BULL SPEC submissions guidelines

UPDATED: 2010-10-15 at 09:00 EST:

Note: These are old, out-of-date guidelines and rantings here for “historical” purposes. Please visit this link for up-to-date guidelines and status.

In short: send a story or poem (text, attachment, whatever) to: submissions at bullspec dot com and let me know: (1) where you are writing from as I try to keep some balance between local and global content; and (2) if it has been previously published and if so, where. I prefer to receive submissions in a standard manuscript format such as William Shunn’s Proper Manuscript Format but I’m not terrifically picky. A word count is quite helpful as well.


In more length:
 See this post for more up to date details on what BULL SPEC is looking for. Note: these guidelines are a tiny bit outdated, but will do in a pinch. The main difference is that print rights are also needed as, well, BULL SPEC is also a printed magazine.

[Click "Read more" to get more, much more, of the not so "in short" version.]


What we want: Well-written original (and reprints: see below) fantasy and science fiction in English, Spanish, or Chinese (Mandarin), of just about any subgenre and of about 1000 to 7500 words in length, soft edges. As we get started, preference will be given to shorter works as we work out any kinks in our translation and production processes. Nothing (likely ever) R-rated and we won’t have much interest in explicit erotica or disturbing violence or imagery. And though we hate to be this conservative, at first we can’t afford to take risks on content (thought perhaps we can’t afford NOT to take those risks, and that’s why we’ll fail?) and we’ll be leaning more towards PG than PG-13, particularly on sex-related content and other potentially disturbing themes. We’re looking for a wide variety of excellent storytelling, from high fantasy adventures to hard science fiction thriller-mysteries and things in between and even in the dark. Steampunk, alternative history, urban fantasy, space westerns, it’s all welcome here. We welcome unpublished writers, whom we hope to promote as BULL SPEC DISCOVERY authors, and diverse viewpoints and characters. We are definitely interested in fostering the careers of writers in or who have spent time in the greater Durham, NC, US area (from Asheville to Wilmington, almost to DC and almost to Atlanta, say about 250 miles as the crow flies give or take, so welcome, Baltimore!) so let us know where you’re writing from. We’re also interested in reading stories which take place in that area but not exclusively and not to a fault or as a gimmick in the story. What’s really tickling our fancy right now: Durham area steampunk and historical fantastic stories, augmented reality, seasteading, anarchism, mutualism, syndicalism, diversity, equality, sustainability, friendship, realistic near-earth space exploration, The Long Now, and utopias on the theme “utopias are hard, and important, because we need to imagine what it might be like if we did things well enough to say to our kids, we did our best, this is about as good as it was when it was handed to us, take care of it and do better. Some kind of narrative vision of what we’re trying for as a civilization.” (Kim Stanley Robinson, “Galileo’s Dream” interview by Terry Bisson.)

Length: For original fiction (for reprints see below), currently only short stories, of about 1000 to 7500 words in length, soft edges. At first we’re most interested in a “sweet spot” of about 2000-4000 words but will consider all short story length works. In the future we hope to accept novelettes and novellas, but we’re not ready to pay professional rates for these yet. If you have a work of novelette or novella length fiction, might we suggest PANVERSE as a market.

Payment: $0.05/word advance, $50 minimum, $2000 maximum, with half at acceptance (update: max $50 at acceptance) and half (or the remaining) at publication, along with 50-50 royalty split for e-book and audiobook donations beyond advance. If included in a future anthology, weighted share of overall 50-50 split by logarithmic word count. (A word on logarithmic word count: this means that a 2,000 word story, instead of being 20% of a 10,000 word story, is weighted to about 80%. This gives each story a strong share of its place in the anthology regardless of size, while still rewarding longer works.)

Formatting: Plain text in the body of the e-mail, or attachments, we’re flexible. For text in the body of the e-mail: _this_ or *this* or tell us how you’re specifying emphasis if it won’t be obvious; no indent necessary; a line break between paragraphs; a “#” on a line or some other designation for scene breaks; and if you like “###” or “THE END” or similar to denote that the full e-mail has been received. For attachments, we strongly prefer TXT, PDF, ODC, or even RTF, but DOC is fine, too. If we can read it—we will.

Don’t forget: To use the something like the subject “LANGUAGE (e.g. English, Spanish, Chinese) submission: “MY TITLE” (N words) by MY BYLINE” and send from the e-mail to which you want us to respond. If you have connections to Durham or North Carolina, let us know, and if you’d like to let us know about your relevant previous work, or if you’re yet unpublished, feel free, but this isn’t necessary. Let us know if this is a simultaneous (see below) or reprint (see below) submission. Please include a self-guess as to the rating (G, PG, PG-13, etc.) and what genre(s)/subgenre(s) the story might be pigeonholed into if it had to be so pigeonholed, and if you think your story takes a stab at one of our fancies or themes. Please: don’t summarize the story! We want to read it and find out as we go along how it builds and ends! And please, if possible, specify at least the title and preferably also the introductory information in English. It makes it easier on our primary readers. Important: for original works, do not specify your choice of end-user license or any intention to donate or forego royalties or advances. This would immediately disqualify our ability to select your work as this could be seen as requiring a form of “consideration,” which could disqualify us as an SFWA market. Nobody wants that. So please, don’t do it. We will never, ever, ever ask an author of original fiction to forego royalties or advances for that work, and will refuse unsolicited offers of doing so. For original works please don’t make offers of promotional work, of translating the story text yourself, etc. We’re here to produce your stories and promote you!

Simultaneous submissions: Yes, but please don’t make us change this. Let us know upon submission whether you have or plan to submit to additional markets, and please, please let us know the instant you withdraw your submission. Please don’t submit unless you are willing to accept our acceptance within 10 days, regardless of other outstanding submissions you may have, and pretty please, once we’ve exchanged acceptance and acceptance of acceptance e-mails, please don’t leave us hanging. We will grudgingly understand though, particularly as we get going, if a better, more established market comes calling. Don’t worry: we understand, particularly for writers getting started. At least one of our editors, who shall for now remain nameless, once simultaneously submitted a story to a market which did not accept them. He is still sorry. When in doubt, just communicate and be honest with us and yourself.

Multiple submissions: UPDATED 6 May 2010: Please only one story at a time. Current multiple submissions will be evaluated. Please only send us at most two stories at a time. If rejected and a rewrite or resubmission was not explicitly requested, please, no resubmission, but you may submit another story at your convenience, but please wait at least 24 hours. If accepted, please wait until publication or three months have passed before submitting another story, whichever is later. As we continue to launch we are trying to reach SFWA market approval as soon as possible, and each author we re-sign in a slot we could have used for a new author pushes that time frame further into the future.

Reprints: We welcome and will accept submissions for reprints of exceptional stories in our accepted languages–but generally without any advance payment. There is no maximum length limitation for reprints (we’ll look at short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels), and we’ll happily consider serial works, but for longer works please only send the first 10,000 words unless this is near the end of your story. (If you are at this border, or a border between other length-based definitions, please specify which of short story, novelette, novella, or novel you wish to publish your story as.) The 50-50 royalty split for e-book and audiobook or potential anthology inclusion remains in place. Stories which are “reprints” will be marked as such in contrast to “original” stories, for example “BULL SPEC SHORT #1″ as compared to original works released as “BULL SPEC ORIGINAL SHORT #1″ and similar. It is our strong preference to select original fiction as our budget and our submissions queue allows, and reprints are intended to be issued “off issue.” For example, on our current quarterly original schedule, we would hope to include one benefit or reprint or commons (see below) for each of the two months between original fiction releases.

Commons: We welcome and will accept suggestions (and solicit those of our own) for reprints of exceptional stories available from the commons, whether public domain or in an appropriate license for some manner of inclusion in BULL SPEC. The 50-50 royalty split for e-book and audiobook or potential anthology inclusion remains in place for works with authors, otherwise the “royalty share” reverts to the site; for certain works directed specifically to selected charities. Stories which are sourced from the commons will be marked as such in contrast to “original” stories, for example “BULL SPEC COMMONS SHORT #1.” It is our strong preference to select original and then reprint fiction as our budget and our submissions queue allows, and commons will be issued “off issue,” similar to reprints, as long as we have acceptable original stories. As with reprints, there are no maximum length limitations for stories from the commons.

Rights: (1) For original stories, first worldwide electronic and audio rights in at least one language (preferably all those we support), non-exclusive one month after publication. First rights expire at the author’s option if we have not published the story within two years of acceptance or earlier upon request and refund of advance–we reserve the right to hold the story for the full two years if we have already begun production processes on translations, e-books, or audiobooks. For reprints or commons, some acceptable minimum electronic reprint rights. (2) Non-exclusive electronic and audio re-print rights so that we can continue to offer the story online and in e-book and audiobook. Expires at the author’s option two years after publication, which if exercised causes the e-book to be withdrawn from active publishing and the text of versions of our hosted versions of the story to be replaced by “Text withdrawn by author.” (3) Non-exclusive anthology electronic and print and audiobook rights which expire at the author’s option if we have not published the story in such an anthology within two years of publication, or upon request if we have a lapse in publishing after initial publication of such an anthology. We are not currently seeking first print rights in any geography for any work. A word about rights: we’re mainly asking this as an explicit courtesy. We will never, ever sue an author for rights issues or even contract issues. We’ll just be sad, and wish you’d made different choices. On the other side of the coin, we will respect your wishes on rights to the best of our abilities, and fulfill our contracts, promises, and obligations.

Errata: We are not a market for fan fiction. To start, with our less frequent original fiction publishing schedule, we will favor stories which are not serials. To be clear: there are no submission or reading fees of any kind, and direct, unagented submissions are welcome. We hope to continue to meet all DUOTROPE requirements for market listing, ours is: HERE, as well as all RALAN requirements for market listing, ours is: HERE. A word on authors under 18: contracts and such will be sticky but we’ll find a way to make it work for stories that make the grade. So please consider us. We’d love to have a good reason to put together some BULL SPEC YOUNG AUTHOR art and sound. Also, we don’t have a preference to American vs. British vs. Other English spellings. Just please be internally consistent within a single story.

Response time: We aim to acknowledge (by a human, not a script) within 10 days and respond yes/no/hold/resubmit within 30 days. If longer for either step, please query at queries at bullspec dot com. When we are full up for 6 months and submissions are temporarily closed, we will still evaluate stories in our queue; we will let you know if we’re on to something but understand if you wish to withdraw the submission after 30 days, and welcome resubmissions of stories withdrawn or rejected due to our temporarily closing our submissions. We recommend that you report your response times at Duotrope’s Digest. It keeps us honest, and might just help you–they flag potentially erroneous simultaneous, multiple, or closed submissions.

Send to: submissions at bullspec dot com with the understanding that by doing so, you are genuinely offering your story to us and have the legal rights to submit it.


14 Comments on “BULL SPEC submissions guidelines”

  1. montsamu says:

    Whew. This post turned into an epic rambling disaster of late night run-on mess. What started as a couple of paragraphs and a 'mission statement' in bullets, pretty stupidly turned into a small set of guidelines, which grew and grew with caveats and wherefores and pitches and blither-blather. We'll work on cleaning this mess up when we can, until then please feel free to just ask a question. We know it looks a bit like spaghetti up there.

  2. montsamu says:

    OK. We've broken things apart a bit to make this a bit cleaner, both for us, any writers kind enough to honor a new market with a submission, and for Duotrope.

  3. montsamu says:

    Removed a section both as it is nothing to do with guidelines and because we're really torn about it:Editor fiction: We may on occasion post or publish original or reprint fiction from the editorial team. This will be clearly identified as such both online and in the e-book and audiobook files and file names, for example "BULL SPEC EDITOR SHORT #1" or similar. Content from the editorial team is not eligible for advances or royalty shares, either as an individual online story, e-book, or audiobook, or as an anthologized e-book or audiobook, with all donations going directly to help us grow, contribute to our communities, and find and publish more original stories, more often, in more and better ways. Editor fiction will never be released in the place of original fiction slots, unless a demonstrated lack of quality submissions of all other categories occurs. Based on correspondence with SFWA this does not effect the market's potential status, and on correspondence with DUOTROPE this does not effect the market's listing. Editor fiction, if issued, will be issued "off issue" (as reprints or commons.) unless, again, there is simply no acceptable alternative submissions for original, reprint, or commons stories. We're open to suggestions both that this is a terrible idea (we've heard that) and as to how we can mark these clearly as "4th class citizens" in a way which makes sense for everyone.

  4. Regarding the Editor fiction:Yes, by posting these you do run the risk of being criticized for this, but I think that will be alleviated by the fact that it will be "off issue" and labeled as editor fiction. By doing this, you are being upfront. I have seen at a publication or two where relatives of the editor have a disproportionately high success rate of getting a story into the magazine, despite the story being very weak compared to the rest of the magazine's offering. That bothered me because the story was presented as though it had the same merits as the others, and because it took up space that otherwise could've been taken up by something that went through the usual quality filters.

  5. Since you are being upfront about all that, then it is just additional offerings that I can take or leave.That being said, if you're confident in your writing, you might want to consider submitting it to other magazines. This could help promote your own, you can mention you're the editor of Bull Spec in your author bio in another magazine. :)

  6. montsamu says:

    Thanks. I do have several manuscripts out to several markets, and even one (tiny!) acceptance to be published in January. It was mainly just a "goodness, in case nobody submits to us, what would we do to break the silence?" And since we got so many great submissions, I removed it from the guidelines and have no plans to self-publish anything under any BULL SPEC branding.

  7. "And since we got so many great submissions,"I'm glad the submissions exceeded your expectations. That bodes well. :)

  8. montsamu says:

    We hope it does. Now, the moments of truth to come soon: whether the stories WE like are liked by anyone else; whether we can deliver on our goals of high-quality productions; and whether anybody likes it enough to feed our "donate what you like" model.

  9. I like to see the ocasional story from the editor. It gives you an insight into their style, I don't see anything wrong with it at all, and I reckon they deserve it.

  10. Im confused.. when and how can I submit something… live in durham

  11. montsamu says:

    Beautiful Soul: When? Any time. How? Send a story (in the e-mail, or attached, whatever) to submissions at bullspec dot com.

  12. I submitted a story back on April 13 and haven't heard anything (not even the 10 day acknowledgement). I emailed on May 1 and May 21, but still no response. I know you are trying to focus on local writers at present, but I'm worried that my communcations have gone missing. Could you advise? Thanks. (p.s. – I really enjoyed issue 1 of the magazine; I think you've got a great thing started.)

  13. montsamu says:

    Sorry about that Philip — I checked and did receive your story, and am about in mid-April in reading new submissions. The problem here was that your replies to your submission seem to have 'bumped' its sort date in the submissions mailbox. I'll try to get you a response as soon as I can.

  14. Do you have an updated guesstimate for when you'll open to non-local submissions?Thanks.


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