October 2nd, 2010
|10:11 pm - Dear Author....|
Today, I'm coming to you with my editor hat on. Admittedly, it's not a great editor hat; it's barely broken in, still chafes at times, and may or may not have a price tag hidden under the brim. But it's an editor hat.
In the course of reading submissions for an anthology, I received a story. No big deal. Well-written, but ... Well, let's say for the sake or argument that I was looking for three particular things in every story. A theme, a kind of content, and a kind of tone. The guidelines were very clear about this. And this story failed on 2 1/2 of those criteria. It lacked everything I said I wanted, even if I was being generous. So I rejected it.
"But Michael," you say, "that's pretty much a normal thing for the slush pile. People don't get it. They don't read guidelines. You chuck them out the door and move to the next one."
Yes, that's what you do. I rejected the story and that was that. Until the author wrote me back to thank me for the reply ... and said "No harm in trying."
No harm? I suppose not. No real harm. I'm not going to burn down your house for a bad story, or blacklist you, or have your dog kidnapped and sent to Siberia. No one suffered injury, the world didn't slow down for even a second, and that black hole's no closer to swallowing us all. But mark my words, there was harm. Potential harm to your career.
Editors remember these things. This author will forever more be "That guy who sent me a story that was utterly incompatible with my needs because he didn't really care about the guidelines, suitability, or market." I might not remember him specifically, but the name will likely ring a bell if it turns up again.
Editors talk. We're only human, we gossip about the good, the bad, and the spectacular flame-outs. How many times do you pull this sort of thing before you get a rep as "The guy who flings trunk stories at any market that stands still, but doesn't know how to read guidelines, and doesn't care?"
Editors get around. Sooner or later, you'll end up doing this to an editor, who might move into a position where you need that goodwill, and it'll be lacking. Say goodbye to that market for your first novel.
"But Michael," you say, "these are all worst case scenarios, and certainly you're exaggerating and over-blowing it."
Perhaps so. But still, dear author, don't be that guy. Don't be the one who fails at meeting every single criteria laid out on the guidelines. Or I'll mock you again. In French.
Current Mood: geeky
Hell I already have three people on such a list--though none of them disregarded submission guidelines. More like, they were all utter asshats to me, and one even called me some misogynistic slurs. Fun times!
Some people don't just burn bridges, they dynamite them and film it for posterity.
This is the closest thing I have to an LOL icon
And then salt the ground after!
Oh, yeah. Nothing wrong with a quick, polite, professional, and/or friendly note to the editor, as appropriate to your relationship with them, letting them know you appreciate their work. Editors also remember people who are professional and cooperative. :>
There's nothing wrong with trunk stories, persay, IF they're appropriate. If I'm editing Like A Cold, Dead Hand: Erotic Zombie lesbian stories, and for whatever reason, you -have- an erotic lesbian zombie story sitting around, it's fine to send it in. But that doesn't mean send in your Ayn Rand gay werewolf pastiche instead....
Hm. I need to stop getting ideas.
I kid, I kid.
If someone writes a gay werewolf Ayn Rand pastiche, I will disavow all knowledge of ever voicing these words.
Cecilia says Circlet won't do a zombie erotica book. I say she just hasn't seen the right proposal yet. Muahahahahahaha.
Keep at her. When I first started working there she said we'd never do horror but then as you saw at the retreat she green lighted the erotic horror anthology. :) Just show her the facts and numbers supporting that such an anthology would be fruitful.
Let's see if I can survive Like A Cunning Plan first. :> Though if someone else takes up the zombie championing flag in the meantime, I'll happily pitch in on brainstorming ways to make it Circlet-worthy. I like a challenge.
Griffin's already done a collection of zombie romance: HUNGRY FOR YOUR LOVE, edited by Lori Perkins. It's just a small step from there ...
I was so, so nervous of being That Person when I first started submitting to a lot of places, I read the guidelines for everything near obsessively. Often two or three times. Probably not a bad habit, all in all; I'm no longer as nervous, but damn if I'm not still careful.
And yeah, if I were an editor, I'd remember the name of someone who wasted my time through simple carelessness and then didn't seem to see anything wrong with that.
You're aces in my book. :>
I kind of love you right now for this. Do you mind if I link it a few places?
By all means, feel free to share. I figure it's one of those things which needs to be said every now and again for the good of humanity.
I'm afraid I've been that author, in terms of being on the fence about how well a story fits a a theme and deciding that it couldn't hurt to try. I do TRY to find good fits, and to be otherwise professional to work with.
There's that balance between "maybe this fits the theme, so let's see how close we are" and "hmmm, if you squint at my story in a dark room, while it's wearing a pointy hat and fake moustache, it might possibly work, but if you turn on the lights, you'll see it has no pants."
The offender in this case clearly didn't even realize what sort of market I was reading for. :)
This is a really excellent post. I've read a few of these sorts of good posts lately, on various writing and editing topics. Makes me want to write about writing on my LJ, even if I have less to say right now than some who have been in the industry longer than I have. Anyway, good on ye, and thanks!
As I see it, I don't know much (compared to long-time editors and writers) but common sense and a little experience go a long way. And as I've learned, even a couple publications can make a world of difference compared to those who have yet to make their first sale, so why not share what advice we can? Because while writing is highly, extremely competitive in terms of market space and so on, we all benefit when some really good writer finally breaks in and their career takes off.
I'm a big fan of good new writers, because it gives me new stuff to read. :)
I eagerly await the day when you can confirm you're networking with the master
Was the half criteria that he got right that something sexy/porny happened?