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Tribeless
Posted on Tuesday, January 18, 2005 - 12:23 am:   

Ellen, I hope you're enjoying my country, The Land Of The Long White Cloud. But, now you're here, and can see how far away it is from the REST OF THE WORLD, may I proffer a suggestion, vis a vis, that old hobby horse of mine.

JJA, I know you're here, so can you suggest this to your editor as well.

I've just submitted a mainsteam story to 'The Missouri Review' electronically. Brilliant. Note that they charged for this, US$3 paid over a secure connection, to cover the cost of them printing the story out so the Readers/Editors can read hard copy.

Repeat, what a brilliant solution. I have no problem paying the fee, its still far cheaper than overseas postage from NZ, plus the cost of an International Reply Coupon, plus a long trip to the post office (and I've never been able to figure out that UPS, or whatever site). But above money, and as implied by the 'long trip' aspect, its just convenience. Sheer convenience.

Did I say that this would be a brilliant solution? Your magazines would incur no cost, and the minimal cost of the Internet set up would soon be paid as I'm willing to punt the majority of your overseas contributors will submit online from that point on.

Plus wait, there's more. I'm not posting this to Asimov's forum, so for sourcing content you'll both have the jump on it (and Analog).

At least think about it. Any Scifi I write now only goes to Strange Horizons, as that's the only paid Scifi market I can contribute to electronically,(with much more choice, coincidentally, for filing electronically to mainstream publications). I wonder how many more people there are like myself, and what you are missing.


I'll remind you of this post when I'm accepting my Bookers Prize.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Tuesday, January 18, 2005 - 02:32 am:   

Hi Tribeless.

I'm having a fine time teaching CLarion South and telling my students WHY editors don't accept email submissions. The most important reason is that material that comes to me via email tends to get lost on the computer. Material that comes by paper sits on my apt/office floor until I read it. Everyone seems to accept that. I hope you can too.

Obviously, the Missouri Review doesn't get many submissions via email or they would not allow it.

Or....they have an office wherein they can regularly print out stories that come in via email.

I don't. ;-)
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Tribeless
Posted on Tuesday, January 18, 2005 - 01:10 pm:   

Well, perhaps you could have a look at the Missouri Reveiw online electronic submission process and replicate it. (Not much else to do in Auckland).

http://www.missourireview.com/blog/archives/000191.php

Charge US$6 instead of US$3 and you'll be able to buy an office one day :-) I'd pay the US$6 for the convenience (financially I'd be no worse off than snail mail).

Flogging a dead horse aren't i :-)

You're lucky by the look of it you're getting some nice weather ... its been crap in the South Island until a week ago.
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M.K. Hobson
Posted on Tuesday, January 18, 2005 - 06:16 pm:   

I don't comment here much, but I can't resist because this topic is so close to my heart. I've long had the idea of starting a third-party Web site where authors could upload a MS file, and pay to have my company print out the MS, include an SASE (with the author's address or with our address, if the author is overseas) and send the whole shebang off to the editor/editors of their choice.

If you wanted to get really fancy with it, you could have a submission tracking function built in to the Web site that would allow the author to keep track of what they have submitted where, how many days it's been out, etc. You could have standard cover letters saved and you could indicate which one you wanted enclosed, or you could type in a custom one ...

In short, it would be a one-stop Web ASP offering writers all the features that they now do by themselves with Excel spreadsheets, printers, and labels.

I was looking at a subscription model (a certain # of MSS per month/year for a flat rate), but a per MS charge could work as well.

I'd love to hear from other authors whether or not they'd use a service like this. If so, I might actually call up my database programmer and see if we can't put something together.

M
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Tribeless
Posted on Tuesday, January 18, 2005 - 10:17 pm:   

Very interested M.K.

My batmail address is Tribeless2004@hotmail.com

Can you note it down and contact me should you get this service up and running.

Cheers
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M.K. Hobson
Posted on Tuesday, January 18, 2005 - 10:51 pm:   

Sure! Will do.

M
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 02:14 am:   

A couple of things about this idea.

Firstly, any "pay-to-submit" model is going to look like a scam, no matter how legitimate it is. Sensibilities surrounding scams are much higher in the genre. That's why pay-to-submit agents are shunned and pay-to-submit competitions are generally frowned upon. There's nothing for a magazine like Sci Fiction or F&SF to gain here and a lot in the way of reputation to lose.

Secondly, a third party service would suffer from the same associations (do we really *know* they are sending out the stories or are they just taking payment?) while at the same time losing that important personal link between an editor and the writers. When I write to Ellen I always say "Hi". An unsigned, non-personalised submission would cut that out, and in writing there is little enough personal contact already.

I hate paying the cost of international submissions, and I would love to see email subs, but they're not going to happen and I wouldn't pay for submissions in either of those ways. I suspect many others would feel the same way.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 07:04 am:   

Actually, we do have something to gain here---submissions we wouldn't otherwise get. It seems feasible to offer a system of this sort, but not if we get more than a handful of submissions this way. Suppose we get 10 submissions a day in this manner and they average 25 pages each. Printing them out would:

a) use 250 pieces of paper/day
b) take about 25 minutes to print out
c) take another 10-15 minutes to download the files
d) use up toner and wear down the printer

I haven't run any numbers, but for the sake of argument, let's say that Tribeless's figure of $6.00/submission actually covers the costs of supplies. Do I want to devote 40 minutes of John's day every day to this process? (I bet it will more likely turn out to be an hour/day when you factor in all the time processing the emails.) Do I want to find an intern just to handle this work?

There are a couple of other hidden factors here I don't want to get into in a public forum---certainly not before discussing them with John. But overall, this isn't sounding too feasible right now. Tying up one employee plus computer for one hour a day with this scutwork probably isn't worth ~$60.00. And if the number of manuscrips received this way doubles, it's definitely not worth the time.

M. K. Hobson, it sounds like you're moving towards setting up a literary agency with your plan.
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 08:23 am:   

What I'm trying to figure out is why an editor even has to offer a rationale for not accepting electronic submissions. I mean, whether it's more logical to take them or not is irrelevant. An editor should be able to just say he or she does or doesn't, and that's the end of it. What? Do we all need instant-instant gratification now?

JeffV
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 08:49 am:   

Jeff---

It's not about response times (to my mind), it's about the methods of submission. But your question raises another concern I hadn't considered: if we take email subs, how many people will email us a day later and ask, "Did you receive my submission?" And, "Where's my response?"? Another item to work around.

Your question also adds to my conviction that if we take electronic submissions, overseas writers won't be the only writers to use the system. Which means I have to increase my estimate of the number of subs we'd get each day. A typical US submission costs in the range of $1.50 - $3.50 to print out and send (more if you use delivery confirmation). How many people would figure that it's worth an extra few bucks for the convenience of sending an electronic submission? Guestimates? Ten to twenty seems right to me, initially.
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JeremyT
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 09:12 am:   

I couldn't imagine an exact number of how many people in the US Gordon would get submitting electronically if he allowed them, but I suspect that number is an order of magnitude too low, Gordon. A couple hundred seems more likely to me. Perhaps not all at once, though.

I've been vocal on the subject before, but I don't really have much to add here. The idea of a fee for online submissions strikes me as a good idea particularly for overseas writers. Regarding the response emails, Gordon, I think you can cut down on those quite a bit by having an auto-reply that notifies the author that you receive their submission. At the FB, we don't get any queries until well after the posted acceptable query time, thanks to having one of these. Before I had the auto reply, I used to get a few.

As a reader, I'd love to see more international authors published in US magazines. Anything that might do that gets my support.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 09:27 am:   

That's why I've spoken up here, Jeremy. But it's sounding like Tribeless's estimate of $6.00 will be too low for us if we have any hopes of making a system of this sort work.
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 10:17 am:   

Does anyone know any of the editors of The Missouri Review, so that we might get some statistics from a magazine that has actually used this system already? I have no idea what sort of submission volume a mainstream literary magazine like that receives, but perhaps their data would be valuable to the discussion.
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M.K. Hobson
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 10:40 am:   

Patrick: The “scam factor” could be mitigated using the delivery confirmation system, if the author was willing to pay the extra cost. Otherwise, some level of trust would have to be extended. To increase this trust level, perhaps this third party could be listed as an "approved" vendor for these services by individual magazines. If a partnership model with the magazines was possible, then submissions could be batched (for example, every two weeks a bundle of submissions was delivered to F&SF, and a confirmation of receipt from F&SF could be sent to the third party, which the third party could then forward that confirmation to all authors in the batch.) This would also cut down in postage costs to the third party (sending a bundle of fifty MSS would be cheaper than sending 50 individual submissions).

Another way to increase the trust level for this type of service would be to find some way to partner with, or gain the “seal of approval” of, SFWA/HWA/RWA, whoever.

Finally, in all honesty, I have the feeling that the sheer narrowness of the potential profit margin would limit its attractiveness as a scam.

Gordon: Unlike a literary agency, the theoretical third party I have in mind would be nothing more than a packager/traffic manager. I suppose eventually it could partner with other writer sites (e.g., Ralan, Critters, the Black Hole) to bring a whole bunch of author services under one roof. That would be supercool, IMHO -- but definitely, a longer term vision.

Anyway, I always thought it would be a really fun project to set up a system like this. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have a superabundance of fun projects in my life to choose from.

Mary
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 02:09 pm:   

Despite the fact that we rarely accept online submissions, I do get plenty of stories from outside the US. I've bought stories from two Australian authors in the past six months --both were sent the traditional way.

I notice I haven't bought or published any UK stories lately but the writers whose work I like and buy haven't been producing much short work--I haven't seen them in any UK mags either.

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Tribeless
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 02:16 pm:   

Patrick wrote:

"while at the same time losing that important personal link between an editor and the writers. When I write to Ellen I always say "Hi". An unsigned, non-personalised submission would cut that out, and in writing there is little enough personal contact already. "

Missouri Review is not the only system such as this for electronic filing. You don't lose the 'personal' touch, as there is normally a field for adding personal comments ... anything you can do snail mail you can normally do better electronically ... and at far greater convenience.

Great to see the editors really looking at it here :-)
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Tribeless
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 02:19 pm:   

Ellen, yes, but you'll never know how many other stories that you'll simply never see ... the ones you're getting may be only a small portion of your 'market' (that other old hobby horse :-)

I will win this one in the end.
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Tribeless
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 02:29 pm:   

Gordon, your costings concerns certainly have validity (I'm and accountant in my real life :-) ) As JJA said, it would be interesting for someone to have a chat with the management of Missouri Review.

But, that is why M.K.'s idea is so attractive to both sides of this; author and editor. I don't see this as an 'agency' service, other than in the most literal sense. I simply want to be able to submit from my computer without the hassle of going to the post office and all that involves. I can submit to M.K., have him dock my credit card (so secure facility M.K.) for cost of printing my submission, including my cover letter, etc then simply put this into an envelope and submit under 'my' name. Note that last part: M.K. is simply a service, plain and simple, it's still me submitting: in my mind, by the time the submission arrived snail mail to the editor, they wouldn't even know M.K. was involved (other than perhaps post stamps, etc).
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Tribeless
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 02:31 pm:   

Oh, Mary's already mentioned much of my last post ... sorry.
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 07:52 pm:   

Ellen and Gordon--how many submissions do you currently receive per month?

What percentage of them are dealt with by a first reader--and how many of those submissions does the first reader actually read all the way through?

I can only speak for my own procedure in editing Leviathan anthologies, but it didn't take more than reading a couple of pages online, and checking the ending, to reject 90% of what came in. Since we were a market paying less than SciFiction or F&SF, I would assume that the % of competent work might go up for your publications, but there would still be a lot of work that wouldn't even need to be printed out.

In some ways, it's probably a workflow process issue more than anything else. You could even make a case for a scenario where you reject 60-70% of all submissions based on a quick online skim (this may horrify some people who read this, but it's a fact that's it's easy to tell when something is definitely unpublishable). For the rest, you send an auto-generated email asking them to send a hardcopy because you have further interest. Sound crazy? Maybe, but who knows.

Gordon--when I made the prior comment, it was in recognition of the fact that many editors' aversion to getting email submissions is simply due to the "this is the way we've always done it" point of view, and perhaps from not having tried it. (And hand-in-hand with this, the fact that some editors don't like reading off of a screen--something that is not going to be an issue for most in the next generation of editors.) I didn't indicate I thought it was a best business practice, but that you have to keep the foibles and preferences of human beings in mind when building business processes or they simply won't work.

At the same time, the burden of submission should fall on the submitter. And if a writer in the US isn't going to submit to a high-paying domestic publication because they can't be bothered to print out a hardcopy and get themselves down to a post office...well, maybe that's a good way to weed out a few writers.

JeffV
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 09:25 pm:   

I haven't actually counted the number of submissions, but my estimate is that we get 500-800 a month.

Today was a light day for submissions and I counted five from abroad: two from Canada, two from the UK, and one from Belgium.
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Tribeless
Posted on Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 09:51 pm:   

That's indicative of a very low percentage of overseas subs Gordon. The editors might be immensely surprised as what electronic submissions brings forth ...
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 12:03 am:   

My submissions are about 2 1/2 feet high per month for slush, one and a half feet high for non-slush.

Since I read all non-slush through (or at least skim it) that's an awful lot of material to read online.

I'm really not worried about "missing" a gem of some sort because the author refuses to mail a ms. I can't miss what I never see. ;-)

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Tribeless
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 12:48 am:   

I shall remind you of that when I'm picking up by Bookers Prize also.

Anyway, what Kiwiana stuff have you been up to Ellen? Done the hangi thing yet? Hot pools?
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 05:16 am:   

Tribeless, how can you say it's a low percentage when you don't know how many other submissions arrived?

And please, if you're going to keep making this comment about winning the Booker Prize, take note of the fact that the award has no "s" in its name: http://www.themanbookerprize.com/intro/home.asp
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Dave
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 06:35 am:   

Gordon,

From the "glass is half-full" perspective, electronic submissions could save time and generate a few $ in profit. My bet is that John reads only a few paragraphs of many (most?) stories in the slush pile. With electronic submissions there is no need to print out the whole story unless the first page grabs John's interest. There is also no envelope to open, no return envelope to be stuffed, etc. Unless your internet connection is dialup, you should be able to download a day's submissions in a couple minutes. With a $6 fee, John could be earning F&SF $180/hour for spending 2 minutes on each of these submissions. That more than covers the cost of printing for that portion of the slush pile that John wants to read in totality.

Just a different perspective...
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Diana
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 10:11 am:   

Dave--
And one hard drive crash or mangled download kills an entire day or more of submissions and generates mountains of headaches. It's happened on other magazines that accept e-subs. F&SF has a system that seems to work beautifully and efficiently. Why should they tinker with it? Yes, it sucks that overseas contributers have to pay more to get a submission here, but heck, life isn't always fair.
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Tribeless
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 11:27 am:   

Gordon: admittedly I was calculating off 500-800 submissions a week, whereas, when I read your post again I see you wrote month. So, average of this would be 650 submissions per month, equals, say, 22 subs per day. Five submissions equals 22% of submissions from overseas. Even on those statistics, that still a pretty low percentage for the rest of the world verse US.

But, what would real percentage be?

Booker ... okay :-)
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Tribeless
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 11:32 am:   

Okay okay, typo above. Should be ... that's.

Busy, you know :-(

Which is why I don't have two hours to spend trying to complete a snail mail submission.
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Tribeless
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 11:34 am:   

And then I missed what I'd intended to write. Vis a vis the economics of it, although Dave's post above is interesting, I suspect Mary's intermediary service is the answer.
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Diana
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 11:44 am:   

How on earth does it take you two hours to complete a snail mail submission? Five minutes to print (being generous here), one minute to make sure all the pages are there, another minute to type "Here's my story" on a cover letter, twelve seconds to print it, three seconds to stick a paperclip on it, nine seconds to put it in an envelope, eight seconds to enclose the pre-prepared SASE (because if you do a fair number of submissions you might as well just make a stack of them ahead of time), two seconds to lick it and seal it, half a minute to address it, two seconds to slap a stamp onto it.
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Dave
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 12:43 pm:   

Diana,

Any buisness using computers but not doing daily backups is like a publisher that keeps a stack of paper manuscripts next to an open container of lighter fluid. Yes, bad things do happen. The intern who retrieves paper submissions from the PO box may trip on the curb and drop them all in a large puddle...or maybe he dumps half of them in the trash because he's already decided to quit on Friday.

F&SF has a system that seems to work beautifully and efficiently. Why should they tinker with it? Yes, it sucks [for] overseas contributers...

You answered your own question...

Dave
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Dawn B
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 12:54 pm:   

I guessing the two hours comes from including a trip to the Post Office and the dealing with IRC & stamps.

But still, I would guess more like 20 mintutes rather than two hours...
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 02:17 pm:   

Gee, if I lived overseas and wanted to submit to SciFi.com or F&SF, here's what I would do.

Make an American friend, via the magic of the Internet and our common interests, like science fiction or masturbating to the photos on www.rotten.com.

Email my story to my friend.

Have my friend print out, package, and submit the story in my name. Because he is my friend, he'd be willing to spend the whole buck and a half this would cost him.

Have my friend key in any pertinent notes on the rejection slip and email them to me.

Repeat till I became super-famous, only to be be brought down by my filthy sexual interests.

And because we are friends, I could do things for him, like mail him samples of the exotic cheeses and/or domestically illegal pornography of the Old Country, or occasionally send him a gift certificate for amazon.com.

I realize this plan does involve the ability to make friends over the Internet in order for it to work, but if an obnoxious lowlife like I can do it, I'm sure some of the others out there can too.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 03:15 pm:   

Considering the current budget crunch that the entire MU system is undergoing (mainly due to the fact that we have entirely too many six figure admin pukes doing nothing but adding porches to their homes from university funds) I find it hard to believe that The Missouri Review would have the budget to print the submissions.

Then again, they may be getting additional private funding outside of the MU system that makes it possible.

Tribeless, I hope your stuff makes it. Anything you've got to say will be a definitely improvement on the usual midlife crisis stuff that shows up there.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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Tribeless
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 03:46 pm:   

Diana and Dawn:

I live a long way from a post office. But more than this, apart from posting to this thread, I'm very busy ... I don't really have half an hour spare over a day (I start work at 8.30am and four nights a week usually work through to about midnight, plus have to work Saturday and Sunday unless we're out, etc. I even hire people to do lawns, gardens, etc because I don't have time. The more hassles an editor puts between myself and submission, the less likely I am to ever submit).

And ponder this (although I realise its circumstances particular to myself). I'm part of a very small rural community (village) where everybody knows everybody. I am a professional in that community - personal choice, but no one who knows me, other than my wife, knows I write at all, and I like it that way. To go to the post office and arrange all this stuff, IRC's, stamps, etc, leads to the inevitable questioning (I'm sure you can see how it works). Thus I either lie, or I lose privacy. I love writing, although I get very little time for it, but its my 'little private thing', I don't want the whole village knowing about it. It would actually change the way people relate to me. If I can submit electronically I don't have any of those issues.

Indeed, over the last couple of years I have been hot on this topic, but above is the first time I've stated the nub of the issue for me. Yes it is a hassle I don't have time for, yes it is costly (by hey, I do pretty well), but more than anything, in my particular set of circumstances, its in a sense an invasion of my wish to have writing being something I do without everybody knowing about. Even in the States you have small towns, am I the only one in this position?

Nick:

I ain't got me no friends in the US of A (sniff).
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 04:25 pm:   

I ain't got me no friends in the US of A (sniff).

I bet you could make some if you, you know, had a schtick outside of dunning editors to change the way they deal with slush just because you live in a tin shack near a town full of busybodies and slave away 120 hours a week in the accountancy mines.

Give it go!


PS: I promise to be publicly humiliated and let you laugh at me when you win the Booker Prize.
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Tribeless
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 04:25 pm:   

Steven, thanks for that. But reading between the lines then, my slipstream, sorry, experimental literary, submission about a freedom fighting anarchist being done over by the 'system' probably isn't going to be a flyer at The Missouri Review then :-(

Although in the story he is having a bit of a mid life crisis.

I still read your blog every morning over breakfast ... (which is the great thing about the Internet - can't do that by snail mail).
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Tribeless
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 04:41 pm:   

Nick: I'm sure the lovely editors, grown ups that the are, are always open to my innovative and revolutionary ideas - although the Internet has been round a while. Plus my largess is always served up with a smiley face.

:-) See.

And you don't get nothing if you don't ask.

I've been thinking of zipping up to Auckland to see if I could create a friend out of Ellen with liberal amounts of alcohol, but then ... well, she doesn't like her email. Plus Auckland's a bloody awful place. Its better if I stay in my mountain retreat and just throw rocks for a while longer.

:-)

See, smiley face.
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 05:18 pm:   

my slipstream, sorry, experimental literary, submission about a freedom fighting anarchist being done over by the 'system' probably isn't going to be a flyer at The Missouri Review

Better expand it to novel length. MR won't like it, but goddamn, that's a Booker shoe-in! It'll be just like Vernon God Little, but in English.
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Dawn B.
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 05:21 pm:   

Soo... whachya gonna do when you win the Booker prize? Won't everyone in your village know?

And no offense: If you can't take the half an hour to deal with your submissions you don't really want to be published. Publishing is WORK. You can make it easy on yourself [have everything set up; order stuff from outside your village if you don't want them to know; set everything aside for once a month/six months/year and then do ALL manuscripts in one sit down and forget about it] or you can make excuses and blame editors.

Seems you've chosen the latter. Have fun with that.
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Tribeless
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 06:00 pm:   

Dawn, with the greatest of respect :-) (see, smiley face), when I win the Booker it shall be under a pseudonym, and regarding the presentation I shall simply feign illness, or, shall send a 'little American' friend in my place, should I be so lucky to find same. (Whilst becoming a recluse in my home town).

Re work, am I afraid of it? Well, I've already given you my hours, so given my petition to God for more has been turned down, (I am assuming as I've not heard back ... mind you, the petition was sent electronically ...) what would you suggest?

Plus, no offense back :-) (note, smiley face) if you read my above email adequately, you would have noted that my chief gripe was in being able to retain privacy of endeavour in my little area of a big bad world. I have not, nor have I ever

:-) (note the smiley face)

blamed the editors. I believe in individual responsibility, so why would I do that. From my first post you'll see I've simply made a suggestion that sci-fi markets take their rightful place, vis a vis, attempt to be 'before their time', by offering electronic submission just as many of their mainstream brothers and sisters do.

Which is just a verbose way of saying :-) the fact I like my privacy, and I will always look to protect it from big brothers and big sisters, plus my local community (all the more) is no business

: :-)

of yours.

:-) :-) :-)
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Tribeless
Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 06:28 pm:   

Oh there. There! See! All the smiley faces couldn't hide the fact I just got stroppy with Dawn.

No wonder I've got no little American friends Nick :-(
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Dave
Posted on Friday, January 21, 2005 - 06:26 am:   

Re: Missouri Review

Anything you've got to say will be a definitely improvement on the usual midlife crisis stuff that shows up there.

I'm not a subscriber but I did poke around the site a little bit and found what I think is a gem of a story... Rationing by Mary Yukari Waters.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Friday, January 21, 2005 - 07:29 am:   

I assume you're being ironic, Dave?

That really is an amateur piece of writing.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Friday, January 21, 2005 - 07:50 am:   

Tribeless,

It's good to know someone takes a little time to put my suffering in with their morning eggs. :-) Thanks.

I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with Nick, first on your choice of submission targets, and second on what you should do with your project.

The Missouri Review (I've suffered through an issue or two and I know I don't write what they are looking for, though the blog and thread fodder I put up might count if I threw enough style monkey moves into it) is all about very high brow, artistic, "serious" literature.

In other words, they aren't going to cotton to any genre ghetto stuff unless your last name is Atwood or Roth (people act like that clown invented alternate history, sheesh).

If I had the funds, I'd tell you to e-mail it to me and I'd submit it to the slush piles of various mags for you. Unfortunately, I'm hard pressed to roll my own projects out to the launchpad. As you know, I've got one held up now for lack of funds for the damned postage (but I got paid yesterday so I will inflict yet another of my efforts on someone VERY SOON).

Might try expanding it to novel length.

And yes, Rationing is representative of what MR takes, yes, it is stylistically good writing, yes, it is not slipstream, and yes, I find the usual crap that ends up in MR to be completely boring, dull, and trite.

I could read a history book and get the same story (better told).

Now, that is just my reader opinion (and it should be noted that I do not aspire to end up in any of the American Serious Lit Reviews or Mags). There is plenty of "good writing" out there that I find boring, uninteresting and forgetable despite the best technical and talent efforts of the writer.

And nine out of ten times, it generally relates to chosen subject matter. If I don't care for the subject matter (in most serious lit of the eighties to the present it generally revolves around some midlife crisis, a family hang up, or a disease issue) then I don't waste my time on it.

Life is short, there is lots of good stuff to read, good stuff that I personally like, and thus I make my choices that way.

Not based on what the established mainstream American Literati have to say about it.

Or ask yourself this question.

How many people without college degrees are reading things like MR?

I can tell you right now, if I dropped a copy onto my father's table amidst the KC Star (they claim to be a newspaper but I have my doubts), his VFW, DAV, American Legion and Vietnam mags, along with all of the Gardening magazines and the Missouri Conservationist, he'd pick it up, thumb through it and say:

"Shit, I've got two forms of cancer now and a heart muscle thats blown to hamburger. I'm already living this. Why would I want to read more about it?"

If he said that much. More likely what he'd say is, "I don't have time for this shit."

I might be wrong and I'm prepared to admit it someday if it turns out to be the case, but I think a lot of writers, good writers, lose the war to get readers interested in their work to take the time to read it.

Just a thought.

Anyway, Tribeless, get some envelopes and buy some postage and mail out the submissions. I know it sucks that you can only send one story to one place at a time, but over time you'll see that this can work to your advantage as a writer. In the three months or so that it is gone, and while you are working on your next brilliant (always tell yourself it's brilliant, even if it is shit, there are plenty enough people that will tell you it is crap later) piece, you'll be able to get a fresh perspective on that one off to the slush pile when it reutrns with:

1. A rejection.
2. A rejection with a bit of encouragement such as "I'd like to see more when you have it." That's a good one.
3. A rejection with rewrite and resubmit requests.

The writing gig is a long haul sort of thing and I'll be honest, I find e-mail submissions to be a first rate pain in my ass (which, outside of BWS, I don't submit to pubs that only take e-mail subs). There's formatting trouble, lost e-mails, and it is just irritating.

Well, good luck with it.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
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AliceB
Posted on Friday, January 21, 2005 - 08:19 am:   

Patrick--why amateur? Not to your taste, I can understand.

Best,
Alice
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Dave
Posted on Friday, January 21, 2005 - 08:23 am:   

Patrick,

re: "Rationing" by Mary Yukari Waters

PS: I assume you're being ironic, Dave? That really is an amateur piece of writing.

No. I'm not being ironic. I've enjoyed reading a couple of your stories and your writing style is very different from that of Mary Yukari Waters. Her story focuses on the emotions (or lack of them) between a father and son. As both a father and a son, I thought her story showed great insight. Her prose drew me into the story without trying to say "look what a clever writer I am." She reveals much about her charcters and their culture with dialog, thoughts, and descriptions like:

quote:

"The grief didn't hurt her appetite," his mother said curtly.
...
Saburo thought how much easier it would have been if their emotions-his and his father's-could have been realized, apportioned and spent, in their entirety, over his mother's lifetime.
...
They strolled in the afternoons, through narrow alleyways where morning-glory vines, their blooms shrunk to purple matchsticks in the afternoon sun, cascaded over old-fashioned bamboo lattices...Occasionally in the alley they met a housewife who stopped her sweeping to bow watchfully as the pair passed: the younger man taking slow, tiny steps, the distinguishedlooking old gentleman shuffling close behind him.




I'll grant that the story may not fit your taste. But it is anything but amature.
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Dawn B
Posted on Friday, January 21, 2005 - 10:47 am:   

I don't mind you get stoppy with me. I was with you, knew it, and posted anyhow. I understand the privacy thing and I do think that e-subs are good thing. However, it was/is my personal belief that you are taking a personal choice too far in trying to demand the editors "keep up" with the times when there are plenty of options availible and you choose not use them.
I know your hours are long and I respect that. It would be very difficult to working writing into there, but I'm assuming you manage it if you have stories that you are wanting to send out. Therefore, I tailored my suggestion such that you could get the max stories delievered in the least time on a periodic basis so as not to interfere with your work.
Your privacy issue is your own and there is very little to suggest around that.
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JV
Posted on Friday, January 21, 2005 - 08:49 pm:   

This thread seems to have entered that decaying orbit all threads eventually enter, so...

I'll give you this, Patrick--the end of the Missouri Review story is entirely too smug and happy with itself for having found some sort of limited epiphany to close with.

I once had to listen to SF/F writers complain about not being able to get published in literary magazines with magic realism type material. I once had to listen to myself complain about it. Boy, was that boring. At the end of the day, none of the writers, myself included, were willing to make the commitment of years to reinvent themselves as magic realists rather than fantasy writers--i.e., to submit for years to lit. mags that pay next to nothing, frantically taking an eraser to our genre credentials with the hope of being mistaken for the shiny, newly scrubbed faces of (converted yet lie-filled) greenhorn members of the literary mainstream.

On the other hand, Conjunctions and other literary magazines these days do publish fantasy of certain types and you don't have to be Margaret Atwood rep-wise (i.e., you don't have to have invented an electronic signing machine). You can be Kelly Link. Or Brian Evenson. Or...etc. I think this is encouraging.

With regard to submitting short stories. Beginning writers in particular seem to feel that each new story is their only, or their most important, or their last chance, or...you get the picture. Those who learn to take the long view--that you would like a career measured in Galapagos tortoise years not mayfly minutes--will find no difficulty, and perhaps even some tranquility, in a three- or four-month turn-around time for a story sacrificed to the vagaries of the post office.

JeffV



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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 05:18 am:   

Never has a truer word been spoken Mr Vandermeer. Every writer who starts out writing -- no matter what they write -- needs to be in it for the long haul. And you need to make that decision to do your own writing justice.

Geoff
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 08:49 am:   

Steven: Life is short, there is lots of good stuff to read, good stuff that I personally like, and thus I make my choices that way.

Not based on what the established mainstream American Literati have to say about it.


More power to you. More power also to the established mainstream American Literati in their similar indifference to what you have to say about it.

Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot that the established mainstream American Literati are all just a bunch of poseurs who, unlike you, don't really like what they claim to like, gosh no, they're just pushing an agenda.

Or ask yourself this question.

How many people without college degrees are reading things like MR?


Why are the preferences of people without college degrees naturally more significant than the preferences of people with college degrees?
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 11:51 am:   

Nicholas wrote: Why are the preferences of people without college degrees naturally more significant than the preferences of people with college degrees?

Well, this one is worth responding to. Let's see.

Why are preferences of people without college degrees naturally more significant?

Well, they aren't, per se. I don't think I was saying that.

What I was saying (to judge from the masses of reading material that appear to pile up around my non-college degree holding friends, all of it well worn) is that perhaps writers ought to keep them in mind.

Cuz dem folks without the sheepskin read too and they generally read from the things that pay writers money, rather than lit mags.

Jeff Vandermeer explained lit mags better than I ever could. I don't know that mainstream Literati are actively pushing an agenda (they are mainly liberal and love to engage in op-eds disguised as stories, but SF/Fantasy writers do that too).

R. Wilder will show up and get me for saying it, but most current American mainstream lit, to me, is just not worth the time. It doesn't interest me.

Science fiction, mysteries, maybe the fantasy ever so often, slipstream and historical fiction interest me. Biographies and autobios interest me. Histories interest me.

But someone struggling to understand their daddy doesn't interest me. I can go home and see that film live. Someone struggling with cancer or something else doesn't interest me, I've got that to deal with too. Someone who's dead or dying doesn't interest me, I've been there.

Main point?

Fiction, for me, needs to take me somewhere I've not been, or take me to an old place in a new way. If it doesn't do that, then it is wasting my time. My choices reading wise reflect what works for me.

As for mainstream writers caring for what I say or not, well, I get the distinct impression that they are too wrapped up in their own worlds to even notice that anyone said anything.

But the non-college degree folks, well, they have pocketbooks and contrary to popular belief, some of them read something more complex that Doonesbury.

Maybe a writer, no matter their chosen fictional field, ought to keep that in mind, broaden their appeal, reach out.

Maybe.

Or maybe I'm just full of horseshit. :-)

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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R.Wilder
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 01:23 pm:   

"R. Wilder will show up and get me for saying it, but most current American mainstream lit, to me, is just not worth the time."

I would but I'm catching up on my "Asimov's."
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Tribeless
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 02:01 pm:   

Repeat: my main grip is that electronic submission allows me to keep my writing private, snail mail does not, due to my particular circumstances - and I am by nature a free soul.

My privacy is more important to me than being published: thus, until I can rub the edges off my abrasive personality and create a little American friend (Steven, I understand your position, cheers), I shall be restricted to submitting only to those venues that allow electonic submission.

Until the Booker.

' ... until I can rub the edges off my abrasive personality ...'

Nah :-) [Probably explains why TCO is one of my favourite posters ... hey? TCO, are you American my little friend?]
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 02:02 pm:   

Oooh, it just gets on my nerves when people like things that I don't like. I think people like that suck, and they're all snooty besides! I'm suspicious of anyone who wants to write (or even read!) about the problems of daily life. Why, I bet many of them have BAs! There's no potential inspiration in one's daily problems; the only thing one should do is shut up about it and continue to flail miserably as all one's hope and dreams rot on the vine. Nobody can possibly learn anything from the insights of others, especially when presented as fiction and possibly well-written. I know because the assistant night manager at the Dairy Queen told me! (He stopped reading Doonesbury because it preached Communism.)

I think I'll shake my fist on the Internet! *shake shake*

Aaaah, that's much better.

Anyway, there's a big difference between "Contemporary American realism is not for me" and "Those who write and read contempory American realism are somehow less authentic, legitimate, or real than I am." You may think your comments are restricted solely to the former claim, Murph, but they sure don't come off that way.

By the by, it's rather silly to complain that lit mags don't pay, and for two reasons. One, some of them do pay, and quite a bit. Zoetrope pays $1000, Paris Review around $500 (plus prizes of up to $5000 for the "year's best"), Open City pays $500, Tin House pays $200 to start and goes up to $1000, Ploughshares pays up to $250, etc.

Two, those that do not pay are generally university-backed non-profit journals which offer other benefits, including a record of publication both suitable and necessary for tenure, pay raises, and advancement for those teaching or interested in teaching at writing programs or English departments across the country. In this, university lit journals are little different than peer-reviewed scholarly journals in other disciplines.

If you're teaching at an MFA program and every publication in a major "freebie" lit journal gives you a $2500 a year pay raise, and every book you publish adds ten grand to your pay per year and puts you on track to becoming a Full Prossor, you're coming out ahead of the game, even if you're not collecting 5˘ a word on publication.
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 02:03 pm:   

"Full Professor" even.
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Simon Owens
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 02:55 pm:   

Man, I really love the stereotype that genre readers have raised about lit fiction. Whenever I read posts along those lines, my eyes usually glaze over.

Ditto for the statement that literary readers are a few huddled wine drinkers with elitist attitudes. That's why magazines like The New Yorker and Harper's have circulations higher than all the genre magazines combined, right?
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JV
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 06:22 pm:   

This is going to ramble a bit...

Nick's right (of course), but many of them don't pay as well as genre publications. And as for the prestige, I know lots of mainstream literary writers who publish in those little mags and teach at universities, and they are completely unknown outside of those venues.

Still, my point above re the discussion between myself and others writers boiled down to--either put in the time to submit on a regular basis to those lit. mags if you want to eventually appear in them, and be willing to place stories in the lower tier ones first, or don't complain about the fact that every once in a blue moon you submit to one and it rejects you--because you didn't put in the time and the effort you have with the genre publications. (This was the argument I was referring to in my first post, although I didn't explain it well enough.)

I still find myself following a path of least resistance whether it's a good idea or not--I know the genre magazines and the cross-genre anthos and mags, and I know the people involved, so I submit to them. (This is not to presume that I would get published in literary magazines if I tried hard enough.) And, also, literary magazines don't get reviewed much in other venues, so looking at it logically, let's say I appeared in Zyzzyva (sic)--a very well-respected West Coast publication (assuming I lived on the West Coast, because I think you have to live west of the Mississippi to submit to them) that I choose because they're a little more eclectic than some of the others. I'll probably get paid 10 dollars a page tops (Nick'll correct me if I've got the payment rate wrong), some respect from more high-profile places if I mention the credit in cover letters, but outside of the 2,000 subscribers to Z, it won't mean anything from the point of view of additional PR. Whereas if I have a story appear in Polyphony or even a SF/F magazine, there's a decent chance there will be reviews and I'll get mentioned in a few of the reviews, thus amplifying the total effect of being published, regardless of whether Poly sells 500 copies or 5,000 copies. Anyway, that's the way I look at it. (Now that I'm writing more fiction, though, I'll almost always start with New Yorker and SciFiction, depending on the type of story.)

Simon--my take on it is that 80% of the literary mags are full of predictable mainstream, slice-of-life stories, much of it written at a certain level of competency. 80% of genre publications are full of banally (is that a word?) written hack work with perhaps slightly more interesting ideas every once in awhile. So choose your poison. I tend to go back and forth on the issue. One thing about lit. mags--unlike the descendants of the pulps, Asimov's and F&SF, etc., they don't have to come out every month, so they can be a little more selective. On the other hand, who knows if they get as many submissions per month?

I like Conjunctions. I like Boulevard. I like a lot of what I read in The New Yorker. It's not an either-or situation for me as a reader. And a good A to B relationship story is fine by me, if well-executed. Illuminates the world just as much as some magic realism piece in Polyphony.

Fact is, "fantasy" is a way of looking at the world, and sometimes a *style* and I've read waaay too many fantasy stories that had no resonance or nothing to say about the world, and plenty of mainstream stories with no fantastical element that read like fantasies on the level of metaphor or style.

So I think I find the foundation of the whole argument re "us versus they" bogus.

That said, there is a bias in some university creative departments against 'genre' work. Now, do you think that's so at Brown, where Evenson and Coover teach? Not likely. There's no monolithic Conspiracy. It varies from creative writing department to creative writing department.

It also depends on whether you try to speak their language or not. They're familiar with the legitimacy of terms like magic realism, so those are the terms I use with them. Whether I get them to appreciate it under the term "magic realism" or "fantasy" doesn't matter to me--it's still the same work. I'm getting quite a lot of university gigs the next couple of years just by packaging myself differently. (*Not* changing the work.)

One last thing--it's important to differentiate the New Yorker, Harper's, etc., from the "literary magazines". I think we can safely consider the New Yorker a *commercial* publication that buys literary works of fiction. Most literary quarterlies have circulations between 500 and 2,000.

JeffV
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JV
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 06:24 pm:   

Nick:

Are you sure about this?

"If you're teaching at an MFA program and every publication in a major "freebie" lit journal gives you a $2500 a year pay raise, and every book you publish adds ten grand to your pay per year and puts you on track to becoming a Full Prossor, you're coming out ahead of the game, even if you're not collecting 5˘ a word on publication."

Isn't that a little hyperbolic? Just wondering.


JeffV
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 06:28 pm:   

FYI, a system exists that will make both the overseas submittors happy, as well as the editors.

Kinkos. You can upload a file to their website, specify how you want it printed, where you want it sent and by what method you want it sent. We've used it very effectively for page proofs in the past.
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 06:38 pm:   

Something Ellen and Gordon may or may not be thinking, that I certainly am:

I don't want electronic submissions, because e-subs are simply too easy. I already get more manuscripts than I have a clue what to do with. If I open to electronic subs, then I'm simply going to increase the slush pile even bigger than it is, and it'll take me even longer to get around to reading.

There seems to be a feeling that "What about all the stories you won't get because you don't accept electronic subs." The reply is that we (well, me to be specific) already get plenty of submissions. It's simply not in my best interest to triple the number of submissions in order to increase the chance of finding something I want to publish. I'm sure Ellen and Gordon don't sit around bemoaning that they aren't being sent enough ms. I could be wrong, maybe they'd be perfectly happy to see submissions triple.
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 06:57 pm:   

Jeff, I'm sure. Obviously it depends at least partially on the school and where one is already in the academic hierarchy (an untenured adjunct won't get another penny, for example), but I've had the figures (in broad strokes) confirmed by writer/professor friends who teach at SDSU, Seton Hill, and Columbia.

There are reason for folks like Jaffe publish with brand new POD publishers like Raw Dog Screaming Press, and that's one of 'em.
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HLB
Posted on Sunday, January 23, 2005 - 11:27 pm:   

Patrick -- re "Rationing" by Mary Yukari Waters: the story may strike you as amateurish, but it was the lead story in The Best American Short Stories 2003. That series of year's best anthologies has been published for many decades and is well-regarded; "Rationing" isn't really my cup of tea, either, but clearly the literary world sees something in it. Incidentally, this volume of Best American also included Dan Chaon's "The Bees" from McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales; it's one of the few genre stories I've seen included in the series.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Monday, January 24, 2005 - 02:39 am:   

Dave and HLB: I was probably engaging in hyperbole to describe that the story as amateurish. Better to say, I found it rather heavy-handed and clunky in several places.

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