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How to Submit a Short Story Manuscript to an Editor

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Submitting your short story to an editor can seem daunting, particularly when you are new to the writing process. Following a few key steps can make this process flow smoothly, and at the same time can increase the likelihood that your story will be accepted.

Finding the Right Fit

Whether you pen science fiction, fantasy, children's stories or romance, there are specific magazines which feature those types of submissions. Even within the same genre, editors' tastes and magazine styles vary, so check back copies or on-line sample issues to confirm which publication is the best fit for your story. Thoroughly review the writer's guidelines for the publication you pick, including specifications for word count, formatting and submission process.

Formatting Paper and File Submissions

Unless the publication's writer's guidelines state otherwise, use a standard format: 1-inch margins, 12-point type in a readable font such as Times New Roman or Courier, and double spacing. Use indents to indicate the start of new paragraphs, rather than leaving a line between. In the top left corner of the first page, state your name, address, telephone number, and email address, and in the top right corner, type the word count and type of rights offered. Halfway down the first page, center the title of your story, leave two lines, then type your name or pseudonym, also centered. Space two more lines, then begin your story. Starting with the second page, include a header at the top right of each page showing your last name, the title of the story, and the page number.

Formatting Submissions Pasted Into Email

Some publications prefer that submissions be sent in the body of the email, rather than as an attachment. Formatting will remain the same as for paper copies with some exceptions: use single spacing and leave a line between paragraphs. Saving your document as a plain text file before pasting it into your email can ensure that the format transfers smoothly.

Preparing a Cover Letter

Your cover letter should include the title and word count for the piece you are submitting, your contact information, including name, address, email address, and telephone number, and a brief outline of why you feel this story would be appropriate for the publication to which you are sending it. Also include a summary of your key publishing credits. For hard-copy cover letters, use 1-inch margins, block paragraphs, single spacing, and the same type face and type style used for your manuscript. If sending your story by email, cut and paste your single-spaced cover letter into the email, then either attach the story file, or paste the story into the email below the cover letter, in accordance with the submission guidelines.

Mailing Your Story

For hard copy submissions, use standard white paper, minimum 20-pound bond, for your cover letter and story. If your submission, including cover letter, is less than five pages in length, fold and place in a regular letter-sized envelope; if the package is five pages or more, a 9 x 12 or 10 x 13 manila envelope is recommended. Do not staple your submission. Support the professionalism of your submission by using typed rather than handwritten sending and return addresses. Include a self addressed, stamped envelope -- often called by the shorthand term " SASE," in correspondence -- to encourage a response from the editor.


Based in Mulmur, Ontario, Lisa Timpf has worked in human resources and communications since 1989. Timpf's corporate roles have included organizational development, internal and external communications, employee relations, employee surveys, and corporate governance. She holds a Bachelor of physical education from McMaster University.

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