Answering your questions about submissions

We're five days into the July submission period, and so far we've received 64 stories. We typically receive somewhere in the 250-350 range, over the course of each month-long submission window. And with the submissions has come a flurry of emails asking about everything from what sort of stories we like to how the submission system works. We've tried to stay on top of the emails, though we may not have been answering quite as promptly as authors would like. So, in order to answer your questions so promptly that they're answered even before they're asked, here is a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for you.

I wrote a story I want to submit.

Good for you! . . . Uh, was there a question?

How do I submit a story?

Ah, yes. See our Submission Guidelines. There is a link there that will let you submit through our online submission system, Moksha.

Should I submit this story? [Usually followed by a long description of the story including characters, plot, themes, and reasons why it's Christian even if it doesn't seem to be.]

We get it. Authors want a little bit of certainty before they send in a story and have to wait months before hearing back. But the problem is, 1) we can't do this for everyone, and we don't like giving anyone an unfair advantage, and 2) we don't know the answer. We can give you a general idea of what we like and don't like, but that doesn't answer the question of what we'll think of your story.

So much of the story is in the execution. You can have great ideas, but if the story falls flat, the ideas won't save it. And to be honest, most ideas aren't as great and original as most authors think. You can have beautiful prose, but if nothing happens, Donald will reject the story without finishing it. (Kristin will read it all the way through and then reject it.) Your story may be stuffed with jokes, but that doesn't mean we'll find it funny.

Ultimately, the only way to tell whether we'll like the story is to submit it, so we can read it and find out.

What sort of stories do you like?

This is a question we have answered many times. First read the Submission Guidelines and the Theme Guidelines. If that isn't enough, you can read the What We Want posts. If you still want more information, you can always read the stories we've previously published, especially looking for ones which are most similar to yours. Stories are tagged with labels such as Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, and Supernatural (stories where the only speculative element is some aspect of Christian cosmology, such as prophecy or angels).

Did you mean it when you said you weren't interested in pandemic stories (or vampire stories, or Cthulhu stories)? Do you still mean it?

Yes, we meant it. That does not mean we'll reject those stories out of hand. If you send us a sufficiently compelling story, even on a theme we don't usually like, it may win us over. However, one reason we list these types of stories is that we get a lot of them (or in the case of pandemic stories, expect to get a lot of them no matter what we say), when we'd really rather publish (and read) something else. Your pandemic story will face a lot of competition for the 0-1 publishing slots we have available for pandemic fiction in the 6 months we're trying to fill through the current submission window.

I accidentally submitted an old draft of my story, or would like to change my mind about which story I'm submitting this time around. Can I withdraw it and send you a different file instead? If so, how?

Yes, this is fine, as long as submissions are still open. The auto-response you received upon submitting your story includes a link through which you have the option of withdrawing that story from consideration. Withdraw the story, then use the submission portal to submit the file you want us to consider.

Unfortunately, if we've already rejected your story by the time you realize it's full of typos and other errors, we're afraid it's too late. We don't allow you to resubmit the same story once it's been rejected, even if you think you've fixed it. (It's also very unlikely that you will have fixed the issue that led us to reject it.) Also, if you realize on August 10th that the story you sent us in July has a lot of problems, it's also too late. You're still free to withdraw it, but in that case you'll have to wait until the next submission window (January) to resubmit.

Please don't go overboard with this. We're not going to reject your story because it has two or three typos (or even a dozen), or because of the occasional awkwardly written sentence. And everything we publish goes through an editing phase, so if we do accept your story, you'll still have the chance to fix everything you've since decided is wrong with it.

What should I put in the cover letter?

Honestly, it doesn't matter that much. Donald never reads the cover letter before reading the story, and it doesn't have any influence one way or the other about whether he'll advance it to the next round. He may skim it afterward to see if there's anything relevant to his rejection, but he doesn't write long, detailed rejection letters anyway. (This is one reason he usually does most of the first round reading.)

Kristin does read the cover letter, if it isn't too long, but it doesn't affect whether she'll pass on your story either (probably). A professional cover letter that briefly and clearly explains whether you have any expertise relevant to the story may encourage her to give your story more of a chance if it gets off to a rough start. This means that she's more likely to read all the way to the end, not that she's less likely to reject your story. You have a better chance of a personal rejection letter if Kristin gets to your story first, but she's also more likely to reject it.

By "professional cover letter", we mean that it contains no information besides your name, the title and word count of the story, a short list (3 or fewer) of your previous publications (name of magazine or anthology for short fiction, title and publisher for books), any major awards or prestigious workshops (if you aren't sure whether the one you want to mention counts, it probably doesn't), and any qualifications you have that make you especially suited to write this story (i.e., it's about extraterrestrial life and you're a SETI researcher, or it's about missionaries and you are or have been a missionary, or it's set in Indonesia and you're Indonesian). We don't want a description, summary, or synopsis of your story. We don't want you to explain why it would be a good fit for our magazine. We don't even want to know what genre it is (unless it's relevant to your specific qualifications for writing it). We definitely don't want to know the Amazon sales rankings for your self-published novels! The longer your cover letter, the greater the chance that we will reject your story without reading all the way to the end.

Having said all that, we have absolutely accepted and published stories that were submitted to us with cover letters ignoring many of these these rules. We're looking for reasons to like your story, not to reject it. If the story is good enough, we don't care how awkward your cover letter was. So don't worry about it too much! (Definitely don't withdraw your already-submitted story now that you've read all this and resubmit with a better cover letter, because that just gets annoying. If your story is good enough to be a contender for publication, it won't make a difference.)

We hope that this will be helpful to you, and look forward to reading your stories!

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  1. Could there be a deadline extension please?

  2. I'm afraid that we can't extend the deadline. However, our submissions are open twice a year, and if you've missed this submission period, you can always send us a story in January.

  3. I've published an edited version of a story you rejected a few years ago. Are you willing to consider the edited version as a reprint?

    1. Unless we asked for a rewrite, we still wouldn't reconsider the story. We'd rather see a new story from you.


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