Dear Editor: Maximizing Submission Chances at Crone Girls Press, Part 1

For those who have been hanging out in the Crone Girls Press Facebook group, the question of submissions has come up more than once. In addition to the quick submissions calls (like our recent one for a female-Krampus-themed Midnight Bites), I find that readers and authors often want to know more information about the submission process as a whole. So, given that we do have the occasional calls (and are working on setting up our 2021 submission and publication schedule), I figured now is a good time to talk about the submissions process and how to maximize your chances of making your way through it.

One note of warning — this is not a “how to definitely get accepted by Crone Girls Press” guide. Last submissions period we received about 1600 submissions for what was supposed to be 40 slots (it ended up being 48 slots.) These posts are for informational purposes for those looking to submit to our calls and are not a guarantee of any response.

How is this going to go? This post is Part 1 of three, and here, I’m going to talk about the overall process of how we do things as far as the anthology set up and what’s guiding us through. The second post will talk about the first phase of reading. I’ll talk more about the final phase in a third post, discussing some of the things that start happening when you have to choose a small number of pieces from a wealth of excellent material. My primary purpose for these posts is not to scare anyone away, or try to discourage you from submitting–exactly the opposite! When I first started querying stories (and even now), there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know about the process. My goal is to give writers interested in CGP an idea of who we are, what we’re looking for, and hopefully, a little more confidence when you submit the story that we are the right market for you (or not!)

Okay… now to business.

An overview — how does this all work? First thing you might want to know is that I am a big fan of anthologies, and drew on a lot of reading experience, as well as research on how other presses have approached the process, when designing the submissions call. Each of our full-length projects will have an anchoring novella, which will be preceded by a mix of longer short stories and short flash fiction. Such a configuration gives me (the editor) the ability to arrange a table of contents that leads the reader through long and short, intense and sublime, violent and humorous reading experience. Kind of like a mix tape, where all the songs might be rock’n’roll, but a good mix tape maker casts an eye to the overall experience when picking and arranging the tunes.

Why is this important to know? Word count. I’ve received a number of stories that don’t fit the word count, and while I’ll open and give them a quick read (or at least the opening paragraph), if the story doesn’t fit the word count, it will start from a disadvantage. More on this in the second part.

Also – if you think about a mix tape (I’m really showing my age here, but whatever), how exciting would it be if someone gave you a mix tape of all the same band? I mean, it might be fun, but you might as well buy the album, right?

If you note in our submission guidelines, we take extra care to mention that we are “inclusive.” I want stories by horror authors, queer horror authors, horror authors of color, horror authors writing from as many different backgrounds as I can get. That’s how, IMHO, one gets a table of contents for an anthology that brings new, interesting, intense, and unexpected stories from the horror tropes and settings we know and love. It’s the mix tape that introduces us to bands we might not be familiar with, but who will soon be our favorites to put on repeat when we need some good tunes.

That’s another thing about the guidelines and the FB group and my attempts to open communication to potential authors. I don’t want to dismiss anyone’s work, and I also have a finite amount of time and resources. I want to help authors, new and those looking for a refresher, to craft the best query they can because I want to read the best query you’ve got. If you have a question, come and ask.

This overview post is getting long, and I’m supposed to get into the submission nitty gritty in the next one, so let me pull back out to the long view. One of the questions asked in the FB group was, what are my influences? What are some of the things I like to read, or some of the authors I enjoy? I started to make a list, but it really got out of hand. So… probably the best thing to know about me as an editor, is that I read a LOT. I grew up reading Ray Bradbury and HP Lovecraft and Tanya Huff and Mercedes Lackey, but I also grew up reading “The Haunted Planet” and Edgar Allen Poe and stories like Suzy McKee Charnas’s “Boobs” in Azimov’s Science Fiction, and basically everything I could get my hands on. Some of the things I read were problematic–and probably age inappropriate–but at the end of the day, I could sit down and tell you all of my influences and people I enjoy reading and after ten hours or so, I still probably wouldn’t be able to pinpoint who or why those influences are who affect the stories I chose for our projects.

And honestly, I don’t want to publish a story I’ve read before. I want to fall in love with a new story. And if it’s written by someone I haven’t read, I want to fall in love with a new writer.

A few last notes on the overall process, and then I’ll take a break until the next part. For the full-length anthologies, there is a two-fold process. First, the initial read. This is where I open the email, take a look at the query letter, note the logline, word count, and start to mentally slot where this story might fit in. Next, I open the document in Preview mode and read the first few paragraphs. Usually, I can tell if I’m going to want to keep reading if the story captures my interest in that much time. If it does, I’ll keep reading. If it doesn’t, and there might be any of a myriad of reasons why not, at this point I usually send a note of rejection. If I read and like what I’m reading and think that there might be a place in the anthology for the story, I’ll send a note that I’d like to continue to consider it. I try to let people know as soon as possible about the status of their story; as a writer, I know that not every market accepts simultaneous submissions, and I don’t want to tie up anyone’s work unnecessarily.

For a few – a very few – works, I’ll put a star next to them when I send the note of consideration. These are stories that reached through the ether and punched me in the face. Most of the time, I’m going to end up using them. For the 2020 reading period, I got about 1600 submissions, kept about 300 for further consideration, and starred about 20.

And here’s the thing. At this point, the decision criteria moves beyond “is the writing good” and “is the story well-constructed” to “does this piece fit with the other pieces I’m considering”? There have been a few stories that I really enjoyed, and authors I could have enjoyed working with, but whose stories, ultimately, did not fit into the table of contents I was building.

I’ve been mostly referring to “I” during this process, because the 2020 period was mostly me reading, deciding, editing, etc. The next go-around, I’ll be using some slush readers to help navigate this process from our end. My next goal is to hire some guest editors as well. The overall vision and intent of Crone Girls Press will remain the same — but my goal is to slowly expand our reach and pool of talent. I’ll be giving those readers and editors basically the same information as I’m outlining here.

If, as you read through these posts, you start to think of questions you’d like to ask, stop by the FB group and drop me a line. I want to know if there are areas where information is missing or unclear so that I can address those questions for future authors.

Until next time!

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