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Category: submissions

Another poem selected for “Best of the Year” collection!

A few weeks ago, a poem I submitted way back when to an independent online magazine was selected for their “Best of the Year” collection. I found out about this site last year when I was at South by Southwest. It’s a collaborative content site that posts new submissions of art, literature, poetry, and other random stuff every hour. I submitted two poems to them in the last year, and they accepted both of them, and now both of them have been featured in their “Best of the First Year” collection!

You can check it out here:

http://w5ran.com/2010/12/best-of-the-first-year-to-a-moth/

http://w5ran.com/2010/11/best-of-the-first-year-things-in-my-stuff-drawer/

I must be New Years resolved to write more stuff in 2011!

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The winding Internet road

Do you ever start at one place on the internet and end up on a completely different place, with only vague recollection of how you got there?

Today, I was late at work waiting for some other people to provide some stuff for me, so while I was waiting, I decided to catch up on some Google reader. As much as I try to stay up on what’s going on in the industry, it’s really tough, and I often fail. Still, there are a few choice sites that I like to make sure I’m always up on. One of them is midlist thriller writer J.A. Konrath’s blog – A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. I rarely read an entire post end-to-end, because they are often long and I am lazy, but I was entranced by this one. If you’ve dealt with anyone offering you a book deal, which I have and to this day am SO glad I declined, even though I am a nobody, take 5 minutes and read this post. It’s a lot of fun.

After I read the entire post, I did something else I almost never do – I left a comment, and took some time to read some of the other comments. I typically avoid these because I get overly emotionally involved in comment arguments between strangers hiding behind the safety net of anonymity the internet affords and my temper starts flaring. These things never matter, so it’s usually just best I leave them alone. I once read 3 pages worth of comments on an article about Uggs. People have some seriously strong pro-Ugg and con-Ugg opinions. Despite my general avoidance of comment spaces, I decided to troll the comments on this post for A) other writers and industry professionals I can follow on Twitter and B) to see what the response was on this very flagrant post.

One of the comments left was this:

Hi — love the post! I’m an author and I run a small independent publishing company (Bucks County Publishing) and we are primarily involved in paperbacks but we do eBooks too… it is a side thing really because the overhead is so little to do it. We price all of our full length eBook novels at $2.99 and anything shorter is $1.99. Simple pricing. It is ridiculous that these publishing companies want to gauge the customer OR kill the medium…. or both.

I, too, am an author, and I love small independent publishing companies. So I decided to check out their site, and see if they were accepting submissions, because I am a predatory author. As it turns out, they are, and as far as I can tell, it would be a really really good fit for me and my work. Then again, I’ve thought that about lots of book publishers I’ve submitted to who have summarily rejected me. Still, what luck to just find this by link-jumping on the internets. Then, I got to thinking about other neat things I’ve stumbled upon by random internet jumping…

Line Zero: I heard about this new print journal on Twitter. They were looking for submissions for their first issue, I submitted, and I got accepted. Really, I just lucky at the right time with the right journal.

LinkedIn is notorious for sending me down these weird internet paths. Somehow I got from a friend’s LinkedIn page to Smashwords, and that’s how I found out about them. I am still evaluating whether I want to take the ebook self-pub route, but if and when I do, this will be how I do it.

Rose City Sisters: Another Twitter find. The site editor started following me on Twitter, put out the call for submissions, I threw a flash fiction thing together, and decided it would be a good venue for getting some flash fiction practice under my belt. They’ve posted 2 of my stories since.

The volunteer thing I didn’t get: Another stumbly motion on Twitter.

Oh, and I guess I should mention that I found J.A. Konrath’s blog when I was doing some research for a post on this site regarding my distaste for SASEs.

So, if we’re counting, three of my publications came from internet-winding, even if they’re on independent sites and journals. If the Bucks County Publishing people publish me, that’ll make four. Not too bad for just messing around on the internet and finding the right opportunities at opportune moments. Maybe I should just set aside an hour a week for internet “creative space.”

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The submission withdrawal process, round 3

I got my first short story accepted for publication, which is super fantastic, but always comes with the horrible chore of withdrawing the manuscript from everywhere else you sent it that hasn’t rejected it yet. The first time I found out a poem of mine was getting published, I was completely overwhelmed by how much work it was to complete this chore, and how rude some of the publications were. Last time around, I got some interesting responses, including the following:

  • “Umm… we don’t have your stuff.” Hmmm… that probably means I put it in an envelope and was too cheap to mail it off. My bad.
  • “How dare you! We don’t accept simultaneous submissions!”  Oops… I must not have read the fine print. But you really should if you want work from real writers.
  • “Mail daemon: undeliverable.” Update your mail server if you want submissions.

This time around, I was much more prepared. I made sure I read the fine print over again for everyone I sent to, to make sure I hadn’t been violating their rules in the first place. I also prepared an email template, so I wouldn’t have to think about what to write every time. So I was both mentally and resourcefully prepared. These are my findings from this round of submission withdrawal:

  1. It was far, far easier than last time. I had sent my poems to about 3 times as many people as I had this manuscript, which significantly lessened the chore.
  2. I had sent this manuscript to a total of 18 publications. Of those 18, 1 accepted it, 6 rejected it, and 11 still had it under consideration.
  3. The range of dates for submission were from March to September.
  4. Of the 11 who still had it under consideration, the longest period was 7 months.
  5. One of the publications who I had still recorded as pending had rejected me without notification.
  6. I was able to withdraw 4 submissions myself using an online manager.
  7. I had to email 6 of the publications I had submitted to.
  8. There was only one snail mail submission that I had forgotten to mail, and I knew it without having an embarrassing response email.

Lesson learned: keep good track of your submissions, and be prepared when you get lucky and one of them picks it up.

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A whole new level of rejection

Today was a roller coaster day in the world of my writing. I had a poem get picked up W5RAn, and got some good positive feedback. It’s always a good feeling when I write something, think it’s okay, then come back to it and think, “Man, that’s really good!” Dramatic distance really is a very difficult thing to achieve.

Then later in the day I heard back about a volunteer job I applied for. It was a slush reader position at a new online magazine for young adult science fiction/fantasy. I didn’t get the job.

I heard it about by chance, on Twitter, after I wrote a post about the latest piece I’ve been working on, which is kind of a magical realism, mock-sci-fi piece. I decided to follow the #sff tag I included and happened upon a tweet about the position. I followed the link and read up on what they were looking for.

  • Someone willing to volunteer
  • Someone willing to read 6-8 stories a week
  • Someone who could write concise reports about the stories

That was pretty much it. I was immediately interested, because it would be a great resume builder, and it’s always satisfying to support new literary ventures. I grabbed my Moleskine and thought of all the ways I would be perfect for the job. I love to read, I am very familiar with the submission process, I am willing to volunteer, I write concise reports for a living, I’ve judged lots and lots of writing contests, etc. I even threw in some zingers – said I’d be willing to represent the magazine at SXSW 11, talked about my bachelor’s degree in fiction writing, discussed my copy editing experience in college, blah blah blah.  Maybe I’m just an optimist, but I seriously thought I would be a shoe-in. The editor also followed me on Twitter the day after I applied, so I thought I had it in the bag. I was really looking forward to it –  a great resume builder and a good way to give back. Yeah, I’d probably have to read a lot of crap, but then I’d probably also get a taste for how people feel when they read my submissions and could improve accordingly.

So I was really disappointed when I got the all-too-familiar “not what we’re looking for at this time” email. Not even a “we were seriously interested in you” email. Just a standard old “dear author”.  I mean, I did see that they had a higher level of interest than they expected, but I didn’t anticipate that a world of skilled people just willing to give up some time would be applying.  It kind of makes me wonder what level of people were vying for this unpaid position. I’ve been pretty well desensitized to submission rejections, but this one hit me like a whack to the head. Okay, so sci-fi/fantasy isn’t my favorite genre ever, which I was up front about, but I enjoy writing of all kinds, even SFF. I figure they must have just had some really really impressive people apply, or this is a blatant case of Kellyism.

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Screw you, spell check! Oh wait, that IS how you spell Wednesday…

Tonight I was plugging away at some submissions/future rejections, and I noticed something both disturbing and embarrassing.  It has been over 3 months since I moved, and I got tired of manually typing my new address, and I figured it was probably time to give the query letter templates the once over anyway.

The query letter for The Redheaded Stepchild misspelled protagonist. The query letter for Two Steps Forward misspelled Forward. Twice. And it’s in the title. It also referenced The Other Dentenia Zickafoose when it should not have. It’s no wonder these magazines have dismissed without a second thought. That, and “I’m not what they’re looking for.”

There are few things I hate worse than writing query letters. I’m sure many of my fellow writers feel the same pain. We’re writers; we want our work to speak for itself. I have part of marketing degree, and I still hate marketing myself. So I spend some time trying to say what I want to say, and save it to a template so I don’t have to think about it every time. Apparently, I’ve been too lazy with this as of late, and as much as I hate, I know that a good query letter is important and a necessarily evil on the route to being a novelist. I encourage all you writers out there to spend 15 minutes to take a look at your query letters, just to make sure they are in tip-top shape. And that the title of your piece is not misspelled.

I am equally annoyed when I see outdated or incorrect information on a publisher’s website, or worse, a 404 or a bounced email.  Since most literary journals are run by colleges, I know they don’t accept submissions during the summer.  News flash – it’s back to school time, so you’re probably accepting submissions again. And if your submission banner reads “We are currently not accepting submissions. We will begin accepting submissions in July 2010” and it is now September 2010, there is something wrong with that.  If you say your next edition is coming April 2010, it should be posted by April 30, not still hanging around as a “coming soon” in November. You want me to not be lazy, do my due diligence, see what kind of work you typically publish and then craft my query letters accordingly? Do yours. Update your goddamn website.

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Findings from 2011 Writer’s Market: the economy sucks.

I’ve been deeply entrenched in the process of moving, and had an adventure on moving day that is definitely short story-worthy, but slightly before that I received the 2011 edition of the Writer’s Market for my birthday. I have only perused it a couple of times since I took it out of the Amazon box, but two things in particular struck me about what I have seen:

  1. There were a lot more markets last year. Sure, there are a few new ones, but it’s pretty obvious that the shitty economy has hit publications hard, even the ones who don’t pay, which is almost all of them. Which brings me to two…
  2. Some of the markets that were paying last year (as indicated by the $ icon) are not paying this year. The interesting question to ask here is – are they not paying because they can’t afford to, or are they not paying because they don’t have to?

Let’s face it, the editors of these publications know they are not going to be financing anyone’s lifestyle by paying for their work. Sure, your New Yorkers and Atlantic Monthlies are going to keep paying writers because they want the gourmet stuff and because they have the readership and subscriptions to pay for it. But your Northern Oregon Literary Reviews know that writers have options. They can post their stuff for free anywhere. It’s the prestige of being an author published in an actual literary journal that writers are really seeking, not the money. So why pay for it? Here’s a short list of jobs at which you could make more money than poet submitting to literary magazines:

  • Lemonade stand attendant
  • NFL cheerleader
  • 10-year old receiving allowance
  • Street beggar

But the ways writers get noticed and make money is changing fast, and these journals are starting to pay attention, which means some of them are running scared, while others are rising to the challenge. Anyone want to take bets on whether there will be a Writer’s Market in 2021?

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Cullenitis

At the risk of sounding like a literary snob, I must admit publicly that I have not read many of the series that have become more popular than Molly Ringwald’s characters in 80s movies.

The Twilight Series I have not read this because I have no interest in vampire fiction for teens, and it stuns me that something so contrived could become so successful in such a short time.

Harry Potter Again, I always saw this as a series for children and fantasy is not a genre I enjoy. Still, when’s the last time people waited in line for a book?

The DaVinci Code and similar ilk by Dan Brown. I never got into this because mystery thrillers have never really done it for me.

But the more I think about these wildly popular series that I have never troubled myself to read, the more I think there may be another reason behind the self-important one I believe is me fighting against perceived mediocrity. I think I am jealous of the success of these books in spite of their literary value.

Granted, I don’t know if they actually are devoid of literary value, because I have never read them. For all I know, they could be highly visceral works filled with sardonic wit. I doubt it, but it’s possible. I’m also not trying to imply that if it’s not Tolstoy or Milton I won’t read it. In fact, the opposite is true. I try to sandwich my classic reading with something lighter and more mainstream. Love in the Time of Cholera was like a Dagwood sandwich whose contents I thought I would never finish devouring, but was bookended with a Judy Blume novel and something equally as light and enjoyable. I’m also definitely not trying to imply that anything I write equals the literary value of Updike or Vonnegut, but like it, it doesn’t fit into a nice little genre like Twilight, Harry Potter, or The DaVinci Code. I think that’s something that literary fiction writers struggle with a lot –  trying to answer the question “So what kind of book is it?”

I have therefore resolved myself to read the aforementioned works to try and figure out what makes them so ferociously popular, instead of seething at them. Be warned – I will likely be reading these very conspicuously.

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Smashwormazonapple

Lately my RSS feed has been completely overwhelming with information about how the world of publishing is changing for new authors and how the world of traditional publishing and book printing is slowly going the way of the buffalo. So much so, in fact, that I am befuddled by what road I should take in the publishing of my book.

I read about Smashwords some time ago and thought it was the most innovative thing to happen to publishing since the online submission manager. As a geek in my day job and a fan of open source software, I liked Smashwords’ willingness to use open file formats and shun DRM. In a different way, I also respected their position that they would let anyone (yes, anyone) publish using their services, because they believed that good writing has a way of standing on its own and rising to the top. As writers, we always want to let our work speak for itself on the basis of its merit, but end up having to market ourselves as a circle that fits into a square peg. I even liked the founders’ story of how they tried and tried, and failed and failed, to get published the traditional way. And the best thing, Smashwords is free. Pretty cool, huh?

But then the more I looked around, the more I realized it’s not the only service of its kind out there.  There are loads. Now more than ever, authors have a chance to call their own shots instead of hoping for a deal, any deal, even a shitty one, from a traditional publisher. Amazon has its own service for self-publishing, and just last week, even Apple (yes, THE Apple) announced they would be offering similar services. Granted, you have to have a new Mac, an iTunes account, some spare cash laying around for an ISBN, and be okay with having your work laced with DRM; but hey, it’s a service for authors, and you’ve got the giant that is iTunes out there pimping your stuff.

The more I learn about all the different options available to me, the less sure I am of which direction I want to go next:

  1. Do I keep stuffing envelopes and spending a small fortune on postage trying to get a traditional book deal?
  2. Do I give the middle finger to the traditional publishing industry and jump on the new self-e-publishing wave?
  3. Do I strike some kind of middle ground?
  4. Do I follow another direction I haven’t even looked into yet?

I don’t really know. Awhile back when I was writing the post about SASEs, I came across this blog ran by a midlist horror author who has seen a great deal of success being at the forefront of ebook publishing, both through traditional and nontraditional means. His insight has astounded me, and made me wish I had more time to keep up with the changing face of the industry, although with the rate at which things are changing my guess is not even the absence of a full-time job could help me do that (plus, I kind of need my full-time job).

About the only things I know for sure – One, I should probably get an agent. I really need someone whose full time job DOES entail keeping up with industry trends. Two, when hell freezes over and I finally do get someone willing to take a chance on my book, they’ll have to pry my digital rights from my dead fingers. Three, I should write a marketing plan for my book. More and more, authors have the onus of marketing and promotion, and I should probably know how to answer when someone asks me how I plan to help market my work. Besides, I haven’t written a marketing plan since college and the practice couldn’t hurt. I also happen to be friends with the Kansas City area marketer of the year who I can probably rope into helping me. Four, I need to keep editing. My book is never as ready as I think it is.

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Why living as a writer is impossible, part III: because there is no money

In past posts on this subject, I discussed various reasons a serious living as a writer is a pipe dream: the SASE, simultaneous submissions, and there are many more to come. But today I’m going to discuss the real reason, outside all the others, that making a living as a writer is impossible. Because publications don’t pay.

Seriously. People get their start in writing by stuffing envelopes and stocking up on rejection letters. But the places you send your work don’t pay artists. Your compensation is your name in print. Or HTML. Some publications claim they pay their authors in copies (i.e. you get 2 free copies of the publication your piece of work will appear in).

While it may seem generous, copies of single issues usually run under $20, which amounts to about a $40 value you can’t put in the bank. And if it’s an acceptance by a publisher that does not accept simultaneous submissions, it’s $40 worth of goods in one year. While I’d welcome paying taxes on a $40 annual income, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even survive if I were living in my parents’ basement.

Here are some of the disclaimers about nonpayment from some literary magazines:

  • “We are unable to pay for work.”
  • Payment is in contributor’s copies.”
  • We pay in copies, plus $5 a page.”
  • “Contributors receive a print copy of the issue in which they appear.”

There’s never been any debate that writing is a labor of love, but with writer payments like these, this just proves it.

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