I have a new Storyville column up at LitReactor today entitled Ten Lesser-Known Stephen King Books Worth Reading. ENJOY!
I have a new Storyville column up at LitReactor today entitled Ten Lesser-Known Stephen King Books Worth Reading. ENJOY!
I have a new Storyville column up at LitReactor today entitled Ten Lesser-Known Stephen King Books Worth Reading. ENJOY!
I have a second column up at ManArchy. This one covers a fantastic collection by Matt Bell, Cataclysm Baby, as well as my thoughts on BBQ, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Head on over for more information.
My latest Storyville column over at Lit Reactor is all about endings, twisted and otherwise. What do we talk about? Beginnings, icebergs, fulfillment through resolution, to twist or not twist, deus ex machina, and caring about your characters. Hope it helps. ENJOY!
So, I always leap at the chance to work with brilliant and talented people. So when Pela Via asked me to do something for ManArchy Magazine, I said, “Sure. Watchoo want?” We talked a little bit about it. I already do book reviews for The Nervous Breakdown, and a column on writing for Lit Reactor. So what else could we do? I still wanted to talk about books, if possible, as well as other cool things that have been informing and infecting my life, and my writing. We ended up with THE WORD. The first column talks about Sriracha, The Olympics, Adventure Time, Justified, and The Rumpus Letters. I hope you enjoy it, and while you’re at it, spread THE WORD. Ha, see how that worked out?
My ninth Storyville column is up as well. It’s all about how to balance your life and your writing, how to find time to be creative and also be a father, a husband, a friend.
And, now my sixth column is live up at Lit Reactor. It’s about how to get an agent. Now, I don’t HAVE an agent, so keep that in mind, but I’ve gotten very close, and I’m very familiar with the process. Heck, if you have any new ideas, let me know. It’s a slow, painful process and the odds are against you, but it’s certainly possible. Let me know what you think.
And, now my fifth column is live up at Lit Reactor. It’s all about how to get ideas when you’re blocked, and where I’ve gotten some of my ideas in the past. Really it comes down to your process and what interests you. If you like to plot, then it may be a much more complicated process, but if you just like to chase an emotion, a setting, or a character in a particular circumstance, how you get from a glimmer of an idea to a full developed story (or novel) may be a very different process. Hope it helps!
Litreactor.com has launched, and man is this site taking off. It’s an offshoot of The Cult, taking all of the publishing, craft, and literature conversations as well as workshops, classes, lectures, reviews and columns away from what was essentially the Chuck Palahniuk fan club, and moving it all to a new base.
I’m thrilled that I will be writing a column, called Storyville, and my first column is now up, about Finding Your Voice. I’ll have a column every month, maybe more often. I’ll also do book reviews now and then, and maybe some interviews sporadically as well.
The people in charge of this, Kirk Clawes, Dennis Widmyer, Joshua Chaplinsky, Mark Vanderpool and Phil Jourdan, they’re amazing people, very hard working, and so smart. I’m honored to be a part of it. And the writers? Wow, where to even start, so much talent joining me, Brandon Tietz, Erin Reel, Keith Rawson, Kasey Carpenter, Rob W. Hart, really you just need to head over and check it all out. So much to absorb.
Print vs. Online – The great debate
So Larina and I are once again at it. We’re going to try to be a little more regular about this, but things got in the way in the past month – birth, death, work, alcohol, nudity, football, kids, and beef jerky. Not necessarily in that order.
Take a gander at my thoughts here, speak up, add something to the conversation if you want to, and then see what she has to say over here Larina Print vs. Online
I am taking the online side of this debate. SO…let the games begin.
STIGMA NO LONGER
It used to be that publishing your fiction online was frowned upon. But things have changed. For many reasons, online publishing has gotten better, has expanded its audience, and in the process, has eliminated much of the stink. It has changed, for the better. And I’m pretty excited about it.
Here are some reasons why online fiction has blown up.
1. COST: Many print journals, whether at universities or independent presses, have decided to change to online publishing only. The recession has hit everyone and it is much more affordable to post up short stories and host it online, even if you spend money designing a really cool site. There are also many FREE or cheap sites out there, such as WordPress.com. Print costs, postage, and declining readerships have forced many publications to move online.
2. EXTENSIONS: Many respectable presses, journals and magazines have added an online aspect to what they already do in print. The New Yorker has been publishing fiction online for a long time now. Dzanc just rolled out The Collagist, a new web presence to add to its already compelling Monkeybicycle, Dzanc Books, OV Books and Black Lawrence Press. It’s happening all the time now. And that lends an air of credibility. When a publication that already wins awards, publishes the authors you love, and generally does good work decides to move online, why wouldn’t you trust that their online work would be just as good? I haven’t seen any drop off in the writing.
3. EYES: There are many reasons for publishing online, but getting new people to read your work, and getting a LOT of people to read it, is one. I recently had a story posted up at Troubadour 21 and it has over 200 hits, as we speak. Now, I doubt that all of those are unique visitors, and I promise that I did not click that link 199 times, but even if HALF of those people reading my work are new to me, I’m very happy with that. Most of us are not novelists, nor do we make a living as writers. We are not selling a million copies of our books. Yet. So for now, we have to take what we can get. You could publish in a print journal, and maybe 100 people would pick it up, maybe a couple hundred, but with the internet, there is always the possibility or more, an ENDLESS number of people that could read your work. And it’ll never go out of print.
4. IMMEDIACY: You run into somebody on the street, you chat somebody up at AWP, or a reading, or run into an ex-girlfriend at the grocery store. Honest, it was a coincidence. I don’t personally carry around copies of my work. And I wouldn’t, even if I HAD twenty copies of Gold Dust or Vain or the upcoming Shivers VI from Cemetery Dance. Not to mention the cost involved with that. BUT, I do carry around business cards with my blog on it, and my contact information. I can refer people to this blog, and subsequently, to my online fiction. I can post up in forums. I can Facebook you to death, Tweet in your ear until it bleeds. The point being, I can get you to my work, NOW. If you want to go there. If my work were ONLY in print, that would be much harder. Publishing online is a good alternative, a way of showcasing your work, and as fast and easy as a mouse click. I’ve had agents and editors read my work online and ask for a story or full manuscript before. It can be a great resource.
5. QUALITY: Like any book you pick up in a bookstore or at the library, the quality will vary. There are certainly terrible websites out there with weak writing. Just like there are published books that are empty and vague. Places like The New Yorker, The Missouri Review, The Paris Review, Granta, The Atlantic, we all know those are great places to publish. But what about the lesser known journals and magazines? The overall quality of online fiction has really improved. All you have to do is chase down your favorite authors, and see what they are publishing online. You’ll see that many established, as well as emerging authors, are publishing online now. Take the following sentence and fill in the blanks. It is your new mantra.
If _______________ is good enough for _______________, it’s good enough for me.
Maybe those authors are Brian Evenson, Stephen Graham Jones, Blake Butler, Steve Almond, Benjamin Percy, Amelia Gray, Roy Kesey, Joe Meno, Matt Bell, Holly Goddard Jones, Stephen Elliott or Mary Miller.
6. TECHNOLOGY: These days, we are a digital society. We are fast and furious in everything we do. We update our Facebook status, we Tweet, we build our profiles on a million forums, we blog. So it only makes sense that we publish online, that we download podcasts and ebooks. Printed books and printed magazines or journals will probably not go away. Ever. BUT…there is a demand for everything, now, in my mouth, give it to me, stick it in. Why should that be any different with our fiction? Don’t get me wrong, one of the simple pleasures in life is holding a book, be it a paperback, or a hefty novel bound in leather. I like it. I like to touch it. To hold it. But I also find myself with down time at work, a spare moment in a coffehouse or stuck at an airport with my laptop. And I’ve read so many great stories while I’ve waited. I’ve tracked down my favorite authors, such as the latest George Saunders at TNY. I’ve run across a new voice, and Googled that name after reading ONE compelling story, only to fine more online, and then a collection of shorts for sale, bought it, and attended a reading in my city. It’s all connected, and it can be very exciting.
As a reader, somebody who enjoys good fiction wherever you can find it, you wouldn’t be here at my blog if you didn’t agree with me to a certain degree. You ARE online, aren’t you? And while this isn’t FICTION, there are tons of stories over there under my Table of Contents, under the Short Story section, as well as links to other authors and their work, and some fantastic presses and online journals. So go read. Check it out. Have fun.
To the writers – don’t be afraid. If you’re such a good writer, go out and write more. And put it online. Write to a theme issue, write to a particular aesthetic, stretch yourself. Make us laugh so hard we piss our pants. Make us gag. Make us a little bit horny. Make us tear up a bit. Maybe even touch a nerve. Write a horror story or an erotic tale, dabble in noir, or the surreal, write a fairy tale, or serialize your novella. But get your work out there. I think that’s one of the best things about putting your work online. It’s OUT THERE. For people to enjoy. You can’t get discovered if people can’t find your work.
First of all, Larina and I are doing a dueling column on this issue. I am FOR simultaneous submission (the writer’s perspective) and Larina is FOR no simultaneous submission (editor’s perspective). You can read her column right here, and YES it IS the same WordPress site. Cute isn’t it? We’re like twins.
I’ll post it again at the end of the column. Post up your thoughts, go read her column and do the same thing. But be nice. Okay?
One author’s perspective
So, Larina (http://larina.wordpress.com/) and I are doing a little column debate here, a little pro and con, between the writer’s side of this story and the editor’s lofty, snotty, inconsiderate perspective. What? Biased? Of course I am. And I edit too for two publications (warning: first plug) http://www.coloredchalk.com and http://sideshowfables.com, but even so, I am violently in favor of ALL publications utilizing a simultaneous submission policy. There, I said it. And to those that are on the other side of the fence, I say BOLLOCKS, open up your doors, and understand what we are up against, out here in the cold, alone and pecking away, crying into our keyboards, pushing away the wife and kids screaming I MUST WRITE!.
WHAT IS SS?
Basically a simultaneous submission policy says that you may indeed submit your fantastic short story (or novel) to other publications BUT (and this is a BIG BUT, one that this policy hinges on I think) you MUST inform any other magazines or websites the minute you are accepted elsewhere. Why? Well, so they can congratulate you on your success, and pull your story out of the slush pile, and not waste any more time reading it, or running it up the corporate ladder for approval, or whatever it takes to break through.
I’ll be putting up stats from http://www.duotrope.com, a fantastic site for finding markets and tracking submissions. Go use them now, and donate a couple of dollars too.
There is a wide range of times that you can wait for an editor and publication to get back to you. Some of the fastest like Anderbo.com can do it in a day or two, same for Clarkesworld, a big publisher in the fantasy and sci-fi arenas. The FASTEST 25 at Duotrope end with #25 being seven days. That’s quick. Now, at the other end, take a look at this nightmare:
1. Sniplits (387 days)
2. Open City (280 days)
3. Doorways Magazine (252.6 days)
4. Saint Ann’s Review / tsarina (248.1 days)
5. Blackbird (243.5 days)
6. McSweeney’s Quarterly (221.8 days)
7. Another Chicago Magazine (201.1 days)
8. Fence (192 days)
9. Baltimore Review, The (187.1 days)
10. Ascent (184.9 days)
11. Public Space, A (181.8 days)
12. Rambler, The (180.8 days)
13. Coyote Wild (177.8 days)
14. Low Rent Magazine (176 days)
15. Chattahoochee Review (170.9 days)
16. Yale Review (170.4 days)
17. Blue Mesa Review (165.4 days)
18. Inkwell Journal (160.4 days)
19. Crab Orchard Review (156.3 days)
20. Antioch Review (151.8 days)
21. Harvard Review (150.2 days)
22. Gettysburg Review (147.5 days)
23. Crazyhorse (147.4 days)
24. Dark Recesses (147 days)
25. Indiana Review (145.1 days)
I’m still waiting to hear back from St. Ann’s and it has been over 400 days for one story and NO RESPONSE from the editors. Ever. Repeatedly.
There are some big names on here – McSweeney’s, APS, Antioch, Harvard, Crazyhorse. So let us say you are waiting on a top publication. I won’t even pick the longest one. Say an average of about six months, or 180 days. Think about how long that will take you. You wait six months, only to get rejected. Do it again. Wait six months. Get rejected. Do it again. And again, and again, and again. Now we get to talk about acceptance rates, to REALLY make this all sound dire.
Here are the Top 25 HARDEST to get into, also from Duotrope:
1. Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF) (0.2 %)
2. Glimmer Train Stories (0.3 %)
3. Ninth Letter (0.3 %)
4. Missouri Review (0.3 %)
5. Clarkesworld Magazine (0.4 %)
6. Kenyon Review (0.6 %)
7. Narrative Magazine (0.6 %)
8. Pedestal Magazine (0.7 %)
9. Willow Springs (0.7 %)
10. Mid-American Review (0.8 %)
11. Hobart (Print) (0.8 %)
12. Analog Science Fiction & Fact (0.8 %)
13. McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (0.8 %)
14. Strange Horizons (0.9 %)
15. Atlantic Monthly, The (0.9 %)
16. Hayden’s Ferry Review (0.9 %)
17. Colorado Review (0.9 %)
18. DIAGRAM (1.1 %)
19. Black Warrior Review (1.1 %)
20. Shimmer (1.2 %)
21. Gulf Coast (1.2 %)
22. Futurismic (1.2 %)
23. upstreet TEMP CLOSED (1.2 %)
24. failbetter.com (1.2 %)
25. GUD: Greatest Uncommon Denominator (1.3 %)
Notice something in common? The top 25 are all at about 1%. That means 99% percent get rejected. And that doesn’t even include the listings that are at a big fat ZERO, they don’t show up at all. Again, some big names in here – F&SF, Glimmer Train, Missouri Review, Clarkesworld, Kenyon, Narrative, Hobart, Analog, McSweeney’s, Atlantic, Colorado Review, Black Warrior, GUD – an elite list that most of us would KILL to be on.
So, if we add this acceptance rate of 1% to the six month waiting period, how long is that damn story of yours going to take to finally break through? Something like FIFTY YEARS, right? Well screw that, I might as well get drunk and watch bad tv.
Bummed out yet? Don’t be. There is hope. And I don’t mean just send your work to much easier places. I mean, you’re in good company. Of those 25 HARDEST to get into, how many do you think are NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS? Only NINE. So the rest, they get it, and they find a way to deal with it. At least those on THIS list with NSS policies are fast. The eight that do require you to submit to them, and only them (F&SF, Clarkesworld, Analog, McSweeney’s Internet, Strange Horizons, Atlantic, Shimmer, and Futurismic) have a range of 3 days up to 44 days. Most are in the 15-30 day range. A very reasonable time, in my opinion, and certainly not six months.
GOOD COMPANY EXAMPLE:
Here is a quote from Orchid: A Literary Review that about sums it up for me.
“…and, yes, we do consider simultaneous submissions. After all, we’ve heard that the average story is submitted twenty (or more) times and rejected twenty (or more) times before being published. At that rate, without simultaneously submitting, it would take at least five years to place a story. That just seems mean.”
So we feel better now, a little bit anyway, having seen that some of the top publications (in a wide range of genres too) get it, and are for SS. But go back to that first list, those that take the LONGEST. Here are the real culprits, and I’ll give my thoughts on them in a second.
Of those first 25, the SLOWEST to respond, how many do you think are ALSO no SS? Luckily only SIX:
Sniplits – 387 (SNIPLITS? What the hell?)
Ascent – 184
Coyote – 177
Yale – 170
Antioch – 157
Dark Recesses – 147
For some of these, it may be that they are understaffed, or for the journals, tied to a university, away for the summer. But really? I forgive none of them.
This one is tough. I can ALMOST understand why some presses would have this policy, but COME ON. This is even MORE of a situation that calls for NO simultaneous submission. I don’t care if you run it past two interns, a co-editor, the editor and up the ladder to the CEO and whatever other yahoos at the top have to read it. Do you know how hard it is to publish a novel? Again, I think it is in that 1% range. And we spend YEARS writing our novels. I don’t think I’ve ever taken more than three months to write a short story and most of that is just trying to fix little things. Some stories CAN take years to perfect, but it’s not like you’re working several hours a day and writing 60,000-100,000 words. I can’t bend on this.
Now…I’m not talking about somebody asking for an “exclusive” or the “full manuscript”. I think if you are having an open conversation with an agent or publisher you should tell the truth. I just went through this with an agent on the east coast. I told her my novel Transubstantiate was at a couple of presses and she said fine. I sent her a synopsis, she asked for a chapter. She came here, read it, and said send the whole thing. I sent it to her, with the promise that she would read it in THIRTY days, and she kept her word. She rejected it in THIRTY days, right on time.
And what are the odds? What are the odds that TWO publishers will actually decide to publish your novel? Unless you are really successful, and are in some sort of bidding war or actually are in a position where you know your book will sell, if you make a living at it…but that’s not what I’m talking about. The worst case scenario if two presses want it…you just burned a bridge. The odds are just too much against us for me to worry about that. But I can almost understand it.
I had an interesting talk with Beth over at Shimmer. I’d sent in a query because my story was 6800 words, and they ask for you to do that for anything over 5000 words. Now, I like what Shimmer is doing, but I made the mistake of saying that this story was indeed at other publications. She refused to even read my query. I understand that, completely. But I asked her some follow up questions, basically wondering why Shimmer was a no simultaneous submission publication. Her response?
“I’m sorry you find this inconvenient, and hope you find success with the publishers who work according to your expectations.”
Wow. Is that a bit snarky or is it just me? I can’t tell sometimes. I wasn’t asking her to bend to my whim, or change their policy simply to please me (although that would have been nice) I was just curious as to WHY they adopted this policy when so many publications were NOT doing it that way anymore. Was it staff, number of submissions, too many horror stories about accepting a story only to find it gone when they got back to you six months later? At least Shimmer is fast, only taking 10 days.
What to do? Here are a couple of solutions:
1. SCREW THEM.
What nerve. Who are these people to make me wait six months, with a 1% acceptance rate? That’s cruel and I won’t stand for it. So, don’t submit to them. Avoid them, they’ll never run your work anyway, and because of their attitude, they are now officially ignored.
or more reasonably
2. RESPECT IT.
Put those guys up front, especially those that are fast. Send it out, and wait 10 days. That’s not so bad. Spend the first three months of your submissions targeting those top places with fast response times. I’ve done that before with F&SF, Clarkesworld, Cemetery Dance, and others.
3. TIME IT
So I entered a story, “Victimized” this 6800 word neo-noir thriller into the recent BOMB contest. Now, I know that my odds of winning are slim and none. BUT…maybe the editor really likes dark, rich stories, or maybe it could place, and still get published. So I have two choices. Submit and wait for 4-5 months OR…(and this is what I did) TIME IT. What do I mean? Let me explain.
Say you are sending out your best story ever to about 10 places that you really love, that seem like a good fit. Most of them are in the 1% acceptance range, maybe a couple in the 5% range, some in the 10% range. One, BOMB is having a contest, and is NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS. Figure out (ie, Duotrope again) what the AVERAGE time is for all of these, and then send them out so that they all hit on about the same date. If BOMB is the longest at say 120 days, send it first. Five are at 90 days, so send them in a month. The other five are 30 days, so wait a couple months, then send them out. They’ll all hit on or about the same day. And that way you don’t wait for years, and still get a shot at those hard to break into magazines. We just need to be realistic with 1% acceptance rates.
And when NONE of them take it…start all over again with the next tier of magazines and journals until your story finds a home. NEVER give up.
*NOTE: And don’t forget about online fiction. It used to be a taboo, a blemish or sorts, the last place to put your work. No so anymore. Many “literary” and award winning publications and universities are adding in an online presence OR even going to ONLY online. Maybe for additional exposure, or maybe to save money. I think Dogmatika.com, WordRiot.com, OpiumMagazine.com and 3:AMMagazine.com are all doing really great work, just to name a few. Dzanc Books just added TheCollagist.com with Matt Bell at the helm. It’s great exposure, and when somebody asks “Got something I can read?” you just send them over.
And the last option…
4. IGNORE IT.
I’ve asked a lot of my fellow writers, and most of them do ignore it. I’ve asked published authors, professors, editors and other esteemed professionals and most say just ignore it. Think of the odds. I mean, F&SF and Clarkesworld are going to be fighting over my story? And BOTH will accept it at the same time? It’ll never happen. At least, not until I’m very successful, and at that time, I may not worry about it. Or maybe they’ll be soliciting ME by then. There is always the risk of getting placed on some BLACKLIST, but I’ve never heard of such a thing. And I’ve never been in a position where two places accepted a story at the exact same time. As long as you send off a withdraw notice immediately, you should be fine. And many times, in doing that, I’ve gotten into conversations with editors, talking about my work, and/or where it did end up, and now that I’ve got a bit more of a personal relationship with this editor, I may stand out when I submit. “Oh, that dysfunctional Richard submitted again. Gather around all, lets see what insanity he sent in this time. Elephant penis? Modern vampire tale?”
It’s up to you how to submit, what stories to send to each publication, and how you abide by the rules. Or not. I personally think that the NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSION guideline should be abolished. It’s hard enough out here for us struggling writers without this rule. We need every break we can get.
Visit http://larina.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/simsubs/ and see what Larina has to say. I don’t know what her post is going to be, we haven’t talked at all, so it’ll be interesting to see what arguments she presents. Be kind.