Submissions for the next reading period are November 15, 2023 for ONE month.
Please note that we do not accept emailed submissions except through prior arrangement with editorial staff.
If you submit work during our Submission period, please scroll down to refer to the How Does It Work? section on this page. That will give you an idea of what to expect next.
If you are an artist and have previously sent us samples of your work, we will let you know if we find something we’d like to use.
What are we looking for? And what are we NOT looking for?
We like to pride ourselves in searching out the most interesting and innovative works of fiction and poetry in the genre. So what do we want?
- Speculative writing of all kinds, but nothing derivative. Try to avoid what you think are trends, because by the time we’d publish them, they won’t be. Remember, you are a trendsetter, not a trend follower.
- This is particularly relevant now, as we understand many writers are eager to send us their own pandemic or COVID stories.
- We’ll gladly look at works up to 6,000 words, but keep in mind that most of these will eventually need a hard edit to reduce a thousand words of exposition. If you do that, yourself. it makes us more likely to pick up your story.
- We’d prefer a standard manuscript format, in a readable font. If you are new to this, do some research. https://www.shunn.net/format/story/
- The work must be previously unpublished in English in North America. We buy First NA Serial Rights to your work.
- We are not fond of graphic sex and violence. And we are not fond of horror that is simply “messy”.
- When we say “character-driven”, we mean it. A story that exists because a character is pushed along by outside influences and has absolutely no agency, will not grab our attention.
- Keep the stakes high in your story. Remember that we need the reader to WANT to turn the pages. We need the reader to miss that bus or train stop because they are totally absorbed in the “what happens next?” of an On Spec story. We need the readers to ENGAGE with your protagonist, so they care about how things turn out.
- Watch out for flags that predict the ending of the story before we get to it.
- Don’t send us a HAITE story. That’s our acronym for “Here’s An Idea: The End”.
- Watch out for surprise Twist endings, especially if you have hidden a key piece of information from the Reader until the deus ex machina ending happens. The same applies to “one joke” or “Shaggy dog” endings.
- Make sure your story gives the reader a credible reason to willingly suspend their disbelief, and always make the ending of your story believable. The last thing we want to see is “It was all a dream”, or “we’re all living inside a snow globe”, or “this was all VR”.
- Stay away from really awful protagonists. Remember the point above where we want the reader to be engaged with the protagonist and really care about the outcome.
- While we don’t check on a writer’s ethnic background or gender identification, we do encourage works from diverse communities of writers. We have a diverse editorial staff. If you are coming from a place of respect for the culture, characters, and the subject matter, we’ll know.
- By the way, have you researched your market before hitting that “submit” button? It is a waste of everyone’s time when a writer sends us a work that has absolutely no SFF content at all. A digital copy of an On Spec issue is readily and cheaply available from Weightless Books.
- And it goes without saying that folks in the magazine sector are having some serious conversations concerning the possible threat of AI-generated fiction that passes itself off as “original”. While we can take some things on faith that writers who submit to On Spec are sending their finest fiction and poetry, we will be more cautious than ever going forward. If we buy your work, the contract will include a clause where you say that the work is 100% yours, with no AI content. We don’t count using Grammarly as AI, but we do hope that your grammar and spelling are carefully checked.
What about Poetry?
We expect to post some updated guidelines for poets submitting to On Spec, but remember the prime thing is that the work MUST be something we deem “speculative”. So even if the poem you’ve written about your grandmother’s kitchen is a lovely and charming poem filled with rhyming couplets, don’t send it to us unless your grandmother was a witch, or her kitchen happened to be on Mars. Well…you know the drill.
How does it work?
- The first reader assigned to each manuscript will determine its literary merit and overall suitability for On Spec, and will flag the story with an Accept or Decline as well as listing their reactions to the story. This goes on to the attention of the Managing Editor.
- A story that obviously does not meet our needs will be sent a letter stating the work is unsuitable for On Spec. Keep in mind that we probably buy 1 story for every 20 that we read.
- A story that has potential will probably be read by one or more of the other editors until a final decision is made.
- Art submissions are viewed for suitability by two editors, and we may also look at your web site to see other works that may be available.
- We also need to be aware of the budget we have for buying new work, as well as the number of stories we have on hand to be used in upcoming issues. We also need to be aware of Canadian content. We DO buy works from non-Canadians, but our mandate was always to showcase works by writers from our own country.
- You will eventually receive either an email saying your story has been declined, or an offer of a publication contract in due course. You can track progress and status of your manuscript through your account created on the On Spec site.
- If you still have questions after reading this, feel free to send us a note on the Contact Us page of the web site.
- Remember the editors’ decision is final, and writing back to complain about being rejected is not a professional thing to do. Just send your story to a new market and keep sending until it gets sold. You’d be surprised at the number of writers who find a market on their 9th or 10th attempt at submission.
- And if you are actually reading this page, we’d like to reward you. Send us a note through the CONTACT US page, saying you read the Submission guidelines, and we will send you a digital copy of an issue of On Spec, free of charge.
ON SPEC buys first North American serial (magazine) rights to your work. We pay upon acceptance.
Pay rates are as follows and in Canadian dollars:
- Poems (4-100 lines): $100 CDN plus a one-year subscription and 2 contributor copies
- Short-short stories (under 2000 words): $100 CDN, plus a one-year subscription and 2 contributor copies
Fiction (6000 words max.)
- .05 CDN per word plus 2 contributor’s copies plus a One year subscription