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Submissions

*** Ligature Works is currently CLOSED to submissions ***

The following are the submission guidelines for Ligature Works. In order to make the submissions process easier for everyone, we have striven to be exactingly precise about what we are looking for and what you should do if you are submitting. If you have any questions, please read over the text carefully and assume that what it says is what it means.

For instance, where the text below says that you may submit up to five poems at one time, you should not assume this means that you must submit five poems, or that you will find greater favor if you do. May means may.

In no case should you read an invitation to do something as the suggestion that it is necessary. For instance, we invite authors who specialize in very short pieces to combine multiple closely related ones into a single collection and submit that. However, if you’ve simply written one dynamite poem that isn’t terribly long, you will not improve your chances by trying to “pad the submission out”. Send us the one!

If you still have questions after examining the text, please direct them to editor@ligatureworks.com. We will trust that you have read these guidelines to the best of your ability and answer all questions with equal courtesy. While we seek to minimize redundant questions, absolutely no prejudice will be held against those who require clarification; final decisions on submissions are made without any knowledge of the submitter and without any reference to prior correspondence.

Note that nothing on this page constitutes a guarantee, promise, or contract. Following the instructions here means your work will be read, not that it will be accepted and published. Our editorial judgment is final in determining what pieces are accepted.

Feedback on these guidelines may be sent to editor@ligatureworks.com.


The Basics

Ligature Works publishes speculative fiction and poetry on a quarterly basis. No credentials or previous publication credits are required to submit. We are currently seeking submissions for our second issue, with an estimated publication date of December 31st, 2016. The submissions window for this issue runs from now through November 30th.

Ligature Works offers a nominal rate of $25 for previously unpublished poetry and for previously unpublished short stories. There is no minimum or maximum length for submitted pieces; the appropriate length for a piece depends on the piece.

To be considered, all works must have a speculative, mythological, or fantastical element. The element must be important such that the piece would be a markedly different work if it were absent, but it need not be the central theme of the story or poem. There is no minimum level of “hard” for science fiction or “high” for fantasy.

Poems in particular need not tell a science fiction or fantasy story, but may merely include fantastical themes. A poem that makes explicit reference to mythological figures to convey emotional states would qualify, irrespective of whether or not these figures are “real” within the narrative of the poem, or if the poem has a narrative.

Also welcome are stories that might be described as magical realism or ones which deal with impossible hypotheticals, including stories where the fantastic element is contained mostly or entirely within a framing device (a story-within-a-story such as The Princess Bride), or a story where the speculative element inflected in a conditional case of “What If?”. Stories that play with genre conventions or play on the expectations rooted in such are particularly welcome. Bring us your genre-straddling works, your interstitial arts, your stories and poems that dance in liminal spaces.

For logistical reasons, we do not wish to consider stories that are out for submission elsewhere. Please do not submit stories or poems to us that are under consideration elsewhere, or submit a story or poem to us and then submit it elsewhere before we have accepted or rejected it.

We will consider multiple simultaneous submissions from the same author, up to a maximum of two short stories at a time and/or five poems at a time. Each such submission must be sent in separately!


Formatting Your Submission

All pieces intended for submission should be saved individually as a *.docx or *.rtf document and sent in the form of an email attachment. The file name for your piece should include the title; do not send us files called “ligature 1” unless that’s the name of your story.

All submissions are read and evaluated without knowledge of the author, so the submission file must not contain your name, contact information, or any other personally identifying information. Any submission that does not follow this rule will be declined, even if it is otherwise perfect for our venue. This rule exists to maintain the integrity of our submissions process.

Your submission should use a 12 point serif font such as Times New Roman or Garamond. The title of the piece should appear at the top of the page, centered and in bold. Capitalize it exactly as you desire it to be capitalized. If you have no particular reason to do otherwise, please follow a convention of capitalizing the first letter of every word or every non-trivial word, whichever is more pleasing to your eye or seems to fit the title better.

Remember, your submission must not contain a byline.

If your piece contains italicized, underlined, or emboldened text, indicate this by making the text in question italicized, underlined, or bold. Do not use markup, markdown, manuscript formatting, or any other non-WYSIWYG convention to indicate emphasis. Do not add a header or footer to your file.

We take a descriptive rather than prescriptive view to the English language. We will never reject a story for things like following actual speech conventions over formal grammar in dialogue or narration (so long as the narrator has a consistent voice), or using punctuation to indicate rhythm and emphasis in ways that aren’t formally correct.

As descriptivists, though, we recognize that there is a difference between embracing natural language and simply being careless. Please still take the time to proofread and polish your work. Use spellcheck and/or have a beta reader if necessary.

For the sake of readability, we ask that you follow American English conventions when it comes to capitalization unless you have a strong reason not to, and that you are consistent with your spelling and punctuation.

All prose stories should be double-spaced both inside and between paragraphs, with the first line of each paragraph indented and paragraphs aligned to the left. Do not justify your text. To note a clean break between two sections (such as a hard scene change, shift in point of view, of considerable time skip not glossed over by the narrative), insert a page break. Note that it is not a requirement that scene changes be so marked; only do this if the structure of the story requires it.

All poetry should have line breaks, alignment, and indentation exactly the way you wish it to appear in the finished product.


Relevant Background Information

We prioritize underserved audiences and underrepresented artists telling their own stories in their own voices. If there is relevant background information that you wish our editors to be aware of when reading your piece, include this information between parentheses, above the title in your file.

This should be different from your author’s bio, as it should not contain personally identifying information such as your name. It is an optional step that should only be taken if your background or experience is relevant to the story you are telling and if you feel like sharing it with the editors who will evaluate your piece. You may give as much specific information as you feel it is necessary to convey, or as little as you’re comfortable giving.

As an example, in an alternate universe where I (Alexandra Erin) were not the editor of this venue and I were submitting a piece that dealt with chronic fatigue symptoms, I might include the following:

(I have a mitochondrial condition that causes chronic fatigue symptoms.)

I might also choose to simply say I suffer from chronic fatigue, if I did not want to reveal any information about my specific diagnosis. Or I might choose to withhold this information as none of the editor’s business. If you are submitting a story that touches on your experience, the choice is yours.

Information shared in this fashion will be treated as confidential and not be included in the finished piece, nor shared beyond the Ligature Works staff.

If you are writing about a real-world subject that seems to be outside your experience and ours, we may find it necessary to show your submission to someone who has the necessary experience to evaluate it. This will be done without disclosing your identity, and only after the sensitivity reader has agreed to confidentiality. If we cannot find such a reader willing to do this important work for the nominal rates we can afford, we will unfortunately have to err on the side of caution. This is one of the reasons we will prioritize stories being told by people in their own voices.


Sending It In

Please send each individual piece you are submitting as an attachment to an individual email sent to submissions@ligatureworks.com. The subject heading of this email should be the word “SUBMISSION:”, just like that, followed by your piece’s title, followed by the tag [POEM] or [STORY], written exactly like that, all in caps with square brackets around it. No other words, punctuation, or explanations are necessary.

If you were submitting a short story called “Hypothetical Short Story”, your subject line would look like this:

SUBMISSION: Hypothetical Short Story [STORY]

The text of your email should include the title of your piece, your desired byline (i.e., your name as you wish it to appear), and a brief biographical statement that may include previous publications, upcoming projects, up to two links (for instance, a personal blog or website and a Patreon page or an online bookstore) and a social media handle. Do not feel compelled to provide any more such links than you actually use. This is a maximum, not a minimum.

The art of writing a capsule biography is a very different skill from the art of writing a story or a poem. If you are not comfortable with autobiography, you may simply tell a little bit about yourself and ask it to be assembled into a short bio.

You should receive a brief automated reply to your email. No acknowledgment of this email or further action on your part is necessary.


Turn-Around Time

Our goal is to reply to all submissions for our second issue by December 15th. However, we are a small outfit operating quite literally “in-house”, so any external factor (illness, injury) that affects one of our staffers will likely impact the other, and so we ask for your patience.


Dealing With Rejection

We do not have the time, resources, or inclination to offer feedback on rejected works. In a borderline case we may offer a qualified rejection that includes an invitation to re-submit if an issue can be corrected. In most cases, however, our preference will be to either accept or reject a piece as-is. This is not a judgment on the piece’s value in any greater sense, only its “fit” for our venue.

Unpublished authors should remember that rejection is part of the process; many authors consider their pile of rejections a sort of status symbol, showing how hard they’ve worked and how far they’ve come. Your first rejection can be as important a milestone as your first submission. It shows you’re trying.

Absent an invitation to do so, please do not re-submit a piece that has been previously rejected, whether for the same issue or a later one.


Publication Rights & Payment

You retain ownership (both legal copyright and in a greater moral sense) over any piece you submit.

If we accept it, we will pay our standard rate for first publication rights, exclusive from the time of publication until the end of the subsequent calendar month. After this period you may post/publish the piece yourself (slap it up on your blog, include it in an e-book anthology, etc.), sell further publication rights, etc.

We retain the right to electronically publish the story past the exclusive period, though pieces may be removed after that at the author’s request. A strong archive of previously published material is essential to creating an identity for a venue such as this, so we rely on your good faith in not doing so just for the heck of it.

But if you have sold the rights to a short story or poetry collection to a publisher who desires exclusivity, we will certainly not stand in your way. We might think the publisher is kind of being a jerk about it for wanting a walled garden instead of seeing the cross-promotion opportunity, but we won’t think any less kindly of you, dear author.

If Ligature Works should prove successful, we would like to offer an annual anthology of our works for sale. In this currently hypothetical case, we shall contact all previously published authors and poets and ask for the right to include their work in this collection at either our current standard rate or the rate at which we first paid for the work in question, whichever is greater.

Our rates stand as follows:

  • $25 per accepted piece.

Payment will be rendered within 24 hours of publication through PayPal, or as soon as possible through other channels if PayPal is not available/preferred by an author.


Dos, Don’ts, and Dislikes

We do not pretend to not have biases. Every venue is different. Every editor is different. Every reader is different. We are not looking for the best work in any objective sense, but the work that best suits what we’re going for.  Since we do not have a back catalogue we can point to as an example of the sorts of things that we publish, you may use these bullet points to get some idea.

Things will probably go best for you if you use these guidelines more as a “Is this the right place for this idea/piece?” than a set of instructions for how to write something we will accept. Also note that preferences are preferences; unless we’re giving you a hard no, that doesn’t mean “don’t”. Many editorial dislikes are down to how often a trope or theme is handled poorly; if you can do something interesting with it and/or do it particularly well, let us see!

Above all, if you have a story that you think might work but you’re afraid will not, we ask that you do not self-reject. We have a submissions process so that we can decide this. Sending a piece that doesn’t make the cut does not rack up any negative points for you. It costs you nothing. It will not be held against you in the future.

  • We prefer pieces that make you feel to ones that make you think, but both are preferable to ones that merely make you read.
  • Pieces that reify, reinforce, or recreate oppressive structures will not be accepted. This means (among other things) stories that are racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, xenophobic, etc. Works that reference these themes in a way that is clearly negative will be carefully evaluated for how the topic is handled and what the likely impact of such a story would be. If we did not believe that works of art have the power to affect the world positively and negatively, we would not waste our time engaging with such works.
  • In particular, please consider that a story that depicts a hate crime even in a negative light is still inviting those who read it to imagine the experience of a hate crime, which may not be the desired reading experience for those seeking escapism.
  • This is not to say all stories must be pure escapism! The emotional tenor of the publication will no doubt evolve over time, but we welcome stories from across the spectrum of human experience. We just want to make sure as many people as possible feel welcome to whatever fantastic worlds we visit.
  • We care less that stories have a discernible act structure, rising and falling action, or a clear conflict and decisive resolution than we care that they are interesting. All of these formal structures are designed to facilitate telling interesting stories, but they are not inherently interesting, nor are they the only means of generating interest. We will not reject a story on the basis of having a non-traditional plot, or being more of a vignette or monologue.
  • This is not a venue for fan fiction, if for no other reason than we do not have the resources or legal acumen necessary to navigate the rocky shoals of corporate-owned intellectual property. If you are inspired by existing characters and settings, we would urge you to use that inspiration as a starting point rather than an ending point.
  • We do not publish stories with explicit sexual violence, a category which includes any non-consensual sexual activity (or clear fantastic analog thereof) and threats of sexual violence. Stories with implicit sexual violence (in a character’s past, for instance) or a theme relating to sexual violence will be accepted depending on how it is handled; we will evaluate if it is respectful or exploitative, if it seems like it might be more helpful than harmful for survivors, etc. Such stories (any stories, in fact) may appear under a trigger warning or content warning under the discretion of the editors.
  • Horror stories are okay, as are ones that are just plain spooky, creepy, or unsettling. This is not a venue for gore, however. Gross-out stories will be a hard sell. The chief editor has a preference that supernatural horror not over-explain itself or attach pseudoscientific explanations to clearly supernatural phenomenon. If you have a story in which vampirism is a virus, for instance, it should act like a virus and not have anything to do with reflections or holy symbols.
  • We have no particular preference against swords-and-sorcery tropes or stories that are clearly rooted in a roleplaying game. However, these fall under the heading of “stories that are easy to do poorly”. In particular, before you send in a story based on the exploits of your RPG character, please take a good hard look at how much of the story’s appeal is rooted in your personal investment with the character(s). A lot of these stories have a, “Well, I guess you had to be there.” chord to them.
  • Twilight Zone-style twist endings that reveal a fact to the audience that changes the tenor of everything that’s come before are most acceptable when the story makes perfect sense both before and after the revelation. Even if there’s no way to predict the twist, we should still be going, “Oh… yeah.” after we read it, not, “Wait, what?”
  • Our stance on explicit sexual content is unset and evolving. Feel free to submit stories that include it. Pieces that are erotically charged without being explicit will certainly be considered. In either case, though, there should be a point to the piece beyond “This is hot.” Not because stories require such a point, but because this venue does.

A Final Note on Very Short Pieces

We’re not looking for pieces of a certain length, but we do want each issue to have a certain amount of content to it.

Thus, very short pieces  (poems in a single short stanza, a few hundred to a thousand words for a story) may be a hard sell, unless the shortness is in some way essential to the piece and it has a strong effect. If you have several thematically related very short pieces, you may combine them into a single submission; i.e., a set of quatrains about the planets of the solar system, or three flash fiction pieces about kelpies.

When you submit a collection of very short pieces, you should provide a title to the piece as a whole, though it may be purely descriptive (“Three Short Poems About Dinosaurs” or “Stories About Rage”). This title should go above the title of the first piece in your submission document, and each individual piece should be separated by a page break. The overall title should be used in your submission email subject line, with [POETRY COLLECTION] or [STORY COLLECTION]

There’s no hard limit for the length of such a collection or the individual pieces, though ideally the end result will still be shorter than a typical short story. The key thing about these collections is that we treat them as an individual piece, so the price we pay is the same as a single piece. If the individual parts don’t form a coherent piece, you’re better off submitting them individually.

This is not a ploy for us to purchase more pieces for less; it’s an avenue for those who specialize in harder-to-sell short-short formats to get their work out there.


*Changes:

7/15/2016: Line “No credentials or previous publication credits are required to submit.” added to section The Basics in response to email question.

7/19/2016: Added a clarification about escapism to the Dos and Don’ts section.

7/25/2016: Rates for poetry and short fiction equalized at $25. See this post on the head editor’s blog for details beyond the reasoning.

7/27/2016: Changed “Each such submission should be sent in separately.” to “Each such submission must be sent in separately!”, changed the first line of the “Sending It In” section to reiterate the fact that each piece must be submitted separately.

11/1/2016: Updated language for second issue. Added requirement that file names reflect titles of stories.