Short Story Submission Success

Ready to see your work on the shelves at your local bookstore? You could write a 70,000-word book and thirty-page proposal… or you could submit a 1,200-word story to one of the many compilations in need of writers just like you.

I met Dianne Butts at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in 2009, and was immediately impressed with her extensive understanding of the nonfiction short story market. She has graciously agreed to take questions about how to become a player in the compilation game.

1. What kind of compilations do you submit stories to?
I’ve submitted to, and been accepted in, Chicken Soup for the Soul, A Cup of Comfort Devotionals, God Encounters, What I Learned from God While Cooking, the New Women’s Devotional Bible, and others. For awhile, I made it my goal to submit to every Christian compilation I heard of, but I couldn’t keep up.

 2. How do you find out about authors and publishers who are looking for stories? 
1.) Check the web sites of compilations regularly, such as Chicken Soup (, Cup of Comfort (, Hurray God! (, and Christmas Spirit (, the sequel to Christmas Miracles.
2.) Get connected. Besides checking websites like the above, many of the opportunities I know about come to me from someone else. Get connected to other writers who will share the opportunities they know about and when you hear about an opportunitiy do share! Get on mailing lists from authors who regularly look for stories. For example, contact Jeanette Littleton at and asked to be put on her e-mail list for when she is looking for stories. 
3.) I publish a free e-zine (electronic magazine) for writers every month where I list upcoming opportunities. You can subscribe using the form in the upper right of my web site at Don’t neglect to respond to the confirmation e-mail you’ll receive from by clicking on the link in it (it is safe to do so), or you won’t be subscribed.
3. What recommendations can you give to first-time authors searching for a place to publish their short stories?
Follow the guidelines! Get the guidelines. Read the guidelines. Adhere to the guidelines. Send something that fits what they are looking for. It really helps to read any samples they provide. Get a feel for what they’re trying to do and tweak your submission to the same flavor. Also, read previous books in the series to get a feel for what they will accept.
Second, you must submit your work. Don’t chicken out. Try. Then try again. An acceptance will come when you least expect it, for a submission you weren’t sure had a chance. So send it in! If you don’t, you truly don’t have a chance of having your writing in one of these books.
4. What pitfalls should authors avoid when submitting to compilations?
 I’m not sure there are any pitfalls. If you check their guidelines, do your best to send what they want, within the word counts, etc., then you should avoid any pitfalls. There are some frustrations sometimes. I remember one place that accepted three of my submissions and paid me for them. But when the contributor’s copy came, I only found two and both were so heavily edited I hardly recognized them! Only a part of one sentence of my submission remained, yet my name appears in the back of the book as a contributor. Those things happen.
Another compilation still has not sent the contributor’s copy, even though the book has been out for months. Further, this publisher did not include in the contract that contributors could purchase copies at a discount to resell. I recommend writers look for this–contributors should get at least 50% off the cover price. We can then sell copies on our book tables and add to our income. But if the publisher won’t let us buy copies to resell… Well, it’s really hard to help promote and market a book if you can’t get your hands on it!
5. Have you ever submitted a story that was not accepted? How did you react? 
No. This has never, ever happened to me. Every single story I’ve ever submitted has been accepted and the editor has just gushed about how grateful he is to have the honor of including my work in his compilation…  I’M KIDDING! Of course I’ve had stories rejected. It’s disappointing, but what can you do? Well, actually, there is something you can do: send that story somewhere else. Send it to another compilation or send it to a magazine or Sunday school take-home paper or some other periodical. And try another story for that compilation if the opportunity is still open or try another story at another complication. Most freelance writers, I believe, get at least 10 rejections for every acceptance. So don’t let rejections get you down. They are part of the game.
And as for reactions, never react badly. You can be angry, sad, frustrated, disappointed, or whatever in private, but don’t express that to the editor. Don’t argue with the editor or send him or her a nasty note. Unbelievably some writers do this. Don’t you do it. Reply to the rejection with a nice e-mail thanking the editor for his/her time and consideration, and stating you’ll hope to work with them in the future. Then they will happily send you a notice when they have another project and they need submissions.
6. Is anyone looking for stories now?
 All those I’ve listed above, with the possible exception of Hurray God!, are looking for stories right now. Jeanette Littleton is working on a 12-book project about prayer, so if you don’t have those guidelines write and ask for them right now and you might still have time to get in the next book under the deadline. Visit the web sites listed above for more information. Chicken Soup has several books in the works, including a devotional for Moms. Cup of Comfort has one going on love. Of course the Christmas Spirit book is Christmas stories. All of these have deadlines, so you can’t put it off. Do it now!
Just last week I had an opportunity shared with me, but this one is limited to ONLY women who attend a church that has a Girlfriends Unlimited ministry. They are putting together a devotional book which will be published by Group Publishing. If you attend a church with a Girlfriends Unlimited group, ask the leadership of that ministry to send you the e-mail with the link to the guidelines. Or, write to Amy Nappa at Group and ask for them.
A Little about Dianne:
Because she enjoys studying God’s Word in depth and then sharing what she learns with others, Dianne’s motto is “gathering manna and giving it out.” She has written for over 50 Christian print magazines and seventeen books including Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Best Stories of Faith (2008) and God Encounters: Stories of His Involvement in Life’s Greatest Moments (Howard Books, 2009). Dianne is currently blogging about her adventures and challenges in self-publishing her book at She offers a free, monthly e-zine for writers and every month she includes the compilation opportunities she’s aware of. To subscribe to Dianne E. Butts About Writing, use the form in the upper right at


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10 Books all Writers Should Read

 “Emily, you should read some real books,” my Mother told me.

I knew exactly what she meant. Everything I read begins with the words, “How to” and ends with “in Five Easy Steps.” It’s time for me to come out of the closet and let the world know… I’m addicted to self-help books.

But lately, I have been working with a writer writer (no, that is not a typo). Her name is Christeene Fraser, and her use of the English language inspires me. Her verbiage, phrasing, and symbolism shout, “I am a real writer!”

As I was explaining this to Mom, she said, “Christeene is a good writer because she’s a good reader. You need to read books that will improve your writing.” So of course, I asked Christeene what to read. In a matter of seconds, she spouted ten books that every real writer should read.

I am challenging myself to read them all. If you want to improve your writing, try the Ten-Book Challenge below:

1. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Unrequited love that carries through a lifetime. Lush Colombian riverscapes, the decay of the urban aristocracy, and a plague that threatens to wipe out a generation. Marquez dazzles with his trademark magical realism, and poetic phrasing that leaves a would-be writer salivating. If you’ve ever read The Notebook, imagine that Noah and Ally rekindle their childhood romance after almost a lifetime apart–after marriage, children, aging, and change–all the while, carrying their love across the sea of time that has separated them, and you have Love in the Time of Cholera. Difficulty = 6
2. The Sound and The Fury, William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury takes its title from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 5: “it is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The Sound and the Fury tells the story of the Compson family, and opens through the eyes of Benjy, a mentally-disabled young man describing a large and destructive world through his own simple and sometimes shocking observations: abuse, incest, despair, and love. A literary feat and definitive Modern classic, this novel is most notable for its use of stream-of-consciousness technique, Freudian psychology, and first person narrative. Difficulty = 9.5
3. The Great Gatsby, F.Scott Fitzgerald
Perennially required reading for a reason–The Great Gatsby is often lauded as the book that captured the essence of the Jazz Generation. Wealth, love, fidelity, society, and morality are brought into question and chronicled through the narrative of Nick Carraway, a middle-class journalist caught in the schemes of his upper-crust cousin Daisy Buchanan, and the men who love her. The Great Gatsby reveals both the beauty and brutality of the American Dream–set in the roaring excess of New York society in the 20’s. Difficulty = 5
4. The Awakening, Kate Chopin
When this novel was first published in 1899, protesters assailed it with seething indignation for its frank discussion of female sexuality, and the unorthodox views on motherhood and marriage as described by its protagonist, Edna Pontellier. It is now seen as one of the most preeminent books written by a woman in the 18th century, and a definitive work in feminism studies. I read this book as a 17 year old girl, and it changed my life; it was as poignant to me in 2001 as it was in 1899. Difficulty = 5
5. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Infidelity. Betrayal. Longing. Russian politics. This epic novel carries the reader into the world of Anna Karenina, a Russian socialite who–after enduring a loveless, sometimes stifling, but otherwise pleasant marriage of status–falls in love with a young soldier and runs away from her former life. We watch as she blossoms and then burns in the heat of her own passion. Difficulty = 7, only for the length!
6. The Giver, Lois Lowry
The only children’s/Young Adult book on my list, The Giver is the winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal. A light science-fiction novel, it tells the tale of a seemingly utopian society where all differences, hatred, war, and even emotions have been eradicated in favor of a carefully controlled world of peace, predictability, and proper placement–each child is given his or her occupation at a special ceremony. Jonas, our main character, is chosen to be the apprentice of the Giver, the one man who holds the memories and emotions of the former world. The Giver transmits these memories to Jonas, and life as he knows it is forever changed. In my opinion, this is one of the best books ever written. Difficulty = 4
7. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
Another important novel in feminism studies, Mrs. Dalloway is a tale about a Post WWI British woman of society whose life is defined by parties, flower arrangements, and the haunting memory of a love she forsook in her youth. This is a novel about choices, about marriage, and about the pressures women face. Difficulty = 6
8. Seven Types of Ambiguity, Elliott Perlman
I don’t often read contemporary authors–but anyone clever enough to come up with a title like this deserves a chance, and Perlman does not disappoint. Beyond the plot–about a love-lorn ex who kidnaps the child of his former girlfriend to win her back–Perlman’s characterization is some of the best I’ve ever seen, placing him with literary giants. By the first chapter you will become enamored with the protagonist–a deeply introverted, intellectual, and sorrowful man. For me, Perlman’s characters felt as real and convincing as someone I’d met in real life; I was attached to them, worried for them, angry for them, in love with them. Difficulty = 7
9. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
People want to believe that children are inherently pure or untouched in some fundamental way. But is it really nature or society that keeps them this way? Golding believed that man was inherently evil, and The Lord of the Flies is a story of unraveling, of throwing away all pretense as a group of British school boys are shipwrecked on an island and left to govern themselves. When devoid of society, authority, they are allowed to show their true nature: both good and evil, hunter and hunted. Characters take on Biblical symbolism in this novel of savagery. Difficulty = 5
10. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
Caution: if you ever read or watched Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, you will never look at it the same way after reading this novel. Written as a pre-quel to Jane Eyre, this novel tells the story of Edward Rochester’s marriage to his first wife, Bertha (Antoinette) Mason in post-colonial Jamaica. In Jane Eyre Bertha Mason is only seen as the crazy woman in the attic, a shameful secret that must be locked away; here, she is seen as the woman brought literally to insanity by her passionate and hasty marriage to a cold man who does not love her. This novel is a veritable gold mine provoking discussions of race, class, marriage, and female identity. Utterly stunning. Difficulty = 6
 For more from Christeene, check out her blog at


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