Soiled

So…

Eons ago, I posted that I had made a sale, that a story of mine called, "A Bird in the Hand," had been picked up by the Sam's Dot Publishing for inclusion in one of their books.  I thought it would go into a magazine called Aiofe's Kiss and instead it ended up in one of their anthology collections called "Shelter of Daylight."  No biggie, I got paid and it was another publication.

Okay.

So, as I was trolling back through some of my old submissions status on Duotrope's Digest, I noticed that Sam's Dot Publishing was listed as defunct.  It had been incorporated another publishing umbrella called White Cat Publications.  These things happen, so I followed the internet trail.  I was not prepared for what I found.

The first entry I found on White Cat's page regarding Sam's Dot was about the erstwhile publisher and it … it was sobering and very grim.  I can't even really repeat what was written.  You can read it here.

(Muse:  You know none of this was your fault, right?)

I know.  It's still difficult to accept.  I believe in redemption, I believe in people earning a second chance.  But Rick Moore was right:  people have a right to decide for themselves with whom they associate, and I wish I had done my due diligence, and made my own decision with all the knowledge at hand.

You know, I really grew up as a kid trusting people, believing in people, wanting to expect the best of them.  Even as I grew into a sour old curmudgeon who jokes that I would be right at home sitting on my porch, yelling at kids to get off my lawn – even then, I still retained, and still do retain, some romantic idealism about the world.  And every time I want to believe in the best in the world, I find myself slapped with a little reality.

Sounds like a story there somewhere…

But Do You Make Anything?

That's something I have been asked by various interested peeps when I talk about writing.  I haven't made a ton; I know other writers that have made 10x (or more) than me by selling their short stories.  The reactions I get when I tell people are usually polite nods, since it would be considered mild pocket change by most standards.

I don't really write to make money, though that would be the dream (stay at home and write versus have a grown-up job).  It's more to cleanse my thoughts of the all stray voltage – and frankly, as I get older, it's good to keep my brain engaged and focused.  I look at the pay as a bonus.  If I get paid $25 and a copy of the anthology my work appears in (which has happened), my take on that is, "Someone gave me a free book and paid me $25 to read it."

Still, it something worth discussing.  Here a post with some interesting information from fantasy authors Paul S. Kemp and Michael J. Sullivan.  The Reddit discussion linked at the bottom of the post has some interesting conversation (and for Reddit, is strangely low on swearing and doofus-ry).

Not Worthy of a Response

So, I spent another few weeks off "vacation" with Mrs. Axe – and by vacation, I mean working on my house and traveling to visit ailing relatives.  Not much of a vacation, as I actually had to come back to work to get some rest.

(Muse:  Is there a point in here somewhere?)

Not really.  I got back a few days ago and am now trying to get caught up on status of submissions, etc.  So as I dig into my submissions, I track back to something I submitted to an anthology.  I noticed that my submissions had been in stasis for some time so on a whim, I drifted back to the site to see if there was any news.  I wondered if they had posted on progress of sifting through the submissions.  I also always worry that my story may or may not be received by the publisher; at least if they had completed the project, I might know I hadn't gotten through.

Well, lo and behold, I found an entry on their page from a month ago, stating they had filled the anthology.  In the interest of preventing the site from being found, I won't use the exact verbiage, but the post read something to the effect of: "If you received an email, you are in."  And that was it.

Hmmm.  What if you weren't accepted?  I guess you get no acknowledgement at all.  Someone commented in a snarky fashion on that exact point.  The editor's response was not nasty but basically boiled down to:  "I don't have time to do that."

This is annoying.

Look, I get that editors are busy.  I get that they are the ones making the choices on stories they want to buy, so they have power in the process.  I get that spec-fiction authors have to accept that unless they are named King, Martin, Rowling, Pratchett, Scalzi, or the like, they are going to face a 5-to-1 (and probably worse) rejection to acceptance ratio.  I get all that.

But a form email back to an author you aren't selecting – an author who took the time to format and submit a story to your publication – is just a baseline for good manners.  I know it takes time to respond to 800+ authors you didn't choose.  Well, any kind of publication takes time to run – and what kind of publication would it be if none of those folks submitted to you because they considered you dismissive of their efforts?  A poorer one.  I mean, how long did it take to read all those submissions?  Submission instructions to this anthology were to place the story in the body of the email.  At the end of reading, if it wasn't good enough, hit Reply, cut and paste the standard rejection verbiage, hit Send, and move on.  How hard is that?  And simply stating that people should be monitoring your website to figure out they were not accepted is a poor decision, if you ask me … especially since nowhere in the original instructions was it stated that acceptances would be announced that way.  Courtesy is a two-way street, and I would like to have had the stories back a month ago to resubmit.

Call me bitter for not being accepted.  The publishers are free to run their site and anthology any way they choose.  I am free to label their treatment of the authors they solicited as rude.  I wish them well but won't be submitting there again.

Okay, rant over.  Back to submitting.

Piercing the Veil

The query process is pretty important to professional submissions but it is something of a mystery to many starting (and veteran) writers.  So I always enjoy getting feedback on what the agents and publishers themselves see and – well, what they endure.

Fellow author Erik Larsen (his blog here) provided a link to a blurb by Carlie Webber of CK Webber Associates.  She reviewed 60 submissions in 60 minutes and provided feedback on each one.  I guess what shocked me about this is the sheer number of submissions that:

– did not meet the agency's genre interests
– were riddled with poor grammar
– did not describe anything about their story

Maybe a full third of the submissions never even got their sample pages read because of a very poor query letter.  That's unforgivable – not on the part of the agent but on the author.

Best efforts, people, every time.

(Muse:  That means you too, you know.)

Yes it does.

The Perils of Editor Conflict

So …

A while back, I announced that my story "Forgive Me" had been picked up by the Canadian horror mag Postscripts to Darkness.  It was pretty sweet and I was happy.

Well, a few days ago an email popped up in my box that said "Forgive Me, copy edited."  I blinked, then thought, "Okay, so I missed a period or left out a space or something like that.  No biggie."  Well, they had done slightly more than that.  According to the email, they had altered the wording of the story at the very beginning, just slightly, to provide some visual perspective to the reader (the characters are not vertically on the same level and I agree it is unclear the way I wrote it).  Other edits were minor – until I got to the end.  They had inserted one word at the end of the story.  One lousy word that gave away the resolution several paragraphs early.

I had come to it:  the dreaded disconnect between editor and author.  Artistic integrity demanded that my work roll through untouched.  But they own the magazine and they are paying me – in essence, my employer for the duration of this contract.  Am I obligated to follow their desires?  What would happen if I pushed back?  No telling.  Maybe they would agree and let it go.  Maybe they would come back with some rational explanation I had overlooked.  Maybe they would toss the story back to me in disdain and wish me good luck getting it published somewhere else.  I've read about authors going round and round with their publishers, resulting in weeks of frustration.  I think it always comes down to what's more important to the author:  getting published or maintaining their vision.  It's a tough call and I've heard from both camps.  I judge not; each individual author has to make the call in their own case, based on whatever means more to them.  I am (as I suspect most are) somewhere on the continuum; I want to get published and will accept minor changes … but not a wholesale revision and nothing that, to me, rends the impact of my work.

As I sat there and stared at it, I knew this was not going to be something I could overcome.  I could not leave the word in; one single word completely disrupted the flow and turned the story into something I did not want.  I steeled myself, and responded to the editors as such, resigning myself to whatever happened.

In the end, I blew this into my head much, much more than it was.  Ranylt Richildis of PStD, affectionately titled "Editor in Medea," got back to me the same day and assured me that my concerns were addressed, that that one sinister word would not derail our efforts, and that everything was fine.  I appreciate their understanding response and realize I built the mountain from the proverbial molehill, for no good reason.

(Muse:  Not a shock.)

So, a lesson learned:  when it comes to conflict with the editor, just be guided by your instincts.