When I started out as a writer, I went to work with short stories. There are tons of markets to share my stories with. When I got my first form letter rejection, I wasn’t surprised. I’d known rejection was part of the game and I had been warned that most markets use the Form Letter for rejections. The question no one could really answer clearly was: Why?
I’d first been told it was because of the sheer volume of submissions. Which I wasn’t sure about since I didn’t think it took but two seconds more to tell me why I was rejected.
I was told it has to do with editor policy. Which is true, but doesn’t really answer the why.
I was told it was just the industry standard. Again true, but not really why.
The point is, every writer danced around the topic because frankly none really knew why. We just accepted it as the way of the writing world, and went with it. After all there really isn’t anything any of us can do to change it, unless we all just stopped sending in submissions. But I’m not going to stop sending in submissions over the type of rejection I get.
I’ve been running Plasma Frequency now for five months and we’ve put out two issues. And up until yesterday we offered personal rejections on every submission. Even as our large volume of submission came in, we continued to provide personal rejection letters. Why did we do that? I thought that was what writers wanted. They wanted to be told why their story was rejected. They wanted to learn from the rejections. They wanted to know if the editor even finished manuscript. And if not, why. So I thought, lets tell them.
The problem is this. Authors don’t really want to know. Not truly. When they find out from the editor that the opening was boring, it upsets them more than the form letter did. When an editor say the manuscript wasn’t formatted and submitted correctly, they get aggravated they were rejected on a technicality. When the editor says the story was great but doesn’t fit the publication, they get mad that the publication doesn’t accept “great” stories.
I realize this is an over generalization. I get upset at personal rejection from time to time, but I really appreciate that they took the time to tell me why. And in the end, like most writers, I just move on. I fix the problem, or don’t, and send it off to the next place.
The problem is that there are a significant number of authors who are not professional enough to move on. They have to say something back. Those authors should read my blog post, “Inside an Editor’s Mind (Tips for Writers)”. The problem is they are rarely correct in their anger, and it is almost always misplaced.
My staff and I have been threatened, cursed at, CAP LOCKED, and cyber bullied. I already nearly lost one editor because of it. Here are some of the things we’ve gotten back from authors.
“Well you would know about “overly sexual” you whore.”
“I will find everything any of you have ever written and I will ensure everyone I know rates it as poorly as possible.”
“You can suck my dick!”
“I consider myself above your petty opinions.”
“You must be sleeping with the Lead Editor to get your job.”
“I will tell everyone about your lack of professionalism.”
“YOU CAN ALL EAT SHIT!”
“You are by far one of the UGLIEST people I’ve seen.”
“I will find you and you will regret rejecting ME.”
Your first thought might be that we are doing something wrong. That we are rude in our personal rejection. But I discovered I am not the only one getting this behavior, we just rarely talk about it.
John Joseph Adams, editor for Lightspeed, and in my opinion one of the better editors in the business recently tweeted: “This week, have been both called a “tool” for rejecting someone & had a writer reply “FUCK YOU!!!” Still so surprising when people do this.”
While he is one of the only ones I know to publicly say so, many other editors have privately shared the same types of stories. Writers who complain about how unprofessional we are, while writing to us in an unprofessional manner. Frankly it is embarrassing to writers as a whole, and if we editors wanted to be truly unprofessional we’d share with you their names so you could rise up against them. Because the fact remains that the main reason editors stop providing personal rejections is because of the abuse that writers like these give us.
The problem here is the professional divide. There are many websites warning writers of bad editors. Editors that take advantage of writers. There should be. There are also plenty of people who take to the internet in persecution of an editor or a company simply because of a rejection letter. That is not right. I personally have yet to find a website that warns editors of unprofessional writers. Writers who say things that I’ve mentioned above.
Why? We have to take the high road. We have to be professional and accept that is is part of our job. We are trying to give our opinions to help you understand why your story didn’t make the cut. They are our opinions. We are then persecuted, bullied, and abused for giving those opinions. We just wanted to help. It makes many editors quit. And as their boss, I can’t really allow it to happen. We can take limited steps to protect ourselves, such as switching to form rejection. That is why we, at Plasma Frequency, stopped providing personal rejections to first read rejections. We hope to continue to provide them to second and third read rejections. Hopefully the writers at that level can handle our opinions.
Once again, I recognize that most writers don’t behave this way. This might come off as a bit of rant. And in a way it is.But the point is, it is my opinion that many publications use form letters simply because of the abuse the get if they used personal rejections.
Of course, as an editor I still very much respect writers. I am thankful for the submissions we get. I couldn’t run my magazine with out them. I’ll likely still send out a few personal rejections to those who might appreciate the opinion.
Last week I blogged about the different types of publishers. Well over the last week, mainly the last two days, there is a blog post that is going viral in the writing community. I thought I would talk a little bit about it, and in this community we all want to learn from each other (even our mistakes).
Mandy DeGeit published a post called “When Publishing Goes Wrong…Starring Undead Press“. If you haven’t read it, please do. The language is strong but if this happened to me, mine would be too. In short, Mandy wrote a story called “She makes me smile” and it was excepted by Undead Press for their anthology Cavalcade of Terror. Needless to say, Mandy rushed to read her work in this anthology. She opened it up to find the title had a typo (adding an apostrophe where there shouldn’t be one). I wish it ended there. However the editor took out whole chunks of her narrative and even added a very poorly written paragraph. Not to mention adding a gender to a genderless character.
Mandy contacted the publisher, which is a one man company run by Anthony Giangregorio (who also runs Open Casket Press and Living Dead Press), and she received a very unprofessional response. One that included vague legal threats. It appears this is not the only unprofessional issue he has had. It appears a soon to be released Anthology World’s Collider had some issues as well (read about those here).
Long story short this was a very bad press, run by someone without much skill in the area of business relations. It is a very unfortunate thing but fortunately writers and other independent presses have risen up to effectively cause some disturbances to Mr. Giangregorio’s businesses. On the heals of DeGeit’s post, Undead Press announced it would only be accepting submissions from authors living in the United States (DeGeit lives in Canada). I’m sorry Mr. Giangregorio, nation of residency had nothing to do with this. Today, as I write this blog, I can no longer seem to find Undead press on Facebook. Thanks to authors everywhere taking action and declaring this unfair and wrong, we can all hope Mr. Giangregorio doesn’t do business again. I encourage you to read Mandy’s article and then tweet it, post it, and reblog it until we see nothing more of Giangregorio.
Your first thought might be to steer clear of independent presses all together. While I can’t speak for DeGeit, I don’t think that was the intentions of her post. It was a warning beacon to us all to carefully check out an editor and publisher before doing business with them. I still champion smaller presses, in fact I am starting a magazine of my own, but we all have to be aware of what to look out for when we get ready to be published. Here are some tips:
- Research the publisher before submitting. See what they publish. See if they have had any complaints. If they are a new publisher, that is not a red flag. Red flags include multiple name changes, no contracts to sign, poor reviews by other authors, and negative ratings on social sites.
- You take no risk by submitting your work to a publisher. Remember, until you sign the contract you can walk away at any time. If something doesn’t feel right, you don’t agree with wording in an acceptance, or if you just don’t like their publication any longer, you can walk away. And you should. No publisher, at least the good ones, want you to commit to something you are not comfortable with. It is easy to be excited over that acceptance letter, but don’t let your excitement blind you.
- Read the entire contract for yourself. Read every section of the contract word for word. Look for things that are either vague or overly complicated. Make sure the contract is something you can live with before you sign it. If not, ask the company to make changes to it. If they can accommodate you, or at least meet you half way, most publishers will try. If they can’t or won’t you can walk away.
- Editing is important. Nearly every contract has an editing clause in it. It should only allow for punctuation, grammar, and formatting. There should always be a line in there that says something to the nature of “All other changes must be agreed to in writing.”
- Always make sure payment terms are laid out. When will you be paid, how much you will be paid, and how you will be paid should all be spelled out. Typically pay times range from the day you sign the contract to 30 days after publication.
- When working with a publisher, MONEY SHOULD ALWAYS FLOW IN THE DIRECTION OF THE WRITER. That means no reputable publisher will ever charge you any fees to publish with them. Bottom line, no excuses. They pay you for your talent and that is it. I can’t stress this enough. Do not pay a publisher a dime, or even a cent!
- Rights is another important area on the contract. First Print and First Electronic rights are common (meaning your story is first being published with them). Rights typically last for only 365 days on short stories (with an option to extend say for a yearly anthology). Anything longer than that seems outrageous to me.
- Keep copies of any emails, letters, or other correspondence you have with the staff of the publisher. This may be very important if something comes to dispute. Keep a file cabinet for that stuff.
- It is not uncommon for an editor to ask for changes to be made. Usually this is done before acceptance and contract signing (in the form of a rewrite request). You don’t have to rewrite it and you don’t have to resubmit it to them even if you do rewrite it. If you don’t like their changes don’t change it. If requests are done after contract signing, you should be the only one to rewrite your story. Again, all parties should have to agree to this in writing per the contract.
- Know your opt out clauses. Know certain situation where it is okay for either you or the publisher to choose not to publish any longer. This could be a mutual withdrawal, such as if publisher and writer can not agree on a change. Or there could be other clauses thrown in there (don’t sign the contract if you don’t like it).
- I may have said this before, but if there is no contract then DO NOT PUBLISH, with them. Contracts are in place to protect you, just as much as they are there to protect the publisher.
Most independent publishers are reputable businesses that work to help writers reach the goal of being published. They share the desire to entertain readers. Every now and then a publisher surfaces that needs to be stopped. That is when we as writers and publishers unite to keep the problems out. I have to thank Mary DeGeit for being bold enough to share this and sound the alarm. I’d like to thank everyone else for taking her story and sharing it everywhere they can.
A lot has gone on since I wrote my January Updates in the first part of January. There are new announcements and progress reports to share. Let’s get started, shall we.
On February 5th, I finished the first draft of my still untitled novel. It game is at just over 67,000 words and only took forty seven days start to finish. As I mentioned before, I didn’t write everyday. Life gets in the way sometimes. So, it took 21 days of writing. I am pleased to be finished, but now the real work starts. There are many other steps ahead and I will probably start the self editing in March.
I did write a January short story. I put it out for critiques and the overwhelming response is that it seems unfinished. I originally wrote it with a quick little idea, thinking a flash piece. But it seems it needs some expanding. The problem is, I am not sure where I will go from here. We will see.
Daddy is Tired, the children’s picture book, is still waiting on the illustrator. So, unfortunately there is no cover art to show you yet. I also don’t think a March release will happen either. The lead time from the publisher is lengthy. So, perhaps April. The illustrator has told me she will be staying up late tomorrow and hopes to finish then. Official release dates will be announced as soon as I have them.
I’ve done a lot of reading since I finished Shining in Crimson by Robert S. Wilson. I read Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card and The NanoTech Murders by Lee Gimenez (review here). Right now I am reading I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. I know it is amazing that I have not read this book yet, not sure why I never got to it but I am reading it now. Once I finish that, I will have to head back to the book store.
I’m planning a move any day now. I plan to move back to Vacaville, my hometown here in California. I’m living just up the road in a neighboring city right now. We moved here for cheaper rent, but we miss home (even with it being so close) and we hope to move before March 1st. But, that may not be possible. It all depends on if we hear back from the applications we have put in.
Well, that’s the updates for February. We’ll have to touch base on these again in March. Hopefully then I will have release dates and other fun stuff to share.
Well, in my post “Distractions” I talked about setting a writing goal. Part of that commitment to writing more was to share the journey with you. So, once a month, I am going to give you some updates on how my writing has gone. I’ll also touch on some of the other projects I have going.
First lets talk about writing. I made a commitment that I would try to write 1,000 words a day. Honestly there have been a few days where I didn’t write at all (six days actually). But considering we had the Holidays in that time, I am okay with that. However, there were a lot of days were I wrote a lot. I even had some great days, this past Friday I almost got 10,000 words. On the days I wrote I averaged over 2,000 words. I’ve been posting my daily word counts on Twitter (when I write). I have written just over 38,000 words.
None of this counts the writing I do here. While I love getting the blog to your guys. I even had a very successful post on self-publishing. But, this word count has gone directly into my novel. You may remember I have set a goal of one short story a month and one novel a year. I haven’t thought of a short story for January yet, so I may be a little behind on that. But, the novel is coming along well.
I have a children’s book my oldest son (he was five when we wrote it, six now) and I wrote together. The status on it’s publication is still a bit in limbo. I have an illustrator working on the drawings. The backgrounds are all done, and the characters have slowly been put in the scenes. But, the next part is all the coloring. She just had a baby, so of course that slows things down. Fingers crossed for a March release, but I haven’t set any dates yet. It is the hope that by the time I do the Updates for February I can show you the cover art and announce an official release date.
I think those of you with kids will enjoy it, and likely relate with it. It also embodies the joy of working on a project with your own child and sharing in an art you both can enjoy. In any case, “Daddy is Tired” will be a joy to read for parents and young children learning to read.
I still have two short storied for 2011 out at different markets. They will make their rounds until they are published. I will of course announce that right away on both Twitter and Facebook. Once I start turning out short stories monthly, I will be really glad to Duotrope to help track where they all are.
As far as my reading goes, it has been put on hold with the holidays. I am currently reading the novel Shining in Crimson. As some of you know I read this when it was still a draft to help Robert S. Wilson with my thoughts on the novel. I am excited about reading the completed work, and have found he left in all the good parts (so far). I don’t have a novel on this list for once I am done reading this one. So, a trip to the book store may be in my future. Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card is set to release in a few days, that will certainly be on my list. You can always follow what I am reading by becoming a fan on Goodreads.
I still get my daily dose of short fiction from Daily Science Fiction. But, I am way behind on my issues of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. I haven’t even opened the Nov/Dec issue and the Jan/Feb should be coming any day. Perhaps I will take a break from novels and catch up on those. We will see.
My short story “Death Watch” has been nominated for two awards in 2011. I am very please with this. First, of all this is my very first published short story. It was only the second one I had ever written and the first one considered Flash Fiction (under 1,000 words). You can still read it at Liquid Imagination by clicking here.
The first nomination it got was for the Micro Awards. The announcement on that won’t come until the very end of February. It will be judged by a panel of judges and we will see how it does.
The second nomination came as a complete surprise. It was nominated in the Preditors and Editors 2011 Readers poll. There are a lot of good works there. I was reading and voting through the categories when I got to Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories. And there was “Death Watch” listed. I about jumped out of my seat. I was honored to find that I was even nominated.
Because it is a poll, it is done based on voting. I am even more pleased to announce it has been in first and second place for a good portion of the polling. Polling ends January 10th. Please, go place a vote here. It only takes a minute and I would appreciate it.
I think the last thing I will bring up isn’t directly related to writing. I used to own a business, and I am dying to get back into owning one again. I have been contemplating many different things, but another Security Company is not one of them. I have been in the industry for a while, but the big companies really have locked the start ups out of the business. Perhaps if I had clients set before I got started, I might consider it.
So that is the updates for you this month. I will continue to post my weekly blog posts on a variety of topics. Please subscribe to my blog to receive email updates on when I post.
Recently I found out that my short story “Death Watch” was nominated for the Preditors and Editors Best of 2011 Award in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Short story category.
The Preditors and Editors Award is based on votes. So please take a moment to vote. Voting is easy. “Death Watch” is listed alphabetically. Select it and scroll to the bottom. Fill in your name and email. If you wish you can leave a comment for other voters. Then click the submit button. Then they will email you and you verify your vote by clicking the link in the email. Done.
Thank you! Thank You to all those who already voted!
Click Here to vote
Click Here to Read “Death Watch”
I haven’t mentioned this much, maybe a few posts here and there, but I love video games. Like many people in my generation, I have grown up with the video game industry. As it has grown so have I. I started with Mario on the NES, and this week I began playing Battlefield 3 for my PC. That is a lot of growth in a short amount of time.
Just like writing, I don’t have as much time for games as I used to. In life, you have to make time for the things you love to do. So I make time for the games when I can. And, of course, when a new game I love comes out (such as Battlefield 3) I tend to spend a lot of time with it. And, while getting my butt kicked last night, I thought a lot about my uncontested favorite video games: Tomb Raider. It got me thinking about a different aspect of video game evolution. So this morning, I figured I better get this blog out now before I started in on the Battlefield.
Its easy to notice the evolution of graphics, controls, consoles, or even the sheer size of the games. But, story telling has almost become a requirement in the video game world. Take a look at the original Mario Bros., a game that is still great today, but really tells a limited story. Scroll Right and save the princess. The story has since grown, so that even the newest Mario games have a far more detailed story.
But stories have gotten even more important in the over all game play. Characters’ stories are often crafted and even the slightest of changes are contested by the fans. Katie Fleming, the Queen of Tomb Raider Fandom, recently hosted a Youtube video debate on the changes to Lara Croft’s character bio. I mention this because it demonstrates the affect of story telling on today’s games. This was a very passionate debate by loving fans to Lara and the Tomb Raider franchise. There is true love there for the character and her story.
People can now get even more immersed in the game world by an entertaining story, a creative world to be explored, characters you care about, and a protagonist you love to hate. Sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it? The same recipe for a good story has now become the recipe for a good game. Games have become more about being playable stories then just a game. I have spent many nights up late playing one more “level” just to find out what happens next in the story. Just as I have done so many times with the pages of a book.
I think the evolution of gaming in the direction of story telling started early. Almost all games had a story of some sort. But, it has become so important now that even games like Battlefield 3, that are primarily played for their massive multi-player interaction, have ensured they have a story to go with their game. Picking up a gun and shooting other players has no longer become good enough for most of the gamers.
With the development of another Tomb Raider in the works, story telling comes to the forefront again. Almost all the buzz about this game has been about the story: The reinventing of Lara (again) for our playing enjoyment. I have not heard much talk of graphics, moves, or controls. The talk has been about Lara’s new look, the story of Lara’s past, and the world she will be stuck in. The same things I talk about (and look for) in a good book.
In fact, video game characters have made the move into other story telling medium as well. Of course you have movies like Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil, and Prince of Persia. Tomb Raider had a great run of Comic Books. Some have even made their way into novels. In fact, if the right people are reading this I should note that I would love to write a Tomb Raider Novel (HINT HINT SHAMELESS PLUG).
As a writer you may have considered writing a novel, a comic book, or even a movie. But the world of video games offers another chance for story telling. And, video gamers can be the most fun and challenging group to write for. We love our games, their characters, their worlds, and the story they have to tell.
Now if you will excuse me, I am needed on the Battlefield.