While browsing through opportunities for short story and other types of submissions, I came upon a call for pitches (a story idea) from LitReactor. Yes, it’s time for a confession–I do not just write short mystery fiction. I write poetry, essays, articles (about many things–food, lifestyle, travel, interesting people, other artist profiles, and lit topics).
I’m also a performer, so I speak in front of audiences, performing personal and folk tales and doing one woman shows (those have a lot of comedy in them). Noticing that the call for pitches was a bit old–over a month and knowing that my fellow freelancers are quick to jump on paying jobs, I emailed to ask if pitch season was still open. Alas, it was not, but the very kind editor, Josh Chaplinsky agreed to do an interview for the blog. I thought you might enjoy some advice from an editor on writing about the genre we all love–short mystery fiction.
Joan: I read recently that you are looking for articles on plot, character, grammar, and the current state of the publishing industry–does this correctly outline your needs?
Josh: Well, it did. Unfortunately our needs have already been filled, as we got a huge response. So it might be a while before we put out another call for writers. We tend to hire “staff” writers, people who contribute on a monthly basis, as opposed to accepting individual article pitches at random.
Joan: How can a fiction writer break into this sort of writing? Any suggestions –such as, listing their own practice, top ten things that have brought them success–things of this nature? Do you have some resources (within your own magazine and without) that you wold suggest to them?
Josh: If a fiction writer is known, and already has an established authority in the arena of publishing, obviously they have a foot in the door. But for the rest of us mortals, I’d say good samples and good ideas are what is needed. If you write well and approach an editor with a great pitch, you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting hired. Of course, familiarity with the venue you are pitching helps. The more you know, and all that. The fit has to be right.
Note from Joan: A pitch, or query letter contains a one or two sentence tease about the subject of the article proposed, length proposed for final article, your qualifications to write the article and when you can deliver it.
Joan: What should a writer think about in terms of length for such an article?
Josh: LitReactor columns run approximately 1200 words, but we aren’t strict about it. Bigger isn’t necessarily better on the internet, as there’s a lot out there fighting for people’s short attention spans. It takes a lot of skill or cache to keep people interested for that long.
Joan:Do you prefer articles form experience or interviews with very successful authors?
Josh: Both are great, but I think people really appreciate advice from writers in the trenches, jobbing writers who have gone before them, who they can relate to.
Joan:Your guidelines say to query, send bio and links to other articles–how far out from publication date should this be done?
Josh: Again, we aren’t currently open to new submissions, but we usually send out a monthly email to our “stable” of writers asking for pitches. Then we make a schedule for the entire month. Of course, writers being writers, assignments aren’t always turned in on time, so we’ve learned to be flexible. Writers are like cats in that way. They don’t like being told what to do and they complain a lot.
Joan: Do you publish any fiction or poetry at all?
Josh: We have not made the foray into publishing fiction. There are already so many great venues doing that.
Joan:Are you a paying market?
Josh: Yes, we are. We pay a flat rate of $25 per column.
Joan: What magazines, on craft and other, do you read?
Josh: Personally, I read so many great articles as the Editor of LitReactor, I don’t really seek out additional material. I do love a good book on the craft of writing, though. And as a fiction writer myself, I love reading the work of the people associated with the site and the independent publishing scene.
Joan: Anything else you would like to tell my readers?
Josh: Yes. The best advice I can give to writers is be discerning. Learn what advice to take and what advice to ignore. Do what works for YOU. Also, make friends, and interact. Get involved with a community. Writers like to pretend they are an island, but we all need support.
Thank you, Josh!
Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor.com. He has also written for popular film site Screen Anarchy and for ChuckPalahniuk.net, the official website of ‘Fight Club’ author Chuck Palahniuk. He is the author of ‘Kanye West—Reanimator.’ His short fiction has been published by Motherboard (Vice), Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, CLASH Books, Pantheon Magazine, Broken River Books, and Severed Press. More info at joshuachaplinsky.com and @jaceycockrobin on Twitter.
So, readers, if you like the idea of branching out into non-fiction, keep an eye out for LitReactor to open back up for articles/column entries. Check around for other magazines that might be interested in an article on your favorite mystery author. Non-fiction is a wide world–and it mostly pays.