Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Evening with Douglas Smith

Last night, Patricia Anderson and I joined a small group of writers at the Guelph Public Library for Douglas Smith's workshop on short story writing. Doug is a prolific writer who has sold over 150 pieces of short fiction in 30 different countries around the world.

He provided us with two hours of excellent tips and suggestions for writing and publishing short stories. Special thanks to Kevin Nunn for organizing this event.

Here are some of Doug's tips...
  • Sell as few rights as possible for as much money as possible. You have only one opportunity to sell first rights.
  • Find a good home for your work, preferably one that pays professional rates (at least 5 cents a word).
  • Science fiction and fantasy writers can search for markets at
  • All writers can find markets at Places for Writers and Duotrope.
  • Before sending out your work, check each link on the site and make sure you understand all the submission guidelines. Check out the competition at archived issues of the publication. Make sure that your story is a reasonable fit for that particular market.
  • Pick out your top five markets and start sending out your work.
  • Keep your cover letter short. In the first paragraph, inform the editor that you are attaching or pasting your short story. Use the second paragraph, to talk about your publication credits. In the third paragraph, thank the editor for his/her time.
  • Do not send simultaneous submissions (i.e. two markets at the same time).
  • If you have not heard in three months time, send an email asking for an update.
  • Set up a tracking system for your short stories. Doug uses a large spreadsheet to keep track of the titles, dates sent and responses.
  • Keep writing and keep sending different short stories out on a regular system.
  • Do not revise your story to reflect the feedback you have received. Each editor has different preferences and needs.
  • There are only two things a writer can control: quality of the stories and the contract signed.
  • Read the contract very carefully before you sign it. Point out anything you do not like or wish to have changed.
  • You can sell second rights or reprints of your story for less money. Anthologies will often take reprints.
  • Check out Doug's list of foreign markets.
Written by Joanne Guidoccio

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