This thread is about insights into editors, which may help get stories that they buy into their hands. May I ask that this thread simply be quotes from selected editors on stories and story writing. If you want to debate/discuss any elements of what any editor says, could you do us the courtesy of starting a different thread. Thanks.
[This message has been edited by Brendan (edited March 07, 2011).]
Stanley Schmidt, Analog March 2011 (slightly edited)
quote: … what matters is not how well a story or poem follows somebody’s set of rules, but how well it works for the readers. “Works” means it has the intended effect on the reader; rules are attempts to formulate methods that will enhance a writer’s chance of producing that effect. But any of us who’ve been doing this very long have inescapably learned that the correlation between rules and results is only approximate. Following them meticulously does not guarantee success, and violating them purposefully sometimes produces extraordinary success.
A successful editor or writer has to develop an intuition for what is likely to work with a significant number of readers, with conformity to rules at most a secondary consideration. We have also learned that nothing works for everybody, and nobody likes everything.
[This message has been edited by Brendan (edited March 07, 2011).]
What Mr Schmidt likes is authors with previous success. Once he buys a story from you your odds of a resale to him increase ten-fold. Carl Fredrick, for example, has sold so many stories to him, after he won the WotF contest, he could fill two collections with just Analog sales. Other than that your submission need to be a solid science fiction. Other editors...
John J Adams:
He likes stories that have already been published in a major publication once before. About half of the stories in Fantasy and Lightspeed were previously published. The other half it helps if you have a recgonizable name attached under the title of your story. So get Stan to buy one of your stories, than pitch it back to John five years later. Piece of cake.
Editors who graduated from a Clarion Workshop tend to favor other Clarion alumni's. Sort of like a potential employer who will look at an applicant closer who went to the same college as they did. Of course, it won't guarantee you a sale with them but it does give you an edge.
Geography counts. Australian? You'll have a better chance at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine than a yank or Eurowriter. Canadian? Expect better treatment at On Spec than your southern neighbor. Durham based Bull Spec strives to have one North Carolina author in each issue. Nothing wrong with this practice. Local authors help to sell issues in their local markets, which is the place you'll likely find print copies on the local shelves. If you are writing a cover letter, and you notice the editor went to the same high school as you did, casually mention it. Who knows?
Other than that you'll find correct spelling matters a lot to an editor. Know waht I mean?
[This message has been edited by snapper (edited March 07, 2011).]
- an opening that draws me in. You guys work an awful lot on the first thirteen lines of a story and do pretty well at it. But take my story opening analogy to heart: A story is like a party and your reader is new to town. He knows no one there. You want this guest to want to stay, so it's probably a good idea to start introducing him around. So the first thing you do is introduce him to a character--generally your POV character--right inside the door. If this person is someone he can relate to, all the better. And think on this: You wouldn't pass your guest on to your POV character without telling your guest his name.
- a compelling story, well told, that holds up to the promise of the opening. Your greatest stumbling blocks--from my observation--are going to be withholding information vs. unfolding the story, telling a story that is too much like too many other stories out there, dropping plot threads, failing to resolve the conflict.
- a story that I like. The truth is this: Submitting is a game of roulette. You spin the wheel and if you get the right story on the right editor's desk at the right time, you win. And much of getting the right story on the right editor's desk has a great deal to do with that editor's personal preferences. One of the most memorable stories I've ever read, we didn't publish. Why? Because I was the only member of the editorial board that loved it. It was sold elsewhere almost immediately.
You can find lists of 'story ideas we see to often or don't ever want to see again' at many markets. Strange Horizons has one, for example. I have my own personal list if you're interested.
Speaking of Strange Horizons...they've been 'considering' one of my stories for sixty-three days. Duotrope says average acceptance is at 60 days, rejection at 45 days, rewrite at 67. My nerves are fraying.
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They're all for the revival of the short form, mostly literary works. I suspect they'll publish anything that knocks their socks off.
Best to try and remember that editors are not a monolithic bloc. It's just a bunch of individuals with individual tastes and preferences. Stories that get bounced by some markets, sell to others. And vice versa. There is no way possible to write a story that ALL editors will like and buy. Much less all readers liking and enjoying.
I do think it's true that Dr. Schmidt at Analog respects past pro sales, but even more than this Dr. Schmidt wants to see consistency in your submissions over a protracted period. When Stan buys an author, he's investing in someone he hopes can become a reliable, regular source of fiction. Hence he might wait to see how routine you are with your submissions, and whether or not the quality and type of story is fairly in-line with what he knows his readers want. Stan is very reader-conscious and will pass on stories he knows are buyable otherwise, if he thinks the readership won't grok the story. This has happened to me several times in the last year. And at least one of those stories has gone on to sell elsewhere.
So try not to get TOO wrapped up in psychologically analyzing the editors. Just write the best stories you know how to write in the moment, send them out the door, and work on still more stories. If you want to "figure out" the editors, read their publications. And then, only pay attention to the stories YOU like in those publications. Don't try to emulate the Big Name author story you hated in Asimov's. If you spot a nice story from a not-Name author, pay attention to why it was nice for you, and dwell on that as you approach your next piece of work.
I think I agree that not all editors agree on what they want. As one pro writer says one editor will buy a story and think its the best writing he's seen all year while another one won't give it a second look. And both editors will be looking for the same type of stories. But we need to know what they say they want and don't want.
But I forget how long Strange Horizons been closed, has it been sixty days?
I was thinking of sending to my WotF Q2 story to JJA but maybe I will send it to Analog... I haven't sent Mr. Schmidt one for a while. I ran out of SF stories he hasn't seen already. With the possible exception of one. If I didn't send it, it's because I doubt if he would like it.