richard harland's writing tips

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Getting Published


Other Getting Published Topics


1. Understanding Publishers

3.Contracts, Production, Promotion

4.The Writing Life


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2. Submitting




When submitting a short story to a magazine, webzine or anthology, you send in the whole story. More and more short story outlets accept or insist on submission by email, which makes life a whole lot easier for the author.

The same principles apply as with full-length MSS: eliminate small errors, have a strong opening and follow the required format. In fact, short story outlets are much more precise about formatting and you need to read and obey their submission guidelines. Many outlets have their own special rules.

If the guidelines refer to standard formatting, that means Courier 12 point, double-spaced, justified left but always ragged right. Courier makes a page look as though it’s been typed on a typewriter. I hate it, but I do what I’m told.

Also, you show italics in your text by underlining (unless told otherwise). It’s usual to have a header that contains the author’s name, story title and page number. Your first page should give your full contact address and the word count at the top.

For more information, check out:

In your cover letter, you don’t need to describe your story, except maybe a word or two on the kind of story it is. Do list any previous publication successes, awards, whatever. Success breeds success. I’ve recently had a story picked up by the Tor anthology, Year’s Best Fantasy #9—my first top-level American success. You can bet that’s going into every cover letter from now on!

Above all, never sound negative or defensive. I’ve seen cover letters that say something like, ‘This story has been rejected twenty-one times before, so here’s your chance to reject it too.’ No guesses what happened! Quirkiness goes down well with some small-press editors, but not that kind of quirkiness.

It’s good to match up your story with the preferences of a particular editor/editorial team. Buy a copy of the zine, or at least read through all the material on their website (which may include sample stories of blurbs/synopses of stories).

I search for speculative fiction outlets at Wonderfully comprehensive and constantly updated.

Another site is, which lines up particular market areas according to your kind of story.

Also can be useful:

While I’m on site addresses: there’s a good list of international awards at










Copyright note: all material on this website is (c) Richard Harland, 2009-10
Copyright note: all written material on this website is copyright
1997 - 2010 Richard Harland.