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Taking Submissions: On Spec

March 31, 2020

Deadline: March 31st, 2020
Payment (In Canadian): Poems (4-100 lines): $50 plus one contributor’s copy, Short-short stories (under 1000 words): $50, plus one contributor’s copym Fiction (6000 words max.), 1000-2999 words: $125 plus 2 contributor’s copies plus a One year subscription, 3000-4999 words: $175 plus 2 contributor’s copies plus a One year subscription, 5000-6000 words: $200 plus 2 contributor’s copies plus a One year subscription
Theme: Speculative fiction of all kinds, but read below

2020 Story, Poetry and Art Submissions to On Spec open until end of March 2020

Please read all the author instructions carefully first.

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.
  • 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.
  • The work must be previously unpublished in English in North America.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.
  • 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, we do encourage works from diverse communities of writers. If you are coming from a place of respect for the subject matter, we’ll know.
  • By the way, have you researched your market before hitting that “submit” button? A digital copy of an On Spec issue is readily available from Weightless Books.

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 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, fee 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.


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): $50 plus one contributor’s copy
  • Short-short stories (under 1000 words): $50, plus one contributor’s copy

Fiction (6000 words max.)

  • 1000-2999 words: $125 plus 2 contributor’s copies plus a One year subscription
  • 3000-4999 words: $175 plus 2 contributor’s copies plus a One year subscription
  • 5000-6000 words: $200 plus 2 contributor’s copies plus a One year subscription

Via: On Spec.


March 31, 2020