Guidelines

Diabolical Plots is closed for submissions.

NOTE: There seem to be some issues with the email notification system.  If you think of it when submitting, write down the tracking number shown in your browser; you can use that to check the status at any time.(normally that would also be emailed in an auto-notification).  If you didn’t write that down, you can query as described below–just be careful not to mention your story title to disqualify, just say the email address you used to submit.

Diabolical Plots has been a publisher of non-fiction on the subject of speculative fiction since 2008. In 2013, Diabolical Plots launched the writer’s tool The Submission Grinder. In 2015, Diabolical Plots began publishing original fiction, one story per month.  In the last submission window, we bought a year’s worth, enough to last through February 2016.  This time we intend fill in stories for at least the six months after that–it might be more, depending on the length of the stories I like and whether more donations come in during the window to support more stories.

David Steffen is the editor.  He will be reading all submissions himself, no slushreader.  Be sure you read all the guidelines and pay close attention to the requirements around anonymity–since there is a staff of one, the requirements for anonymity are extra important to avoid disqualifying your submission.

 

FICTION

OVERVIEW

Genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror (everything must have speculative element, even horror).  W

Word count: 2000 words or less. This is a firm limit. If you submit a longer story, it will be rejected unread and that will be your only chance this submission window. Do not query to ask permission either–the answer will be no.

Pay rate: 6 cents per word (the professional rate as deemed by SFWA)

Multiple submissions: No. And only one story per author in the submission window.   No exceptions, do not query about this.

Simultaneous submissions: No.

Reprint submissions: No. That means you should not submit anything that has been published in any format, blog, e-zine, print, podcast, anything.  Sharing stories with other authors in login-protected critique sites like Baen’s Bar or Critters is fine.

Resubmits: No.  Do not send a story you’ve submitted to us before, whether it’s been revised or not.

Estimated Response Time: 30 days after end of submission window.  I will send initial responses to stories as I read them, which will either be hold notices or rejections.  Hold notices I’ll keep until after the slush window to winnow down to the final selection.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We read submissions blind, with no author name. Do not do anything that will connect a story with your name or the story will be disqualified. Do not reply if we send you note that we’re holding your story–we don’t know your identity until accept or reject time, and we want to keep it that way.  Do not query with the title of your story–there are instructions on how to query further down these guidelines.

 

WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR?
Speculative fiction–science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Everything should have a speculative element–that includes horror. Feel free to mix in other genres at will–a fantasy mystery or a science fiction romance.

And yes, we really mean it has to have a speculative element. If you submit a serial killer story with only mundane elements, even though that could be a horror story it’s not a speculative horror story and it will be rejected regardless of quality and that will be your only chance to submit in this window.

One handy thing about this submission window compared to the last one is that we have already published some fiction, so go read that for a good start.

Things that we tend to really like:
Weird fiction
Sense of wonder
Strong character and plot arcs
Relatable protagonists (not necessarily likeable, not necessarily reliable)
Strong worldbuilding, hinting at more to see around the edges of the story
Philosophical food-for-thought
Straightforward, easily readable style
Religion, where the story does not try to convert the reader, nor does the story demonize religion–this is oddly rare in fiction that I read, even though I know a lot of people where religion is an important part of their lives.
Platonic friendship between men and women

Contemporary exemplars of my favorite short fiction writing style are Ferrett Steinmetz, Tina Connolly, and Caroline M. Yoachim.  Tight concise prose that gives you everything you need to understand the story without overstaying its welcome, relatable characters, cool speculative ideas, all written very tightly.  You only have 2000 words, there is no space to waste.

Rachael K. Jones’s concise and accurate take on David’s tastes:
I’d say David definitely loves *weird* fiction (the Drabblecast story selection is one of his favorite things ever), but I’d steer clear of anything that’s high in style but low in substance. I say this from reading years and years of his comments on the Escape Artists forums, and from swapping writing with him regularly over this last year.  So think less “literary” and more “startling, odd, and interesting”. Make sure there’s a plot and it’s not just a mood piece (even a very good mood piece).  I’d say, generally, he prefers character-driven stories with a strong outer and inner arc, with the outer arc being particularly important to earning your seal of approval. Meaning, he doesn’t seem, generally speaking, to be a big fan of straight-up lyrical pieces, unless there’s also a strong story to go with it, although you definitely want some substance to an action piece too.

We want to see stories from any and all demographics of people and about any and all demographics of people. Women or men or transgender people or genderqueer people , people of color or Caucasian, straight or gay or bisexual or asexual, disabled or abled or superabled, aliens or robots or fey or talking animals (maybe even humans!). We’re sure there are many we’ve neglected to mention, but that was not meant as a slight if it’s the case. The world is made of all kinds of people, and we want to hear from all of them.

WHAT ARE WE NOT LOOKING FOR?
No erotica (there’s nothing wrong with erotica, but we don’t want to publish it).
No tortureporn (i.e. things that remind us of the Saw series, Human Centipede).
Second person narration is a hard sell.
Stay away from the well-trodden. Slushpiles are full of serial killer stories, stories about crazy people killing their spouses or children, zombies, vampire romances, chasing whatever the latest YA craze is. You’ve only got one shot in the submission period. Make it good. We expect to have a lot of stories to read–stuff like this is going to make it easy to put your story down.

WHEN/HOW SHOULD I QUERY?
1. If you got a confirmation email, then we got your story. You can use the information there to check on the status at any time. Don’t query. You should have all the information you need.
2. If you have some reason to think that we might not have received your story–i.e., no confirmation email, or you got some kind of error report–you can feel free to query, but DO NOT mention your story title or your story will be disqualified. We set up the system so that we could judge without author name’s attached and we feel strongly about this requirement. Do tell us what email address you submitted through, and we’ll be able to confirm/deny that we have a submission from that email address in our system without wrecking anonymity. The recommended way to reach us is through the contact form on the Grinder, and double check that you DO NOT mention your story title.

WHAT ARE THE TERMS OF THE CONTRACT?
We’re looking for First Publication Rights in English exclusive for six months (can make exceptions for Best of the Year anthologies and special cases like that) for publication here on the Diabolical Plots website. Six cents per word, paid on publication. All rights will revert to author 18 months after contract is countersigned if publication rights aren’t exercised. The author retains copyright throughout.

We are aiming to meet the standards that SFWA sets for professional markets in every way we can directly control. The main thing out of our direct control is the number of readers–we’re hoping that our long history of publishing non-fiction and providing the stories for free will help with that. If you like what we’re doing, please help spread the word however you can. By SFWA’s rules, a market can’t be qualified as pro until it has lasted at least a year, but if that year meets SFWA’s criteria, then the stories published in that year are grandfathered in as SFWA sales.

HOW DO I SUBMIT?
A link will be posted here to the submission page whenever submissions are open.

Don’t worry about standard manuscript format, as long as we can read it we’ll read it.  The submission form uses a plain text box–if formatting like italics or bold are vital to understanding your story, feel free to use some notation to mark them, such as bracing text with _underscores_ for italics or *asterisks* for bold.  But if it’s not vital to the understanding of the story, don’t worry about it–we’ll do an editing pass in the case of acceptance and can talk about formatting then.

TRACK YOUR SUBMISSIONS
We have made a listing for Diabolical Plots on our tool The Submission Grinder which you can use to track your submissions or find out from anonymized user data what our response times are like. We encourage you to sign up for a free account for both your own use and to contribute your data for others to see our response times.