The Red Penny Papers is currently CLOSED to all submissions. Please see this note about responses from our last reading period. 

The Red Penny Papers publishes webfiction that celebrates the spirit of the penny dreadful, the sensationalist and gothic novel, and their more modern successor, the pulp magazine— the catch is that it must have a dark speculative bent.

We want stories of the underbelly: opium dens or badly-lit parking lots, police gone bad and insane clergy, supernatural Don Juans and brash highwaymen and women, megalomaniacal scientists and secret schools and cults.

We want modern and historical: nights alone in a hospital morgue and days languishing in the old family manor, werewolf hunting in modern New York and the grave-robber riots at Columbia University, 1788, madness on the moon or Civil War train-robbery.

But mostly, we want to be thrilled and entertained, and maybe have our emotions toyed with a little. Still confused? Check out this interview with the Collector.

The specifics:

  • Among the acceptable genres are light horror, supernatural, steampunk, clockpunk, magical realism, near-future sci-fi, urban fantasy, historical, and noir. We are not looking for hard sci-fi, splatter/gore, or epic fantasy at this time. There must be some speculative element in your story for it to fit.
  • We like it dark, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be funny too. Take yourself as seriously as you like– or not seriously at all.
  • Classic monsters (zombies, vampires, werewolves, mummies, ghosts, demons, etc.) are not just okay, they are welcomed with open arms. We’re not looking for the usual serial killer deal, though.
  • The Red Penny Papers are rated R. We’re down with sex, death, swearing, etc. We’re also down with hinting rather than showing. Author’s discretion.
  • Stories from underrepresented points of view are encouraged. Stories that marginalize any subset of humanity or glorify social injustice of any sort are not.
  • There will be a round of edits (or more, if you like) before publication. Fair warning in case you find that offensive.
  • Simultaneous submissions are fine, just let us know if you’ve placed the piece elsewhere as soon as possible, lest we get all excited about it and have our hopes dashed. Please only submit one piece to The Red Penny Papers at a time, no multiple submissions.
  • For all submissions, don’t worry too much about formatting. The best way to go is single-spaced, no paragraph indentations, hard break between paragraphs. Italics or “/italics/” for italics, bold or “*bold*” for bold, underline or “_underline_” for underline.
  • Be sure to include contact information with your submission.
  • We’re shooting for a 45 day response time–up to 70 over all on shortlisted stories, but you’ll get a shortlist notice within 45. If you don’t get a confirmation of your submission’s arrival within a week, please resend. Odds are good that if you haven’t gotten the confirmation, you attached files. That means you got swept up in the spam filter. It gets checked regularly, but even if we fish it out, you’ll get an email asking for a resub. If you realize later you’ve done this, feel free to resend without the file attachment.
  • We buy electronic rights and the right to archive your story. We produce eBook versions of all issues as well as web versions. Payment specifics depend on the type of fiction– see below.

Short Fiction

  • Stories should be between 1k-5k words. (If your story is between the 5k short fiction upper limit and the 10k novella lower limit, but you think it belongs here, please query as described in the “Serials” section below.)
  • Compensation is $.01 USD per word up to $25, payable at time of publication. Paypal is the preferred method, but we can also pay by check if necessary.
  • Will be published in a quarterly issue, with a hard limit of 4-6 stories per issue.
  • We prefer shiny new stories, but if you send a reprint, no problem. Just let us know where and when it was published so we can give the proper credit.
  • Paste your entire story into the body of your email. Do not send files unless requested– they won’t be opened. Upon acceptance, we’ll start working in .rtf or .doc for edits– author’s choice. Cover letters are fine, but not necessary.
  • Send your submission with the subject line: “Submission: [Title] [Author Name]” to redpennypapers[at]gmail[dot]com.


  • Serial novellas/novelettes should be between 10k-25k words, and complete before query.
  • They should be ready for serialization, as in episodic in nature– ideally in 2-5 installments.
  • Paste a query and synopsis (the latter no longer than one page in ms word, half page being more desirable) into the body of your email. Remember to give a complete word count. Please do not send the story itself or any files. We’ll get back to you asap.
  • Send your query with the subject line: “Query: [Title] [Author Name]” to redpennypapers[at]gmail[dot]com.
  • If your manuscript is requested, please send as a .doc or .rtf file, single-spaced, no paragraph indentations, hard break between paragraphs. Italics for italics, bold for bold, underline for underline.
  • Payment can be arranged in a lump sum on publication of the first episode, or to be broken up into equal parts and paid with the publication of each episode. Payment will be similar to that for short fiction: 10k = $50, 15k= $75, 20k=$100. The maximum possible payment for a serial is $100.
  • Episodes will be posted once a week until the end of a given serial, with a hard limit of 3 serials per year.
  • All serial authors will have the option, upon completion of their serial run, to allow The Red Penny Papers to produce an eBook collecting all episodes. Royalties from the sale of the collected edition will be split 50/50.


  • If you think your artwork would make for a Red Penny Papers cover image, please send a link to your portfolio, deviant art, or other website to the above submissions address.
  • We like to commission specific subjects to match our novellas and/or a given story in an issue, but there’s a lot of wiggle room in that. Pay rates will be arranged with the artist, depending on the subject, medium, and other considerations, not less than $25, payable at time of publication.
  • If the general theme and feeling of a specific, unrelated work suits The Red Penny Papers, we will gladly consider it for a cover. We pay $25 for the use of a cover image at, payable at time of publication.

Any questions, feel free to throw ’em in the comments.

-John, Katey, and the devious alter-ego, Magdala Twistleton


30 responses to “Submissions

  1. Tom coyne

    When you say: “The Red Penny Papers are rated R. We’re down with sex, death, swearing, etc. We’re also down with hinting rather than showing. Author’s discretion. ”

    What exactly do you mean by “Down with hinting rather then showing?”

  2. Thanks for asking, Tom.

    It means that you don’t have to show graphic violence, gore, and sex scenes. For example, if someone in your story is disemboweled, you don’t actually need to describe the event in minute detail. In fact, most would prefer you didn’t unless it’s somehow relevant to character or plot development that we see entrails, the victim’s method of dying, or the torturer’s method of disembowelment. Simply hint that it happened by having someone mention it, describing the crowd’s faces as the event takes place, or even just describing the disembowelee screaming.

    Alternatively, just tell us it happened/will happen. Which is less fun, but better than gore for the sake of gore.

    That said, we do not shrink from relevant gore, violence, or sex. And swearing– well, that’s just honest.

    Hope that answers your question!

  3. Just curious. You say the pay for short fiction and for novellas is the same, but from the above example, short fiction pays 1 cent per word where novellas pay 5 cents per word. I noticed the discrepancy and thought I’d ask. Thanks!

    • Hi Darin, and thanks for your question.

      Offering $.05 a word is an ultimate goal, but alas, we cannot just yet. Glad you brought this up, because otherwise I’d never have known this was misleading. To clarify, here’s the passage from the Serials section.

      Payment will be similar to that for short fiction: 10k = $50, 15k= $75, 20k=$100. The maximum possible payment for a serial is $100.

      What this means is that these particular figures are the maximum $ we can pay for a story of up to that length. Just as our short fiction payout has a maximum of $25, but can be up to 5k in length. That means that the moment a story goes beyond 2.5k words, it’s reached its max payout. Below 2.5k words, however, an author gets the $.01 per word rate. So an author who subs a story of 1,234 words gets $12.34. An author who subs a 2,503 word story gets $25. And an author who subs a 4,001 word story gets $25.

      Unfair, yes, we’d agree. But for the moment, the best we can do.

      Here’s where it gets slightly complicated:
      Serial novellas must be at least 10k words, and therefore begin at a $50 mark (being twice as long as the short fiction). In each serial contract, it’s specified that anything over the 10k mark will receive an additional $.01 per word, until it reaches $75 (which happens at 12.5k). Any serial over 15k words starts out at $75, and will receive an additional $.01 per word until it reaches the $100 limit (at 17.5k). Serials are never longer than 20k, and so that’s the ultimate cap.

      So, technically speaking, the “real” rate could be as little as $.005 per word, if an author goes to the absolute limit. This is not at all an attempt on RPP’s part to get a better deal or put the squeeze on authors–simply an acknowledgment that some stories require more words than others, but are still within the bounds of both our theme and mission. If the author thinks they belong here, we want to support them as best we can.

      And that’s why the serial payout is “similar to” short fiction payout.

      I hope that answers the question, and clears the issue up for future authors, too. Thanks again, Darin!


  4. Viji

    I have written a short story of just under 5,000 words and am interested in submitting it for your review. It is a short story that progresses in six parts although not necessarily scenes as there are such within some parts. Would you allow me to submit it as a short story? I am a novice to the publishing world and apologize in advance if it were obvious.

  5. Emily

    Will you consider stories under 1,000 words?

    • Hello Emily, and thanks for your question.

      Unfortunately, we don’t run stories under 1000 words. There are a lot of really great venues around the net that accept flash fiction, though!


  6. Samantha

    Hello, after reading your guidelines, I was wondering what the preferred length for each episode of a serial is.

    • Hi Samantha! Good question, glad you brought it up.

      In theory, it doesn’t matter. The breaks need to be in a place that means both that something happened in that episode and that the reader wants to come back for more next time.

      In practice–or rather, as an ideal–the episodes would be the usual short story length. Somewhere 3-5kish seems to work well, so far.

      As a side note, it’s perfectly all right to send a novella if you think it could work as a serial, but aren’t quite how and where to break it up. If the story is a fit for RPP, we’ll work it out together.

  7. I have published my short story in my blog. It forms the first part of the serial. How would it work with you since I have it in my blog already?

  8. Samantha

    Shortly before you closed to submissions (around February 25), I submitted a query about a serial, but I never got a response. I wasn’t sure if I should resend it, since the submissions period closed, but when I saw that all serials should have gotten a response by now, I thought I should ask.

    • Hi Samantha,

      I’ve checked out the spam filters and can’t find it in the inbox anywhere–it must’ve gone astray somehow. Please resend it whenever it’s convenient for you, and I’ll make sure it doesn’t get caught up!


  9. Hello.
    I would like to be considered by you to be an illustrator. What information will I need to send?
    Thank you for considering me!

    -Tim Stewart

    • Hi Tim!

      Please send a link to your online portfolio–anywhere we can take a look at what you do and see if it matches up with one of our upcoming stories–and tell us a little bit about your experience as an illustrator.

      If you have no online presence, just drop us a query so we can okay you for sending us files, and you’ll hear back asap.

      (But since you’ve left a link to your DA here, we’ve now seen it, and have it bookmarked as a possible artist site. Drop us an email any time, though!)


  10. SeanMDavis

    Hello Ms Taylor,

    I submitted a story to you in February, entitled “First Word,” which I haven’t received a response to. I was just wondering if you had received it. Thank you.

    -Sean M Davis

    • Hi Sean,

      Ack, sorry to hear that. If you never received an acknowledgement of your submission, then it never arrived — we send each and every submission a “thanks, we got it!” email within a week of receipt.

      Unfortunately, it looks like we never got it, since we have no record of your email or a sent acknowledgment on our side. Drop us an email, or you can sit tight until the next reading period — which will be this winter.


  11. Tim J. Finn

    Does a possible serial have to be at least 10,000 words, or if it were shorter (say 7,000-8,000 words) would that be acceptable? I’m working on a vampires/hunter/strippers/semi-hardboiled urban setting story, and it might not run all the way to 10,000 words. (I don’t want to “pad” it, or maybe I can look at it as a fun challenge to “extend” it, without “padding” it). I was just wondering.
    Thank you, and good luck, most people call my writing pulply/sensationalistic.

    • Hi Tim, and thanks for your question. We don’t publish serials shorter than 10k, no. That said, we do understand that some stories just require more words than our usual, which is why this clause is in the “short fiction” section above:

      If your story is between the 5k short fiction upper limit and the 10k novella lower limit, but you think it belongs here, please query as described in the “Serials” section below.

      So it won’t be published as a serial, but we’d still be interested in seeing a query, for sure. Hope to hear from you soon.

  12. Tim J. Finn

    Thanks for your quick response. i have another, probably a little obvious that I already know the answer to question, but my I feel compelled to ask it anyway. (I do get into trouble sometimes answering those compulsions. If my story isn’t ready by the July deadline (I jugging multiple projects with similiar deadlines and I think one of them is going to be dropped), I assuming you will have other open submissions periods, and could you give any idea of the next so I can plan ahead. If I’m asking out of turn (hey, I can always check the usual and find out…duh), on this , no problem…and I don’t want to cause a problem. Just a curious semi-newbie, I guess.
    Thank you

    • Hi Tim,

      We’ll definitely have other open periods–two a year, minimum. And it’s not out of turn, we definitely welcome any and all questions either here or in our email–but here is good as it helps others too.


  13. I have a collection of vampire romance novels that have the violent/sex streak through them. They are modern day, yet the vampires have survived for hundreds of years, would you like them still, or would you prefer the old-fashioned type writings?

    • Hi Mozette,

      Unfortunately we don’t publish novels. We do the occasional serialized novella, but nothing longer than 25k.

      That said, we do modern, historical, pretty much alllll the pulp. Hope to see you here soon.

  14. Victoria Salter

    How would you go about submitting a story that is 12,563 words long here? Can someone please give me the email address to send it? How much do you have to pay to enter here?

    • Hi Victoria,

      The only stories of that length we accept are potential serials–12k is too long for our quarterly short fic issues. If your story is meant for serialization, all the info you need is in the section marked “serials” above.

      There’s never, ever a reading fee at RPP.

      Thank you for your questions!

  15. TJoyce

    Hello, I was just wondering how strict you are with the 5k word limit? I’m editing a story now and it’s being very stubborn.

    • Hi there, and thanks for checking us out! There’s definitely a provision for that case, because yeah, sometimes stories are just stubborn. Here’s the deal:

      If your story is between the 5k short fiction upper limit and the 10k novella lower limit, but you think it belongs here, please query as described in the “Serials” section below.

      Hope that helps, and hope we hear from you soon.

  16. Beau Johnson

    Dear Katey,
    Hello. I was inquiring about a submission of mine called Hands. I submitted it on July 15th of this year. I don’t know if it got lost in the shuffle but I was wondering if you had made a decision either way.
    Thank you for your time.
    Beau Johnson.

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