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2006 Authors Insider Tips

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown
The 30-Second Solution
Backstory vs. Flashback
Intimacy Begins With "I"
Hit the Ground Running
Make the Reader Leap
Meaningful Dialogue
Pulling the String
Central Image
Elegant Smut
Better Plots
Bitch Power


The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
Predefined Your Goals
Spell Ink Miss Takes
Plotting & Planning
Character Building
Speech Therapy
Talking Sense


Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Intro to Lesbian Erotica
3-Dimensional Characters
Submitting for Publication
Five Year Writing Plan
Setting Up Your Plan...
The Power of Naming
Language of Lesbian...
Sexual Description
What Can I say?


Hard Business
From Greg Herren
What Are Your Priorities?
How to Edit an Anthology
Follow the Guidelines...
A Cock is Just a Cock
But is it Still a Story?
Who Am I Fucking?
Potential Material
Rejection ...


The Business End
By Kate Dominic
Effective Cover Letters
How to Lose Contracts
Contracts: Agent Issues
Contracts: Read It!
Double Duty Bios
What's Sex?


Literary Streetwalker
By M. Christian
Ground Rules for Writers
No Muse is Good News
Effective Cover Letters
Location, Location
Say Something!
Dirty Words


The Erotic Book Docter
By Susie Bright
Marketing Your Book
Submission Concerns
Promotion Strategies


2006 Smutters Lounge

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Babes & Hunks of Erotica
Fantasy, Reality & Rape
Selling Ourselves Short
Selling Smut in Motown
The Frankenstein Bride
Frankenstein Revisited
Porn and Perfect Shoes
Porn's Passionate Pull
Instruments of Joy


Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
Orwell's Eerie Parallels
Redefining Marriage
The Porn Menace
High-Quality Porn
About Profanity
Dirty Laundry
Big Brother
Sluts


Editorials

Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

Two Girls Kissing: Writing Lesbian Literary Erotica
with Amie M. Evans



Submitting a Short Story for Publication

 

 

I am not the first, nor will I be the last person to write about the process of submitting a short story for publication. Recently, I had the honor of reading all of the submissions for the erotic Drag King anthology I am co-editing with Rakelle Valencia for Suspect Thoughts Press. Being in the editor’s seat only underscored for me what I as an author already knew about following guidelines and preparing a manuscript for submission. It made me realize the importance of addressing submitting stories in this column. While I am specifically addressing erotic short stories, the formatting and basic concepts are relevant for all short story submissions.

You’ve written, revised, and edited your lesbian erotic short story and are ready to send it off into the world of publishing. You’ve got a copy of the call for submissions in front of you. Now what? Don’t take a deep breath or get distracted, your work with this story is not done until you’ve made sure it confirms to the guidelines.

Call for submissions guidelines

The guidelines are the editor’s want ad. In addition, they are a blue print for how you should construct your submission and deliver it to the editor. Read them carefully.

So, let’s deconstruct the guidelines. They will usually tell you (1) the theme or topic of the anthology, (2) maximum and minimum word count of submissions, (3) the type of work being solicited (fiction, memoir, essay, etc…), (4) how to send your work (email, hard copy, multiple copies), (5) the deadline, (6) if reprints are accepted, and (7) any specific requirements such as only southern, female, left handed authors may submit. Additionally, information about publication date, publisher, and payment should be listed in the call.

Sometimes the editors will spell out specific details such as send two copies or put your email in the footer of every page or blind submissions with no name on the story and the title in the cover letter. Sometimes editors are kind enough to remind you of how to format the manuscript (double spaced, etc…).

I must admit I am tempted to just direct you to Greg Herron’s wonderful article "Follow the Guidelines, Stupid" in Hard Business at this website as he provides divine insight into understanding why guidelines exist. Do read it after you are done here.

Guidelines aren’t optional or suggestions; they are very simply set in stone. Don’t reinvent the wheel. It already exists and works perfectly for the editors who will be reading (or not reading if you don’t follow the guidelines) your submissions. Do exactly what the guidelines say. This isn’t the time to show how creative you are; instead it is the time to show that you a professional and capable of following instructions and a professional—two characteristics editors want in the authors they are going to be working with. Whatever, the guidelines say to do, no matter how dumb it might seem to you, you should do it. Period. Before you seal the envelope, double check your submission against the call.

Having a story rejected sucks. Having it rejected because you didn’t follow the guidelines is just, well, stupid. One would be author sent me a 12,471 word story for a call with a maximum word count of 6,000. In the cover letter she wrote: "…as an author in love with my words, I didn’t know which 6,000 to cut…" I think her double mistake speaks for itself.

The pieces of your submission

Part of the problem seems to stem from what appears to me to be the author’s lack of understanding about the individual parts of a submission and what a manuscript, cover letter, and bio should physically look like.

A submission should normally include: a cover letter, a bio, and a manuscript. Unless the call asks for more than this or less than this, send these three items. Don’t include a resume, extended bio, letters of recommendation, photograph, etc… unless you are asked. They won’t improve your story’s chances of acceptance and may annoy the editor.

A cover letter is a formal business letter on letterhead. (You need not buy letterhead; you can create it on any word processing program. Your name, address, phone, and email should appear centered on the top of the letter.) Most word processing programs have form business letters and there are also hundreds of websites and books where you can look up how to write a business letter. It consists of: the date, recipients’ name(s) and address, a salutation with the recipients’ name, the body of the letter, followed by a closing, and your signature. Standard formatting for a business letter is to single space the lines within and double space between paragraphs. It should never be more than 1 page in length and should be written in a professional (not familiar) tone.

The body of the cover letter should state the title of your story, whether it is a published (give the citation) or unpublished, the name of the anthology it is being submitted for, and where you saw the call. If you have had personal contact with the editor, you can say so. (I met you at Saints and Sinners in May in New Orleans…). I’d like to say truthful flattery (I enjoy reading your column on ERWA) is always welcome, but it may be perceived as an attempt to kiss-up and may hurt your case. Use your judgment.

Likewise, referencing other authors is also slippery territory and I caution against it. For example, one cover letter I received stated "…I want to be a famous erotica writer like M. Christian." Two potential problems immediately come to mind when I read this statement. The first is you, the author, have set up a comparison between yourself and another author. The editor may then subconsciously compare your work to that of M. Christian instead of judging it on its own merit. Secondly, and more importantly, M. Christian could be my arch enemy, a writer whose work I don’t like or admire, or a writer with whom I have had a bad personal relationship. None of this is true as M. Christian and I are friends, but the writer of the letter had no way of knowing this. An editor’s negative opinions of any given author referenced in the cover letter may affect the evaluation of your submission in a negative way. Editors are after all human—over worked and under paid humans, I might add.

In contrast, it is perfectly acceptable to reference an author who has directed you to submit to a call. For example, if M. Christian had said to the author "Here’s a call that my friend Amie Evans has out, you should send something." It would be fine to write in your cover letter, "M. Christian encouraged me to send this story to you." Just make sure you ask him if you can use his name as a reference in this way.

Your bio is a brief summary of your career that allows the editor to see what you have been up to so far and, once published, directs readers to where to find more of your work. A bio should be no more than 75 words (unless another word count is given). It should be written in third person and should list your professional credentials and avoid personal information. Do not send anything more or less than what was requested in the call. A longer bio is not impressive to the editor if it wasn’t requested. It simply shows you were unable or unwilling to follow the directions.

When writing your bio include these things: (1) one to three of your most recent publications, (2) other professional credits you might have (teacher, graphic designer, musician, etc…), and (3) something personal that is unique to your craft or public persona (where you got your degree or are currently studying, if you are involved with a literary festival, something specific to the topic you are writing about, etc…). But avoid information about pets, partners, and hobbies. (I live in north of Boston with my partner of eight years, two cats, a dog, and three birds and I sew my own clothes.) If you are a new author with few credits then include information that is specific to the theme of the anthology. An example of this is stating in your bio that you are a Drag King for a king anthology, a cowboy for a cowboy erotica anthology, or that you own a bike for a biker anthology. Of course, this information should be true.

Here’s an example of a published author’s 75 word bio:

Tasha C. Miller is a published poet, a spoken word artist, and a freelance graphic and web designer presently venturing into creative fiction and erotica. Miller has published two collections of poetry, For Black Girls Who Feel Ebony And Essence Are Not Enough (Writers Club Press, 2001) and AssOut Incoherent Thoughts and Poems of an Unemployed Black Girl, (WCP, 2002). She is currently working on several pieces of short fiction as well as her first novel.

And a campy, comical bio from a male erotic writer to accompany his first publication in an anthology of true life erotica:

Nic P. Ramsies is an east coast native with a passion for tiaras and ball gowns. The second oldest in a family of six, Nic was the first boy in his small rural Pennsylvania town to NOT get his prom date pregnant. Voted most likely to take a boy to bed on the first date by his high school senior class (and they thought that was an insult), Nic has worked hard to live up to this title. While he is definitely royalty, no one would call him a queen. His name ultimately says it all. This is his first published work.

The manuscript itself, that is, your actual story, should be formatted with one inch margins on 8 ½ x 11 white paper (Europe A1 paper size is considered standard), Times New Roman in 12 point font, double spaced. The page number along with your email, title, and name should appear in the footer of every page. Some editors want more or less in the footer or have specific requests, so check the guidelines.

The title, your name, pen name if applicable, full snail mail address, email, phone number, and word count should appear centered at the top of the first page. Space down three double spaces and start your story. Use hard returns only at the end of each paragraph not each line. Use a five space tabs at the start of each paragraph. Finally, staple or paperclip the manuscript together—unless instructed to do otherwise. Do not have the manuscript bound. Do not print on both sides of the paper.

I suggest you start now by formatting your first draft of each story this way. There are a number of web sites on line that have visual examples of properly formatted manuscripts.

SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) is just what it claims to be. A business size envelope with a first class stamp made out to you. In this day and age, most editors are not requesting these and instead will send notification via email.

SASP is a postcard as above on which you have written the words "Received submission for NAME OF ANTHOLOGY". If you include one of these, most editors will return it in the mail to you so that you will know your submission has arrived. This practice, much like the SASE, however, is rarely used today.

Finally, take these items (and anything else the editor has asked for) and put them into a 9 x12 envelope. Do not fold them. The order should be cover letter, bio, and manuscript. If multiple copies of these items have been requested, collate and put a clamp on each set.

Miscellaneous items

Authors aren’t all computer suave. God knows I barely make my way around my computer. Still, in this day of technology as king, there is no excuse for not knowing how to use the basic features of your word processing program. If you don’t know how to use the header and footer, center text, set up double spacing, or do a word count, then buy a book or take a class.

Likewise, grammar, punctuation, and spelling are not optional. Do not rely on spell check; if you cannot spell make sure you have someone who can read your submission. Standard formatting such as italics for book and magazine titles, paragraph indentation, etc…, are not optional. If you are not sure how to format something (such as a poem or long quote), look it up in a reference book.

If your submission has formatting problems and typos it will look unprofessional in its presentation. It will look amateurish and you by association will also look amateurish. What is even more important is these things—formatting errors and typos—make it hard, if not impossible, for editors to read your work. It also gives the impression that you don’t respect the editor’s time or care about how your submission looks.

A submission should be thought of as a job interview. It is your only chance to impress an editor (a potential employer). You need to take every possible step to ensure that you (via your submission) look as professional as possible. Happy submitting!

If there is an issue you would like me to address in Two Girls Kissing, please email it to me, Amie M. Evans, with the column title as the subject line. To be added to my confidential monthly email list, please email me with subscribe as the subject line.

NEXT TIME: The Power of Naming

Amie M. Evans
August 2006

______
"Two Girls Kissing: Writing Lesbian Literary Erotica" © 2006 Amie M. Evans. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Amie M. Evans is a widely published creative nonfiction and literary erotica writer, experienced workshop provider, and a retired burlesque and high-femme drag performer. She is on the board of directors for Saints and Sinners GLBT literary festival and graduated Magna cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in Literature and is currently working on her MLA at Harvard.
Read Amie M. Evans' bio at the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.



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