Thursday, November 30, 2023

Why Hasn't My Story Sold?


Why Hasn’t My Story Sold?

By J Alan Erwine

So, you’ve written a little gem of a story, but so far, nobody has wanted to buy the story, why? Well, first of all, are you sure the story is actually a gem? Most beginning writers have to write a great deal of crap before they actually start writing prose that is really worth reading. Maybe you think that’s not fair, but it’s actually the truth, most of us, myself included, wrote a lot of material that will hopefully never again see the light of day. Believe me, when I look back at some of the first stories I was submitting, I now feel that maybe I should send those editors letters of apology.

But, that’s neither here nor there, let’s actually say that your story is a gem, but still nobody wants to buy it. There could be some very good reasons for this, so let’s take a look at some of them.

Manuscript formatting

When you’re going to submit to any publication, the first thing you should do is read their guidelines. Don’t try to argue that if the story is good enough, the editor will just take it no matter how you submit it. This simply isn’t the case. If you don’t follow a publication’s guidelines, your little gem of a story might not even get read!

So, you pull up those guidelines on your computer screen, and you read them in detail, and I do mean in detail. Take note of everything they’re asking for. If they’re not asking for anything specific, or if they’re asking for standard manuscript format, then standard manuscript format is what you send them.

Wait a second, you’re saying you don’t know what standard manuscript format is…well, you should really look it up, but here are the basics. Double spaced with one inch margins. Make sure you’re using an easy to read font like Times New Roman or Arial. Don’t try to be cutesy with your fonts, make them easy to read. You don’t want an editor struggling to read your manuscript, that will just make them cranky, and a cranky editor almost always results in a rejection. That’s just a simple fact.

If you want a word italicized, then you underline it. And again, this can be why it’s important to read those submission guidelines. Why? Well, if you’re submitting to me at Nomadic Delirium Press, I want you to italicize the words yourself. Italicizing for one editor will make them cranky, while not italicizing for another editor will make them cranky. Yeah, we’re a difficult group, but if you follow the specific guidelines for the publication, you won’t have any problems.

There’s more to proper format, but this gives you the basics, and I encourage you to learn the rest because proper formatting makes for happy editors, and this will mean that your manuscript will get read instead of being rejected because you can’t follow instructions.


I know that Robert Heinlein argued that an author should never revise their work unless asked, and then only grudgingly. Did Heinlein really write perfect prose in his first draft? Maybe, maybe not. I never met the man, so I can’t say for sure, and from what I’ve heard, he could be quite cantankerous, so I doubt that people who did know him really know if this was true or not.

However, you are not Robert Heinlein, and you need to revise. I would strongly recommend doing three, four, and maybe even five drafts of your little darling before you even think about submitting it. I’ve heard many writers say that it should be the editor’s job to edit the story, thus their title…but the more editing an editor has to do on a specific piece, the less likely they are to accept it. You should be sending your best to an editor, and if your best is filled with misspellings and grammatical errors, then an editor isn’t going to want your story, no matter how good it might be. This isn’t to say that a story has to be absolutely perfect. That’s very hard to do, and even after your editor has a crack at it, there’s still a good possibility that there will still be errors, but you want to show them that you know how to use the English language properly. After all, you’re supposed to be a wordsmith.

Now, I can’t say with absolute certainty, as editors vary greatly, but the higher up the ladder a publication is, the more polished your work needs to be. The truth is, the smaller presses are usually more lenient because there are usually only a few editors, and they’re really looking for the best stories that they can find, and so you will tend to have a little more slack with them. For example, I have one author I’ve worked with on a number of occasions who sends in what I would call “less than perfect” manuscripts, but I know this author can tell a story, so I’m willing to put in a little extra work on their manuscripts. I won’t do this for just anyone, and I also think that these “less than perfect” manuscripts could be keeping them out of some of the larger markets…but hey, that’s just my opinion.

The long and short of it is, polish those manuscripts to the best of your abilities, maybe even have someone else look it over. Again, a well-polished manuscript makes for a happy editor, and it lessens your chance of a rejection before the editor has even had a chance to realize that you have a good story.

Is it the right market?

This one almost seems like a no-brainer, but when you’re reading those guidelines, make sure that the publication actually publishes the kind of work you’re trying to submit. At Nomadic Delirium Press, we primarily publish science fiction with a smattering of fantasy, and yet we still get horror submissions, and even an occasional mainstream submission. If you send this type of work to us, it’s going to get rejected outright. There’s always a possibility that we might publish out of our current genres, but we would only take a chance with an author that we already know, and even then, they’d have to query us first.

The main point is, don’t send stories that don’t fit whatever it is the publication publishes. You might have a wonderfully written romance story, but sending it to Analog will get it rejected unless it has a very strong science fiction element.

Submitting to a market that doesn’t publish your genre is just a waste of your time. Don’t do it.

Be honest about your talent level

All of us would like to think that we’re the next great author that’s going to hit it big, but there are only a few of those authors, and a whole lot of us other guys, so be realistic in your goals. If you’re writing science fiction, for example, by all means, submit to Analog or Asimov’s, but don’t expect to get published by them. They’re very hard markets to crack, and maybe you just aren’t there yet. There are a number of mid-level and small press publishers that are always looking for great stories, and your gem that’s not quite right for the big guys might be perfect for one of these smaller publishers. To completely corrupt an acting axiom, there are no small presses, only small authors.

Publish in the small press. They can be great for your career. I’ve edited authors in the small press that went on to the larger presses, and even a few that have gone on to Hugo Awards. As an author, my short stories have appeared in small press publications next to names like Robert Sawyer and the late, great Jay Lake, neither of whom thought they were “too big” to appear in a small press magazine.

As an author, know your talent level. Certainly shoot higher because you never know what might grab an editor’s eye, but also don’t look down on the little guys who might nurture you and even give you advice, and maybe even help your career along. You have to start somewhere, right?

Don’t irritate your potential editor

Something to keep in mind is that editors do talk to one another, so don’t do anything to irritate your potential editor.

Don’t send nasty letters to an editor because they rejected your story. You have to keep in mind that editors turn down stories, not people. I’ve had authors that have submitted to me over and over again with no luck, but their sixth, seventh, or eighth story suddenly hits with me, and they’re published.

Don’t submit simultaneously to different publications if they don’t accept simultaneous submissions. At one con, I had taken some submissions to read, and I was sitting at a table with another editor, and he happened to glance at the cover page of the story I was about to read. Turns out, he had the exact same story in his slush pile. The result was that author got two rejections. I’m not sure if the other editor blacklisted them or not. I didn’t, but I did send the author an angry rejection, pointing out the error of their ways. They never submitted to me again, but then again, I’ve never seen their name in any magazines, so I’m not sure what might have happened to them.

Speaking of conventions, don’t bug editors at conventions. It’s ok to approach an editor, if they’re not busy, and mention your work, but the editor isn’t going to commit to you right there. The most likely response you’ll get is “Send it in.” Having said this, let me reiterate, never, never, never bother an editor when they’re in a conversation with another editor or author, and certainly not if they’re having dinner with their family. If they’ve just finished a panel, or if they’re at a signing table, that would be the perfect time, but there are hundreds of you wanting to do the same thing, so don’t take too much of the editor’s time.

All of these things might get talked about between editors, and believe me, they will use names, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot before you’ve even taken your first step into the door of publishing.


In conclusion, there can be a lot of reasons why a good story doesn’t get accepted. Will following these points guarantee that a well-written story finds a home. No, of course not. The market fluctuates, and your story might get read by an editor who has just had a fight with their spouse, or has kids screaming in the next room, and they’re too irritated to see the glories of your story. Editors are only human, and they will make mistakes. I’ve passed on stories that I later saw in another publication, and I suddenly realize that I’d made a mistake.


The best piece of advice I can give any aspiring author is to keep at it. Perseverance can often beat out talent. I’ve known many talented writers who didn’t want to keep jumping through the hoops of the publishing world and gave up, and I’ve known even more authors who weren’t naturally gifted, but could still put a subject and predicate together fairly well that just kept trying and working, and after many many years of effort, they were able to actually build a writing career of some kind.

So, if you actually have some writing talent, keep at it, and keep submitting. Maybe some day you will have the career you’ve always envisioned.


A DriveThruFiction Bestseller

My latest short story collection, The Lies of Belial, and other stories is currently in the top 100 selling titles at DriveThruFiction. Check it out at and be sure to order a copy at to see if we can push it higher up the list.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Save 25% off Rocks on the Other Side

Ready to play our latest game? You can now save 25% off the core rulebook for Rocks on the Other Side at

The year was 2032. It will always be remembered as the year that the leaders of the world truly lost their minds. That was the year that they unleashed the massive nuclear arsenals they had been stockpiling. That was the year they tried to wipe out all life on Earth because of petty differences, differences that could have easily been overlooked if they would have just had open minds, but let’s face it, how often did the leaders of the world ever actually have open minds?

Now, two years later, civilization is gone, most of life on Earth is gone, but there are still pockets of humanity that try to eke out an existence. Some of the Earth’s flora and fauna have also survived the nuclear holocaust. Unfortunately, now everyone is trying to survive, and that means that everyone else must be viewed as a potential enemy. Even worse, nuclear mutations have created horrible lifeforms. Some used to be human, some were animals, and some were plants, but now they’re horribly deformed, and incredibly dangerous. Not to mention the fact that there are pockets of radiation all over the world that threaten life that comes anywhere close to it.

And, of course, there’s no longer a need to worry about global climate change since the world is stuck in a perpetual nuclear winter, killing more and more of the life on Earth.

Radiation everywhere, almost constant cold and snow, mutated people, animals, and plants…this is the world that waits for you in Rocks on the Other Side. Do you dare venture into this world and try to survive?

Saturday, November 25, 2023

A little holiday fun

Just for fun, I decided to throw a little collection of some of my short stories together as a special holiday collection. Don't worry, these aren't actually holiday stories. Can you imagine me writing about Santa? How many different ways would I find to kill the jolly old elf off? Don't believe me? Keep in mind that I absolutely love the song, "The Night Santa Went Crazy" by Weird Al. That should tell you a little bit about where my brain is...assuming you haven't already figured that out from reading my fiction.

This collection is only available at Amazon, and if you're a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read it for free! So, head over to and order now.

So, what do you get in this collection? Glad you asked. You get my Solar Federation story "Greenie" and my Divided States of America story "Fight or Flight." You also get my story "A Problem in Translation," which eventually became the first chapter of my novel of the same name. "Lowering One's Self Before Fate" is also here. This was an early story of mine that had the most unique writing concept of any of my work. There's also "The Galton Principle," one of my first forays into writing about dystopias, and it's still a story that people are asking me to novelize. "The Lives of Billions" is also here, a little story about alien life on Mars, and a story that Tyree Campbell seems to absolutely love. Then there are two of my more experimental stories, "Entropy" and "Reality." Overall, the collection should give you a bit of a peak into the different ways my writing often goes, and hopefully if you've never read any of my work (and why haven't you?), it will help you find something of mine that you like! And remember, this is only available during the 2023 holiday season, and it's FREE. Did I mention FREE!!!

Friday, November 24, 2023

The Lies of Belial, and other stories

Welcome to the newest collection from prize winning science fiction author J Alan Erwine. This collection gives you Erwine’s 13 newest stories since the publication of the enormous tome, Manic Musings of a Maniacal Mind. In this collection you’ll find five of his Solar Federation stories, two stories from Nomadic Delirium Press’ Divided States of America series, and six independent stories, including the never before published title story.

Journey to distant planets, explore possible grim futures, and have your mind twisted around in a way that only Erwine can do.

Order from Amazon:

Order from Smashwords:

Order from DriveThruFiction:

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Green Grievances

From the Nomadic Delirium Press Blog:

We have a new story in The Divided States of America series…

The Green States of America is a fairly peaceful nation, but not everyone is happy with the current government, and when armed terrorists take over the congressional building, it’s up to Speaker of the Month Robert Nesmith to fight back for his nation, but what does he have to use against armed militants? Only his words.

Order from Amazon:

Order from Smashwords:

Order from DriveThruFiction:

Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale at Nomadic Delirium Press

From the Nomadic Delirium Press Blog: 

We have two sales running on two different sites. You can download our RPG titles for 50% off at DriveThruRPG. Simply go to or you can download our fiction titles for 25% off at Smashwords. Head over to for this sale. Here, you can buy novels, short story collections, and anthologies. These sales are obviously just for a limited time, so hurry and order today!

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale

For these big sale days, you can download all of my titles for 50% off at DriveThruFiction and all of my collections and novels for 50% off at Smashwords. Head over to DriveThruFiction at or Smashwords at You only have a few days to take advantage of these deals.


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

25% off The Ephemeris Omnibus 2013

Ready to play some Ephemeris? Now's the time to pick up The Ephemeris Omnibus 2013 for 25% off at

The Ephemeris Omnibus 2013 features the Ephemeris core rulebook (with some rule changes, including mutli-classing), and all of the rule supplements that have been released as of the end of 2012.  All of the species and class supplements have been blended into the core rulebook to create a massive (over 200,000 words) rulebook that will allow you to play the most extensive Ephemeris game you'd ever want to play.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

A Taste of the Madness Vol. 4 is still available

For a limited time, you can still download A Taste of the Madness Vol. 4 for free from Amazon at That gives you six of my stories to enjoy, and I think you will. In this limited time collection, you get the following: Back to the Old Ways, The Lives of Billions, Who Listens to the Voices of the Past?, The Opium of the People, The Least Practical of Jokes, and A Chronic Mistake. And if you like The Least Practical of Jokes, I'll let you in on a secret...there's a story running around the dark recesses of my brain that involves the jokester of that story...hopefully more on that soon.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Dystopic fiction is not meant to be a roadmap...

Authors have been writing dystopic fiction for a very long time, warning us about where our society could be heading if we're not careful. Titles like 1984, Brave New World, and A Handmaid's Tale are usually the first to jump to mind when talking about dystopias, but there have been a great many more titles written that fit the genre.

As an author, reader, and editor, I absolutely love dystopias, but in looking at the degeneration of modern society, I have to wonder if some politicians and their followers aren't taking dystopic fiction as a warning, but instead are using it as a roadmap for how to create a "better" society. Anyone that reads about a fictional dystopia and thinks it would be good to create something like that in the real world must be one of two things...incredibly stupid or insane...or maybe both.

I think the majority of politicians, whether conservative or liberal, or anything in between are nothing but self-deluded egotists, but some of the things I'm seeing from conservative America and Europe are truly frightening. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with conservatives in general. True conservatism has some good values, and definitely has a place in our political lives. I'm talking about the radical element of modern conservatism. That's where the problem with our future lies.

If you think loyalty tests, the limitation of free speech, the militarization of police forces, using the justice system for revenge, racial profiling, the purification of race, or any of the other elements that have been put forth in dystopic fiction are good ideas, then you, my friend, are a threat to civilization. Everyone has a right to have a voice in American politics, but when your voice says I can't have my say, you've overstepped your boundaries, and you are a threat to the American way of life.

Remember the American motto: E Pluribus Unum. If you don't know what it means, look it up, and if you think it's wrong, then are you really following the ideals of America?

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Save 25% on Manic Musings of a Maniacal Mind

Now is your chance to look into the darker recesses of my mind with my massive short story collection Manic Musings of a Maniacal Mind, and you can save 25% while you're looking around in there by going to

For more than two decades, editors have been publishing the works of J Alan Erwine, exposing you, the reader, to the dark recesses of the author’s mind. Now, all of those stories have been combined together into one massive tome.
Get a glimpse into Erwine’s grim view of the future, and explore the universe from his slightly off-kilter point of view.
Visit the planets, the stars, the scary places in the human mind, but make sure you’re wearing a seatbelt, because you never know where Erwine might take you next…

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Save 25% on A Problem in Translation

Want to save 25% on A Problem in Translation? Now's your chance at

Humanity's first contact with an alien species, the Lemec, is complicated by the fact that the aliens don't use an entirely verbal language…not only that, but the other aliens in their "domain" seem to worship the Lemec as some type of gods, and as they seem to anticipate every move that Captain Shiro Takahashi and his crew make, humanity begins to think that maybe the other aliens know something that they don't.

Monday, November 06, 2023

The Stanley

This week, my youngest daughter turns 13...not sure how the hell that's even possible, but I guess it is. We talked to her quite a bit about what she wanted to do to celebrate this momentous occasion, and she finally decided that she wants to stay at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. For those of you that have never heard of the Stanley, it's supposedly one of the most haunted hotels in America. Not only that, but this is also the hotel that Stephen King was staying at when he came up with the idea for The Shining, and the mini-series (not the movie) was filmed there.

My wife and daughter are both hoping to have some kind of paranormal encounter while they're there. I, of course, am not expecting anything, since I don't believe in ghosts, but I would love to be proven wrong on this belief! I am, however taking along a journal just in case I'm also inspired while I'm there. If I come back writing horror, you'll know something happened.

Oh, and yeah, we will not be staying in the Stephen King suite. There's no way we could afford that...

Saturday, November 04, 2023

A new collection is coming

I will soon be releasing a new short story collection that will feature the 13 stories I've written since the release of Manic Musings of a Maniacal Mind, which was a collection of every story I'd ever had published up until that point in my career...yeah, it's a REALLY big book!

12 of the stories from this new collection are already available individually. The 13th story, "The Lies of Belial" will only be available in this collection for now, and it will also be the title story.

And the 14th story I've written since the massive omnibus will soon be released by Nomadic Delirium Press as part of their Divided States of America series.

Thursday, November 02, 2023

October Bestseller

Normally people seem to want to buy my books, whether those are novels, short story collections, or RPGs, but for October, one of my new short stories was my bestseller. So, I present you with "Choices."

Ereven is on the run. Having abandoned the dictatorial governor of Ganymede, he now finds himself pushed and pulled in directions he doesn’t want to go as he tries to flee the brutal hands of the governor. Where will he go? The inner solar system seems to be the only choice, but does he have any chance of getting there? He’s never had choices, and now that he does, every one of them seems to lead to death, imprisonment, or both…

Order from Amazon:

Order from Smashwords:

Order from DriveThruFiction: