Give Editors What They Want

Get more insider advice on how to break into this issue’s spotlight magazine, The Sun, and book publisher, Cleis Press.
Publish date:

Q&A with Tim McKee, managing editor

MISSION: The Sun is an independent, ad-free monthly magazine that for more than 35 years has invoked the splendor and heartache of being human. The Sun celebrates life, but not in a way that ignores its complexity. The personal essays, short stories, interviews, poetry and photographs explore the challenges we face and the moments when we rise to meet those challenges.
PUBLISHES: 12 issues of the monthly magazine and 1 book per year
FOCUS: From its inception to its current incarnation as a nonprofit magazine with more than 70,000 subscribers, The Sun has attempted to marry the personal and political; to honor the genuine and the spiritual; to show that beauty can be found in the lives of ordinary people.
PAYMENT: We pay $300–2,000 for essays and interviews, $300–1,500 for fiction and $100–500 for poetry.
HOW TO SUBMIT: Send submissions by mail to “Editorial Department” [107 N. Roberson St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516].

What makes a submission stand out?
What the fiction, nonfiction and poetry in The Sun have in common is a powerful urge to uncover the truth—no matter how ugly or how beautiful it might be.

Are there any topics or themes that you are actively seeking?
We are always on the lookout for honest, graceful, and thoughtful essays, short stories, and poems. We also need interviews with provocative thinkers. We are actively seeking essays that explore larger philosophical, political, social, and environmental issues from a personal perspective.

What would you like writers to know about your selection process?
Everything submitted to us is read carefully. Pieces that are accepted have made it through three to six editorial readers. We usually respond within three months, but we occasionally we take longer. Sometimes we offer specific ideas for improving a piece that has significant merit but in our opinion still needs work.

What are some common mistakes that you see, either in the submissions, or manuscript?
Often we receive submissions from writers who clearly have never looked at The Sun.

What are your future plans?
We have plans to offer a full digital version of the magazine to subscribers, as well as digital access to our entire archive. We will continue to publish our magazine monthly and a book every year.

SMALL PRESS SPOTLIGHT: Cleis Press and Viva Editions
Q&A with Brenda Knight, associate publisher

MISSION: Cleis Press publishes provocative, intelligent books in the areas of sexuality, gay and lesbian studies, erotica, fiction, gender studies and human rights. We are celebrating 30 great years! Viva Editions is a line of books that are fun, [but] the intention behind Viva is serious—these books are truly helpful.
PUBLISHES: 45 books per year
FOCUS: Cleis is sex-positive education, sexuality and instruction, LBGT studies, erotica and now romance. Viva Editions publishes books on inspiration, personal growth, lifestyle and cookery,
gift books, parenting, popular culture and humor, as well as spirituality.
KEY TO SUCCESSFUL SUBMISSIONS: Please do study us a bit; it will make all the difference in the world.
WHAT MAKES US UNIQUE: Our sex-positive education titles by [author , columnist and blogger] Violet Blue are without peer.
WE MIGHT BE A GOOD FIT FOR YOU IF: Your idea is in keeping with
our publishing program and complements some of our successful books. [And if you’re] a sex educator/writer and blogger, send us your pitch.
RANGE OF PRINT RUNS: 5,000–20,000
RANGE OF ADVANCES: $1,500–10,000
HOW TO SUBMIT: E-mail preferred [bknight], to save both trees and time.

What topics or themes are you actively seeking?
We are still searching for more of the “very best” sexual health experts. We prefer a pedigree and a degree. We are also actively looking for romance writers—both editors of anthologies and novelists. For Viva Editions, we love a book that is prescriptive, truly helpful and not an “also-ran.” While not exclusively, the Viva audience is by, for, and about women. Anything inspiring, smart, and well-done will be considered, though. …

What do you wish writers would know about your selection process?
We are a small publishing house, so please be patient. We log in every single proposal and track the status within our editorial process. “Stalking” us will not help and will cause us to worry that said stalker might be a difficult author to work with. That said, we are respectful of writers and authors and respond to every query. I believe that author care is of the utmost importance. My first job in publishing was at a very large, multinational publishing house. I treasure that experience but saw first-hand how not paying attention to … submissions is a danger. Many a potential bestseller is lost by not looking at what comes in. I can also happily report that a couple of editorial interns I have worked with discovered gems in the slush pile that became bestsellers!

What kind of publicity and support are you able to give your authors?
I tell new authors that we are "small but mighty." We are lean but not mean (meaning number of staffers!) but we do comprehensive marketing plans for each of the 45 titles we publish a year and work with authors to do our very best to market and publicize our books. We leave no stone unturned and pitch to bloggers, newspapers, glossy magazine, radio, TV, and do 150 author events a year.

Looking for more tips on making your work the best it can be? Check out the complete January 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest.


FightWrite™: Crime Fiction and Violence

Author and trained fighter Carla Hoch answers a writer's question about writing from the perspective of criminals and when best to utilize a fight.

Poetic Forms

Sedoka: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the sedoka, a 6-line question and answer Japanese form.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dream Sequence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your characters dream a little dream.

WD Vintage_Armour 12:03

Vintage WD: Don't Hide Your Light Verse Under a Bushel

In this article from 1960, poet and author Richard Armour explores the importance of light verse and gives helpful hints to the hopeful poet.


Tessa Arlen: On Polite Editorial Tussles and Unraveling Mysteries

In this article, author Tessa Arlen explains how to navigate the differences between American and English audiences and create a realistic historical mystery.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 547

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a lazy poem.


Denise Williams: Romance, Healing, and Learning to Love Revisions

Author Denise Williams recounts her experience with writing her first book while learning about the publishing industry and the biggest surprise about novel revisions.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 13th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.