Last month, we announced that Cemetery Dance magazine would be reopening to fiction submissions later this year. A poster on the Cemetery Dance forum asked a couple of great questions, which I thought I’d discuss here.
1) “Yet, I do have a question: what is the value of opening to submissions besides the chance that some new writers will be discovered?”
It’s an excellent question and he answered it perfectly. In Cemetery Dance #66, two of the stories originally arrived unsolicited. In Cemetery Dance #65, I believe it was three of the stories. Same deal with #64. Looking forward to #67, which is shipping from the printer this week, it’s three stories. #68 will be three as well.
If you go back to the early days of the magazine, almost all of the fiction was unsolicited. A lot of those authors went on to be some of our bestselling authors in the book line.
New blood is good for any publication, and one of the reasons we keep publishing the magazine is because we love finding new voices in the genre.
2) “I may end up submitting a story (especially since it is being done through an electronic system, which I like better than postal mail), but I have to assume, simply because of statistical reality, that my work will not get accepted.”
Of course, on the surface, you are correct about the odds. If we have 2 or 3 slots in each issue for unsolicited stories, and we publish 4 issues a year (the current plan), that’s maybe 12 slots for unsolicited fiction per year. If 500 stories arrive during the reading period, those aren’t good “odds.”
But here’s what you’re missing: submitting a story to a magazine isn’t like buying a lottery ticket or playing some other game of chance. It’s not a random process.
If you’ve written an outstanding story that is perfect for a publication, your odds aren’t 12 in 500. They’re much better than that.
Why? Simple: a lot of unsolicited submissions are poorly written, retreads of an idea the editors have read a thousand times, or just aren’t right for the publication.
Of course, maybe your story is well written and perfect for the publication, but it’s too similar to another story they just purchased.
Or maybe there are 12 other stories that came in that are just a little more perfect for the magazine than yours even though yours is awesome as well.
Submitting unsolicited stories to any publication is a combination of hard work (on your writing) and lucky timing (sending the right story at the right time).
(Of course, the reason Cemetery Dance was closed to submissions is because we have this tendency to not think about “slots” to fill. Instead, we just buy anything that we really like and want to publish, which is how we ended up buying too much and having to close to submissions for a while!)
At the end of the day, there’s nothing more thrilling than reading something great that no one else has read yet, and that’s why we read unsolicited submissions.