Posts Tagged ‘magazines’

I’m working on re-writing a story. Happily, this is due to an editorial request. I sent in a story, it was considered, and the Powers That Be decided that, while in their opinion it was good, it could be better. Editors sometimes give you notes and ask if you will rewrite a story in line with those notes. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. Sometimes the requested changes conflict with your idea of the story. You can always say, “No, thank you,” and move to the next market. (You want to think very carefully before you do that.)

In this instance, I reviewed the suggestions, found them palatable, and replied that not only could I make them, but only one was likely to be difficult: Changing the title.

You’d think that would be the easiest, but titles are tough–they’re like flash fiction, where you have to tell a complete story in 1000 words…except titles are much shorter.

Your title must express to the reader what kind of story it is you’re telling. Is it horror? Fantasy? Philosophical? Satirical? Is it more than one of these? Your title has to tell all of that in fewer than a half-dozen words. At least if you’re writing a book you have a cover!

Alas, it turns out that I am as good a prognosticator as I feared: I have finished a draft of the revised story, but I have no new title. And the editors were quite clear they want a new title.

I could send it back as is, arguing for my present title, or simply tossing the problem to the editors, but I tend not to want to make trouble for people who might pay me for the trouble I’ve already gone to. And nobody likes a problem author. There’s no guarantee my revision is going to meet with approval; I don’t want to stack the deck against myself.

I think back on the million monkeys typing on the million typewriters. I don’t need Shakespeare; I need maybe five words.

Maybe if I hired five monkeys with five typewriters?



Read Full Post »

(Note: This has nothing to do with “The Virtues of Keeping Your Pants On.” Different subject–although it is a valuable piece of advice, particularly in public.)

I was recently informed by a publisher that a short story was not quite what he was seeking in his magazine, an unfortunate event which occurs both more and less often that we’d like. More, because stories are often rejected for this reason, and it’s frustrating if it means a good story just can’t find a home–and less, because usually you have no idea that the problem wasn’t your story but just a bad fit, and it’s nice to know that. This interaction, however, went a little further.

The editor asked me if I would consider allowing my story to be used in a parallel venue, one which does not pay. This is known in the business as “exposure.” Because the story in question is a reprint, I considered the matter, but eventually decided “no.” I have turned down opportunities for “exposure” before and quickly turned the story around for money. If I allowed even a reprint to be published for free, I wouldn’t be able to peddle it again for some time. I’d rather take the chance on a payday.

This is not the case for everyone. Many authors, particularly new ones, jump at such a chance. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but one should always look before leaping. I have offered stories for exposure before, but each time I had a reason: I was new and thought any publication was worth seeing my name in print, the story was a reprint that I submitted to an audio magazine simply to hear it read aloud, or (in one case) the anthology was for charity and featured a Very Big Name that should actually generate sales, meaning the opportunity for exposure was real.

You see, the problem with most “exposure” markets is–you don’t get a lot. Most authors aren’t going to sell stories for nothing, so a market that doesn’t pay is less likely to snag first-rate stories, so fewer people are going to see your story in print. And while any publication is better than none, as far as credits go, most markets don’t really care where else you’ve been published anyway, unless you’re famous, in which case they already know.

Of course, when you’re new and you haven’t sold anything, the idea of “taking the chance on a payday” feels like trading a bird in the hand for the chance to shove that same hand into a thorny bush. And my own first couple of publications were for free, so I know the thrill of simply seeing your name in print.

It all comes down to what you want out of your writing. Think about it, though. If your name on a book is all you need, write a novel and self-publish it. (Again, I know how good that feels.) You’ll save yourself the time and anguish of submitting to magazines. But if you ever want to see your name on a magazine in a convention dealer’s room, or have someone ask for your autograph, or (!) make money… then resist the temptation to give your work away. If no one will pay for it, call it a “learning experience” and shelve it. Someday, when you’re finally published and you’re looking for more stories to send out, you’ll dig through your old files and come across that piece again. You’ll glance at the title, smile indulgently, and think, “You know, it wasn’t really that bad a story. Maybe I can fix it.”

And it wasn’t. And you can. And then you’ll sell it. I know; I’ve done it. I exposed my story to the world.

And it paid off.



Read Full Post »

I am excited to announce not one, but two recent short story sales! The first, “Junior Partner,” went to StoryHack Action & Adventure. “Junior Partner” is a little tale about Blacklight, a superhero’s sidekick who can’t get any respect–until his partner goes down and the world is teetering on the brink. Blacklight’s going to have to reach inside himself to see if he has what makes a hero. But even with courage and determination, what can a mere sidekick do…?

“How to Murder a Corpse,” is the second in a series of stories involving a nameless mid-century private eye–who raises the dead on the side. He recently raised a pal killed in an accident so he could say good-bye, but zombies don’t last long, so why would somebody bother to kill him again? And why did he have a vampire’s bite on his neck and a bullet hole in his forehead? Find out in an upcoming episode of the Gallery of Curiosities podcast.

As if that weren’t enough, my flash story “The Deadline” is coming out in the debut issue of Factor Four Magazine on April 1. A long marriage can hide many secrets, but not many of them are quite this … cosmic.

And of course, if you like my short fiction, you can check out my novel series The Stolen Future and Nemesis, by reading their respective introductory volumes, The Invisible City, and The Choking Rain, for free.

I tell you, I am the gift that keeps on giving.


Read Full Post »

I wasn’t planning to write one of these, but it occurred to me, almost too late, that while 2017 has been a horrible year for many people (for reasons outside the scope of this blog), for me, professionally, it has been not only successful, but actually profound. This was the year that everything changed, maybe forever. With that in mind (and because, like all writers, I’m just obsessive about these things), I’d like to list some of my achievements over the past twelve months.

Summarily, I sold five short stories this year, one of which was a reprint. I had four stories published, mostly those I sold last year. Just as importantly, however, I sold a record number of copies of my various self-published books, particularly in the fourth quarter. I hope to see this trend continue in the new year.

But sales were only part of the story, and not the largest part. Where a novel used to take at least a year, in 2017, I published two, and am dangerously close to finishing a third. One was written in less than two months. This represents a huge leap forward in my production, and opens up an new business model where self-publishing may become a viable part of a hybrid career path (self-published novels/traditional short stories).

I also expanded my authorial presence this year, appearing on three panels at my second consecutive Loscon as a guest. At no time did I faint, get horribly sick, or otherwise condemn myself to 1 million hits on Youtube.

And last but not least, two of my stories appear on the Tangent Online Recommended Reading List for 2017.

All in all, I’m pleased. I’m writing, I’m selling, and I still have a few ideas on the drawing board. So to all of you out there who support me, or support other writers, and especially to those who are trying so hard to make it when all the odds seem to be against you, have a Happy New Year. Make 2018 the year you want it to be.


Read Full Post »

There’s a new post over at the SFWA blog entitled, “Don’t Tweet Your Rejections.”* My first reaction was: “Somebody did that?” I don’t mean to make anyone feel bad, but that really seems to me to be the apex of our self-driven society, along with people who have to post everything they do to Facebook, or tag themselves at every stop, or take so many pictures of their food that it’s cold before they can eat it. As explained in the SFWA blog post, tweeting your rejections is bad for your brand. Don’t do it.

As you can probably tell from the previous paragraph, I am not a Millennial. Actually, as I have mentioned before, I grew up when submissions were sent to magazines and agents on paper. There were, ironically, far fewer markets, yet sending out submissions was a lot harder and more expensive. And, of course, you couldn’t tweet your rejections, so that danger did not exist. Still, there were many ways in which you could damage your brand, particularly with magazine editors.

The three or four magazines that existed back then (depending on exactly when we’re talking about), each received about 1,000 submissions per month. When you figure that there were maybe six to eight openings per month per market, and you were competing with every professional writer who had written a short story that month, it’s easy to see that the competition was insane. So why, when your odds of success were about a thousand-to-one, would you go out of your way to antagonize an editor?

Yes, even though editors receive reams of submissions every month, they come to recognize some names. I had a market I subbed all of my earliest stories to (because it was the only one for those kinds of stories), and although I never came close to cracking the market, after a few tries the editor remembered my name. The first time I received a personal note referring to this story not being up to the standard of “your other pieces” I pretty much flipped. The editor knew my name! And for a good reason!

Bad reasons? There were plenty. Aside from simply being obviously and completely devoid of talent, I mean. Editors’ greatest bane is writers who can’t follow instructions. Writing your story in crayon, not the way to go. Sending the editor “presents” with your book (regardless of whether they are relevant), not the road to success.** Nor was folding down a page in the middle of your manuscript to make sure the editor actually read it going to win you points. Perfumed paper? Don’t get me started.

And then there are the cover letters and query letters. Entire convention panels have been devoted to the worst of these. Suffice it to say that short and to-the-point is always the wisest course. And for heaven’s sake, don’t argue with an editor after a rejection, unless of course you want to take the quick road to never having that editor reject you again.

These mistakes are easily avoided. Nowadays there are hundreds of resources that will help you avoid them. Because editors have memories. It’s your job to make them good ones.

*You don’t have to be a SFWA member to read the SFWA blog. If you’re a writer, you should.

**I have it on good authority that sending nude selfies will end your career spectacularly quickly. Your writing career, anyway.


Read Full Post »

Generally speaking, the best way to immunize yourself to a disease is to have the disease.  The exceptions to this rule are legion, of course, so we won’t go into that, we’ll just stick to the principle. And apply it to writing, of course.

The disease involved with writing (other than writing itself, which is a mental disease), is called Rejectionitis. It is characterized by a widespread lowering of self-esteem brought on by an editor sending back a story. The more you loved this story, the more you thought it was perfect for the market, and the level of desire you have to break into this market all affect the severity of the symptoms. In a slap in the face of our guiding principle (see above), there is no immunizing yourself to Rejectionitis by actually getting the disease.

You can, however, immunize yourself somewhat by exposing yourself to carriers (i.e., submissions). In the best case scenario, you start out by being laid waste to by the disease, but then you find a magic bullet called Acceptance. (Acceptance has a long latin name which describes its ingredients, but fortunately you never have to suffer through a TV commercial listing its side effects. If Rejectionitis ever becomes a disease suffered by a large number of baby boomers, though, you might.) Acceptance works by propping up your writing immune system to the point where you believe that maybe, just maybe, you have something to offer that people will want to read. If the dose of Acceptance is big enough, and the timing is right, it may carry through your next bout of Rejectionitis. Or it may not. Your results may vary.

There is another, less efficacious treatment, called Submissions. Yes, the same submissions which are carriers of the disease are also a form of defense against it. Since Rejectionitis is a disease of the mind (like writing), you can guard against its worst effects by having a lot going on in your writing career. (“That story came back, but there are eight others out there who have a chance!”) And of course, re-submitting the same story that was just rejected is the best therapy. (“Take that, you illiterate editor of a Nebula-winning magazine!”)

I am currently exercising this latter defense. Lately I have been on a tear, submitting stories like crazy, to where I have only a half-dozen viable candidates sitting on the sidelines, and one of those is just awaiting a submission window to open. I re-submitted a story yesterday that has been rejected three times–in the past week. (There are some fast editors out there.) But I believe in this little piece; it just needs to find the right spot to land. You’ll be hearing about it soon enough.

Of course, none of this will completely or permanently cure Rejectionitis. Even the biggest authors sometimes suffer from it (so they say, but I’ve not seen their medical records). It’s a lifelong struggle. But writing itself is a lifelong struggle. That struggle usually manifests in a syndrome called “Writer’s Block.”

I’d like to go on about Writer’s Block, but I honestly can’t think of a thing to say…


Read Full Post »

Every once in a while, if you’re going to write a blog about writing, you have to write about writing. Right? This is one of those times. If you’re not a writer or planning to be one, you can skip this one. (But you don’t have to…)  If you are a writer–why aren’t you writing? Oh, you’re just taking a break from the next Harry Potter? Then settle in. You need to know this stuff.

Writers are always concerned with how they’re going to get their message across to readers. Unless you’re planning to self-publish, that’s the wrong way to go about it. (And if you are planning to self-publish, there are some other blogs you should be reading.) What you want to do is get your message across to an editor. The editor buys your story from you. He gives it to the publisher. Readers buy their story from the publisher. If you don’t sell the editor, you don’t sell.

How do I sell an editor, you ask? Very good question. And a very big task. To begin with, there are as many ways to sell to an editor as there are editors. (Even so, selling to readers is a lot harder, because  there are a lot more of them than editors.) On the other hand, editors will tell you exactly what they are looking for. These are called “guidelines,” and if you follow them, while you still might not get the sale, you will develop a reputation for dependability, which can be almost as good. (For purposes of our discussion, we will limit ourselves to magazine editors.)

See, even though editors read hundreds of stories a month, they tend to see the same authors over and over, and they remember you. The first time an editor said such-and-such story was not as good as my other stories, I was over the moon. I never sold to him, but he knew my name. He found it worth remembering, and that’s huge.

If an editor is going to remember you, you want it to be for the right reasons. That means read the guidelines and follow them. You’d be surprised how many writers don’t.  On the other hand, sometimes guidelines aren’t as strict as they appear. An anthology’s theme might stretch to cover your story even if it doesn’t fit like a glove. And word limits may be flexible. If the guidelines say, “3000 – 5000 words, firm,” then respect them. But if they don’t, maybe they can be exceeded–but if you’re going to try that, ask first. You can query an editor to determine if exceptions are allowed, and the mere fact that you asked may get you the answer you want.

Well, you may get the answer you want concerning whether you can skirt the guidelines. Getting the answer you want about a sale, that’s going to take some more work. But when you sub that next story, having an editor who remembers you isn’t going to hurt…


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »