I recently got Alex Fayle, editor for SpeckLit, to answer some questions about this new market. (Disclosure: I have some drabbles coming up in this next quarter at SpeckLit!)
Q. SpeckLit focuses on the drabble — short pieces in exactly 100 words. Why a drabble in particular, rather than any other form of flash?
A. We live in a sound-bite world. Our lives are reduced to 140 character conversations on Twitter and to screen-sized chunks of text on our smart phones. Reading has to squeeze into tiny slices of time between one interruption and another. Drabbles are the perfect answer to that. They give readers a chance to get a full story in a glance. As for sticking with a drabble-only format, yes, we will be doing that — our vision is to provide readers with worlds of wonder a hundred words at a time, so until we change our vision, drabbles will be our focus.
Q. You publish both fiction and nonfiction. Are you open to poetry, or only prose?
A. SpeckLit does not currently have any editors who feel confident judging poetry, so for now it will remain a prose-only site.
Q. SpeckLit has an interesting submissions process, where you ask about a website, a Twitter handle, and previously published work before you even send instructions on how to submit. How much does that information affect submissions — does the lack of a website or Twitter (or both!) make you less likely to request the actual work?
A. We have never been interested in “what’s done” — Alex is a former professional organizer and records manager. When setting up the submission process we asked ourselves the following questions:
- How can we reduce the amount of irrelevant or poorly formatted submissions? (The biggest complaint heard over the years from so many sources is about people who ignore guidelines)
- How can we get people who are serious about submitting? (With hundreds of stories each quarter, we needed a way for authors to self-select. By having a two-step submission process, we only get people who really want to get published and weed out those who are just dabbling.)
- How can we streamline the reading process? (With so many stories coming in each quarter, we needed a way to be able read them without wasting time fumbling around with formatting. Plus as an added bonus, it allows us to do an anonymous first read on all the stories.)
- How can we create a sort of community? (The Internet functions as a community. Twitter is a great one that already exists, so we take advantage of that by connecting with everyone who gives us their Twitter)
- How can we discover more authors to read? (Aside from publishing a magazine, we are also readers. Finding books to read is not easy these days. By asking for previous publishing credits and websites, we get a steady stream of new-to-us authors to add to our to-read lists.)
Also, as SpeckLit grows we hope to create a larger community, with regular updates about our authors. By starting now with websites and Twitter accounts, a great amount of the data-collection work is already done.
However, social media and websites are not for everyone and no one is ever ignored or thought less of for not having an Internet presence. It doesn’t affect submissions in any way.
Q. As a follow-up, how often do you not send requests to those who contact you?
A. We respond to everyone, although sometimes we don’t ask for drabbles from those who ignore the submission process. As mentioned above, the process was designed to cut down on people who ignore submission guidelines, and it works amazingly.
Q. With this submission process, clearly there are no blind submissions. Do you think that has any effect on the diversity of stories or authors you publish?
A. The selection process is actually blind. We send out interested authors a template for them to use when submitting their drabbles, which is divided into two sections: information and stories. When it comes time to select stories, we cut and paste all the drabbles into a single file and read them. We mark which stories interest us then go back and connect story with author.
As for diversity, we love stories that play with tropes or look at speculative fiction from a different angle. In other words, the more diverse the better!
Q. You encourage multiple submissions at one time. Does that increase the possibility a writer has something you like? Or do you have another reason behind it?
A. The multiple submissions issue is a simple one. We make all our payments by PayPal given that we are based in Spain. For administrative purposes, it does not make sense to do a bunch of work for a single $5 story. This is why we always publish a minimum of two stories from any one author.
It also helps build community. Readers will see an author’s name repeated throughout each quarter and start looking forward to the next drabble from the author or will make the effort to find more by the writer.
Q. Currently, 5 cents a word is considered a “pro” rate for SF/F/H short fiction, but SFWA will be increasing their qualifying rate to 6 cents a word this summer. Will you be changing your pay rate when that happens?
A. Although our fiction is too short to ever qualify as a SWFA accredited market, we strongly believe in paying professional rates to our authors, so yes, we will increase our pay rates when that happens.