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We quite often get asked about our submissions policy. We quite often give very unhelpful answers. The truth is that we just want books that we're going to love. But we don't know exactly what that means - and don't even want to know, since we also want to be surprised. That's why, when you look around the site to find out about submissions, you won't find much information, beyond the fact that you should contact us and talk to Simone, prove that you've read one of our books (receipts help!) and tell us about your work… Oh and don't come and see us in person. That''s generally pretty counter-productive.

But! I was recently asked to answer a few questions about what I look for in a short story for a youth magazine. The article was then trimmed and my answers ended up on the cutting room floor… But I thought that I'd post them here, just in case they may be helpful, amusing or otherwise diverting. And just in case they make for good link-bait. Clicks help me feel validated…


What makes a short story stand out from all the others you recieve in submission?

I wish I could answer this more sensibly, but the truth is that there is no formula. What makes a story stand out? Good writing. What is good writing? I wish I could tell you. I think there has to be a lot of craft. You have to know that each word is where it should be, and each sentence has been carefully thought out. But beyond that… The mysteries of art…

How important is the layout/formatting of the document you receive?

Layout and formatting are important in as much that if they're done wrong, you notice, and it gets in the way. My advice is to keep it simple, keep it plain, keep it clear. 12 point, Times New Roman, double-spaced, titles in bold, paragraphs clearly laid out. Don't try to do much more. Especially for ebook publishers, because they're going to have to strip out all the formatting anyway to make the ebook files.

Do you expect to edit the short story closely, or do you publish stories that are pretty much 95% already there.

Both. If a story's already there, I don't try to change it. If I get something from, for instance, Ben Myers, I'll maybe query two or three words with him. A couple of sentences at most. Maybe I'll also suggest he looks at a few things again. But I won't want to get too close to the edits as I know he'll come up with something. But some writers need a little more interaction to bring their talent out and that's good too. I enjoy working with both types. Seeing someone take my advice and make a better story is pretty wonderful. So too is seeing someone kind-of listen to my advice, and then go away and do something better than I suggested or imagined…

Please say two of your favourite short stories (famous or otherwise)

Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway. Big Two Hearted River by Ernest Hemingway. They're probably the best short stories I've read. Everyone who wants to write short stories should look at them, try to understand what he's doing, and just as importantly, what he doesn't do. Learn from them. But don't imitate them. That wouldn't work…

As an editor - what are the two most common mistakes you see?

I don't know if I can answer that. Everyone makes their own mistakes. Dialogue is possibly the hardest thing to get right. I also quite often advise people not to explain too much. They shouldn't have to spell out the lesson in the story. The story should do that for itself, if it's working… Generally. But, I'm always wary about laying down rules. Lots of the stories I like break them, after all…

So much for those questions. I guess the other important thing that I didn't add - because I didn't want to come on over like a pusher in front of the kids - was that if you want to go with a publisher, learn about their list. So for us, if you can say why you love Andrew Lovett, show how you've enjoyed subscribing to the Singles Club, tell us why you admire Eimear McBride, and show that you have some kind of connection to the things we do, it's a good sign that your story may fit. Please provide proof that you have bought or read some of our books along with your submission. 

I hope some of that is helpful or otherwise makes sense. I suppose I'll change my mind about most of it, sooner or later. But for now, they seem like good ideas. Do post in the comments if there's more you'd like to know, or something I should explain better.


Same as above, really.

Will it be announced in the Newsletter when you're ready to accept new submissions...? If not, where...? Thanks

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