Thursday, 28 August 2008

Small press shenanigans 2

About two months ago I queried whether a story I had sent had been received by a barely-paying market. The answer was yes. The signs were good. That means it's on a holding pile.

I waited a couple of months. Then queried again. Er, no, we have no record of your story, so we must assume it's been rejected.

What a lovely assumption. Thanks, Editors.

The following may be biased:

Let's take five examples of people I think do the job well. With class, respect for the writers contributing and professionalism.

Djibril, at FutureFire, publishes probably a comparable site to the one that got back to me as above. I doubt he would ever dream of doing something similar: FutureFire pays its contributors a token (I'm sure he won't mind me saying that. Course, it probably doesn't feel like a token to him having to continue forking out), but edits contributor stories in a professional way and presents them in a manner befitting the audience. Hopefully much like Serendipity, FutureFire does small press with a level of professionalism sadly missing in the field. I have had similar positive experiences with Electric Velocipede and Trunk Stories. Going one further, favourites Apex Digest take this to another level, but that's to be expected as the mag is knocking on the door of the professionals and threatening them with a big stick.

Of the places that have rejected stories, it's the larger--and I assume busier (ie, need more editorial work, have lots more submissions to read) publications that have the best response times and the most polite staff. If you tell an author to expect a form rejection, that's what they'll expect and feel like Gods if they're given a personal response to a submission, even if it's a rejection. Strange Horizons and Clarkesworld Magazine are shiny shinys here, as is Nemonymous.

I have run two no pay or limited pay online magazines and been involved in several print anthologies. Here's the thing: if you have clear guidelines and unless you're paying rates of more than about £50/$100, you just won't get the hundreds of submissions people complain about. For Serendipity, we have a pretty nice hit rate. Believe it or not we publish about forty per cent of stories submitted. I don't know if that's because the stories we look for are of a particular quirk that no self-respecting godawful writer is likely to submit to (of the sixty per cent we don't publish, maybe twenty per cent fall into the godawful or haven't-read-the-guidelines-we don't publish-Power Rangers-slash fiction categories. It's certainly not for a lack of people knowing about the magazine. We get between 30,000 (for a sketchy issue) to 60,000 page impressions a month.

So, in brief, editors. You who pay little or no money, unless you are very special (Elastic Press notwithstanding), neither I--nor Aliya--will send you our near-unpublishable stories. Editors, if your response times are over six months and you're not Albedo 1 (just coz they've been really nice to me), we won't submit to you either. So there.

Come on writers. Take the fight back to them. Half these people--ie the bad ones--aren't editors anyway. They're just dreadful writers without the staying power to improve their craft so they're trying to get prestige the easy way, by publishing others. I should know, I'm one of them. ;)


David Isaak said...

Wow. That's a nicely condensed intro to this segment of the short story market (though from an odd slant).

Leoba said...

Hooray and hoorah for the sweet shout-out to Djibril and The Future Fire. I occasionally referee stories for TFF and they take the enterprise very seriously over there, not only aiming for timeliness but also good, constructive feedback for their authors. Because TFF is looking for a very particular type of story (progressive, political, socially conscious), I've read a lot of really good stories that haven't ended up getting published, but I'm encouraged to provide comments that might prove useful for authors, should they choose to submit stories elsewhere. Djibril isn't just about getting the best for TFF, he's about encouraging good writing generally. He's pretty awesome. (He's also smart and funny and awfully cute. sigh.)

Aliya Whiteley said...

Yes, I hear he's a bit Captain Jack-ish. A-haaaaaaaaaar, maties! (Best pirate impersonation.)

Nik's Blog said...

Well said, Mr.


Aliya Whiteley said...

This is all very well, but then how do I get the darned shorties out there? Or do I just wait until I'm big and famous enough that a publisher will want to turn out a handsome hardback volume of them? Because that could be a really really long wait.

I can't besiege TFF endlessly. Someone name more quality enterprises, please.

Leoba said...

Other publishers praised by Neil in the original post are Electric Velocipede, Trunk Stories, Apex Digest, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld Magazine, Nemonymous.