Cover of Darkness

GUIDELINES:  COVER OF DARKNESS

Hello, and welcome to the guidelines for Cover of Darkness.  First, a word about the digest and its history.  Cover of Darkness began in November 2008 as a spinoff of Aoife’s Kiss.  It is published as a 6 x 9 perfect-bound trade paperback book.  It is now published quarterly in March, June, September, and December.

Cover of Darkness publishes dark fantasy and horror.  Before we go any further, we want to emphasize this to potential contributing writers:  our idea of a good horror story is one that you read with all the lights on, and you look over your shoulders while you turn the pages.  Put another way, meeting a zombie is not scary; meeting a zombie unexpectedly is scary.  Capisce?  Okay, let’s try this:  when we see intestines, we want to make twisty-squeakies–giraffes, cocker spaniels, etc.  Blood and gore is not scary; it’s just icky and oogie.  We don’t want our readers to spuke.  We want them to shiver.

Once more:  Cover of Darkness publishes dark fantasy and horror.  For such stories to work, the reader has to care what happens to the character[s], be it good or bad.  Without that connection between the reader and the character[s], the story fails–and will be declined.  Please understand that.  We decline about 80% of the stories we receive; of that, we decline about 75% simply because of weak characters.  [Of the remaining 25% of submissions, about 90% are declined because the plot is either non-existent or moronic].

We apologize for harping on this.  ‘Nuff said.

Stories that engage us are those that take us directly into the events, and enable us to experience vicariously the emotions of the protagonist.  Such stories might be about a farmer who finds a faerie egg, and whatever creature laid it now wants it back; about a girl who discovers that if she erases an image in a photograph with a simple pencil eraser, the person in the photograph dies [this story has been done, but might inspire something else]; about a rottweiler that domesticates and housebreaks humans; about a young woman who wakes up at night and steps on a hairball left behind by the demon in the closet [story has also been done].  So be creative.  Be different.  Be entertaining.  If you’re writing dark fantasy, be fantastic.  If you’re writing horror, be spooky, eerie, dark, and . . . spooky.

What we want:

Cover of Darkness considers original dark fantasy and horror stories of word counts between 2,000 and 8,000.  For accepted stories we pay $15.00 and a contributor’s copy.  We also consider reprints, but most likely will publish zero, one, or no more than two reprint stories per issue.  The payment for a reprint is $6.00 and half a contributor’s copy…oh, what the heck, make it $6.00 and a whole contributor’s copy.

Cover of Darkness will also consider flash fiction [up to 1100 words].  For accepted original flash fiction we pay $5.00 and a contributor’s copy; for reprints, we pay $3.00 and a contributor’s copy.  We will publish no more than two flash fiction pieces per issue.

Cover of Darkness considers original dark fantasy and horror poetry of lengths up to 100 lines.  For accepted poems we pay $4.00 and a contributor’s copy.  We also consider reprints, but most likely will publish zero, one, or no more than two reprint poems per issue.  The payment for a reprint poem is $2.00 and a contributor’s copy.

Cover of Darkness considers original articles, interviews, reviews [of books or movies, frex], of word counts between 1,000 and 2,000 words.  For accepted pieces we pay $8.00 and a contributor’s copy.  We might consider a timely reprint, but query first.

Cover of Darkness considers interior art [b&w].  We prefer dark fantasy and horror pieces that suggest a story behind them.  We are not looking for designs and patterns.  For accepted pieces we pay $5.00 and a contributor’s copy.

Note:  All payments will be made upon publication.

 Note:  at the bottom of these guidelines you will find some advice for writers.  We strongly urge you to READ & HEED this advice.  We turn down over 80% of the submissions we receive.  Almost all of those rejected submissions violate one or more of the principles in that advice.  Read and heed, folks.

Submission instructions:

In the upper left corner of the first page of your work, we want to see the name to which you wish the check made out to, the address to which the check is to be mailed, and your e-mail address.  In the upper right hand corner of the first page of your work, we want to see the approximate word count.

Ten lines below your e-mail address, and centered in the page, we want to see the title of your work and your byline [note that the name in the byline does not necessarily have to be the name in the upper left hand corner].  Four lines below your name, we want to see the beginning of your work.

Indent paragraphs a tab space of 0.25″.  Do NOT set other tab spaces, please.  Double-space the lines.  If you use italics, then use italics.  However, if you submit in plain text format, use asterisks * before and after words and phrases to denote italics.  Please use Times New Roman or Courier New font, preferably 12point.

Submit your written work as an RTF or Word attachment, or pasted as text in the body of the e-mail.  Put SUBMISSION:  and the title of your work in the subject line.

Submit your art as a JPEG attachment.  Put SUBMISSION and the title of your piece in the subject line.

Submit your poem as text pasted into the body of the e-mail.  If you desire italics for words and phrases, place an asterisk * before and after the words to be italicized.

In your e-mail, say hello, and provide your contact information.  This is the same information that appears in the upper left corner of the first page of your submission.  If your submission is accepted, we will request a bio and send you a contract.

Send your e-mail submission to:  cod@samsdot.com.

Cover of Darkness makes every effort to respond within 2 months.  Please do not query until after 3 months.

Other helpful advice:

If you want your work to be published in Cover of Darkness, please pay close attention to the advice below–and yes, we know you’ve seen much of this before, but you’d be surprised how many writers either neglect these things, or just don’t think we mean it [such writers number among those who have a really tough time getting published in a paying market].

1.  Do proofread your work, and eliminate mistakes of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax.

2.  Do practice word management.  Use the right word, and only as many words as necessary.

3.  Plot does matter.  Without a plot, a story is history–in more ways than one.  A plot, simply put, is the answer to the question:  How do I get from the conflict to the resolution?  Answer that question before you write the story, and let the answer guide your pen/keyboard/magic marker.

4.  Do make your characters live through your words, for characters carry your story.  A good story is not about an event or a circumstance or a moral question, but about how your protagonists and antagonists respond to the stimuli of the event or circumstance or moral question.  In a proper story, your protagonist will change in some way as a result of the circumstances or events.  If your protagonist does not change, you have not written a story.

a.  Corollary:  we receive a lot of submissions in which someone is abused as a child and therefore misbehaves as an adult.  This sort of blaming is reductionist and not very useful.  We as humans have and make choices, regardless of our traumas.  We want stories with an eye to the future, not to the past.  In other words, humans are complex, and should not be limited by reductionist motivations.

5.  Do NOT preach.  If you absolutely must make a moral point, or a statement about the state of society, politics, or religion, do so with a subtle velvet hammer…or compose an essay.  Yes, we agree, the world is in a sorry state…so what else is new?  Send us a story, not a sermon.

6.  We do not object to colorful language….IF it has a purpose in the story.  You cannot shock us…but you can annoy us with unnecessary florid language.

7.  Do NOT send simultaneous submissions.  Do NOT send multiple submissions.  One submission at a time, please.

8.  DO tell us if your submission has been published previously, and where and when, so that we may accredit the proper sites.

9.  Set off direct address with commas.  Thus, “Hello, Harry, how are you?”  “Harry” is used in direct address, and therefore is set off by commas.  Put another way, there is a huge difference between “Let’s eat, grandmother,” and “Let’s eat grandmother.”  Commas are important.  Editors do not have time to insert them into direct address for you.  That’s your job.