Form Rejections

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.

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Updates: June 2012

Book Release Announcement

I am pleased to announce that I finally have a release date for Daddy is Tired, the children’s book my son and I wrote over a year ago.  On June 28th, Daddy is Tired will be officially released for sale on Amazon.com.  But, I got good news for you all.  You can order now on Createspace and get a special discount (see below).  Everything the book makes goes directly to Cinco and I really hope to encourage him to continue his pursuits of writing and the arts.  So take a moment to share the links below and share this wonderful book.  It is a great, fun early reader that I feel parents and children can relate to.  Now, a little about the book:

Daddy is Tired

Authored by Richard “Cinco” Flores V, Illustrated by Lorikitty, Authored with Richard Flores IV

List Price: $7.50
5.5″ x 8.5″ (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
Full Color on White paper
26 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0615659145
ISBN-10: 0615659144
BISAC: Juvenile Fiction / Readers / Beginner

Daddy is Tired is a children’s picture book about a dad who wants to rest while his son would rather play. Dad hopes for a little nap, but his son just wants to play.
This book was written by Cinco, at five years old, in one of his own quiet time sessions. Of course his dad didn’t get to rest either, he had to help.

Purchase Links:

CreateSpace eStore:

Use discount code: 78VZNJ65 to get 10% off.  This code will only be good until the book is released officially on June 28th, 2012.  Feel free to share the link (https://www.createspace.com/3671972) and discount code with everyone you know.

Amazon:

Click here for the Amazon Listing.

Other updates:

In other news, I have been hard at work getting the Print Edition of Plasma Frequency Magazine Issue 1 ready for it’s release.  I am working on advertising spots now, and there are still a few spots available for this issue.  We have been hard at work on the layout.  And, once the print edition is final, we will begin work on the Kindle Edition.  One great thing in the subscriptions are coming in all over the world.  We have subscribers in the US, Singapore, the UK, Denmark, Canada, and elsewhere.  So I am excited about the release of Issue 1.  Here is the cover art by Tais Teng and it is inspired by “Frequencies” by Michael Hodges.

Of course, we are hard at work on reading for Issue 2 now.  And this has left me little time for much else.  I suppose the if I wish to get more of my own writing done, I will need to seek more volunteers to help me with the reading, artwork, layout, and advertising.  All of which take a lot of work.

I still don’t have cover art to show you for Dissolution of Peace.  But, I suspect it will be released in Late August.  I plan to have an official release date in the July updates.

My novel in progress has ground to a halt.  Mostly because of all my other life commitment.  The Magazine, my volunteer activities, and my job keep me pretty busy most of the time.

No new short story acceptances to report either.

So that is the June Updates.  See next week for my next blog post, not sure what Topic I will choose though.

Inside an Editor’s Mind (Tips for Writers)

As some of you saw in my Updates: May 2012 post, I’m the Editor-in-Chief of Plasma Frequency.  I’ve been doing this  just shy of one month, and I have learned a lot about being an editor.  But, I’ve also learned a lot about being a writer too.

Odds

I was very surprised by the sure volume of submissions we have had in the first month.  To date, our editors have read 125 submissions, and there are currently 68 stories in queue.  We never expected this type of response and it has been a blessing for sure.  We keep getting more and more responses and I’m very grateful for all the writers that contribute.

The hardest part has been saying “No, thank you.” to very talented writers with very good stories.  The issue has a limit to how much we can publish and in the end it came down to picking the very best out of an excellent crop.  I spent two nights debating over many of the stories before making a final choice.  But even before it came down to final selections, there were so many good stories.  There were many well written stories that were simply not my style or the style of the magazine.

This got me thinking about all the stories I have sent out and how crushed I have been when I was rejected by some of those markets.  Especially when I thought I had the perfect fit for their publication.  Now that I see what I am getting as a semi-pro market, I can only imagine the volume and quality that a publication like Daily Science Fiction is getting. I got nearly 200 submissions this month, that means I’ll get 2400 stories in a year.  I will only publish roughly 100 stories in a year.  That is only 4% of the stories I get submitted.  I suspect DSF is much lower.

Skill is very important.  You must have the art of story telling down.  But, luck is also just as important.  The Editor you get has to enjoy the style you write in.  They have to like your prose, and enjoy your tale.  It is almost like lining up the stars.  Should you be discouraged?  No.  Just remember you are up against the odds more than anything else.  But, there is a huge plus to this all.  There are currently 4200 markets listed on Duotrope alone.  Even at the odds per publisher, there is still a good chance one of those 4200 will line up for you.

There are ways to get into those slim odds.  Here are some common mistakes I’ve seen already:

Join a writers group.

Join one that is outside of your friends, family, and other well known colleagues.  Let them read your manuscripts before sending it.  Together you will catch these common mistakes that can cause for a quick rejection:

  1. Missing words
  2. Punctuation Errors
  3. Story Pacing Issues
  4. Readability
  5. Missing Parts
  6. Extra Parts to be cut

Submission Guidelines

You have seen that the odds are small of getting accepted.  This is why it is very important to follow submission guidelines when you send in some work.  Some publications are extremely strict on their guidelines and will reject your story unread if you fail to follow them.  Check everything over carefully.  Look for errors if you convert your file type.  If they don’t want multiple submissions or simultaneous submissions don’t do it.  Multiple submissions are when you send more than one manuscript to the same publications.  Simultaneous Submissions means you send the same story to two different publications.

I’ve heard it argued that in today’s market you can’t not simultaneous submit because it takes so long to hear back.  Well, I don’t agree with that.  In the day and age of getting everything handed to us in an instant, we now are becoming impatient with the response times of publications.  But, there was a time where six months to a year of waiting was considered the norm.  That was a time when there were fewer publications, fewer authors, and submissions were sent by mail.  My experience shows that most publishers take 30 to 60 days to respond now.  That is hardly a blink of an eye when all things are considered.  And now we have caused editors to speed read the “slush” pile.  Our own impatience (in my opinion) has caused writers to get more stories rejected without a real in depth reading, just because of reading deadlines.  The point is that you can wait 30 days, or even 90 days, to get a rejection before sending it to another market.  If you don’t like how long the response times are, don’t submit there.  I don’t submit to a few publications for just that reason.  It won’t hurt any of us to breath a bit between submission and response.  Who knows, maybe you can work on another project.

I’ve also heard that there is no real way for an editor to know you have simultaneously submitted.  This is true so long as all the markets reject it.  But if one accepts it, you should tell all the other markets to remove it from consideration.  Now those markets know you sent it to more than one market, despite guidelines.  Even worse, what if it is accepted in two places?  So much work goes into accepting a story.  When an editor accepts it only to get an email saying it was accepted someplace else a week earlier, that will equal an upset editor.  That can burn your bridges with that publication (more on burning bridges below).

Now if you like simultaneous submissions, then submit to those markets exclusively.  That really goes for any publication’s guidelines.  If you don’t like them, don’t submit to them.  Where you submit is your choice, 100%.

Responding to Editor Comments

One thing I pride Plasma Frequency on is that we provide a reason for rejection.  We tell the author how far in the manuscript we read, and at least one sentence as to why it was rejected.  As the story advances to the second reading, we add that editors thoughts as well.  You don’t see many personal rejections in this industry.  I was warned by fellow editors to stick with a form letter.  And, I’m starting to see why.  Many people have taken our rejections and never responded (which is exactly as it should be unless a response is requested in the letter).  A few have responded with a “Thank You”.  But some have responded with threats or anger.  While anger may be a natural response to rejections, I know I have been angry by a few rejections (and those were just form letters), responding to the editors with your anger is not good.  This includes putting a comment on their Facebook or Twitter pages.  It will only hurt those odds above.

First, the editor is not wrong no matter what you think.  They have chosen to provide you with their OPINION.  You may not agree with their opinion, but they are not wrong.  Opinions rarely fall into the category of right or wrong.  You are allowed to disagree with them, you can change nothing in your manuscript and simply submit it someplace else.  Another editor may read it, love it, and accept it.  His/her opinion is different then the opinions of the previous editor.  You might agree with the opinion and change some things and send it to another editor and they will reject it because they don’t like the changes you made.  Yikes.  But that is that is the beauty of art.  The artist is the only one that can decide to change it.

Second, editors talk to each other.   Just as writers share information about editors and publications, editors do the same with each other.  They let each other know about a great new talent they see.  Or, about the person who responded rudely to a rejection.  I’ve been warned about a few authors, and I’ve warned a few editors.  Editors will  be sure to “watch out” for them.  No editor deserves to be treated that way and any good Editor-in-Chief will protect his staff by refusing to accept submissions from writers who belittle editors.  So not only will you be burning your bridge with that particular publication, you will be burning your bridges with many others.  Because those editors will share with each other and then they will share with others.  One think I have learned is that things spread like wildfire in this industry.

Third, Publications are often run by bigger presses.  When you burn your bridges with one publication, you may well catch a few other bridges on fire as well.

This is why it is important to take a moment to be angry, disappointed, or even sad over getting that rejection letter.  But think before you click send to any editor.  Let it go.  It really is just a minor thing in the long run.  You have a right to disagree with an editor’s opinion.  If you do, ignore the feedback they gave and move on to the next submission.  No matter how angry the few personal rejections I have got made me, I was still so pleased to know why it was I got rejected.  It gave me something to work with.  Maybe they just don’t like my style.  Maybe they just didn’t get it.  But it is so much better then “we decided not to accept it.”  Also, as an author you will be exposed to a lot of people’s opinions.  And many of those will be much harsher than those of an editor.

Why the information?

Why did I decide to give you this rare glimpse into an editor’s mind?  Because I will always thing of myself as a writer first.  I want to see my followers succeed.  And with the odds as they are, why not get a little boost with some insider information.  I hope it helps you.

Updates: May 2012

Here we are pushing the halfway point of the year.  I’m having trouble believing this fact, but unless the calendar has adapted a mind of its own, June is almost here. What is even crazier is how much has happened since my last set of updates.

I finally crawled out from under my rock and picked up a copy of The Hunger Games.  I don’t know why I stalled on it for so long.  I think it has to do with the fact that I typically don’t read books that have suddenly jumped into popularity solely for the fact that everyone else is reading them.  I have not read one Twilight or Harry Potter book.  I was over at Costco and saw a copy of it sitting on their book display.  I decided to give it a read.  I won’t go into a review of it here, there are plenty of those around, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’ll likely pick up Catching Fire soon.  I’ve added a “What I am Reading” box to the side bar on my website, thanks to another Goodreads plug in.

There are some other books I have on my to read list:  Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology is one of those books.  I’m not a huge fan of Horror, that has to be said.  But, I am a huge fan of what this anthology is about: giving back.  There are some big names in the Horror community that have shared their talents with the Editors for the purpose of doing good.  Put out by Cutting Block Press, they are taking net profits and donating them to The Foundation for AIDS Research.  In my opinion $5 for the Kindle version is money well spent.  I’ll be likely to order the print edition, as most of you know, but either way I can’t help but support this.  Pick up your copy here: LINK.

I also plan to read Exit Reality by Robert S. Wilson once that is released.  I don’t think an official release date has been announced yet.  Some other titles I hope to read soon: Fading in Darkness by Robert S. Wilson and Death on Zanath by Lee Gimenez.  Of course this is all money and time permitting.

Besides reading and blogging you may have heard that I am a writer.  You may have also heard some rumors about a Novel I have coming soon.  Since I will be virtually self publishing Dissolution of Peace, I hired an editor to review it.  So right now it is over at Wilson Book Service awaiting editor mark ups.  I think this is an important step serious self publishers should consider.  A professional editor is something that is lost when you self publish.  No matter how good you are, self editing is always bound to miss something.  In any case, I’m expected to get his mark ups by mid-July.  I will certainly be diving right into fixing what needs to be fixed and getting that out to you.

I have also hired the talents of Neil Jackson at Pig and Cow Design to create the cover art for Dissolution of Peace.  I’d hoped to have some cover art to show you for this post, but good art takes time (It has only been a week or so).  I most certainly will have it up for your on Facebook and Twitter when it comes out.

I do have something to share with you.  A little update and tease to novel.  Below is the blurb for Dissolution of Peace:

“The people of Earth have enjoyed centuries of peace under one global government.  They’ve made great strides in space travel and planet colonization.  The colonies on Mars wanted independence and Earth granted without a fight to preserve the peace.

 When Earth Navy Captain Christina Serenity is brutally attacked by a traitor, her life is saved by Security Forces Corporal Michael Carlson.  On the heels of her recovery, her ship is attacked by terrorists, and she is thrown into a difficult assignment.  She must chase after the only clue they have, a Martian ship called the Phobos, to find out what secrets it hides.  To make matters worse, someone still wants her dead.

 Now Serenity must trust her protection crew to keep her alive long enough to solve this puzzle while trying to prevent an interplanetary war.”

On the topic of things taking time, I realize that for… well hell almost a year now, I have been telling you that Daddy is Tired will be coming out soon.  So far I’ve been embarrassed with every false promise I have made in hopes this would be coming out soon.  As you know this is a children’s picture book my son and I wrote together, that has been at the illustrator for a really long time.   Sadly, it is now well below his reading level.  So my hopes of he and I reading it together have been smashed.  I am utterly disappointed and have tried very hard to be understanding of every delay.  I did warn her that I would like to see it done before she had a baby because life would get hectic after that.  She assured me that wouldn’t change things.  Unfortunately it has been one life event after another.  That being said, she is doing this for free.  But, I am learning, somethings are worth the price you pay.  And the Artwork will be great once it is done, so don’t get me wrong when I speak of worth, it is the delays that are maddening.  I’ll hold off on announcing a release date until I have the illustrations in hand.  While my wife and I will be happy to see it published, my six year old son probably doesn’t even remember writing it.

In other news, I’ve become involved in a project I am really excited about.  I am the Editor-in-Chief for a new Speculative Fiction magazine called, Plasma Frequency.  I am excited about this project for several reasons.  One, it is a paying market.  We are seeing a ton of new markets pop up, but rarely do they pay.  Eventually, depending on the readers and the advertisers, we plan to grow to a pro-rate market.  We offer both print and electronic forms.  We also provide something different to the writer.  We provide editor feedback.  There are two things that always frustrate me with a rejection letter.  One, I never know how far they read in my manuscript.  Two, I never know why they reject my manuscript.  Plasma Frequency‘s  editors changed that.  They are sending out letters telling authors they don’t accept just how far they got in the process and at least one line as to why the editor did not send it on.  When I agreed to this project, I built the process to be transparent.  Writers have a right to know just a little bit about what happens to their manuscript when they click submit.

Another great thing about this project is that they plan to review books that are published by Independent Presses and Self Publishers.  For now I will likely be the one to review them, but I think this is great news.  These two groups need a bit of the spotlight.  Surprisingly though, we’ve only received one book review submission.  We have received a steady stream (10-20 a day) of fiction submissions.  Artists and Books to review are just starting to trickle in.  So if you have one of those, now is the time to submit.  Our fiction submissions are open continuously.  If you don’t make the flagship issue (currently set for Sep 2012),  we will be publishing bi-monthly.

If you are a self published Author, we give you 15% off our advertising rates.  Right now these rates are already really low compared to other magazines.  But, as our readership goes up, so will those rates.  Of course, anyone can advertise (within our standards) in our magazine.  Our electronic issue is free, so we expect a lot of downloads.

For submission details, advertising details and subscriptions, visit: plasmafrequencymagazine.com

So what else is coming down the pipeline?  I have a new novel in the works, maybe I will have some announcements on that in the June or July updates.  The sequel to Dissolution of Peace is also in the talks.  I have two new short stories out making their rounds at the various markets.  And, of course, I will have my weekly blog posts for you.  I don’t have any new topic lined up, but subscribe to my blog to get alerts for my new posts.