost instantly, and payment is made the same day by PayPal! Her rates are low, but she recently doubled them from a penny to two cents a word, with a minimum of $25 regardless of length, and that's better than quite a few other markets are paying. She and Chuck are doing a fine job with MW, and IMHO the magazine gets better every issue. The only thing I'd suggest is that they really ought to send contributors a free copy of the print edition; MW is the only place that publishes me that, if I want a hard copy for my bookshelves — and I always do — I have to pay for it. That's a relatively minor quibble, though; the good far outweighs the, I don't want to say "bad," so I'll leave it at ungood....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good points, Josh. I agree that Mystery Weekly has gotten better and better, and Kerry's a great editor to work with. And you're right, about payment--I sold my 8th story to Mystery Weekly last week, and she sent me a contract and paid me that same day. Hard to complain about that.

      Another thing I might mention: Like AHMM, Mystery Weekly sometimes seems open to stories that contain a paranormal or otherworldly element--unlike EQMM, Strand, BCMM, and WW.

      Thanks for the observations!!

      Delete
  18. Oh, Leigh, I've worked with Vladimir and Estragon many times - fun guys, but they don't focus well.

    ReplyDelete

Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>