The M.O.’s Short Fiction Submission Guidelines


We’re thrilled to announce the return of The M.O. (previously published at more length as The Malfeasance Occasional) with a brand-new modus operandi to seek more great and even shorter original stories, involving our site visitors (that's you) to help us make the final selections! We’ll announce a new theme and deadline for original crime fiction of 1,000-1,500 words. The theme can be interpreted widely, in whatever style, tone, subgenre, targeted age range, and/or era the writer chooses. If you see it here, we're interested! The current schedule will always be updated on this page for the theme in-process. There are much more detailed explanations of each step below. Also note: all themes, shortlisters, and final selections will be announced and highlighted days earlier in the newsletter for subscribers.*

Friday, July 31st, 2015: A new theme is announced. Write a crime story related, however loosely, to the idea of in one-thousand to fifteen-hundred words. This is a strict word limit.

Friday, August 14th, 2015: The submissions mailbox opens. 12:01 a.m., Eastern U.S. time zone. (themostories – At—gmail plus dot and com) Before and after submission periods, this mailbox is closed and any incoming messages are deleted.

Friday, August 28th, 2015: Submission period ends.
11:59 p.m., Eastern U.S. time zone.

Friday September 11th, 2015: The shortlist is announced, mug shots are posted in the Rogues' Gallery, and online voting begins. Ooh, it gets exciting!

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015: Voting period ends.
11:59 p.m., Eastern U.S. time zone

Friday September 25th, 2015: The selected story is announced. Yay!

Friday October 9th, 2015: The selected short with original art is posted to read. Free coolness!

At the deadline, we’ll open our submissions mailbox for two weeks to collect entries. Submissions should be original, not previously appearing in print or online. Entries should be submitted as attachments in any standard, not-too-fancy document format with author name (and pseudonym, if applicable), story title, and e-mail contact within the document itself. We can accept entries from outside the U.S. and Canada, however, we accept no responsibility, should your entry be selected for publication, for helping sort out international tax implications or any other issue deriving from the contract. To participate, you must be over 18 and legally able to grant worldwide English-language rights to the work.

Once you’ve submitted, you’ll receive an acknowledgement receipt within one business day. Make sure you’re mailing from an e-mail address you’ll be able to check frequently. If we can’t reach you, we can’t add you to the shortlist, because of our need to get contracts/edits/bios and info back very promptly. We understand this kind of schedule and turnaround may not work for everyone and hope that knowing clearly what to expect will help you decide.

Here at CrimeHQ, we’ll cull all the submissions down to a shortlist and, with great fanfare, will offer the first 200-250 words of these top selections on the site for voting by registered site users only. Voters will decide which entry they most want to read in its entirety, and therefore, which we will acquire. (We reserve the right to call shenanigans on electronic ballot-stuffing and any other nonsense, should we see it.) Not just the final selection, but all shortlisted authors will be featured in the Criminal Element newsletter and in the year's Rogues’ Gallery on the site, with pictures and bio information.

We’ll announce the final selection and provide a contract offering $.05/word. This will cover a year’s exclusive use on the site after publication and possible inclusion in a later anthology. All the nitty-gritty details will be supplied in appropriate legalese for the author's perusal, but we'll need the contract to be signed and returned as quickly as the rest of the steps. We’ll provide editing and original “cover art,” and then present the story—more fanfare!—on the site for free in its entirety. Then, we’ll rest for a couple of weeks, announce a new theme, and do it all again!

(At the end of the calendar year, we intend to gather the winning entries to date, plus more stories, acquired from selected shortlisted entries at $.05/word, to create a digital anthology.)

* There will be new actions and/or announcements coming every two weeks. If you’re an early bird who wants the first word, you should make sure you’re a registered site user. If you are a registered site user, but have unsubscribed from the Criminal Element newsletter and would now like to receive it again, please send a message from the e-mail address connected to your User ID to info – At- criminalelement (don't omit the dot and the com) requesting we restore you to the mailing list.

Thanks for your interest in getting to the bottom of a post that's almost as long as some of the entries we expect to receive, and good luck!


  1. Bob Faszczewski

    I have written several murder mystery short stories. They generally are set in the resort area surrounding Ocean City, MD, USA. I don’t see any recent theme issues listed above. Would you be interested in submissions from a retired editor and reporter now writing fiction in Berlin, MD? I also am a member of the Maryland Writers Association and a former member of the board of the Editorial Freelancers Association. I recently published a short story, “Bloodstains on the Ledger,” on Ink and the Thank You.

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