The second step

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Monica Byrne
Posted on Friday, July 27, 2007 - 07:06 am:   

When an editor likes a story and is interested in publishing it, what happens next?

Does the author get a letter? a phone call? an email? And what percentage of the stories in which editors initially express interest eventually get published?

(I have sent off my first stories, and am imagining the results - rejection slips included - and just wanted a little more information to supplement my fantasies! Hee hee.)
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Jeremy Minton
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 10:13 am:   

It depends on the market you're submitting to and on the kind of stories you're submitting and how naturally (or unnaturally) talented you are.

I'm assuming you're talking about short fiction submissions (which is a helpful assumption to make as they're the only things I've ever submitted.) Typically you will wait for a while and eventually something will come back through the post to you.
How long that while can be vary a great deal. F&SF is famously fast for responses i,e, a week or two in a lot of cases but response times of several months are not unusual for other markets. Most market web sites will tell you how long they expect to hang on to your work before replying. In most cases you should regard this as the minimum time you can expect to wait for a response. Keep writing and submitting while you're waiting for stories to come back. You'll feel more productive and the rejection will be easier to bear if you have other works in progress.

If you have submitted by snail mail (which is what I think most markets still mostly, though I've not had anything hunting for a home for a while now, so I may be wrong about this.) then the reply will generally come by snail as well. Unless you are very talented or very lucky the envelope you get back will be the SAE which you sent in with your story. If the submission guidelines said to send an SAE and you didn't chances are you won't get a reply at all.

Large MS-size envelopes with your name in your hand-writing on are not good news. They mean the editor has not bought your story. They may have stuck a note or some kind of comment explaining why the story has been rejected but you should not count on this. It's not an editor's job to teach you how to write. Most of the time it will just be a form rejection which will tell you nothing useful.

If you get a white envelope with the market's logo on it, this means that the editor is going to buy your story. F&SF are nice enough to send checks by way of acceptance notification (at least they did for the ones I sold them; I presume they still do.) The other markets I sold to sent a letter saying they liked the story and a contract for me to sign and return. Payment followed later, after publication.

If your market says it either accepts or sends replies electronically, then you can expect to get an email either accepting or rejecting your story. In terms of what's in the email, it's going to be pretty much the same as what you would have got by snail in the old days.

As far as I am aware, editors don't "express an interest" in a story. They buy them or they don't. If you've had an acceptance letter from a market this is basically a statement that the market wants to publish your story. Unless something serious happens (that the market going out of business) if an editor says they want your story they will eventually publish it. Focus closely on the word "eventually". In many cases, the wait between acceptance and publication can be as long or longer than the wait between submission and response. Waiting is a very, very big part of a writer's life. If you want to get anything done make sure your waiting time is also writing time. You probably know this already, but I didn't when I started writing and submitting and I wasted a lot of my time before someone pointed it out tome, which is why I'm going on about it now.)

I hope that has given you fuel for your dreams and I hope your stories will bring you good luck.
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Monica Byrne
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 10:54 am:   

Thank you so much, Jeremy! That's incredibly helpful.

My only experience with publishing so far was writing for a science magazine that liked my idea, but eventually didn't buy the story (though they did pay a kill fee). I know these markets (e.g. F&SF) don't work on spec, but I thought there might still be a grey area before actual acceptance of a story.

I have a story submitted, and I'm whiling away the time...writing other stories. So, yes, advice taken. Thanks!

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