Question for SF&F writers who have been published

Here I go again . . .

I’ve been submitting some stories to various SF and fantasy magazines, and so far I haven’t gotten a bite. But, in case I ever do . . . how exactly do editors go about buying your story? Do you get an acceptance letter with a check, or just a letter and then a check months later? (Note I am being optimistic in assuming you get a check at all.)

Also, do most editors communicate by mail only? Do they ever actually call you? While I always provide my phone number on a manuscript, I don’t own an answering machine (don’t laugh!), so the possibility of missing that Big Call has occurred to me. (Honestly, though, I’ve never needed an answering machine before.)

I’m quite curious to hear about what it’s like to first learn that your scribbling has not been in vain . . .

From rejection slips, you already know: “We’re sorry that your submission does not meet our needs at the moment…”

But acceptances are nearly as impersonal.

The editor will send you a set of contracts, which you sign and send back. Eventually, they’ll send you a copy with their signature. He’ll also probably send back the story with a whole bunch of “suggestions” which you had better agree to.

You might get a copy of the galleys of your story for final proofing. You might not.

Shortly before the magazine hits the stands, you’ll get a few copies (two to six) in the mail, usually along with a check.

If you’re really lucky, the editor has arranged good interior illustrations to enhance your story. But you won’t have any say over this, and you probably won’t see the art in advance.

(I got around this once by hiring an artist to draw the illos exactly as I wanted 'em!)

You’ll probably never actually talk to the editor. They are a VERY busy species of bug!

Having made a sale to a particular editor, you will be tempted to send him everything else you have in your “available” file. Resist the temptation. Send him one or two of your best stuff, but remember that editors like to spread the butter very thin indeed upon the toast: they rarely have stories by the same author in successive issues of their magazine.

Instead, use the sale as leverage when sending stories to other editors! It’s perfectly valid to say, “My story ‘Dog on a Cold Stone Floor’ was recently published in ‘Bemusing Tales.’”

And be sure to spend at least part of the money on something you don’t need!


It has been a number of years since I wrote SF, but at the time everything for the first three or four was done by mail.

I wrote, was rejected reworked it and sent it to another magazine, was rejected, reworked it and sent it to…but you get the idea. Occasionally I would get a story picked up. Then I wrote one and an editor (or asst.) made a couple of suggestions with a couple of comments. I made the suggested changes resubmitted it and basically they said they’d “think about it” and then a couple of months later I got a an acceptance letter and an explanation of their payment policy and a contract. Check came with comp copies of magazine.

This went on for the next four or so stories. It was then they actually called me. One of their “real” authors dropped out of a symposium in a nearby state so they called me and wanted to know if I could step in. I said “sure”.

During the conversation, the secretary with whom I was talking asked why I didn’t have my agent handle all the contact with them, and I told her I didn’t have one. She suggested I call a guy she knew, and I did, and he took me on. I don’t do SF any more but when I did that’s how I handled it. Until I got an agent. It was pretty much all by mail.

My biggest problem was that I wrote under so many names when I was starting out when I did get paid, the check was never written to me.


This thread will get a better reception in our literary forum, Cafe Society.

More importantly, I’ll earn me points with Euty and Uke for not throwing them a LOTR thread or hair-band lyrics.

So off it goes! Good luck to you.

I’ve received handwritten or printed letters from the following F/SF mags and contests when I had things accepted:
Lore, Nova Science Fiction, The West Coast Journal, Pulsar!, The Leading Edge, Calliope, Boldly Going, Planet Walk, Midnight Zoo, The Q Review, Dark Dixie contest, Best of Soft SF contest, Writers’ Digest contest, Crossquarter contest, and Starfleet Mysteries.

Lately, I’ve had more luck with contests and mostly I get emailed if I win anything.

I’ve never been called on the phone.

Keep plugging away–that’s what I say. Write on!

Acceptance letters are simple. Nobody tells you that your story is the greatest thing since Finnegan’s Wake. They just say yes.

Major magazines send out contracts and will send you the check when they receive and process the contract.

Phone calls are rare, but they do happen. I got a call from England once because a story of mine exactly fitted a hole they had when they were at deadline. They needed an instant acceptance. Why not e-mail? Phone calls can be faster sometimes. I answered the phone, but I wasn’t anywhere near my computer.

These days, many editors will respond via e-mail. Times are changing, even in hidebound sf publishing.

It does depend on the market. In some, you’ll get a short acceptance letter, and a contract (usually mailed later). Other markets include all terms as part of the letter.

Markets that accept e-mail submissions usually notify you by e-mail, too.

I did once get a phone call from a magazine editor, but that is rare. However, you’ll often get a phone call about a book sale, either from your agent or an editor.

Some small-press poetry markets never tell you a thing until they mail you your contributor’s copies. Not very professional, but they probably justify it as saving them money.