Tue
May 4 2010 3:32pm

Our fictional offerings: Expanded staff! New procedures! Same old quirky fiction!

Tor.com has been a venue for original SF and fantasy since 2008, but we’ve never formalized our process for submissions. Indeed, for a long time, we were totally winging it. I was buying and editing the overwhelming majority of stories, but I resisted giving excessively specific information to various “market reports,” because I was reluctant to deal with the explosion of submissions that would generate.

But that barn door has sailed. (As we professional “wordsmiths” say.) Tor.com gets more submissions all the time, and I’ve gotten farther and farther behind at dealing with them. Some people have been awaiting responses for over six months—a few, for embarrassingly more than six months. Clearly something must be done. If only…if only I had an editorial colleague at Tor.com so smart, energetic, and discerning that just this year she’s become the youngest editor ever honored with a Hugo nomination. Oh, wait.

Going forward, then, Tor.com’s original fiction will henceforth be co-edited by me and Liz Gorinsky. Submissions should henceforth be sent via email, not to my personal or work email address, but to the newly-created This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . (If you already sent a submission to one of my addresses, please don’t resubmit. We can cope.) Tor.com welcomes original short SF and fantasy, broadly defined. We’re particularly interested in stories under 12,000 words, although we’ve made exceptions in the past and will do so again. We pay 25 cents a word for the first 5,000 words, 15 cents a word for the next 5,000, and 10 cents a word after that. Although we try to employ common sense in dealing with edge cases, “original” means original—not previously published. Contrary to some previous reports, we do not want you to query first; to submit to Tor.com, just send us your story. Stories should use standard manuscript format and be emailed as Word, RTF, or plain-text attachments. Stories sent inline in the body of an email will be ignored. Questions? Send them to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

58 comments
N. Mamatas
1. N. Mamatas
We should start a charity drive for the gmail servers immediately!
Elizabeth Coleman
2. elizabethcoleman
I'd like to humbly request that you guys start publishing the occasional poem. There's a dearth of good sf poetry out there.
Mitch Wagner
3. MitchWagner
"There once was a Martian named Dave... "
Christine Evelyn Squires
4. ces
"Who loved to write but didn't know how to save..."
Wesley Parish
5. Aladdin_Sane
Still comes back to the same ol' same ol question - what constitutes a "new" piece of work?

What I'm talking about is a phenomenon whereby Ursula Le Guin, say, or Phillip K. Dick, or Michael Moorcock, creates a short piece for a magazine, and later expands and develops it, into a novel. Rocannon's World is a fine example of this, likewise the Eternal Champion ... is the new novel a truly "new" piece of work, or is it "previously published"?

I mean, I develop a lot of ideas in the flash fiction form, published on the InterWeb - even, heaven forfend, short flash fiction - 50 words or less; some of which I later decide to develop as short stories, or novellas ... even novels, if the fit takes me so.

Just how keen is that knife? I have a 50 worder up on Gabriel's Trumpet - I know I could develop that into a 500 000 word novel, because I almost did.

Angels are so careless, even the archangels ...

so where does this "original" versus "previously published" knife cut?
N. Mamatas
6. ThrowawayContact
Must submissions go through gmail? I prefer to avoid gmail as a matter of privacy.
N. Mamatas
7. Myst44
@3,4

So he went out of his cave,

and came back with AutoSave!
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
8. pnh
Aladdin_Sane: A 5,000-word story expanded from a 50-word piece of "flash" fiction is obviously a new piece of work, as far as we're concerned. But we're not going to venture to draw exact lines.

Throwaway Contact: Not only do we require that all submissions be scanned by Gmail's servers, we also copy everything we receive to the orbiting Google surveillance satellites, via the uplink facility on the roof of the Flatiron Building. (It's where the dirigible mooring mast used to be.) For this, Eric Schmidt pays us in gold bars that he's personally removed from Fort Knox. On the level and on the square!
Nicole LeBoeuf-Little
9. NicoleJLeBoeuf
@3,4, pace 7,

He could write and delete
hundred-thou words a week...
Clifton Royston
10. CliftonR
ThrowawayContact:
Avoiding Gmail might indeed make sense for personal mail you're concerned about keeping private - but does it make sense to worry about the privacy of mail that you are sending there specifically in the hope of getting it published on the Internet?
N. Mamatas
11. fly46
Clifton - it's still our writing, whether we want it published online or at Random House. And the privacy issues stretch farther than your characters.

Your comment sounds a little... um... degrading towards publishing online. Like it's not good enough if its not in print.
Mitch Wagner
12. MitchWagner
Does the submissions email account send out any kind of auto-receipt? I sent in a submission the day this post went live, but never heard anything back, and these days I worry in that situation that an e-mail might have gotten lost in spam filters.
N. Mamatas
13. Dannygirl
How long is the estimated response time to a submission?

And do you respond to all submissions, or should we expect no reply=not interested?

Thank you.
Ashton Jones
14. Ashton_Jones
@ Dannygirl

This is a professional publication, so I'm sure they send out notifications if a submission is rejected.

Tor has historically had a fairly long response time, though hopefully this new system will improve that. I wouldn't really worry about your submission until you haven't heard anything for a couple of months. Don't bug the editors before then because their hands are full with sorting through piles and piles of awful manuscripts. Just be patient, it's the nature of this business.
N. Mamatas
15. Dannygirl
piles and piles of awful manuscripts

Please, let's not be rude to each other by calling slush pile submissions "awful". Some may be. Some may not be. But it's no favor to new authors to make that assumption.

I asked, because I never received any reply to a regular submission I made to Tor more than a year ago... and neither did a fellow author. So I didn't know what the procedure here would be.
Josh Roseman
16. doorock42
Is there a "queries" address where we can e-mail once we've submitted? Or should we query the main address noted above?
Gabriele Campbell
17. G-Campbell
Now, if only the Idea Fairy would send me a short story for a change, instead of trilogies. ;)
Liz Gorinsky
18. TooMuchExposition
Oh, my, we seem to have gotten some questions here. Let me catch up:

MitchWagner: No, there's no autoresponse right now. We could set one up, but it would probably trigger even if something went into the spam filter, so I think we've got to stick with the standard wait-and-query method.

Dannygirl: We will definitely reply as soon as we know we won't be taking a particular submission. The response time is a moving target--especially so at the moment--but I can tell you that we're a week or two shy of being done with 2009 and that the only things left are the twenty or so submissions in our second-look piles. Once we clear that hurdle, we'll make an announcement in twitterland. I do fear that we may have lost track of some submissions we got before the move to gmail, but at least once we can let people know that we've cleared 2009, they can let us know if they think we're wrong.

Ashton_Jones / Dannygirl: Just to fend off further confusion, we want to be clear that the submission process for Tor bears no relation to the process for Tor.com. The Tor Books submission guidelines are at http://us.macmillan.com/Content.aspx?publisher=torforge&id=255#ctl00_cphContent_ctl30_lblQuestion, and they explicitly say, "If you have not heard back from us after six months, please resubmit."

Doorock42: You can query at the same address. Right now we're about six months behind, so if you query any sooner than four months out, it will most likely just be a "haven't gotten to it yet."
N. Mamatas
19. dannygirl
Thanks for the clarification.

A nice editor at ACE/ROC agreed to look at the novel length submission I suspect got mislaid at "regular" Tor um...a year and 4 months ago. I'll give her a decent chance before I re-submit the work again elsewhere. But thanks.
Alison Wells
20. abwells
Does uploaded on your own blog for peer review constitute published? Thanks
N. Mamatas
21. kakapo
Could you please put a link to the submissions guidelines somewhere on the main page? Not having one kind of gives the impression that you don't actually WANT submissions, which is a shame.
Irene Gallo
22. Irene
Kakapo: Submission guidelines are now permanently on the footer.
N. Mamatas
24. Mina Bo
Hello, do you accept fantasy novels more than 100,000 words?
Sebastian Eklund
25. sabbersolo
Hi there! I'm wondering if Tor.com allows for multiple submissions?
N. Mamatas
26. Jeff Allan Brown
Hi, I'm an author that has written a pretty far out sci-fi fantasy adventure and would love to be featured on your site. If interested, please contact me. You may google my book, it is Floom Shroom the Battling Mushroom. Thank you
N. Mamatas
27. Lisa von Biela
Hi,

I submitted a piece ("Hooked") in late October 2009. Haven't heard anything one way or the other. Queried in June, queried in July--no response to either query, either. Beginning to wonder if you're even getting my emails, hence my posting here. Any way to check, or should I just resubmit?

Thanks,

Lisa von Biela
N. Mamatas
30. BigDave
I'm just curious, really: Your rates seem much, much higher than other online publishers I've seen. For instance, if I submitted a 3,000 word story to you and Strangehorizons, you're paying five times their rate per word.

I'm not complaining, mind, and I'm sure your standards are VERY high, but I'd argue a lot of the professional magazines have equally high standards. This is more than /print/ magazines, by far.

So like I say, just curious. How come?
N. Mamatas
31. StartEric
I doubt you'll get an answer. Who knows if they're even reading what is being sent. I sent something last year and nothing.
Kyle Aisteach
32. kyleaisteach
As of today (August 25), Duotrope's Digest has had responses reported from Tor.com as recently as 10 June 2010. They also report the most recently submitted item to have received a response as submitted 24 March 2010. Clearly, at least some stories have been getting read. However, since (according to the comments here) they were a week or two shy of being done with 2009 on June 1, if you submitted in 2009 and haven't heard anything, you may want to query. (I recommend using the subject line "QUERY: Missing Response" so whoever is reading the e-mail knows instantly it's not spam and isn't a submission, though I'd love to see the editors post specific guidelines for queries [HINT HINT]. Also -- though those of you commenting here probably don't need to hear this -- be polite in your query and acknowledge that the problem may be on your end if you want to get a response to it.)

Just for guidance, Duotrope's Digest also reports only 12 responses (and no acceptances) in the past 12 months, but 102 pending submissions. The oldest pending submission has been waiting 270 days. Duotrope's statistics are only comprised of writers who choose to report, of course. My experience with publications that share their own statistics is that the actual number of pending submissions tends to be 5-10x what is reported to Duotrope.

I think it's safe to say that there's still a serious backlog.
Liz Gorinsky
33. TooMuchExposition
Irene just let me know that we've had a few comments piling up here. Thanks for your patience.

abwells: I'm afraid if it's available somewhere in full, it counts as published.

John Vincent Vale: We're asking for electronic exclusive for a year, non-exclusive after that, and the right (with additional royalties) to include in a Best of Tor.com antho if we ever do one.

Mina Bo / Jeff Alan Brown: Sorry, Tor.com is exclusively a short story publisher at this point.

sabbersolo: A few people have been doing this, but we'd really prefer people submitted one at a time--it slows down the entire pile and seems unfair to others.

I just responded to Lisa Von Biela privately, but I'll mention that her query prompted us to realize that we didn't really have an adequate system for dealing with queries--I respond to all the ones I notice, usually within a week or so, but there were clearly some that were slipping through the cracks. I've added some new filters that I hope will deal with this, and we'll also address it in our submissions guidelines mark 2.

BigDave: I don't think this is the place to get into our finances, but one thing that is certainly true is that Tor.com is an experimental wing of a large publishing corporation (though, we hope, with a great big soul) and the excellent Strange Horizons is entirely driven by donations.

StartEric: We are certainly reading--admittedly slowly, but we're two full-time editors doing this in whatever spare moments we can grab. Given that we have about a dozen submissions left in '09, it seems likely that yours was overlooked somehow. Please feel free to resubmit.

kyleaisteach: As you can tell from my response to Lisa above, we hadn't really thought about the need for query filters--I've been trying to catch them by eye, but clearly a few have gotten through (usually the ones that aren't clearly labeled). We'll definitely address this in the next version of the subguidelines.
Dennis Egan
34. degan
Here’s a simple but not necessarily easy question. If a story has been podcast as an audio but never published in print do you considered it published?
Sasha McBrayer
36. ladyhawke_18
What are the pay rates for graphic stories like "The Dreaded Question"? I'm just wondering if they are by page or if writer and aritst get paid different, etc.
N. Mamatas
37. Rikku
Do you draw any limits on the age of the author?
Kevin Biehn
38. Biehn123
I have a short story I want to put on the site... I also have a novel I want to publish are these guidelines just for shortstories on the website. I wrote the short story as an example of my work, how would I go about getting a novel published with TOR.
N. Mamatas
39. Bobkee
Simultaneous subs, okay?

Most SFWA qualification mags don't (understandable,) but may the writing gods bless those that do. I've stumbled upon four so far.

Best of luck in your "labor of love," Tor.com, and thanks for any reply.

Bob
N. Mamatas
41. AJwrites
Any idea what the general response time is for submissions at this point?

And do you respond to all submissions or do we assume a "no response" means no? If so, when should writers assume it's a no?

I apologize if this information is posted elsewhere. I have been unable to find it.
N. Mamatas
42. bluejelloshots
Gosh, can't you guys write a limerick?

There once was a Martian named Dave
Who an earth dominatrix did crave
When his mistress he nailed
In an earthquake impaled
He thought it was a gravity wave
Gabrielle Jagoriles
43. Geese5000
I would love to write, this will be an oppurtunity for me, :) thank you
Wesley Parish
44. Aladdin_Sane
Well, I submitted a story, under my birth-certificate pseudonym :) , not too long after I wrote that previous comment. Since six months has been bandied about as a sort of cut-off period, I assume that that means I am now free to take the story and do wotthehell I like with it?

I was expecting to see it published around about the time Jo Walton wrote the blog entry on the (fictional) culture where you had to choose your gender at your coming-of-age, since that's also a feature in my story ... independent development, of course. I came up with my story after reading Dumas' Twenty Years Later, and wondering how the story would read if one tweeked a littled here, a little there, and Aramis' son was actually looking for his mother ... instead of pretending to.
Kyle Aisteach
45. kyleaisteach
As of today (Nov. 20, 2010), Duotrope's Digest is listing the most recent response received (by those authors who choose to report to Duotrope's Digest, of course) as having been received on Oct. 6, 2010. They list May 10, 2010 as the submission date of the youngest submission already responded to. They've got 125 pending submissions reported (again, certainly several times lower than the actual number of pending submissions), which have been waiting anywhere from 2 days to 543 days for a response. The average number of days waiting among those 125 pending submissions is 132 days, with a standard deviation of 76 days. There are only 23 reports of submissions being responded to in the past 12 months, none of which were reported as acceptances.

Even though Duotrope's Digest is entirely user-reported and therefore not official information, I think it's safe to assume the backlog persists. Haven't noticed a job ad for a slush reader yet...
N. Mamatas
46. Anthony R Davis
Hi. I love to write short and long stories. I have had four books published in Australia. It appears from your printed comments, from your fellow Americans that a lot of their submissions are not even acknowledged. The book market in Australia is small, and us Australian writers would love to get published in the USA or UK. Would it be worthwhile sending in my stories? I don't rate my chances geting published; being an outsider. All the best from Aussie down under. PS don't forget RJK Rowlings UK writer, first published in the USA.
N. Mamatas
47. Amber21
Anthony R Davis :

I would first send your short stories to other publications such as Asimov's, F & SF, Analog, Lightspeed, ect. Most other publications take anywhere from 1 day to a month for a rejection. If you send your short story to TOR.com first you will have your story tied up for as much as a year. Unless your doing simultanious submissions, which is frowned upon. I hate to say it but, since they are my last place to submit, tor.com is where my stories go to die.

I am not suggesting in any way that Tor.com is not top notch. In fact, I would put them on the top of my list for submission order if they were quicker to respond. If you can get a short story published on Tor.com, I would imagine you will get the attention of the book editors, which I would think would give you a better chance to get a book published.
N. Mamatas
49. roy martin wallbanks
I have a 2/3 science based sci fi adventure book, film I would like to submit to you, could you tell me how that is possible.
Thank you.
N. Mamatas
50. Martin L. Shoemaker
Anthony R Davis,

As best I can tell, the USA market is quite open to stories from Down Under, and indeed from anywhere in the English speaking world. Recently Analog published a non-English story translated by Mr. Schmidt (the magazine's editor). So even non-English works have a chance if you can win over the editor. I don't think you're that much of an outsider, really, and you shouldn't let that stop you from submitting. I've recently enjoyed some good SF from Australia and also from India, and I'd love to see more.

As Amber21 suggests, though, if you send a story to Tor.com, it's effectively dead for six months or more. Maybe that will improve as they tame their slush pile; but my latest submission here has gone five months without even an acknowledgment, even after I sent a query letter. They get pretty swamped.

So you should never pin a lot of hopes on any one story in any one market. Keep writing, keep submitting to various markets, repeat, repeat, repeat.
N. Mamatas
52. kakapo
Does Tor.com allow simultaneous submissions? It doesn't say in the above. I realise a lot of publishers don't like them, and I think that's fair enough in many cases, but I think it's also fair to say that Tor.com isn't the speediest respondent out there (you've had one of my stories for nearly 8 months now). I realise that you're very busy and the backlog is bound to be immense, but if the response time isn't going to shift that much regardless of how many editors you have, perhaps you could please consider allowing simultaneous submissions?
N. Mamatas
53. Dan Neves
Do you accept 100,000 word length or greater munuscipts?
N. Mamatas
54. Mark A. Mandel
Dan@53: see @33:

Mina Bo / Jeff Alan Brown: Sorry, Tor.com is exclusively a short story publisher at this point.
N. Mamatas
55. Harb86
electronic exclusive rights for a year, non-exclusive after that, is that like first rights publishing, where even after it's published here I can send it elsewhere to be published later on?
N. Mamatas
57. D.Watson
all very good, but one question: if someone wished to publish through tor, but already self published through some other online means and currently makes nothing, would they first need to cancel the contract with the first to submit to tor?
Kyle Aisteach
58. kyleaisteach
D. Watson, I can't speak for tor.com, but it is generally accepted industry-wide that self-published material is already published, and therefore wouldn't be considered by anyone looking for original fiction, whether you cancel the existing agreements or not. In fact, even just posting it to your personal blog usually prevents you from selling "first rights," unless you password-protected the content. Be very, very careful before you post something that you may one day wish to sell professionally.

Harb86, again, I don't work for tor.com, but "exclusive" and "non-exclusive" are industry standard terminology. That would mean that if tor.com publishes your story, you can't publish it anywhere else for one year after its publication on tor.com. After that year, you would be allowed to sell non-exclusive "reprint" rights, and publish it elsewhere (as long as the place buying the rights to reprint your story is also buying non-exclusive rights). If you did that, then the story would be on tor.com and in whatever other venue you sold it to. (And before you say it, there are markets that aren't bothered by the story being available online elsewhere. One of my stories is available on a major magazine's website and will be reprinted in an anthology soon. But be sure to check the publication's policy on reprints before submitting.)
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
59. pnh
#37: We don't care about the author's age, only about the story.

#46: We don't care where the author lives, or is from, only about the story. We've published at least one Australian author, Damien Broderick--admittedly, he lives in Texas these days, but on the other hand, his second Tor.com story, forthcoming, is set in a future Melbourne. We've published British authors--Charles Stross has had two stories here, and Ken MacLeod has one coming up. We've published a Brit who now lives in Canada (Jo Walton) and two Canadians who now live in the UK (Geoff Ryman and Cory Doctorow).

To answer several people: We're working on our long response times, but we're never going to accept simultaneous submissions.

kyleaisteach's #58 explains "exclusive" vs "non-exclusive" pretty well. When genre fiction gets reprinted subsequent to its first appearance, it's almost always on a nonexclusive basis. As for self-publication, there are degrees and degrees. If you put something up on a public web server, it's best to assume that potential future publishers will consider it to have been previously published. That said, we're in the business of looking for terrific stories, not of looking for excuses to avoid terrific stories. So if you have something that's had some kind of super-marginal prior exposure that technically might qualify as "publication" but you really really really think we ought to look at it, just send it to us and be up front about the situation in your cover letter. I say this not because I want to see everyone's LJ-published stories and high-school lit-magazine work (I don't) but because it's my experience that sometimes the best writers are the hyper-conscientious ones who pay close attention to the rules and forbear to show us their dynamite story because they emailed it to a group of twenty friends in 2003. Don't do that. The forbearing, I mean. Forbear the forbearing.

Use common sense. Contents may settle in shipping. Intended for external use only. Light flame and stand back.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
60. tnh
Kyle @58, the trouble with using that as a rule of thumb is that "self published" covers way too much territory, especially when you're dealing with short fiction. As Patrick said, it's best to explain the circumstances in your cover letter, and let the editors decide. Degree of prior exposure is only one of the considerations.
Kyle Aisteach
61. kyleaisteach
@pnh & @tnh Kudos to tor.com for not adopting the blanket "any publication counts" policy! In the information age these lines are only going to get blurrier, and I applaud you for being willing to take a case-by-case approach. I love tor.com more than ever now! :)

However, I stand by my advice of not self-publishing and not posting publicly (except in a password-protected environment for a select group of people such as a crit group) any piece that you may wish to sell professionally someday. Not all publications are willing to wade those murky waters, and you do yourself a service by not having to ask them to.
N. Mamatas
62. A.G. Carpenter
I would like to point out that in the paragraphs at the top of the page regarding how to submit fiction to Tor.com it doesn't state "no sim-subs". I mention that because I had subbed a story here and elsewhere and it wasn't 'til I was withdrawing it from here that I was told "We don't take sim-subs anyway."

Just a thought.
N. Mamatas
63. Hans Brouwer
Hi there,
Looking at the last comment I wonder: is this site still alive? Are submissions still wanted, accepted, payed for AS ADVERTIZED, if and when?
Any new estimate, if any, on how long to wait for a response?

Greetz,
HansB
Liz Gorinsky
64. TooMuchExposition
A. G. Carpenter and Hans Brouwer: Just stopped by this page--by accident, really--while updating the subs guidelines. The reason there's no action here is that they've moved to http://www.tor.com/page/submissions-guidelines , which is permalinked from the bottom of every page. The new guidelines have been around since August 2010 and do state that we don't take sim-subs. These days the vast majority of submissions are turned around in 8-9 months, though anything that makes it to a second look pile takes a bit longer.

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