With their last newsletter, the attractive paying semi-pro online magazine On The Premises put forth a mission statement for their readers and potential contributing authors.
Here are the bullet points of the statement, four words at a time.
Publish Stories, Not Authors
Multiple Judges, Multiple Criteria
Admit It's a Contest
No Charge for Trying
Pay Our Contest Winners
We Will Help Authors
Never Out of Print
The mission statement is written to demonstrate the editors are committed to fairness (as a guest judge for contest 11, I can verify their commitment), but several points they bring up highlight my contention that who wrote a story will often decide what will be published over the content and quality of the writing. Here is a few excerpts.
Publish Stories, Not Authors
We donít care who wrote a story. We read all stories blindly...
...This goal also means that famous writers with great credentials canít expect to get published here just because theyíre famous and have great credentials.
Admit Itís a Contest
Every time you send your story into any magazine, itís going up against other stories... But at OTP, itís your story versus everyone elseís story, not your fame as an author versus everyone elseís fame.
I have contended before, well written stories are routinely turned down because the editors of insert the name of your favorite pro-publication here elect to go with the name of an author gracing the cover of their magazine. It may not be fair but their is nothing wrong with the practice. It's a business decision. If you're trying to turn a profit you can bet Mike Resnick headlining your cover will likely sell hundreds more issues while underated Dan Smyth might get his mom, and maybe a relative or two, to buy a copy of a magazine they didn't know existed a month before. So you shouldn't be discouraged when a stallworth like Resnick gets his unpublished works bought unseen at a place you submitted to, even though you waited months (years) to receive your rejection *coughblackgatecough*.
Of course Resnick may be an extraordinary exception, its the mid-level writers who drive the wannabees nuts. If you read a fair number of publications as I do, you start to notice the same names popping up. I had to talk down more than one fellow author off the ledge because they can't get anything other than a No Thanks, try again.
"Why do they buy his/her stuff? It's garbage. I may not but great but I'm at least as good as he/she is..."
I know. I know. You are, I agree. Here's the nutshell why (choosing a name at random) Laval Tidhar gets published everywhere and you don't.
Laval has proven himself. Success leads to success. You may find his storylines dull compared to most of the people in the critique group you're in. What Laval has over you is a resume.
"I have been published in every publication that matters over the past few years..."
speaks volumes over...
"I sold one thing to a place that pays 5 bucks per publication regardless of its length."
This earns him a get out of slush free card. Doesn't guarantee him a sale but gives him an edge. An edge that may give him the nod over you. If you want to be published in todays market, an edge is what it takes.
That's why the semi-pro markets matter. Some, not all, will buy what they like best, but you'll still have to compete against some of the best. For example, Ken Liu won his second first place finish at On The Premises. True he did make a decent sale (raise your hand if you can use a $180) but risked selling a well-written piece for a paltry $40 (honorable mention status), which may sound fine to most of you but for a guy who is a certified pro? A disappointment, I'm sure. One thing his 1st place did get him was an automatic entry into the Million Writers award (the editors are allowed to submit 3 entries a year). Perhaps that motivated Mr Liu, or maybe it was the knowledge he was competing on equal ground with his fellow writer. I don't know.
The point is I'm try to make is publishing is unfair, so when you get published, even if it's the place you submitted to was the tenth place you tried, take solice that the sale was well earned. True, some writers hit paydirt on their first try. Most have to work at it. Keep trying. Rejection does not equal "You Suck". Perseverance matters more to success than anything else you do. With enough perseverance you'll get your own get-out-of-slush-free card one day.
[This message has been edited by snapper (edited March 20, 2011).]