Literary Issue Guidelines

The Basics:

  • Next Issue: April, 2022 (submissions open)
  • Deadline: February 15, 2022
  • Length: Fiction up to 8000 words; Nonfiction 2000 to 8000 words (query if longer)
  • Payment: $50 for short stories, $25 for flash, plus a one-year pdf subscription
  • Submission Fee: $0 for up to 100 submissions per month; or $3
  • Feedback from our readers available for $9

For detailed info, jump to:   Submission Specs   Responses   Feedback Me!   Withdrawals   Payment   Rights

For a better idea of what we’re looking for, please read some story excerpts. Orca pays $25-$50 for publication rights, plus a one-year pdf subscription. Print copies are available at a discount. Full details below.

Subscribers can submit to us for free, even when the free portal is closed, by emailing. Please include your subscriber number.

Submission Specs:

Unpublished fiction and nonfiction only. This means not released in print or online, including personal blogs, on any site or in any format accessible by the public.

Fiction: Up to 3 flash fictions of less than 1000 words each in one document, or 1 short story up to 8000 words. Times/Times Roman 12 point is preferred. A word count is appreciated. Submit via our Submittable portal only. No email or postal submissions please. Simultaneous submissions are expected and encouraged.

Nonfiction: We are interested in nonfiction written in the literary style. Length: 2000 to 8000 words. No flash. We will publish 1 or 2 nonfiction pieces per literary issue. Topics of interest include current social and political events, science, nature, environment, history, mathematics, and true crime. We are not as interested in coming-of-age stories or personal essays about finding oneself (although a personal essay about not finding oneself might be interesting).

Please submit no more than once in each category (literary, speculative, and nonfiction) per issue. Authors whom we have published should wait one reading cycle before submitting again.

Beginning in 2022 we will publish four issues a year: the March and October issues are dedicated to literary fiction, and the January and July issues contain literary speculative work. See the Lit-Spec guidelines here. Submission deadlines: January issue: Nov. 15; April issue: Feb. 15; July issue: May 15; October issue: Aug. 15.

Submissions are open year-round. We accept submissions of short fiction only. Orca is fee free for up to 100 submissions a month, which is what is covered in the Submittable plan we pay for. After that we charge the standard $3, which helps us pay our published writers. We encourage writers who can afford the fee to support those who can’t by selecting the pay option.

Orca is a literary journal and we believe in the literary style of writing. We are committed to diversity of origins and perspectives on our pages. But the main criterion by which we judge submissions is the quality of the writing. We seek work that is high concept: imaginative, thoughtful, even speculative, and open to possibilities. We look for deep, diverse characters, and narratives that blend genres, or connect seemingly disparate ideas. We are also committed to the intentions of our contributors. Although we sometimes work with writers to polish their stories for publication, we also respect their original intent, and as much as possible retain the artist’s individual and local language, spelling, style, and vernacular.

Simultaneous submissions are expected and encouraged.

Responses:

Fee-free Submissions: We’ll respond at the end of each month.

Paid Submissions: We’ll respond as soon as we can, usually within a week to a month.

If the story is not for us, you’ll get a form rejection (it’s a nice one, though). If we thought the story had merit, but it didn’t make the cut, we’ll probably write a personal note.

If you don’t hear from us within the timelines above, your story is still under consideration for an upcoming issue. But feel free to contact us at orcaliterary@gmail.com if you haven’t heard from us by the stated timelines.

Feedback Me!

If you select Feedback Me! Orca will send you our readers’ comments on your fiction submission. (Feedback for nonfiction is not available.) The comments will help you see why your story was or wasn’t selected for further consideration. More than just, “it wasn’t a good fit,” the comments will strive to provide constructive criticism and indicate areas of the story that might be revised. In most cases comments will be several paragraphs long. Comments are prepared by at least two readers on the Orca staff, or one senior editor. All comments are reviewed by one of the senior editors prior to your receipt. These submissions are considered expedited, and you should receive a response within two weeks.

Our comments will be based on the portion of the submission actually read. For flash, and for some short stories that will mean the entire story. For other short stories it may be as little as three pages (but never less). Our editorial philosophy is that if a short story has not captured the reader’s interest after three pages, it is not a candidate for publication, and our staff readers can recommend it for decline.

Comments are not intended to start a dialogue about your work, however, and replies to them will not be acknowledged. In rare cases the readers and editors may feel they cannot provide constructive feedback. If this happens the submitter’s payment for this service will be refunded.

Withdrawals:

Should you need to withdraw a full submission, please do so using your Submittable account. If you are only withdrawing a part of your submission (such as a single flash piece from a multi-story document), email us at orcaliterary@gmail.com and let us know.

Do not withdraw your story if you only intend to make changes to it. Instead contact us through Submittable or via email, and we will mark your submission as Open for Editing. You can then upload a revised story.

Payment:

Orca pays $50 for short stories (>1000 words), $25 for flash fiction (<1000 words) for publication rights. We also provide a one-year pdf subscription to the journal. Print copies are available at a discount to contributors. We pay only via PayPal or Zelle, so you have to have an account. We cannot send checks.

Rights:

Upon acceptance, Orca requests first North American Serial Rights and First Digital Publication Rights. All rights revert to the author upon publication. We ask that if the work is reprinted in a collection or anthology that you indicate Orca, A Literary Journal as the original publisher in your acknowledgments.
NOTE: The rights above mean that once the issue is published, the rights to the work return to you. After we publish your work it can only be marketed as a reprint, which limits the number of markets that will accept it, and drastically reduces the pay rate it can receive.