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Sunday, December 01, 2013

ON SPEC'S NEW SUBMISSION PROCESS

Cover Artist: Robert Pasternak
AS MOST OF YOU LIKELY KNOW, ON SPEC has now opened a new window for submissions. We're accepting original speculative fiction work, short stories (6000 word limit) and poetry from now until December 31st, 2013. I asked Diane Walton, our Managing Editor, if she might bring everyone up to date as to what we're doing with our new submission process using Submittable.com. Here's what she had to say:

THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE BEEN SENDING STORIES to On Spec over the years know we were originally a "snail-mail manuscripts only" magazine, even when other publications were embracing the email submissions process. We read stories year-round, with arbitrary cut-off dates, after which we evaluated the stories received by the date, and held onto the others until after the next cut-off.

Then we changed, and opened the floodgates to email submissions. Stories began to arrive daily, and the numbers pretty much paralyzed us. So we closed the doors, until we had gone through a painfully long process of sorting, reading, evaluating and responding to about 400 manuscripts. In an attempt to manage things better, we next set an "open window" for receiving emailed stories. That seems to have worked best. In six weeks, we get around 300 submissions, and that is more manageable for the editors, most of whom have writing careers of their own, and families they'd like to see once in a while. We were using a dedicated gmail address, and were able to assign labels to the email submissions from authors, so that we more or less knew a current status of a story, or at least which editor was assigned to it.

We knew, but the authors didn't know.

So we also had to read and respond to those "did you get my story?" queries, and the "have you made a decision yet?" emails. Some months ago, we became aware of a rather elegant product, a manuscript submission manager called Submittable.com. For the current On Spec submission period, that is the process for sending us your work.  If you have used Submittable already, you know pretty much how it works.

Behind the scenes, we will still be dividing up the slush for editors to read, and we still have a six week window for sending us your work, after which the evaluation process will begin. Each editor becomes First Reader for a portion of the manuscripts received. Each editor is responsible for the rejection letters to authors of stories that don't make the first cut. Each editor will then identify the remaining stories in their batch, for reading by the other On Spec editors, and for eventual discussion at our Fight Night. Often we get together for a day to discuss the stories over coffee, tea, food and occasionally wine. We may also use other technology like Skype or Google hangouts, especially when weather and other commitments make travel difficult for some of us.

We can't promise any faster turnaround time for the manuscripts. Each editor devotes what time they can to this volunteer job, and we are grateful for the patience of our writers. If you submit your manuscript to us, you can check on its status from time to time, and you can be assured that we did receive it, and that it will be given a fair reading.

(THANKS, DIANE, AND ON A FINAL NOTE, I'd like to point out that although On Spec is required by its granting agencies to publish 60% Canadian work, we also receive and publish excellent work from writers all over the world. Which goes to show, great speculative fiction knows no boundaries. Happy writing everyone, and the best of luck. I'm looking forward to seeing what you've sent us in the slush. - Susan.)

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