Our planned windows are:
- July 17-31, 2023: General submission window
David Steffen is the editor, who you may also know from reading The Long List Anthology series or from the Submission Grinder, which you can use to find markets for your writing and track your submissions. Diabolical Plots is a SFWA-qualifying market, so if you have a personal goal to join SFWA, making a sale here would help you toward that goal.
If you have already read our guidelines and are ready to submit, you can SUBMIT HERE.
Accessibility Note: We recognize our submission form may not be accessible to all users. Please send us a message at our contact form or email editor[at]diabolicalplots[dot]com and we will make sure you can submit your story.
Genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror (everything must have a speculative element, even horror).
Word count: 3500 words or less. This is a firm limit. If you submit a longer story, it will be rejected unread and that will count as a submission. Do not query to ask permission to submit something longer–the answer will be no.
Pay rate: 10 cents per word. Paying by PayPal is preferred by us, but we can mail a US bank check if you live in the US, and if you live somewhere where neither of these things are options, we are exploring other options. We don’t want unavailability of payment apps for you to be a deterrent to you submitting!
Multiple submissions: No. In the past, Diabolical Plots accepted two submissions per author per window, but now we ask that you only send one submission per window. Even if you receive a rejection before the window has ended, we ask that you wait until our next window to submit a new story.
Simultaneous submissions: Yes! We strive to respond in a timely fashion anyway, but you can have your story in our submission queue while it is also in another publication’s submission queue, on the condition that you withdraw it immediately as soon as it is no longer available for us to consider if it is accepted elsewhere.
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 Codex or Critters is fine.
Resubmits: No. Do not send a story you’ve submitted to us before, unless we specifically ask for a revision and resubmit.
Estimated Resolution Time: 30 days after end of submission window. If you have not received a response by then, feel free to follow the instructions for querying in the section below. We will send initial responses to stories as we read them, which will either be hold notices or rejections. Hold notices will be kept until after the slush window to winnow down to the final selection.
Diversity: We encourage writers from underrepresented or marginalized communities to submit their work. This includes, but is not limited to, writers who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, women, people with disabilities, and religious minorities. We recognize the potential for bias to affect our reading of submissions, so we also encourage writers from these communities to self-identify in their Notes For the Editors if they feel comfortable doing so–the contents of this box will only be visible to our Editor and Assistant Editors. This is completely optional and the omission of such information will not affect your submission.
Anonymity: All identifying information should be removed from your manuscript prior to submission. This allows our first readers to judge stories anonymously. Please don’t include any personal information in the title field, the story itself, or the Notes For the Editor boxes. Your story will not be disqualified if you forget to anonymize your submission, but please do your best.
Notes for the editors: Although our first readers do not have access to the information you share in this section, we ask that you still do not put your name in this box. This section is completely optional, but you can use it to share:
- Personal experience or expertise, usually relevant to the story, that you would like our editorial team to keep in mind while reading; for example, if your story is about a librarian and you are a librarian
- Information requested in our diversity statement
- Whether the story is a translation (see the section below on translations)
Manuscript Formatting: We prefer something close to standard manuscript format, but our submission form uses a plain text box, so as long as we can read it, we’ll read it. 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.
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.
Things that we tend to really like:
- Weird fiction
- Sense of wonder
- Strong character and plot arcs
- 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
- Platonic friendship between men and women
Rachael K. Jones’s concise and accurate take on David’s tastes from a previous year, but which still applies (Rachael is the writer who has sold the most stories to Diabolical Plots to date, totaling 5 stories):
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.
AN INCOMPLETE LIST OF WHAT ARE WE NOT LOOKING FOR
- No erotica or derivative works (aka fan-fiction)—there’s nothing wrong with either, but we’re not the market for them
- No needless or graphic abuse or torture, especially against children.
- Nothing that promotes or normalizes bigotry or targeted violence against marginalized people or communities
- Serial killer stories aren’t strictly forbidden, but we are very tired of them and they tend to be very easy to put down
- Stories where a person tries to murder their spouse because of minor annoyances. We don’t know why this particular trope seems to be so common, but it has gotten very old and we don’t really want to read any more of these
CAN I SUBMIT AI-WRITTEN WORK?
No. You cannot submit work that was written or assisted by AI writing programs. This includes ChatGPT and SudoWrite. There are many reasons we have made this decision, but a large part of it that these programs are based on pulling their data from publicly available including many copyrighted works without the authors’ consent, and then being used to take away publishing opportunities from those same authors. If some new kind of AI program is produced that is built on some other kind of technology, then we may revisit the policy at that time with the information available. But until we update our guidelines to say otherwise we are not interested. We prefer to support artists. If you disagree, we wish you the best of luck at other publications.
To be clear: when we speak of AI writing programs, we are not referring to spell-check, grammar-check, thesaurus, or prompt generators which may be helpful to a writer but for which the writer is still doing the writing.
Also, if you have written a story using AI and are thinking of submitting it anyway: keep in mind that you will need to confirm at time of submission that it was not written using AI. And if your story were accepted, to be published you would need to sign a contract confirming it as well. You won’t be doing yourself any favors, if what the AI produced was appealing, to put yourself in a place where you would have to knowingly breach a contract to publish it.
CAN I SUBMIT TRANSLATIONS?
Yes! As long as a translation of the story has not been published in the English language, we will treat it as a new story (which it is, in English). In terms of contract and payment, the translator would be treated exactly as a co-author. The original author must also consent to submission and publication. Both the author and the translator would need to sign a contract. The total pay would be split evenly between the author and the translator, paid directly to each. Publication would be credited as “by <the author>, translated by <the translator>, and would credit the original publication venue and language. If you are submitting a translation, we suggest you note this in the Notes For the Editor box, especially since expectations of pacing and other conventions may be different in different languages.
IF I ALREADY HAVE A STORY PENDING PUBLICATION AT DIABOLICAL PLOTS, CAN I SUBMIT?
Yes! And please do! We obviously like your writing, so we certainly wouldn’t want to discourage you from submitting more of it!
WHEN/HOW SHOULD I QUERY?
If you have reason to think that we might not have received your story—no confirmation email, or you got some kind of error report, etc.—please don’t hesitate to query. We prefer you don’t mention your story title to maintain anonymity (though we won’t disqualify your story if you do). Do tell us what email address you submitted through, and we’ll be able to confirm whether we have a submission from that email address.
If you got a confirmation email, then we got your story. You can check the status of the queue on the main submissions page, and see other people’s responses when they report them on the Submission Grinder listing. If the submissions page states that we have 0 unread submissions, we’ve announced on Twitter that we’ve cleared our submission queue, or it has been 30 days since the window closed, please don’t hesitate to query.
The recommended way to reach us for querying, and other purposes, is through this contact form.
WHAT ARE THE TERMS OF THE CONTRACT?
First Publication Rights in English exclusive for six months from publication on the website, which will expire if not exercised. (can make exclusivity exceptions for Best of the Year anthologies and special cases).
The stories will be published in two different formats by Diabolical Plots:
- Included in an email newsletter sent to subscribers in the month prior to the official publication date. (Sign up for the newsletter for early access to stories and news on submission windows!)
- Posted on the Diabolical Plots website.
Ten cents/word, paid on publication. All rights will revert to the author 2 years after the contract is countersigned if publication rights aren’t exercised. The author retains copyright throughout.
HOW DO I SUBMIT?
Accessibility Note: We recognize our submission form may not be accessible to all users. Please send us a message using our contact form or email editor[at]diabolicalplots[dot]com and we will make sure you can submit your story.
TRACK YOUR SUBMISSIONS
There is 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–you can see response time information from other users even without registering.