How to Submit Short Stories & Formatting Basics

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Today's Tip of the Day comes from Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino and the WD Editors. The following excerpt teaches you how to submit short stories and gives tips on formatting a query letter.

Fiction short story markets are mostly in magazines, literary journals, anthologies, and some online websites. And, like novels, they can run the gamut of literature from genre tales to children’s stories. The main difference between short stories and novels is length—short stories run anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 words, whereas novels generally fall between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Short stories are a medium all of their own, and require a specific format and submission policy. Read on to learn how to submit your short stories to print and electronic publications.

What You Need to Submit

Submitting short stories is relatively simple. Unlike with novels where you typically need to submit a query letter as well as a few sample chapters and a synopsis, with a short story you only need to send a cover letter and the story in its entirety.

Submitting a Short Story Manuscript

Establish yourself as a professional by following the correct short story format. A separate cover or title page is not necessary. Don’t submit any materials that have handwritten notes on them. As with all parts of your submission, make sure your work is revised and proofread.

The Specifics of the Short Story Format

  • Use a 1” margin on all sides.
  • Do not number the first page.
  • Put your name and contact information at the top, centered, on the first page.
  • Put the word count and rights offered in the top right corner.
  • Put the story’s title, centered in all caps, approximately one-third of the way down the page from the top margin.
  • Skip a line and write “by” in lowercase, then skip another line and put your name in all caps. (If using a pseudonym, put that name in all caps, and then on the next line put your real name in parentheses.)
  • Drop four lines, indent, and begin your story.
  • Double-space the entire text of the story.
  • Put a header at the top of every page (except the first) including the title, your last name, and page number).
  • Optional: Type “THE END” in all caps when your story is finished. (Some editors like this because it closes the story; others do not. It’s your call.)

More Tips on Submitting Query Letters

  • Do use a paper clip in the top left corner to attach pages together (butterfly clamps work well for stories longer than ten pages).
  • Do keep an original copy of the story for yourself.
  • Don’t put your social security number on the manuscript.
  • Don’t use a separate cover or title page.
  • Don’t justify the text or align the right margin. Ragged right is fine.
  • Don’t put a copyright notice on the manuscript. It’s copyrighted as soon as you write it.
  • Don’t include your story on a disk or CD unless the editor asks for it.
  • Don’t use unusual fonts. A simple Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier is fine.
  • Don’t email or fax your story to a publication unless you have permission from the editor or if their submission guidelines state it is acceptable.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, read more advice on formatting your query and writing tips.

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