This starts off with a good piece of news for me but it's not about me, so do persevere. I've just heard that Ellery Queen will be publishing my short, "A Death", my fourth in that magazine. I've always found the editors of EQMM very open-minded and receptive to new ideas, but I know a lot of people have problems with the magazine and its sister publication AHMM. So I'm interested to hear from other writers what their experiences have been.

EQMM has accepted one of my stories which was so left-field that our next port of call was going to be McSweeney's. They accepted another which included some very strong violence and a discussion of the relative merits of Eminem, The Beastie Boys and Vanilla Ice. None of the stories they've bought from me have been traditional mysteries. On the other hand, I will say that the one rule I've stuck to is avoiding bad language - this isn't usually a major part of my work so I haven't found it difficult.

But what experiences have you had? Or have you simply never submitted, never thought they'd consider your work, etc?

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This is what I find interesting though, Ray. I read an interview with Janet (the editor) recently and she was asked why so few women publish in EQMM, to which her reply was that fewer women submit stories. Likewise, I could imagine some of your work fitting in really well - although I accept that "street language" is integral to your stories in a way that it isn't to mine. With the exception of the language, I wonder how many people don't submit because they feel they won't be successful - the Catch 22 being that EQMM can't broaden its scope if it doesn't get the submissions.
I haven't seen all that many issues, so this is highly generalized, but the issues I have picked up haven't contained much that impressed me. And it did seem that everyone in was a *name*. I know Russel, for example, has done well with AHMM but there's an appearance that it's hard to get in unless you're well established, so I've never submitted stuff there.

With short stories, I like to try different things, push myself in new territory, and they're more about the writing than the publication, for me. I only aim to get a couple short stories out per year, because I want each one to improve on the last one, or to be evidence (to me) of achieving some goal I've set for myself. Basically, I use short fiction to experiment with different styles, types of characters.

If EQMM/AHMM allowed online submissions I might be more inclined to try at some point, but to post the story, include an IRC for response, when you know your odds are poor just seems a waste of time and money. I'm lazy. If I can avoid a line at the post office, I will. (I know, how pathetic! But I spend so much time in there picking up packages...)
Oh I've submitted, but never made it into EQMM. AHMM has taken two of mine. I think both publications are quite fine as venues for writers and for good stories. The profanity barrier has been broken at AHMM with the F-bomb dropped a couple of times. Both journals do tend more towad puzzle type mysteries, but both have done other type stories.

I keep trying with both magazines - after all $500 for a short story helps pay the rent and all.
Sandra, likewise, I tend to use shorts as a way of exploring my own writing, to the extent that two of my EQMM stories wouldn't necessarily translate into readers for my regular work. Maybe, I'm getting more career-savvy because the new story will appeal to people who'll also like my books. As for the online submissions, I think they're inundated as it is, and a three month response is usual, so I guess they'd like to do it in theory, but you know yourself, the pressures of time when editing a journal.

Steven, do you have your agent submit or do it directly? I ask because I think both you and Sandra are right, EQMM certainly seems to favour agented stories.
I've never even thought of having my agent submit short stories for me. I've met both Linda and Janet at many conferences, so I send in stuff to them directly. Loveliest ladies around I'll add. As the ladies have different personalities they accept different stories. Only natural. I think, speaking only as an outsider to the process, that Linda is simply more open to non-puzzle stuff. I also think both ladies are under enormous pressure (though they may never say or even feel it) because the magazines are owned by a much larger corporation, Dell. Dell makes most of its money with crossword puzzle magazines and Sudoku puzzle books - things to keep people occupied at airports and on trains. For this reason, I feel lucky when they take my stories at AHMM since they could be publishing someone else with a larger fan base or one of their regular contributors who satisfies subscribers.

I don't subscribe but I buy almost every issue of each at the local bookstore. In fact, do I recall correctly if I say that I read a Kevin Wignal story about an artist with a penchant for squid?

Each magazine has well over a 100k subscribers. Mostly female, well educated, and upper middle class. This probably helps explain the selection of stories.
Correct, Steven, that was the story (The Concept) that would have gone to McSweeney's if Janet hadn't accepted it. I agree that Janet (and also Linda, though I haven't had dealings with her) are great people doing a difficult job. At some point I'll probably publish a volume of short stories and I think people might be surprised by the ones that appeared in EQMM.

Didn't know about the nature of the readership, which is really interesting.
You asked Steven, but since I also publish in AHMM, I'll answer for my situation. I used to submit directly before I had an agent and continued this for a while afterward. But these days, all my work passes through my agent's office. I need someone to look at those contracts and make sure I retain all republication rights. There has been some foreign interest in the stories, and my early contracts gave those rights to the publisher. My case seems to prove that AHMM does not favor agented writers.
I've submitted a few things to the "big two" but haven't had any luck with them. But then again, when i read a copy, neither magazine publishes the types of stories that I generally write, so I lean toward online markets, where barriers can be pushed a little harder.
Clay, I think the secret, as I suggested to Ray, is meeting them halfway. Of course, not everyone's prepared to do that and it's easier for some people to adapt their work accordingly. But I do think to some extent it's that Catch 22 where the content is partly determined by what's being submitted.
All of my stories have been in AHMM. The reason for this is that they were the first to accept one from me. I'm very loyal. I have found AHMM very open to new writers and they seem to select a variety of subjects and subgenres. Yes, I also heard that they are narrow-minded, but I've always thought that was sour grapes. They are picky about quality. Congrats, Kevin.
Thanks, Ingrid. I'm sure there is some element of sour grapes, and naturally, most of the stories rejected are probably of poorer quality. However, I also know that stories can be turned down for other reasons. You send in a story about a jewel thief and they already have a couple of similar stories lined up for future issues. You inadvertently include subject matter that the editors think might offend. Your story is too long for them to find a suitable slot (even with regular stories, the lead time can be a year). But I suspect agented stories do have a greater level of success, for the same reasons publishers are more likely to buy from agents than from the slush pile.
Congrats on "A Death," Kevin. That's lovely news!

I've had great experiences with EQMM. I never wrote mystery stories, but I happened to pick up an EQMM and read a Joyce Carol Oates story. I didn't know any of the other contributors, but I have huge respect for Joyce and her work. I decided to try my hand and came up with "The Hollow Woman," which EQMM bought for its Dept of First Stories in 2001. While it had a murder at its end, it was more a story of psychological tension--definitely not a puzzler. But like you and Sandra (Hi, Sandra!), I like to try to push the boundaries of short stories, since I don't do them very often. I had several more stories rejected, but always very politely. I even got to spend some time with Janet at Bouchercon last fall, and she was terribly nice and quite funny.

I have another story (finally) coming out in the Sept/Oct issue--I corresponded with the EQMM ad dept about perhaps advertising my new novel there as well. I was interested to read in their specs that their readership is predominantly female, over thirty-five, college educated, and quite prosperous. Not exactly the demographic I had expected (older, I thought, and male). So it doesn't surprise me that Janet--who is quite sharp herself--would find that McSweeney-type stories would round out the magazine's traditional mystery fare quite nicely. Variety is critical to building markets. (Don't get me started on my beef with genre boundaries--it's all good as far as I'm concerned, and I'm fed-up TO HERE with literary pretentiousness.)

I've never used my agent for EQMM or other short story submissions. There just isn't the kind of money involved to justify an agent's involvement, I think. (Okay, if you're talking Esquire, or the Atlantic, etc. But if a writer is agented, I think it's enough to briefly mention that fact in the cover letter.) Also, Janet apparently sees every single submission, which is pretty neat. I think that if they did online submissions, that would be awfully difficult.

I would encourage everyone to submit their mystery/thriller/murder short fiction there--It's definitely worth the price of a couple stamps and an SASE. A friend of mine and I both had Dept of First Stories, and we were each queried by Scott Miller, a now-hot agent at Trident. My friend is now publishing a second novel through Scott.


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