When we started Wyngraf, we weren’t sure we’d get any submissions. Were there enough people out there writing cozy fantasy? Would they learn about us? We had no idea.
Well, we needn’t have worried. Wyngraf‘s first submissions window netted us no less than seventy-three stories.
During the process of reading, rereading, and responding to all the entries, we learned a lot about this side of the submissions process. In hopes of benefiting writers (and curious readers), we’ve planned a series of posts discussing the lessons, mistakes, and successes of Wyngraf‘s first-ever reading period.
Issue 1 By the Numbers
- Total Submissions: 73
- Submissions Accepted: 8
- Submissions Rejected: 53
- Submissions Held: 8
- “Revise & Resubmit” Requests: 4
Let’s break these numbers down a bit.
We accepted eight stories, but Wyngraf #1 actually includes nine. That’s because we’re including a story from EiC Nathaniel Webb to help kick things off. In the future we anticipate purchasing all our material.
The main driver of our acceptances was quality, pure and simple. The stories we took all have something great about them (and usually more than one thing): beautiful prose, engaging characters, solid pacing, a rich setting.
After quality, our primary considerations were style and length.
One of the goals for Wyngraf #1 is to showcase a range of stories that are different, but still fit under the umbrella of “cozy fantasy.” To that end, we bought a mix of styles. Four stories focus primarily on a journey. Two split their time between home and away (interestingly, both of those are about changing relationships with family). Two are openly funny: a picaresque and a slice-of-life. Finally, one story is composed entirely of a conversation between two characters (and the memories they share).
Because we wanted to feature a breadth of styles, we had a slight preference for shorter pieces. Most fall in our sweet spot of roughly five or six thousand words. One comes in just under our soft minimum of four thousand, one comes in just over it, and only one meaningfully exceeds the 6k mark, weighing in at about eight thousand words.
Lesson 1: we prefer shorter stories. Nothing was rejected for being too long, but often, the real heavyweights could have used trimming. On the other hand, we had a number of strong submissions below or right at our 4,000-word soft minimum. The 3,000-4,000 range seems especially suited for slice-of-life stories.
So we’re updating our submission guidelines: the new soft minimum is 3,000 words and the new maximum is 8,000 (but that will be a soft max rather than a hard cap). We only received a few stories that wouldn’t meet these new guidelines.
The vast majority of stories were rejected—this probably won’t surprise anyone! Stories were rejected for a number of reasons that we’ll delve into in a future post, but the most common were either a mismatch with our tone (i.e. “not cozy enough”) or mechanical issues with the prose. We didn’t reject anyone for issues with formatting, typos, their cover letter (or lack thereof), etc.
Lesson 2: our readers are on your side. We want to love your story. We want to buy it. We start every story hoping it’ll be the best thing we’ve seen so far and we won’t let a great piece escape on a technicality.
That said, we learned very quickly that certain formats are easier than others. Times New Roman is way easier to read than Courier (despite what some old manuscript style guides tell you to do!). Word docs are easier to edit than PDFs. We wrote up a guide to our ideal submission—but again, we won’t reject anyone who doesn’t match it down to the pixel.
We tried our best to give personalized feedback in our rejection letters. Our hope was to lessen the sting for rejected authors by offering advice on where to improve, as well as highlighting the story’s strengths. (Every story had some!) It’s possible we neglected feedback in a couple of letters—apologies to those authors.
We’ve received a number of very gracious acknowledgements of our rejections, and—so far—no jerks!
We held eight stories for reading during our second submission window in the fall. Seven of these were because of a goof-up on Wyngraf‘s part—the “submissions are open” message on our website didn’t get changed until today, March 15th!
Despite our stated policy to delete late submissions unread, it seemed unfair to penalize authors who trusted our site. Thus all those late submissions will be considered for issue 2, unless the story sells elsewhere in the meantime.
Our final hold was for an 8,000-word story. We lacked the space to include it in issue 1, but liked it enough not to reject it out of hand. It’s not guaranteed to show up in issue 2, but it’ll get a fresh read alongside the new submissions.
“Revise & Resubmit” (R&R)
In a few rare cases we received stories that had notable strengths, but either didn’t quite make the cut or appeared to require too much editorial work to get into publishable shape. These authors were invited to revise their manuscripts and submit them again at our next window. (Generally, our policy is not to accept the same story a second time.)
R&Rs are rare, but they fall under Lesson 2: we want to give stories every reasonable chance to succeed! We’d rather see an “almost” turn into something great than get stuck in the drawer and forgotten.
Date and Time
For those curious, here’s a breakdown of submissions by date.
- Early: 0 submissions
- March 1: 20 submissions, 3 accepted
- March 2: 10 submissions, 1 accepted
- March 3: 2 submissions, 1 accepted
- March 4: 8 submissions, 1 accepted
- March 5: 3 submissions, 0 accepted
- March 6: 6 submissions, 1 accepted
- March 7: 9 submissions, 0 accepted
- March 8: 8 submissions, 1 accepted
- Late: 7 submissions, all held (see above)
The biggest single day was the first—no surprise there. It was surprisingly steady otherwise, with maybe a small surge at the end. As far as date submitted and acceptance rate, it looks like a pretty even breakdown to us, but we’ll leave nitpicking to the statisticians out there.
Thanks for reading! Next: digging into rejection reasons.