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How To Sell Fiction Online | A Q&A Guide To Successful Fiction Submissions

Updated on May 8, 2009

As an editor for a literary publication, I receive and review many fiction submissions each week. Some submissions are excellent, others leave a little (or a lot) to be desired. This article hopes to give you, the author, an insight into the world of the editor and assist in the fine tuning of your fiction submission in the online space.

Why does the cover letter matter?

Though in an ideal world your submission email might be irrelevant and your work should be the only thing that matters, unfortunately that is not the case. Most editors quickly discover that there is a positive correlation between well written, well crafted cover letters (cover emails) and well written, carefully crafted stories.

One line cover letters with an email attachment may occasionally work if your story is stellar, but they may also see your submission sent straight to the bottom of the review queue. Keep in mind that well established literary magazines receive hundreds of submissions a month, sometimes thousands. You want to stand out, and not because your cover letter was entirely substandard.

How much personal information should I include in my submission?

It is not essential to include your postal address with an e-submission, but your name, email address, the title of the story, and a word count at the top of the first page help immensely.

What document format should I use?

Most editors will specify their preferred format in the submission guidelines. If they do not, .rtf files are probably the safest bet. They can be opened in any operating system and they are not subject to the whims of Microsoft Office's random and regular formatting changes. Unless you wish to invoke terrible wrath, never, ever send a .pdf file.

I haven't heard back after I sent my submission in weeks ago, should I email / call?

A follow up email to check on a submission after the alloted review time is fine, but make it pleasant and polite. Being abrupt or worse, rude is an excellent way to ensure that your story is not only rejected, but the editor avoids working with you in the future. Most literary editors are run off their feet with submissions and yes, sometimes stories slip through the cracks. Calls about submissions are generally not received well.

If you have any questions about submitting to online fiction markets, please feel free to leave a question in the comments. I'll collate them and produce another hub answering them all.


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    • mejane profile image


      9 years ago from Jacksonville Beach

      Excellent Hope. I haven't attempted to submit anything yet, but I'm glad I read your advice before I do.

    • Hope Alexander profile imageAUTHOR

      Hope Alexander 

      9 years ago

      Hi KD, it's really a case of 6 to one, half a dozen to the other. Some editors may prefer a short, to the point cover letter, others may warm to one with more detail. The important thing isn't the length, it is the effort you put into it.

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 

      9 years ago from West Coast

      Great information and very helpful. Thanks for this hub!

    • K.D. Clement profile image

      K.D. Clement 

      9 years ago from USA

      Wonderful advice. I know when I submit to an online publication I get really nervous about the cover letter and usually keep it quite short. So far my approach has worked- but I wonder if I could loosen up a bit?

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley Marks 

      9 years ago from California

      Thanks for the advice. Selling fiction online or otherwise is very hard work. Only persistence and a helluva lot of hard work pays off. Talent matters a little, too, of course. Later!


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