Dear Editor: Maximizing Submission Chances at Crone Girls Press, Part 2

Welcome back! If you’re reading this second part of how to maximize your chances of making it through the submission process at Crone Girls Press, my guess (and hope) is that you found Part 1 helpful. For this post, I would like to talk about submission guidelines. Before I get started, though, a reminder of the disclaimer for this process:

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.

Okay, so first of all, as I’ve started to expand my network of meeting editors and other types of human-shaped folks who read for submissions, a constant refrain comes up. The FIRST STEP in maximizing your chances at making it out of the slush pile is, FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.

Seems simple, right? And yet… But don’t take my word for it. Here is John Hartness of Falstaff Books, speaking to the importance of following the submission guidelines. A note of warning–this video contains some profanity and the heartfelt feelings of someone who has been in the business longer and more successfully than I, and who also discusses things more … let’s say creatively … than I usually choose to do. But there is a reason I’m including the link to this video. Because every word is truth.

When I was reading for our 2020 anthologies, I didn’t turn down any stories for not following submission guidelines. I didn’t. I read at least the first few paragraphs/pages of every story that came into my inbox. This coming year, I will not be doing that. Why? The amount of stories that didn’t follow the submission guidelines that DID end up making into the final tables of contents was very, very small. The TIME I spent reading non-guideline-following submissions was very, very large. I cannot do that again. So, if you want me (or a slush reader) to open your story and not immediately reject it, here are the Submission Guidelines you will want to ensure you are following.

Many publishers say the same thing: follow the guidelines! However, not many explain how these came to be. So, I’m going to take some time here and explain why each of the guidelines exist. Some of them are to make my life easier. Some of them are to make your life easier. Some of them are industry standard. All of them have a very specific reason for being listed. Let’s do this:

Send all submissions to: submissions@cronegirlspress.com, addressed to the Editor, Rachel A. Brune (she/her).

As an author, I’ve always been told it’s better to address a submission to the actual editor. And yet, it’s not always apparent who the editor is. So, here is some free chicken: the email address and the full name and title of the person who will be reading (or final reading), and to whom subs should be addressed. (A tip is to COPY AND PASTE, and then you won’t spell my name wrong.) I’ve also included my pronouns, so now there is no excuse for addressing the email to “Mr. Brune” – that’s my dad, who won’t be reading your submission.

More free chicken. The Shunn manuscript format is the industry standard for manuscript submissions. Some markets may ask you to remove identifying information, or not require you to include a physical address. (For me, I’m more interested in the actual format than address, but having that there makes it easier when I’m putting together a series of contracts and don’t have to go hunt down twenty-some-odd authors for another bit of information. Still, putting an email in lieu of a physical address isn’t a showstopper for me.) I include a link, so that if an author does not know what Shunn format is, they may find out and then properly format their work. Notice the acceptable formats. PDFs, Google docs, Pages, etc., are not acceptable. This is a personal preference. I find it easier to view .doc, .docx, or .rtfs, and the ease translates into time, and that time is compounded by the multiples of submissions we receive. I’ve also included a link to our style guide. Here is a hint — the style guide is basically common copy editing errors that I’ve noticed and would prefer not to have to edit out of a submission, so if you take care of it beforehand, your manuscript looks cleaner and more professional (and also like less work for your intrepid editor, which she always appreciates.) Basically, by following these guidelines, you remove distractions from your work, allowing me to solely focus on your story and the quality of your writing, which is what helps get both of us past the first gate.

If you have any questions, a good place to get a feel for who we are is the Crone Girls Press Facebook Group. Come on in. We won’t bite. Most of us won’t, anyway.

Seriously. I am very active in this group, and will always do my best to answer a question–in fact, I’d rather you ask that question here in case someone else would like the same information (or if it’s a question I’ve already answered, and you can find it in the search function). Other CGP-published authors are here, too, so you can see what we’re up to, and the sorts of things we publish, and find out if we’re the right market for you.

  • Cover letters should include: a logline, story title, word count, and genre. We publish debut and established authors, so I prefer not to see any listings of previous publications; however, if you have any bona fides in the genre, such as membership in HWA, feel free to include those as well.
  • If you don’t know what a logline is, don’t tell me that in your query letter. Instead, read this article and write one, then put it in your query letter. 
  • Author Bios: Please include a 50- to 100-word author bio at the end of your submission (in the actual manuscript) along with your social media and website information.

When I open your email, I am immediately thinking, where would I potentially fit this work into the table of contents? A cover letter with these specific elements gives me that picture right off the bat. That’s what I need to get started. Again, I ask for a logline, and I know that some people might have trouble writing them (I know, I hate them with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, but still, here I am asking for one.) Therefore, I’ve included a link to the article that I use when I’m writing a logline for a query. (I also use this to include loglines in blurbs and marketing material and so yes, I am absolutely going to use yours if it’s a good one, thank you.) The bios are there for two reasons. First, I include an author bio at the end of each story in our publications, so this makes it super easy to edit and then format for publication. It also allows me to see if you have started to build an author presence. Not having one, or having a small one, isn’t a disqualifier; I just want to take a look at what you’ve got.

Reprints, simultaneous, and multiple submissions are absolutely welcome! If it is a reprint, please let us know in the cover letter where it was previously published. If it is accepted elsewhere, congrats! But please, send us an email to let us know and withdraw your submission. I will only be accepting one story per author per anthology, but if you have more than one that might fit, I’m happy to take a look at what you’ve got. BUT PLEASE, ONE SUBMISSION PER EMAIL.

The reason I ask writers to let me know if it’s a reprint in the cover letter (this is new from last year), is that reprints are a hard sell. If a certain amount of the anthology is a reprint, the volume becomes ineligible for certain awards. Also, I prefer new material (but understand writers have good stories that deserve second and third lives out in the world.) I absolutely accept simultaneous submissions; I don’t expect any submission monogamy until the author has signed contract in hand. But please, for the sake of my inbox and sanity, pick your best story(ies) and send it(them) to me. If I reject it(them), THEN send me the next one. However, if I don’t say something like “please send more writing,” chances are we are not the right market for you. Also, it’s in everyone’s best interest to send one submission per email, as my inbox can quickly spiral out of control and separate emails allows me to organize quickly.

  • Each anthology will be anchored by one novella, with a mix of short stories and flash fiction. I am primarily looking for short stories to make up the bulk of each anthology, but don’t let that discourage you from submitting if you have flash fiction or a novella.
  • We would like exclusive electronic and print publication rights for six months from the date of publication, and non-exclusive rights after that. We prefer worldwide, but are willing to discuss if an author sells, for example, in a foreign-language literary magazine. Once accepted, we ask our authors not to publish their work before the date of publication. Our end goal is to produce a collection of new horror fiction that will have minimal competition for six months; with that end in mind, we are open to any conversations about rights negotiation that an author may wish to have.

These are basically informational paragraphs, as this information is something authors may want up front to see what I’ll be asking for, or where their story might fall in the mix.

One note about diverse protagonists (and characters in general): I find as a writer, sometimes it helps for the anthology call to explicitly indicate their inclusive status. That is what I am doing here. I particularly enjoy stories with protagonists, characters, and settings that come from a diverse array of identities and abilities–but in which those identities and abilities are not the focus of the story itself, but one more facet of the character and how they encounter the conflict of the story.

This paragraph is what it says. As I mentioned in the previous post, my goal is to have the best horror mix tape table of contents I can find. That means we are inclusive. We welcome stories and settings by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ and neurodiverse authors, with a preference for #ownvoices. If reading the previous paragraph and this one makes you say things like “ugh, politically correct” or “triggered” or “haha safe space,” then I can guarantee you that we are not the market for you.

  • The determining factors in acceptance or rejection will always be quality of writing, adherence to genre, and general fit with the other stories selected for publication.
  • One final note. Our submission guidelines request that you submit in manuscript format. This means that when I preview your submission in the Gmail reader, I should immediately know who wrote the piece and the word count. Failure to follow submission guidelines will not increase your chances of acceptance with our publications.

Again, more information for the curious author.

  • Hard Sells:
    • Rape
    • Metastories about writers, horror writers, being in a horror movies, anything that references self-aware characters
    • Reprints (I’ll read them, and we’ve accepted them, but our preference is for new material.)
    • Stories that rely heavily on one character telling the story to another character
    • Any stories that open like this: https://www.janefriedman.com/5-story-openings-to-avoid/
    • Query letters that spell my name wrong

I was considering whether to include a paragraph like this or not. Many markets DO include such a list, but the first time around, I didn’t really have any categories I considered “hard sells,” or stories that I’m predisposed to giving a pass. However, after this past submissions period, I did find there were categories that weren’t really exciting to me as an editor, and so I decided to include this paragraph, as it’s just one more piece of information available to an author so that they can make a decision about whether or not to submit.

And that about wraps it up. As I said above, if you have any questions about any of these, you can come find me over in our Facebook group. As a writer, I approach each submission as if I were interviewing for a job, and I appreciate every bit of information I can get about a market. My goal for these blog posts is to offer potential authors as much info about us as I can, with the goal of receiving even better submissions when we open next time.

Following the submission guidelines is a good way to get past the first round of reading. It removes any of the unintentional stumbling blocks and distractions, and tells me the writer is serious and professional about their work. In the next blog post, I’ll talk more about the process at the end of the reading period–choosing the final works and wrapping up the contracting and editing process. It is my hope that this series is helpful not only to the writers who plan to submit their works to Crone Girls Press, but to any writer getting ready to send their work out into the world.

To those submitting–and planning to submit–best of luck!

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