How to Get Your Story Noticed (Part I)

3 Oct

Today’s blog post is brought to you again by my good friend, Ed Stasheff, who has been working as a small press publisher, editor, and author for years.

Hello, Editor Ed here again!  Apparently enough people found my guest post useful enough that Marcus invited me back for another one.  So here’s some advice on how to make your story stick out (in a good way) and catch an editor’s attention.

I mentioned in my last post that many anthologies today are arranged around a theme.  Story submissions that don’t fit that theme, no matter how good or well-written, get the “nice, but not a good fit” rejection letter.

Unfortunately, editors face an equal but opposite problem: stories that are too similar.  While readers (a fickle bunch!) don’t like anthologies filled with stories that don’t match the theme, they also dislike anthologies filled with essentially just the same story over and over again.  Thus, when selecting stories, editors have to walk a tightrope of picking tales that fit the theme well while simultaneously being just different enough from each other to provide readers with sufficient variety to keep their interest.

The solution (for both authors and editors) is to find variations on that theme. Try to find an aspect of that theme for your story that’s different, original, and hopefully unique, and write about it.  Take an anthology of steampunk stories, for example.  Sure, you could set your story on an airship—but I guarantee there’ll be at least a dozen other submissions also set on an airship.  Since only one or two such stories can make it into the anthology, you’re up against a lot of competition.  Your airship story might be excellent, but could still lose out to another airship story that was just a little bit better.  On the other hand, you could write a steampunk story about, say, an underwater mining facility.  Now that will stand out, and with luck, no other submissions will feature that idea.  Now you’ve got a much better chance of catching the editor’s attention by providing an interesting variation on the anthology’s theme, AND little or no competition for an open slot!

It is always possible that a story concept can vary too far from the original theme, in which case it hurts, rather than helps, your chances at publication.  But how much variation is too much? Use this as a general rule of thumb: if you have to explain why your story fits the theme, then it’s too much variation.  The story’s connection to the theme should be obvious, even from a brief plot synopsis.

What kind of variations do you like playing with? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Responses to “How to Get Your Story Noticed (Part I)”

  1. Soni Cool😎 October 3, 2020 at 9:15 am #

    Well explained ☺️

  2. Michele Lee Sefton October 3, 2020 at 2:19 pm #

    Thank you for the useful information.

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