Submissions, submissions, submissions.
They can cause a writer to sweat, become addicted to the refresh button, and prevent them from leaving their PC station. The process of submitting can be very emotional, as I've talked about on my site before. Today, I want to look at submissions in the objective term.
What is submission, how do you decide where to submit, and how do you know you're ready to submit.
Basically, a submission in writer's term is the process of sending an editor your story. It is made up of a cover letter and the story either in the body of the email or as an attachment. This is very different then the querying process (what you mail to an agent and some publishers)...which I'll cover some other time.
The cover letter is a quick, professional email stating the story you want to submit and who you are. My most successful cover letters followed Strange Horizon's format. Again, this is very different than a query letter that you'd send to an agent and some publishers.
Where to Submit:
Well, that literally depends on the kind of story you have. Know your genre, word count, and theme and then try some of these sites from Science Fiction Writers of America's (SFWA) list.
My personal favorite is Duotrope. They have a great system for seeking out and tracking submissions. Another site, Ralan.com, is great too, but for me personally I use it more for the other market-specific information and links it contains.
How do you know when you're ready:
Canned response to this is, "Well, that's up to you really. Have you thoroughly edited it (just spell checking doesn't work)? Have you checked your story mechanics for clarity, consistency, and logic? And most importantly, have you let it sit a while before re-doing the previous tips? Sometimes a break will allow you to further clean up and prepare your manuscript."
The real response to this..."Have you built up enough courage to hit send?" That's the only way you know you're ready. Even then, you will have the normal symptoms of a new story submitter, see my previous post titled Submission Process From the Writer's Viewpoint.
Good writing all! (And build up that courage to submit...you'll have to face it sometime or another if you want to be published.)