Copyright April 2017 St. Louis Writers Guild – All rights reserved
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Photo of the Anheuser Busch Brewery
Cover design by Brad R. Cook
T. W. Fendley
Brad R. Cook
The Scribe is published monthly digitally by the Saint Louis Writers Guild with an annual print issue. The editorial staff invites Guild members to submit original submissions of poetry, short stories, or articles about writing (4,000 words or less) for publication in this magazine. The Scribe is promoted to more than 1,000 people on our mailing list. Submissions should be sent by the first of each month to -- put SCRIBE in the subject line.
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[In this issue
[+ Workshops for Writers --“Step 1: Write, Step 2: ????, Step 3: Profit” with McKenzie +]
by Jennifer Stolzer
[* Workshops for Writers -- “Step 1: Write, Step 2: ????, Step 3: PROFIT” with McKenzie Johnston Winberry *]
By Jennifer Stolzer
Photos by Steven Langhorst
Your story has just been published it in a popular magazine, but what happened in the middle? McKenzie Johnston Winberry, author and editor with “Apex Magazine,” filled in the gaps at the Guild’s April 1 workshop.
The first step is to finish the story and format it appropriately. Most publishing companies and magazines prefer the Shunn format, developed by award-winning author William Shunn,. Begin with a cover letter featuring a short message explaining who you are as a writer, a link to your website, and if you’ve been published before. Include a short publishing resume with the most important publications and any awards you’ve won.
“They won’t be surprised if you don’t have a really professional one… it just means you’re new,” Winberry assured. “Your fiction will be accepted based on the fiction and a little from your cover letter.”
To help find places accepting submissions, Winberry suggested Ralan.com – a website that displays a collection of markets for many genres and categorizes them by pay rate. She also recommended Facebook groups looking for open calls. Publications post their submission availability and requirements on open-call FB groups.
Winberry works for “Apex Magazine,” a publication specializing in science fiction, horror, and fantasy short stories. Apex and publications like it usually take submissions through online forms via services such as Submittable. A Submittable account is useful for writers, as well. It helps authors monitor where their manuscripts are in the submission process, in addition to organizing the publisher’s pipeline. Start your publishing journey on the publication’s website and follow instructions.
“Almost everything I tell you is not true somewhere depending on what you are submitting and where you are submitting it to,” Winberry said. Because of this, it is important for writers to thoroughly investigate publications before they submit. Some publishers are more adamant than others, and sometimes if writers are familiar with the publisher, they can break the rules intelligently to appeal to specific individuals’ tastes or get attention in a positive way. While it’s sometimes okay to break the rules, it’s always okay to bend them. Genre blurring, or experimenting with tropes and genre conventions, is a great way to make your work both applicable to genre-specific magazines and different enough to stand apart.
When you are submitting, most guidelines will request “no simultaneous submissions,” which means sending the same story to multiple publications at the same time. Writers will say ignore this and submit everywhere to increase the chances of getting published.
“They are both right,” Winberry said. “But publishers hate learning something they are supposed to have exclusive rights to has been stolen from them.” Publishing companies have a system. Losing a story after it has passed the approval process clogs up their assembly line and complicates release dates. This is why publishing companies will set a timeline for exclusivity – usually about three months. If they don’t get back within the established timeline, wait a day longer and send a note to the editor naming the story and asking for an update. Try to address your message directly to the managing editor to bypass the slush readers, and always be professional.
“It’s a business and you have to be attentive to the rules of a business,” Winberry said. “Banned lists are real.”
Publishers are a tight-knit group. They hang out, they get drinks, and they complain to each other. Breaking too many rules or specific rules can earn an author a bad reputation. If an author becomes unreliable or unpleasant to work with, they may find themselves on a “banned list” with certain publishers, meaning their work will be immediately rejected. Banned lists are not industry-wide, but reputation can be, which is why it’s important to always be professional and only break rules on rare occasion.
When a piece is rejected, it does not mean you are on a banned list. Rejections are common in all fields of publishing, and most of the time it is not personal. “’Apex Magazine’ receives hundreds of submissions on a slow month and thousands on a busy month,” Winberry said. “You are not the only person submitting…there are a million reasons you could get rejected that don’t have to do with the guidelines.”
Many authors get dozens of rejection notices before they are accepted. Sometimes they come with a note explaining why the piece was rejected, and sometimes they do not. For example, Winberry recalled a magazine that rejected her story not because of low quality or violated rules, but because it was too similar to something it recently published. Work funnels through levels of approval from slush readers to editors to managing editors, narrowing down the list each time. Paying attention to the time lapsed can give authors an idea of how their piece fared. If a piece is rejected right away, it was rejected by slush readers, but if your piece was rejected a few weeks later, it likely went further down the pipeline.
“When you submit to a big company you WILL get rejected,” Winberry said. “And that’s okay.”
When submitting a story, pay attention to prestige. Never pay a magazine to read your story -- that is a sign of a predatory company and is not normal. Be wary of scam publishers who offer print-on-demand services and require the authors to buy their own copies of the final book. Ideally publishers will make money through readership, not from the authors they feature. Good resources used to double-check the safety of publishers are Preditors and Editors (pred-ed.com) and Writer Beware ( www.writerbeware.com). Buying an exclusive reading by a specific editor at a conference or convention is an exception to this rule.
Most valid publications will pay authors for their work. “You CAN publish places that can’t pay. Not everywhere that can’t pay is a scam. Every publishing company has to start somewhere,” Winberry said. “I’ll still warn you away from publishing with those places. Especially if you’re starting out.” There are different types of pay when it comes to publication. Professional pay is five to ten cents a word. Semi-professional is one to four cents a word. Token pay is when authors are paid with free copies of the final publication, a very common rate of pay. Finally, recognition is being paid in prestige alone. This is fine if the publication has acceptable clout in the writing community.
“As writers, we want to be read. Recognition to us means readership,” Winberry said. “It’s not worth being recognized by someone who no one recognizes.” For example, British magazine “Black Static” does not pay authors, but their prestige is high enough that it furthers the careers of writers they promote.
Be wary of publications that take ownership of rights with no indication of when they return them. Typically rights to a short story will come back to the author in six months to two years, but the timeframe should be defined in the contract. Foreign language rights is another place that less-reputable publishers take advantage of authors, so writers should make sure they are getting the language rights back and getting a cut of the sales whenever they are used. First world electronic rights come back faster than print rights. After initial publication, other magazines may purchase the story for reprint. Reprint rights return very quickly so you can sell the same story many times.
“A good chunk of being published is not just how good a writer you are,” Winberry said. Networking is essential to building a good reputation and finding opportunities. Writing conferences and conventions allow you to make friends in the industry who may publish you or point you toward someone who can. It’s okay to name drop. Don’t take advantage of these people – everyone in the industry is human – and help others in return. Having a good name in the industry is just as powerful as having a bad name in the industry.
Writing a short story takes a lot of time and effort, and even more time and effort goes in to getting published. Follow the guidelines of the magazine or publication you are submitting to, be polite, and be cooperative. Don’t be afraid to take risks, and keep writing new pieces to toss into the publishing ring.
For the latest information on poetry events in the St. Louis, MO area, visit the .
Second Friday Notes, second Friday of each month, 7 p.m., at Whole Foods Town & Country, Clayton Road just west of Highway 141
RIVER STYX. Third Mondays, 7:30 p.m., Tavern of Fire Arts, 313 Belt Ave. riverstyx.org/events.
POETRY AT THE POINT, 4th Tuesday of the month, at Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Ave. Read their ezine at
Sheila Nolan Whalen Reading Series at SLU, 221 N. Grand Ave., Dubourg 409.
Tuesdays at 4 p.m.
CHANCE OPERATIONS on the last Monday of each month at Tavern of the Arts, 313 Belt Ave., just off Pershing, between Union and DeBaliviere. 7:30 p.m. Open mic follows featured poets.
EVERY WEDNESDAY open mic for poetry and music at Stone Spiral Coffee & Curios, 2500 Sutton in Maplewood (2 blocks N. of Manchester). Great food and beverages. Open mic, 8 until around 11 p.m.
GOODY HOUSE, 7 p.m., fourth Thursdays at Art Marketplace, 2028 S. 12th Street. Featured poets.
R_SPACE. Last Saturday of the month, Lenny Smith and friends at 2 p.m.
ST. LOUIS WRITERS GUILD open mic for prose and poetry, second Tuesday of each month, 7 p.m., Kirkwood Train Station, Argonne Drive, just west of Kirkwood Road. Allow time to find parking.
ADDITIONAL OPEN MICS at The Wolf, (every Tuesday), Legacy Books & Café (every Friday), The Historical Crossings (every other Tuesday), Shameless Grounds (Wednesdays at 7), Venice Café (Mondays at 9)
A Quick Guide to St. Louis Writers Guild Events
It’s as easy as
Workshops for Writers
First Saturday of every month (except holiday weekends)
10 a.m. to Noon at the Kirkwood Community Center
Station Open Mic
Second Tuesday of every month
7-9 p.m. at the Kirkwood Amtrak Station
SLWG Authors Series
Third Thursday of every month
Query for “SLWG Authors Series” on YouTube or check the Members’ Room on our website, .
Brad R. Cook, author of the young adult steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles (Treehouse Publishing Group). A former co-publisher and acquisitions editor for Blank Slate Press, he is a member of SCBWI, and currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as President. A founding contributor to , a resource blog for writers, he can be heard weekly as a panelist on Write Pack Radio. A cover designer since 2013, he also creates posters, bookmarks, and other marketing materials. Find more @bradrcook on Twitter, Instagram, and tumblr.
T.W. Fendley is an award-winning author of historical fantasy and science fiction for adults and young adults, including Zero Time (2011) and The Labyrinth of Time (2014). She’s a founding contributor to , a resource blog for writers. Her short stories are available on Kindle and Audible. When she’s not writing, T.W. explores the boundaries of consciousness through and shamanism. twfendley.com
Steven W. Langhorst is a life-long resident of St. Louis with an insatiable hunger for the facts and trivia of St. Louis history. He is a retired elementary school principal who still serves education as a mentor and consultant focusing on leadership. Steven has dabbled in poetry and photography since his youth and still plans to publish a book of poems and photographs as well as a memoir of his years at principal. Besides holding membership in the St. Louis Writers Guild he also proudly holds a membership in the Professional Tour Guides Association of St. Louis. Steven also contributed to the design of the new St. Louis Writers Guild logo.
David Lucas is the President of St. Louis Writers Guild, a published fiction short story author and poet. He has a Master’s Degree in Management from Webster University. For two years, David has been the host and producer of Write Pack Radio (WPR), a podcast with a panel of authors exploring the changing writing industry. In 2016, David decided to take his experience in podcasting and his love for radio dramas and start Winding Trails Media, which will produce podcast audio dramas beginning in the fall of 2016 as well as continuing WPR podcast.
Lauren Miller is the Director of Communications for the St. Louis Writers Guild, and she reviews books quarterly for the Historical Novels Review. She has a fifteen-year background in library science and has over fifty nonfiction reviews and articles in print. Lauren likes to spend her free time discovering new reads, games, period films, and be surrounded by dogs. To read more about Lauren, visit her blog at
Jennifer Stolzer is an author and illustrator living and working in St. Louis, MO. She graduated from Webster University with a degree in digital media and animation and uses this skill set to create bright and engaging characters. In addition to illustrating books for clients, Jennifer writes and illustrates original work, serves as secretary for the St. Louis Writers Guild, and commentates on the weekly writing podcast Write Pack Radio. See more of Jennifer’s work at , as well as Twitter, tumblr, and Facebook.
For more than a decade, The Scribe has been the mainstay for communicating with members of the St. Louis Writers Guild. It began as a way to showcase the organization and share insights into the publishing world. Back issues give a wonderful record of the Guild. The Scribe is now available to everyone, not just members. It features stories, poems, and essays from our members, as well as information about our events, most of which are open to the public. The May 2017 edition features coverage of our April workshop, written by Jennifer Stolzer.