Not the usual irritation (though that's there, too.)
Yesterday I got a traditionally-mailed manuscript back from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Usual quick response, usual computer-generated form letter. (Different name and signature on the letter---the guy from the last one has moved on to a new gig.) They did do one things that pleased me, like putting "priority mail" tape across the bottom of the envelope---I was fresh out of stickers and didn't do it myself.
But what irritated me was---the first page of my manuscript was missing! My name and address, the title, and the opening lines of the story. They say the first thirteen lines are important, but they didn't strike me as so good that you'd keep them and send back the rest of the manuscript.
If they were compiling a mailing list, couldn't they just use the envelope I sent it in?
It's an inconvenience, sure. I could reprint the first page (or the whole manuscript) for the next go-round submission...but it's an annoyance.
It's not the first time. Back when I submitted a few to Writers of the Future---no, I'm not going to go into that argument again---they kept the first page, but they also said in their submission guidelines that they'd do that.
I was wondering if they've done this to anybody else, though...
I'm betting it was just a mistake the AE made. The last one I sent I made disposable, so I got nothing but a rejection letter.
It gets me wondering though, Robert. You think that's the only page he looked at? It would be the only page he would need (author name and title for the header of the letter) if they filled their magazine already.
Well, the traditional way for a short story first page went like this (I apologize in advance if this attempt at graphic posting doesn't look right or does look weird):
First Line: Left: Writer's Real Name, Right: Word count Second Line: Left: Address Third Line: Left: City-State-Zip (five blank lines) Line: Middle: TITLE (capitalized and underlined) (blank line) Line: Middle: by (blank line) Line: Middle: Name Writer Wants on Story (five more blank lines) Line: Beginning of story...
A single title sheet, leaving out the beginning of the story, was supposed to be used only in novels, not in short stories.
The CG form rejection had my name and address in it...presumably they have my address in their databases now. (They should already: I subscribe.)
If I knew why, for sure, it might ease my irritation...but I don't, and it's still irritating.
[I did go back and edit: it did look weird]
[This message has been edited by Robert Nowall (edited March 22, 2011).]
Naturally, it's the Hoboken troll that crouches beneath the editor's desk. Hairy, smelly, and constantly grumbling, it cannot be silenced until it receives its daily toll of a manuscript's first page. The editor complies lest he be banished to the Pine Barrens, never to be seen again.
My guess is that someone wrote notes on the first page, then realized it wasn't a disposable manuscript.
I send disposable manuscripts. I've only had one of them returned: the editors of The Atlantic Monthly took my manuscript, which was marked "Disposable Manuscript" in the upper right corner, folded it in thirds, stuffed it into my #10 SASE until it bulged so much that it tore the envelope and they had to tape it shut, and added sufficient extra postage to send it back.
From this, I could only conclude that they didn't want to sully their literary recycling bin with the work of a science fiction writer. (The manuscript itself was not speculative fiction, but I mentioned my writing credits in my cover letter.)
I haven't had an editor send the entire manuscript back to me since 1997. Way, way easier to just mark it DISPOSABLE MANUSCRIPT and include a #10 business envelope; for those few markets that still do postal subs. They seem to be dwindling by the hour.
But yes, I am betting also that the first page was used for notes of some sort. This is why a cover letter can (sometimes) be valuable, because they'll keep the cover letter and send back the manuscript; if it is your desire to get the whole thing back.
I can't recall it happening before except in the aforementioned WoTF submissions. I've had whole manuscripts disappear into the mail---and, being a postal worker, I know what can happen to the mail.
I've also had some come back with things like coffee cup stains on various pages. In some ways, it's heartening---at least I know they got that far in it.
I stopped paper clipping my manuscripts together---'cause I never got them back, though once in awhile I'd get a different one.
As for disposable manuscripts...well, I already run through a full set of ink cartridges each and every month, in months I don't print up manuscripts, and cartridges aren't cheap.
I think the whole thing may be declining standards---or maybe just a change in standards, not indicative of a decline at all. Editorial workers may be getting too used to electronic submissions, where issues like this don't arise. (Less of an issue here, 'cause F & SF, far as I know, doesn't do e-subs.)
(The only reason I brought up the name of the magazine was to find out if anyone had a similar problem at that particular market...)
Well, there's nothing directly on F & SF's Writers Guidlines page that says stick to address / wordcount / title / name on the first page...and a link to an SFWA guideline shows something (prepared by Vonda McIntyre) that has more copy on the first page than I did.
I admit I hadn't looked at the Writer's Guidlines in awhile, at least a couple of years, I think.
With the passage of time, I'd say this is still irritating...but not irritating enough to not submit something else to them at some point. (This is considerably less irritating than nearly everything that happens to me at work, for one thing.)
I'm one that puts Disposable-on the right side of the top of the first page- on my stories and send in just a SASE for the rejection letter.
So I always get just the letter from F&SF. My name and story title are included in the letter. And last time the letter was signed by someone else and he said something different. "The story couldn't hold my interest". A bit harsher sounding than some.
But some, like Asimov's and Analog, usually send back the first page of my story. The opposite of what you got. They don't include the story title in the rejection. Sometimes if the story is very short-flash or near flash-a couple of magazines will send the whole thing back. One sent back a whole longer story. Boy, the envelope was so thick I half way hoped it was a contract.
Hmm, I was looking for the woman assistant editor for F&SF, the one who took JJA's place, and I found another rejection from the same guy I quoted in my last note. But this time he said "the story couldn't grab my attention" closer to what JJA always says.
Another hmmm, I wonder if that change from Grab to Hold meant this last story held his attention for a few pages?
That would be an improvement, however slight. Still not as good as the comment from JJA a very long time ago, when I was doing better but something.
You guys remember this discussion, right? Well, I got another one bounced from F & SF in my P. O. Box today---and damned if they didn't do it again!
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Of course, the actual standard rejection is irritating enough...but that pales behind the casual assumption that someone on the staff of a submissions market can just take a page of a story as if it were their property. That's just irritating beyond belief.
I'll ponder it...but I think the Big Three markets may just have shrunk to two for me.
I'd be interested to know what proportion of subs that F&SF (and other physical-MS-submission markets) get are marked as disposable, and how many are sent with a request for return. It's possible, in asking for your MS back, that you're an outlier, and they are finding they aren't geared up for it.
I would hav thought that, given you only sub to a maximum of three markets, and given that you're only missing one page of a sub, it wouldn't be quite as annoying as all that. Irritating, but not a deal-breaker when you have so few deals on your table...
In all honesty, for those few markets still taking paper subs -- of which I am still a nostalgic fan -- asking for the entire manuscript back just isn't necessary anymore. It's a waste of postage. I stopped asking for the full MS back well over a decade ago. Save yourself (and the editors) a lot of trouble. Put DISPOSABLE MANUSCRIPT in your cover letter and on the first page of the MS, and then send a standard white #10 business envelope as your SASE. No editor spends any time marking up or doing notes on a full MS that is rejected; especially for a form rejection.
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To be honest, I almost quit writing a few times because nobody approved of it and constantly bashed me. Heck my best friend told me to find something better to do with my time...I said (exact words) f**k you. I'm so glad I listened to myself and others.
btw, that probably didn't have anything to do with this topic but oh well.
It's science fiction writing that did it...I think I'll make a more serious effort to cast about and find something else to write. Fanfic writing has passed---the circumstances were right and so was I---so it won't be that, but it'll be something...
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Don't give up on us either. If it takes you years to get a story published than so be it. Remember how hard it was for the great writers. Just experiment and find your unique idea, and if you find one you are alone with it. Nobody else has ever thought it like you.
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Of course, with e-publishing there is now another option for you, Robert. One that may even make you some money. Instead of grumbling and either a) leaving your work in the trunk or b) posting it for free to your web site, why not get yourself onto Amazon's e-publishing system? I just posted my fourth novelette there in the last two weeks, and I am starting to make money. Not a lot, but something is better than nothing. Especially if you're tired of banging your head against the wall of traditional publishing. That's what Amanda Hocking did. She banged her head against trad-pub's iron door for awhile, then e-published, and now she has trad-pub eating out of her hand.
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Robert I have totally forgotten how long you have been trying...and shame on me for forgetting... but it does take hundreds of rejections sometimes to sell one. What is bad is that a very few can sell something with less than ten rejections, I've known quite a few of those and while I am on the other side of the pendulum, most writers sell in-between the two extremes.
I hope that rather long sentence makes sense. But most writers aren't going to sell with just a handful of rejections but they won't have to wait for hundreds and hundreds either. If you keep learning and practicing you will sell.
I am seriously considering e-publishing...but I will have to wait for a finished satisfactory novel before I attempt it. Length, value for one's buck, and so on. But that will take time.
I think my next project will be dusting off something that has the potential to go long...or maybe multiple stories with the same characters...if I can sustain interest in it long enough to make it work.
After ten minutes of reconsideration, I think I may have someting I could put up right away in e-publishing. You guys might recall my mentioning in the "Did You Write?" posts that I've finished a story that's not SF and that I don't have a clue where to send it to? That might be just the thing to try out as an e-publication...it's not terribly long but it might do as a starter thing...
But getting it out and working out mundane details will have to wait...also even repackaging my rejected stories and sending them off will be delayed...I'm in the middle of vacation prep, I'll be going off Saturday, and I'll be leaving it all behind---it all including writing, the Internet, and everything but reading and resting and doing touristy things.
Thanks for all the suggestons, and, suddenly, I feel less bitter than before!
Hey Robert. I know you been at it a while. And I know you have already argued you point... but if I remember correctly you limit to sending to three markets. Perhaps some of those stories should me submitted to a few other markets. Just to see what some other editors (who have not seen your work) think.
Its an idea, and I certainly respect you reasons (as I have read them in other threads) but I thought I would throw it out there.
I guess it didn't come up in the above...print publication was what I was looking for when I started, and, as of the last I heard, what we've been calling the Big Three are also the Only Three as far as print publication goes.
Online publication? Doesn't do it for me...I'm not saying never, but I am saying not right now.
Hmm, hadn't noticed that even though it seems to me that one of the online magazines also does a print version. Is that IGMS? I can't recall right now, I might be thinking of a semi-pro ezine. And here I thought Intergalactic Medicine Show might be one of the new Big Three.
But WotF does a print anthology.
Does Weird Tales do an online ezine? They aren't the Big Three but they are pro. And have been around for a lot of years.
I forget what you write, if it's only SF, but dittos with Realm Of Fantasy; they are print and pro and been around a long time.
And sorry I keep forgetting things about you I need a score card to keep everyone straight here. There's so many,
Robert, I hate to say this but you are almost guaranteeing yourself failure if you submit to Analog, Asimov, and F&SF exclusively. They don't really publish many unknown authors. You boxed yourself in focusing on those three alone. Their slushpile is in the thousands and they publish how many out of that? 10? Maybe less? I think you are making a mistake steering clear of online publications. Daily Science Fiction for example may have more readers than any publication these days. Their database is unmatched, that much I'm sure of. Besides, if you publish your own work on your own blog, aren't you publishing online? It's the 21st century dude, join in.
Even if you want to stick with print only you're still missing out on some widely distributed publications. GUD, Interzone, and Glimmer Train are just three places off the top of my head. I know there are others
Duotrope's Digest lets you search publications by print, electronic or both. You may find some other markets for the dead tree format. You can also search by paid and non-paying. And they break the pay rates down in a few levels.
Ultimately, when I put a story up on my website, I've accomplished everything that could be accomplished if it were put up on a so-called "pro" website---except the money thing. The story is there for people to see. Once in awhile I get a piece of fanmail about it. And, overall, the rates of these sites are so relatively low that I don't know if it's worth the bother.
The rates are low---or lower---at the print publications, the Big Three. But they can offer print publication.
(By the way, I've mentioned before that I've gotten more reaction from my Internet Fan Fiction than I've ever gotten from my intended-pro work. And that's a powerful incentive to take my writing in one particular direction.)
quote:Ultimately, when I put a story up on my website, I've accomplished everything that could be accomplished if it were put up on a so-called "pro" website
To me, that is like saying "when I vanity publish, I've accomplished everything that could be accomplished if it were published by a so-called traditional publisher."
Aside from the financial part, that is... Selling to pro websites/magazines is not going to make a huge difference in the pocketbook for a short story anyway, but they do gain readership for your works and can be a stepping stone for the future. Perhaps the slush editors would pay extra attention to a submission that lists previous publications at Strange Horizons, DSF and IGMS. Analog and Asimov's are not just buying stories -- they're buying the authors. Who wouldn't want to have the claim of publishing the next big author before they hit it big?
My blog averages a handful of hits per day. I wonder how that compares with DSF.
I like print too. But having been published electronically as well, I just have to say, the dollars and cents from my Intergalactic Medicine Show sale are every bit as satisfying as the dollars and cents from an Analog sale.
When you publish electronically you are also broadening your potential demographic. A different segment of consumers reads Analog via print, as opposed to Intergalactic Medicine Show. There is some overlap, yes, but there is also value in bringing in additional readers who might not ever know of you otherwise.
In the end, a pro credit is a pro credit is a pro credit. And if you've never been published anywhere before, the pro credit is the thing. That's the big goal. That's your water mark. Get it any way you can.
I, of course, recommend Writers of the Future first. As pro break-in credits, there are none bigger in the genre. None. Best money (by far) for new writers, best exposure, and one HECK of a great workshop and gala.
I can understand Robert's desire to see his work printed. That is one main reason I am still seriously want a book published the traditional way instead of e-pub. Yet with books there is POD which evidently can be used alongside e-pub. That way a book can still be on paper as well as on electronics.
Even though I send stories to everyone-the right type of stories to the right people-that even comes close to pro, I still would rather have a story printed on paper.
By the way Robert, have you thought about anthologies? There are some that print the anthology.
And I understand his-your- feelings about fan mail. Even though I didn't get any fan mail with my one story, I know one guy really liked it. He said so on Amazon comments, and a couple fellow writers said they liked it also. And I know that if I placed my stories on a free site I would get some positive comments which is why I was very tempted to do so. No money but my stories would get read and liked by some of the readers, and I wouldn't have to worry about what editors thought. But then I learned about e-publishing which can do the same with some money coming in. If I can ever get some of my older stories cleaned up from the nitpicks, that is.
But there still something about having a story bought by an editor. You know you are a good writer and that you are improving.
I like to see my work on a shelf, sure. Of course, electronic markets can lead to that (my IGMS sale was reprinted in a "best of" collection).
But I agree with Brad. Pay is pay, and I can assure everyone that both print markets and electronic markets can send real money So if you are actually interested in getting paid for your work, the medium shuoldn't be a major factor. Conversely, if you want to appear in print, there are actually a lot of markets that will do that besides the "big 3" - I can immediately think of Weird Tales and Realms of Fantasy (both at pro level), and magazines like Black Gate or Andromeda Spaceays Infligth Magazine at semi-pro. There are doubtless many others I haven't thought of in the duration of typing this.
quote:Analog and Asimov's are not just buying stories -- they're buying the authors.
Well said wordcaster. Brad I'm sure can attest to this. He had a running count on another forum showing how many rejections he was accumlating (it was over a hundred, that much I recall) before he made his first sale to WOTF. Then talk about opening the flood gates. I hope those of you living downstream of Mr Torgenson got to high ground in time.
Much like yourself, Robert, he narrowed his focus of what he was willing to accept for his work, (correct me if I'm wrong, Brad) choosing to submit to professional paying venues only. Now I'm guessing he would have made his first sale long before if set his sites a little lower, but I'm sure he would concede his chances of making a sale to Analog would be a great deal lower if it wasn't for his WOTF victory (not saying Outbound or any of the others isn't worthy of publication without it, mind you).
If seeing your name in print on good quality magazine is all you are after, Robert, consider some of the lesser paying publications. I have three stories in anthologies whose covers would fit comfortably on any self at Barnes & Noble, and the Bards and Sages Quarterly publication I made it into looks every bit as grand as Glimmer Train, Realms of Fantasy or any other magazine that has a high glossy cover.
If you can't get any bites in your favorite fishing hole, then try another pond.
[This message has been edited by snapper (edited May 08, 2011).]
I do think it's true that both Stan Schmidt and Sheila Williams are looking for more out of an author than just a singularly good story. They're looking for "horses" who can provide a stream of content that will, hopefully, generate and maintain reader interest. Ergo, if a reader likes a certain author, and that author appears fairly frequently in a certain magazine, the reader is more liable to buy and/or maintain a subscription with said magazine. Which is why I have sometimes heard it said that both Stan and Sheila will pass on stories that are more or less buyable, from a potential "horse," because they're waiting to see if the next story, and the next story after that, etc, are as good and/or offer the promise of regular, quality submissions from a given author.
As for piling up rejections, my official count is like this: I had almost 130 rejections in the bag, and over 870,000 unpublished words, before I broke in with Writers of the Future. And I am sad to report that rejections don't stop, even if you've secured a regular sales history with a top market, such as Analog. Which just tells me that every editor at every market is different, and seeks different product. Each of us is lucky if we can find at least one editor who likes us enough to buy is regularly. I'm hoping to cultivate a relationship with two or three markets, and at least one big novel publisher, such as Baen. But I've got a lot of work left to do on all of those fronts.
As for carving down the market list, yes, as soon as Dean Smith and Kris Rusch cautioned that a track record of semi-pro sales might actually hurt my chances with a pro-level editor -- because they might give the pro-level editor the perception that my craft had "ceilinged" beneath what said pro-level editor required -- I dropped all of my semi-pro listings out of my big market list. Currently I've got 16 markets on my "list" and any given story I write is really only suited for about 6 or 7 of them. I also think a "semi-pro" magazine like Interzone can be a valuable credit, if only because Interzone is the king of the UK genre magazines and has fabulius production values. Big names publish there all the time. Which is another thing: if you want to rub shoulders with name authors you admire, aim for the markets where you see them publishing.
Just as an additional consideration, I'd like to point out that hard copy can be given to the Luddites in the family, where an epublished story can't.
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