Art Guidelines

Please read the guidelines carefully before submitting your artwork:
  • We accept submissions from Canadians and non-Canadians.
  • We accept both existing art and proposals. Note that if you're sending in a sketch for a proposal, we still require an example of your colour work.
  • We only accept JPG files through Submittable.
  • Please include ONLY pre-existing works in colour as we print the cover in colour.
  • Include your website--we can take a look of other examples of your work.
  • We pay $400 for cover art (both pre-existing and original), plus $50 for interior art.
  • The artist owns their artwork--we only license the artwork as part of the front cover and interior of an issue.
These are important requirements we keep in mind when we look at examples of your work:
  • Our cover dimensions are 5.25 width by 8 height in inches (note that images can be scaled down to a similar ratio).
  • We incorporate the following: the On Spec logo, price and other information in an upper corner and the contributor's names.

If we feel your work fits as a cover, we will contact you to discuss using an existing artwork OR commissioning an original for the magazine. If the work appears to be unsuitable, we will likely let you know. Otherwise, we'll keep your information on file for future reference. 

On Spec Manuscript Style Sheet

Please read this sheet carefully before you submit your manuscript. These points address matters that at worst prevent us from reading your work, and at best create a bad impression of what you have written.


  • We accept submissions from Canadians and non-Canadians.
  • We pay between $50 to $200 depending on word count.
  • We accept stories up to 6,000 words. Note the required check box near the bottom of the page.
  • It goes without saying that we are looking for works of the Fantastic. You may also know it as "Speculative" fiction, where the element of the un-real is part of the character of the story, and not just an add-on. 

Files Submitted for Publication

  • Double-space (or 1.5 space) your work, please; but please pay attention to your paragraphing. Either indent with the tab key, or leave space between blocked paragraphs.
  • Times Roman or Courier fonts only.
  • Put just one space after terminal punctuation, such as periods. 
  • Do not use the "return" key at the end of each line. Carriage returns (since the days of typewriters) are just for paragraphing. 
  • Show italics as italics: First time!
  • Please show ellipses with three periods, rather than the font’s ellipsis from the Special Symbols palette, or one generated with a keyboard shortcut. Do not space between the periods.
  • If your word processor has trouble with “curly” quotation marks, which Word calls “Smart Quotes”, use the straight ones and let us sort it out. If your quotation marks are coming out backwards, change to the straight marks in your document preferences. You might have to enlarge your document to about 150% or more to check. Remember, you want them to look like “66 99” around speech.
  • If you need a dash, double hyphens are fine, but please don’t put a space before and after. Best is an em-dash (not an en-dash, please) which is a keyboard shortcut worth learning. You should look up what is correct for your platform, and for your word-processing software.


  • Put your contact information at the very beginning of the file (see the introduction to this sheet). Include your real name.
  • Bio information exactly as you want it to appear should be on a separate page at the end. In your cover letter to On Spec, please be clear about any pseudonym or pen name you would wish for authorship credit in print. 
  • Please number your pages.

Nota Bene: MS Word’s Track Changes is how we do our markup, if we accept and copyedit your story. It would be a good idea to learn how it works. If your story is accepted, our copyeditors will be glad to assist you; but a basic knowledge of the feature always helps.


  • We accept submissions from Canadians and non-Canadians.
  • We pay $50 for poetry.

What On Spec looks for in poetry submissions 

  •  Strong voices that don't  sound like  anyone else.  Original ideas would be great, too, though they're much   harder to come  by. Beautiful, startling images and language. Current and  future   science would be nice.
  •  Basically, we're interested  in contemporary  poetry. That means blank, free verse, or discursive prose  poems.

What we're NOT interested in:

  •  Rhyming poetry. If you send   Pindaric, Horatian or Cowleyan odes, pantoums, sestinas,  sonnets,  villanelles,  haiku, ghazal, or any kind of rhyming couplets --   iambics, anapestics,  dactylics, be they pentameter, tetrameter or any   other kind of rhyme scheme,  we're probably not going to like them. We'll still read them. They just won't get  published. The only exceptions we   can think of is if the poetry you've written  is better than something   written by Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Alfred Noyes,  Li Po, Mallarmé,   Baudelaire, or any of the other poets who perfected and  pretty well exhausted those earlier forms. Of course, we know you think    you're a genius but, TRUST US ON THIS ONE, if you haven't published   extensively  in magazines devoted to these traditional forms YOU'RE   PROBABLY NOT.
  •  We despise pedestrian rhymes  most of all.  This means obvious ones like moon/June,  sigh/sky, blood/flood,   dark/mark, etc. If you can't be more subtle than  this, we REALLY don't  want to  see your stuff.
  •  Antique language. One of   the things that never ceases to amaze us, when the poetry  batches come  in, is  how many people seem to think writing poetry,  especially horror  and fantasy  poetry, means you have to use antique  language. No. No.  No. If your work  contains words like "thee, thou,  hast, methinks,  begot, forsooth," or  anything of that kind, don't send  it to us. You  don't talk like that so why are you writing like  that? It's a  mannerism and poetry isn't about  mannerisms, or shouldn't  be. The  only exception is if your work is set in a  specific historical  period -  - not just "the olden days." The  "olden days" isn't a  specific  historical period. It's a feeble  generalization used by lazy  writers  who don't want to research the period  they're writing about.  And if  you do set your work in the past, then we don't  want to see  modern  words like "guys, really, cool, gross," or scientific  terms that   hadn't been invented yet creeping in, because that's just as bad.
  •  Religious poetry. If you   have strong religious feelings, that's great, but ON SPEC is a   Speculative  magazine. Send your religious poems to magazines that   specialize in that  subject.
  •  Poetry that only describes  your emotional state.  We have nothing against emotions but,  as in the previous  point, ON SPEC  is a Speculative magazine. We want  more than that. We want  speculation  and ideas. If your poem is only  about your emotions save it for  another  magazine, for your analyst,  psychologist, social worker,  friends, or family  members.  As for ideas, if you're  just pondering the mysteries of the   universe without coming to an  original (different) conclusion about it  than  anybody else, why would we  want to know about that either?

Well, as you can tell, our list of what we DO want to see is much shorter    than our list of what we don't want to see. If you want examples of the   kind of poetry  we do admire here are a few names: Al Purdy, Lorna   Crozier, Christopher Dewdney,  Gary Geddes, Alice Major, Stan Rogal,   Lillian Necakov, John Yau, Bob Perelman,  Clayton Eshleman, Lyn Lifshin,   Anne Waldman, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Bukowski,  Jim Carroll, Diane   Ackerman, and John Giorno. If you haven't heard of these poets, then you have some reading to do. 

A good guideline is to look at the anthology called Poly: New    Speculative Writing edited by Lee Ballentine, or (even though it's not   poetry)  the kind of writing in Storming The Reality Studio edited by   Larry McCaffery. And  don't try to copy them, or anybody else, because we want original stuff, remember.

Naturally you're thinking, well, that's  just the editor's  personal taste. You bet. All editors have their own personal opinions  of what they want  to  see. And our poetry editors are no different. If you don't like it, send your  poetry to   another magazine. Better yet, start your own magazine. 

If you got all the way through this without dashing off an angry tweet, by all means, send us your work. We are looking for new voices. 

On Spec Magazine