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Submission Guidelines

Last updated: 30 April 2018

Who We Are
Edited by award-winning science fiction writer Bruce Bethke, STUPEFYING STORIES is a bold attempt to grow a new general-interest science fiction and fantasy magazine from the ground up. Right now we are a small-press, semi-pro, payment-on-publication market, publishing on a somewhat erratic schedule, but our goal is to grow to become a regular monthly magazine that pays professional rates on acceptance—

And here’s the radical part. We want to do this not by begging people to contribute to our Kickstarter or GoFundMe campaign or put money in our Patreon tip jar, but by selling lots of books and magazines.

Sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it?

What We Publish
Genres: Science fiction, fantasy, and horror, in roughly that order of preference.

Venues: STUPEFYING STORIES magazine and the Saturday SHOWCASE feature on our website.

Length: Generally, from flash fiction up to 10,000 words. We will consider longer novelettes and novellas, but space for longer works is limited, so please query first before sending anything longer than 10,000 words.

Original Novels: We publish original novels through our parent company, Rampant Loon Media, but do not read unsolicited novel manuscripts. Please query first. See further information below.

Reprints: We do not publish reprints.

TIP: The best way to see what we like to publish, of course, is to buy and read a few issues of our magazine. If you have a Kindle or Kindle Reader app and a subscription to Kindle Unlimited, it’s free. If you don’t have a Kindle, the next best way is to click on the SHOWCASE link in the left column and read a good sampling of the stories you’ll find there. What we’ve published in the past is not necessarily a foolproof guide to what we’d like to publish in the future, but it’s a good place to start.    

What We Buy and What We Pay
Rights: Worldwide English-language first serial rights, for publication in both print and electronic formats.

Base word rate: 1.5 cents (USD) per word.

Flash fiction: For stories up to 1,000 words in length, we pay a flat rate of $15.00.

Cover bonus: For stories selected to be magazine cover stories, we pay a bonus of $50.00 USD.

When we pay: On publication.

How to Submit a Short Story
We accept electronic submissions only. Submit your story as an attachment to an email message sent to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com.

CRUCIAL CONSIDERATIONS!
• One story at a time, please.

• No simultaneous submissions.

• Seriously, we do not publish reprints. Don’t send them to us.

• By sending us a submission, you agree to let us put your email address on our mailing list. While we promise never to sell our mailing list to anyone else, if you do not want to be on our mailing list, don’t send a submission to us.  

• Send submissions and queries to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com only. Over the years we have had a plethora of other email addresses, but these are all outdated now. If you’ve found another email address for us somewhere, don’t use it, as it most likely goes straight to /dev/null.

• We prefer submissions in .rtf, .docx, and .doc format, in roughly that order. We can handle .odt files if necessary, but they have proven troublesome, so we’ll be happier if you re-save your story in .rtf format. We cannot handle other formats such as Apple Pages files, so don’t send them.

• Do not send submissions as links to cloud or file-sharing sites. Submissions sent as links to file-sharing sites are deleted unread.

• The name of our publication is STUPEFYING STORIES. Stupefy with an “e” means to stun, astonish, or astound. Stupify with an “i” means to make stupid. Address your submission to STUPIFYING STORIES and it will be dead on arrival.

• Kindly remember that everyone here is a volunteer, working purely for love of the SF/F genre and the short story format. While we’d really like to pay our staff, right now we’re plowing everything we make back into paying our authors and artists more. If you want us to become a better-paying market, and along the way help the wonderful people who make this magazine possible, tell your friends about us. HELP US GROW!  

After You Submit a Short Story
Within a week of your submission, you should receive an email message telling you either a.) we can’t use your story at this time, or b.) that it’s being held for further consideration, in which case you’ll receive a submission tracking number and further information. However, this one-week response time is a goal, not a guarantee. If you have not heard from us within 30 days, please query, as this mostly likely means either we did not receive your submission, it’s stuck somewhere in the evaluation process, or you did not receive our reply.

How to Submit a Novel
We do not consider unsolicited novel manuscripts. If you want to submit your novel to us, please send a query first to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com. If we like your proposal, we’ll ask to see a partial and outline; if we like the partial and think your book looks like something that might fit well into our lineup and budget, we’ll ask to see the completed manuscript.

At this time we are not interested in reprinting previously published novels. However, over the years we have amassed considerable expertise in converting existing books to ebook and print-on-demand content, and if you would like our help in converting your rights-reverted novel into a ready-to-self-publish property, we’re willing to talk.

One More Time: Our Email Address Is...
submissions@rampantloonmedia.com

If you’ve found another email address for us somewhere, don’t use it, as it most likely is no longer in use.
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Ten Tips for Improving the Odds
by Bruce Bethke and the Fearless Slush Pile Reader Corps
We receive a lot of submissions, most of which go straight into the first-round form rejection bin. Here are some tips to help you rise above the common slush and improve your chances of selling to us. 

1. Make sure your story is as finished and as polished as it can be. 
We’re in the business of publishing fiction, not of teaching people how to write. Much as we’d love to give every author who submits to us a detailed critique of his or her story, complete with advice on how to rewrite it in order to make it publishable, we just plain don’t have the time to do so. Therefore, before you hit send, make sure you’re putting your best foot (or hoof, claw, tentacle, or pseudopod, as the case may be) forward.

2. Remember to delete Comments and turn off Track Changes.
On a regular basis we receive manuscripts that contain not only the story, but also all the comments embedded in the story file by the other members of the author’s writing group. While these are sometimes hilarious, this probably is not the effect you want to achieve.

3. Make sure you’re sending us the story you want us to consider.
We continue to be surprised by the number of nice cover letters that arrive with no story attached. After that, the next-strangest things that show up in our inbox are cover letters that don’t match the attached file. We’ve seen authors reference one title in the email subject line, another in the body of the cover letter, a third in the name of the story file, and a fourth in the actual story itself. When we’re confused as to whether you meant to send us the story you actually sent us, our default response is to hit reject.

4. Make sure you’re sending your story to us.
Every week we receive submissions addressed to other editors and other publications. These go straight into the form rejection bin.

5. Keep your cover letter short and to the point.
Remember, we buy stories, not resumes, college transcripts, or publication histories. What we like to see in a cover letter is something interesting about you as a person that will make us more interested in reading your story. Please don’t send us a cover letter loaded with links to everywhere you’ve ever been published or had your fiction reviewed: above a certain threshold our email system tags link-laden messages as junk email and automatically deletes them.

If you’re a returning previous contributor, then yes, please mention that. Stories from authors we’ve published before go straight to the top of the to-read pile.

6. Learn and use standard manuscript formatting.
While we’re not absolute sticklers for common formatting conventions, especially as they differ from country to country and we’ve bought some of our favorite stories from authors who live in countries where the local conventions are quite different from U.S. standards, it really helps if you submit your story in something recognizably close to “standard” formatting. In particular, your manuscript should:

• Have your real name, mailing address, and email address on the first page.

• Have a slug line in the page header giving the title (or at least a key word from the title), your name (or at least your last name), and the page number.

• Have double-spaced body text.

• End with “The End” or something like it. Seriously, nothing brings a slush pile reading session to a screaming halt like someone getting to the bottom of the last page of a manuscript and asking, “Is this it? Where’s the rest of the story?”

Again, we’re not absolute sticklers on formatting issues, but William Shunn’s article on manuscript preparation is a good place to start.

7. Remember to include an ending.
Few things are as frustrating as reading a story that is just brilliant for the first twenty-one pages and then either ends in mid-air or collapses into a puddle of meaningless goo on page 22. Remember, a short story is not a scene, a vignette, or an excerpt from your novel-in-progress: it’s a complete and self-contained narrative with its own story arc. To paraphrase Mickey Spillane: it may be the beginning of your story that gets someone interested in reading it, but it’s the ending that determines whether they want to read anything else by you. (Or in the case of an editor: whether they want to buy and publish your story in the first place.)

8. Remember to include at least one character.
We don’t require that stories have heroes who emerge victorious, but your story should have at least one character who engages the reader on some kind of significant emotional level. It can be positive or negative—the reader can be rooting for the character to succeed, crying when the character fails, or sincerely hoping the character really gets his/her/its just deserts (never underestimate the power of schadenfreude)—but travelogues, history lectures, “Encyclopedia Galactica” entries, and stories about boring characters who do boring things for boring reasons (or worse, do nothing at all) or repugnant characters who do revolting things to other repugnant characters for repellent reasons (or worse, no reason at all) leave us cold.

9. Mind the pandering.
Many great literary careers have begun with a reader throwing a book or magazine down in disgust and saying, “Geez, even I can write better than that!” Note that the operative expression here is “better than,” not “just as badly as.” Your readers are giving you a very valuable commodity: their time. You should not reward them by returning contempt for their intelligence—especially if what you’re writing is a parody or spoof of some other much-beloved literary property.

10. Keep an eye on the submission guidelines.
Editors don’t post submission guidelines because they have delusions of godhood; they do so in order to save writers wasted effort and themselves wasted time. Editors truly do want to see more stories that fit their publication’s needs, and to give more attention to the writers who create those stories. Therefore it’s a good idea to read the posted submission guidelines—and then to read them again, from time to time. Guidelines can and do change, and an editor can go from “Please send me more zombie stories” to “Please God, no more damn zombie stories!” overnight.
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The Secret 11th Tip
by Bruce Bethke alone

As your reward for having read this far, here’s the secret 11th Tip. People in the SF/F world know of me as a writer, but in the real world I work in supercomputer software R&D and my best and oldest friends are a mixed bag of engineers, rocket scientists (my old college roommate’s A.I. software is still crawling around inside a rover on the surface of Mars), musicians, poets—and one nationally syndicated political cartoonist. Not sure how he got in there.

What this means to you as a writer is that I would really love to publish a lot more hard science fiction, somewhat less fantasy, and much less horror than we have been publishing thus far, but before I can do so I have to see it, and thus far I’m just not seeing much good hard SF in my inbox. I’m seeing a lot of hard SF-flavored product—stories by people who clearly have good chops as writers and storytellers, and a good understanding of character development and all that—but the science in them is like something out of a grade school textbook written in 1965.

If you can write good, modern, hard science fiction stories that reflect an understanding of contemporary science and technology, not the vision of science and technology that was enshrined in the science fiction of decades ago, I’d love to hear from you.

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