|Interzone new email reading periods
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|Author:||Hoing [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 12:11 am ]|
I understand Jetse's irritation about a simultaneous submission. The author really should have checked IZ's submission guidelines first. No excuse for not having done so.
That said, I notice more and more magazines seem to be going to simultaneous submissions these days, both genre and literary. Chris Teague at Triquorum comes to mind, his attitude being, "If someone beats me to a story, that's my worry." Although I won't send stories out simultaneously to magazines that don't accept simultaneous submissions, I certainly understand the writer's frustration. In what other line of work can a person apply only one at a time? When seeking employment, we send resumes out all over the place, simultaneously, hoping to get an interview. What if we had to wait for one business to respond before we could send the resume out again? That would be madness.
I would argue that in the real world the stakes are higher, and certainly more expensive, than in the magazine world, and yet companies routinely accept simultaneous submissions of applications. For instance, I work at a university. When a position opens up, we get applicants from all over the country. We screen the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of applications we receive, whittle the list down to four or five, then make arrangements to fly in the candidates--at our expense, of course. Many times we do that and decide on the right person, only to learn that they've accepted a job elsewhere. No sense getting upset about it. We don't feel as if we've wasted our time or anyone else's; that's just the nature of the beast. You lick your wounds and start the process over.
And yet in the publishing world a writer may only "apply" to one place at a time. Again, I understand the reasoning, and I always follow the guidelines. However, I confess, even though I'm an old hand at the writing biz, I do get frustrated. I am far, far from prolific, meaning I only have a limited amount of work I can submit at any given time. If I were cranking out fifty or sixty stories a year, then sending them out to one magazine at a time wouldn't be such a big deal. But the most new stories I have ever--ever--written in a year is five. Thus, I can only have five stories out at a time. With an average waiting period of two months or longer ... well, I guess it's good I've got a day job!
So. I'm not criticizing anyone, and I don't want to piss anyone off--especially editors that may be deciding on my stories in the future!--but I would like to ask, on a purely philosophical basis, why should the publishing world be any different from the rest of the world? Writers need editors, but editors need writers, too. For editors it's a business. For some writer's it's also a business. Why can we only offer our services to one "bidder" at a time? After all, we don't demand that editors agree to consider stories from only one writer at a time.
BTW, I have been an editor before. At two different magazines. With no pay either time. While holding down a day job. I do understand Jetse's irritation. I really do. But I understand the writer's point of view, too.
|Author:||Rob Davies [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:10 pm ]|
As a writer, I can see some benefit to allowing simultaneous subs, but I can see at least two reasons why simultaneous subs would be a bad thing.
Proliferation: Just going by the rough numbers: IZ got 500 subs last month in the email period. For the sake of argument, let's assume the top 10 markets each got 500 subs last month, which totals, if my caffeine-free brain is correct, 5000 individual stories. Now if sim subs were allowed, and followed to the extreme, it seems to me that each of these 10 markets could get 5000 stories in a month and be overwhelmed.
Second, I think that allowing sim subs increases the odds that someone submitting has no idea what the market actually publishes. It is easy to conceive of someone printing off a list of available markets, printing off 100 copies of his story, and licking envelopes and stamps for a day or two, never bothering to see if a market prefers horror, SF, fantasy, mainstream, etc.
I think by limiting subs to one market at a time, it increases the odds that the writer is being diligent targeting a suitable story to a suitable market.
|Author:||Hoing [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 3:07 pm ]|
I understand the rules, and the reasons for them, and I do not violate them. But the fact is, a lot of magazines are going to simultaneous submissions.
Again for the sake of argument: I don't mean this to sound harsh, because I really do appreciate all the hard work Andy & Jetse & Co. put into reading subs, but ... why should a writer care if an editor is overworked? I get overworked in my day job all the time, but that doesn't stop the patrons from coming or my bosses from piling more on. My stress is not other people's concern. They're only interested in whatever business they need to transact--and that's how it should be.
Similarly with writing. I put a lot of work into my stories. My interest is in selling them and seeing them in print. That's it. I can't worry about whether the editor is overworked or having a bad day or whatever. In my literary life, my job is to write stories. Theirs is to read stories. They don't worry about how much sweat I put into the writing--or the stress of my day job, or family obligations, or anything else--and I don't know why I should concern myself with anything other than doing what I do, which is write.
|Author:||des2 [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 3:49 pm ]|
I have great fellow feeling with that last post. Very persuasive.
When I do Nemo 8, I shall allow simultaneous submissions.
|Author:||Jetse [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:46 pm ]|
Oh yeah, the simultaneous submission debate. I will reply to this in two separate posts, and end with a proposal.
1) In his initial post, Dave Hoing is comparing apples and oranges;
2) Most writers are always first to complain about their (perceived) rights, and also first to ignore their obligations or duties;
To which I will propose something.
|Author:||Jetse [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:50 pm ]|
A screening process for job applicants is totally and utterly different from selecting stories for a magazine. The company I work for employs over 20,000 people world-wide. However, when we advertise certain job openings, we know *exactly* what kind of applicant we’re looking for. Even if we get hundreds of applicants, say 500, then the first 490 can be dismissed with a quick look at their CV: not suitable for *this* particular job.
For short stories, that is much more difficult. Yes, there are quite a lot of stories that are obviously not for us: but that is only apparent for about 50 to 60% of the stories. The rest are written at least competently (or better), so need much more scrutiny – mostly a complete read – before I can decide if they’re suitable to IZ or not. This takes much more time than the initial screening of job applicants for a specialised job: in the latter case employers know *exactly* what they’re looking for, while an editor of a magazine cannot – by definition – tell *exactly* what kind of story she/he’s looking for.
Because stories, the superb ones, *cannot* be exactly defined. If the perfect story could be described (OK, Scott Edelman tried this in his story “This Is Where the Title Goes” which was in The Journal of Pulse-Pounding Narratives, vol. 2, but even that doesn’t help), then somebody would already have described this in a ‘how-to-write-the-perfect-story-(or-novel)-in-six-easy-steps, and everybody would be writing it. As anybody can see (or read “Success…Or How to Avoid It…for that), this is simply not happening.
Therefore, selecting stories from a slushpile is considerably *more* difficult than selecting a job applicant, because there are no clear cut selection criteria: it’s largely up to an editor’s experience, sense of esthetics, taste, sensibility and other hard-to-define things. And the return on investment is much less clear-cut, as well. That’s exactly *because* that one single short story – especially from an unknown writer – doesn’t have any guarantee whatsoever to bring in extra revenue that a magazine can’t afford to waste its time with someone who is not willing to put some trust in the publication.
The most important difference, though – the *essential* one – is that you can apply for a job at as much different companies as you like, but once you *take* the job, then you are supposed to stay with the company (University or whatever) that you have chosen. You are expected to stay with that company long enough for them to make back (with a profit!) the money they invested in hiring you.
Of course, you can quit after a few months for the *next* better job, but what are the chances that the previous company will ever hire you again? And what will any University or company prefer: an applicant who changes jobs four times a year, or one who tends to stay, for several years at least, with one company? In which applicant are they more likely to invest?
Similarly, once you have a job for company A – and I’m talking a full time job here – then that company will not be happy when they find out that you are moonlighting for companies B, C and D -- who are all direct competitors – at the same time, as well.
And there we have the *qualitative* difference: a writer sends in one story to magazine A. The story gets rejected, but the writer can send in the next story. And the next, and the next. A short story (or freelance non-fiction) writer can send his work to any market she or he likes.
Which is exactly what short story writers do: if magazine A does not take the story, try magazine B, then C, and so forth until the story sells. If I moonlight in the weekend by working for a competing firm, and my company finds this out, I will be fired, and they will be in their good right.
So yes: you can apply to several employers at the same time. However, once you’ve made your choice, you’re supposed to stick with them.
Short story to a magazine: while it’s not appreciated that you try one story at several markets at the same time, you are allowed – even encouraged – to try six different stories at six different markets. If you sell story X to market A, you are not obliged to sell all your future stories to market A: you can sell them to any market you like.
Actually, selling stories to a variety of markets looks *good* for a short story writer, while job-hopping every three months only decreases your chances at the majority of employers.
And that is the main difference: a magazine does not expect that a writer will write *exclusively* for that one magazine (of course, for some writers we hope that they try us first). You can sell to the competition all you like: we only ask that if you send us *one* story, that we can look at it exclusively (and we do try to answer as fast as we can, but that is never fast enough for any writer). You can send all your *other* stories to any market you like.
Conversely, you can apply *simultaneously* for a job at different employers: but once you made your choice, you’re expected to stick with it: no flirting with the competition anymore, baby, or the penalties will be severe.
And that is an *enormous* difference, and that is why I’m saying that Dave in his post is comparing apples with oranges.
|Author:||Jetse [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:54 pm ]|
Secondly, quite a lot of writers are always easy to complain about how bad magazine or anthology editors treat them, while not doing much (if anything at all) to support the markets they’re submitting to.
Let’s go two years back, to Interaction, my first WorldCon in Glasgow. I was representing Interzone, and was on a panel about ‘promoting new authors’ with Shelly Shapiro from Del Rey, Sheila Williams from Asimov’s, and Carolyn Caughy from Hodder & Stoughton.
Now, in ye olden times, when a publisher accepted a novel from an author, the publisher would publish and promote the book, and the author would sit back (or write the next book), and await the royalties.
Nowadays, though, an author is expected to *actively* participate in promoting her/his own book. *Very* actively: this is what both the editors of Del Rey and Hodder & Stoughton admitted: promotion budgets are slashed, and the more an author helps promote her/his book, the better.
That was the reality two years ago, and if you think this has changed, well I can only say dream on.
Thus, a lot of authors expect a magazine to go with the times: have a modern sensibility, a sharp look, a wide availability, an up-to-date website, be reviewed in a lot of places, be open to email submissions, multiple submissions, simultaneous submissions, and whatnot.
Now, at IZ we have tried, and are constantly trying to improve. We have upgraded IZ’s look to that of the 21st Century (and are constantly tweaking it), we try to improve distribution, we send review copies to numerous places, we’ve updated the website.
We’ve opened to email submissions, and I allow up to three (OK: I lowered that to two because of the avalanche of May) stories during one email reading period.
Is it enough?
We want *simultaneous* submissions, as well.
In the meantime, what have those authors asking for more done for Interzone? Have they promoted the magazine diligently? Have they tried to get friends or family to subscribe? Have they supported it in any other way?
Well, I know that quite a lot of authors have done exactly the above. Yet, to the best of my knowledge – and feel free to correct me – these are not the authors moaning about simultaneous submissions. In my experience, the authors that are bitching and moaning the loudest – and for the good order I do *not*, I repeat *NOT* mean Dave Hoing – on their writer’s forums and blogs: these same authors in generally have done *nothing* to support IZ or any other TTAPress publication.
These things work both ways: at Interzone we always try to improve – for better or worse, but we *do* try – while certain types of authors think they can behave like they live in the past, and expect the publisher to do everything, even before the publisher has actually published the author.
Well, as mentioned above: the times have changed. Authors are expected to participate in promoting their own stories, and the markets that publish them. These things go both ways.
Therefore, here is my proposal: for the November email reading period I am willing to accept simultaneous submissions, but only from authors who can positively show me that they were instrumental in getting somebody else (family, friends, strangers) to subscribe to Interzone.
This only applies to the November email period, as Andy may disagree with me on this subject.
|Author:||Jetse [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:08 pm ]|
Finally, Dave Hoing is also mixing metaphors:
--in his first post he compares simultaneous submitting to applying for a job: this is an employer -- employee relationship;
--then in his subsequent post he compares simultaneous submitting to 'not caring whether an editor (or writer) is overworked, because one is working on the other side of the fence: a buyer -- seller relationship.
Well, this is inconsistent.
If it's an employer -- employee relationship then in the second case the employer *most definitely* cares if his employee is overworked, otherwise the employer will lose money because his employee will be sick for an extended period, or will quit, and the employer needs to hire (and work in) a new employee.
It's in the employer's best interest to have a healthy employee.
Conversely, if it's a buyer -- seller relationship, then indeed neither the seller nor buyer needs to worry about the health of each side: this is business. However, as the buyer (yes, an editor *buys* a story from a writer) I can ask exclusivity from the seller. The seller can then choose not to sell to me, which is fine.
But as the *buyer* I can ask exclusivity: this is normal business practice.
So please, compare apples to apples, or at least try to be consistent in your comparisons.
|Author:||Colin Harvey [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:30 pm ]|
Let’s go two years back, to Interaction, my first WorldCon in Glasgow. I was representing Interzone, and was on a panel about ‘promoting new authors’
I remember that panel. Was it really two years ago?
Neat idea. It'll be interesting to see if you get any takers.
To add to Dave H's point, you've always responded quickly, but sadly, not all editors are so fast.
I've had stories sitting with magazines for three, six, even nine months. Not because the editors are bad people, but because they have too many subs. There are simply too many people chasing too few slots. I can live with having stories tied up, but clearly not everyone can.
|Author:||des2 [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:51 pm ]|
There are simply too many people chasing too few slots.
Exactly, and it's going to get worse. The internet, also, has encouraged a feelng that everyone in the world is a writer.
The whole process needs to be rethought. Not tinkered with.
Jetse's thoughts on 'simultaneous submissions' are fascinating, however.
Really, it's not a question of comparing like with like with analogies of, say, jobs and stories. There are no like-with-likes whatsover left. It's an enormous revolution subsuming genres and previous practices.
|Author:||Hoing [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 8:10 pm ]|
Apples and oranges, yes, but fruit just the same. Perhaps in working for a university I'm shielded from the real world a bit. But my employer has absolutely no problem with me working in their library and teaching a writing class at the "competing" community college in town. As for them expecting people to stay at a job for a certain amount of time, that's true, but only to a point. Again, I don't know how the outside world handles it, but the university views with much favor people who aspire to move up in the academic world. The want want employees with ambition and high goals. They hire folks for a specific position, yes, but then expect them to try to "better" themselves, whether here at the university or at some other university (or corporate setting, for that matter). Those of us who don't--and I'm one, because I like it just where I am--are frowned upon as people without ambition.
(Now, if I worked for Coca Cola and sold their formula to Pepsi, I can see a real conflict of interest there!)
Employers looking to fill a position do have certain criteria in mind, just as editors must have some idea what they want, however abstract that may be. That doesn't mean an employer can't be blown away by an applicant who doesn't meet the qualifications on paper, just as an editor can be blown away by a story that on the surface might not seem right for the market. I don't see much difference between those apples and oranges, to be honest.
But the bigger point is, I'm not working for Interzone or any other magazine. When I send a story out, I am in effect applying for a temporary position, just as if I were mailing an application to an employer. In truth, my story is my application, my resume. Sure, I have more than one "resume" (story), but not many more. It would be nice to get as much mileage out of the ones I have as I possibly can--but I don't. I follow the rules.
My part in this discussion was to play devil's advocate, Jetse. I didn't mean anything personal by it, nor was I suggesting in any way that IZ should accept simultaneous submissions. On the contrary, I think you ought to stick to your guns if that's what you believe is right. I just wanted to get the dialogue going. However ... I do think that claiming editors are overworked is a poor argument. I was an editor, and I worked very hard at it, but so what? The question still stands: why should a writer care about an editor's workload? We all have workloads, whatever our profession. If we don't want those workloads, we don't have to stay in the profession.
I understand and appreciate that you weren't singling me out, Jetse. Actually, IZ and its editors have been very good to me indeed. No complaints there at all. And just so you know, check out:
The reading was held at a coffee house, but it was an official university function attended by an alarming number of people. (I hate performing in public!) I read mostly literary stuff, but I did include my upcoming IZ story "Ne Cadant in Obscurum." In the question-and-answer session that followed, more people asked about "Ne Cadant" than any of my literary work. I dutifully gave them IZ's website. Whether anybody actually subscribed or even ordered individual copies, I don't know.
|Author:||Hoing [ Mon Jun 04, 2007 8:35 pm ]|
You posted the rest of your reply while I was writing my previous one, Jetse.
Let us both be consistent. If you admit that I have the right to refuse your terms, in effect withdrawing a story after it's been accepted, then how is that different than withdrawing it because it's been bought elsewhere?
For instance, say I submit a story to IZ and IZ only, as I'm supposed to. The editorial staff likes it and says, Okay, Dave, we'll publish this and pay you X number of pounds for it. I say, Sorry, folks, but that's not enough money. You say, We can't afford any more. I say, Well, I can't afford to let my work go for that price any longer.
You said it's perfectly all right for me to do that. A straight business deal, right?
So it's okay for me to have wasted your time because I wouldn't accept your terms for a story, but not because I accepted somebody else's terms elsewhere? What's the difference? Either way, you've read the story and accepted it and then can't publish it.
It seems like you're opening a can a worms you really don't want opened. What's to prevent someone from submitting a story to several magazines and hold the editors at bay in the guise of negotiating terms while they're really waiting to see if someone else offers more?
I have never turned down IZ's terms, and I never will. I submit my work knowing what your pay rate is. But if you acknowledge that a writer can withdraw his work because he doesn't agree to your terms--and of course he can--then there's nothing to prevent him from doing simultaneous submissions anyway.
|Author:||Jetse [ Tue Jun 05, 2007 5:28 am ]|
Let us both be consistent. If you admit that I have the right to refuse your terms, in effect withdrawing a story after it's been accepted, then how is that different than withdrawing it because it's been bought elsewhere?Because a publication has guidelines.
A publication has no obligation to be open to unsollicited submissions. Actually, most major SF/F book publishers are only open to *agented* submissions (with a few exceptions like Tor, Ace and Baen). Most anthologies that are released today are invitation only. There are even magazines like Subterranean Magazine and Postscripts that are not open to unsollicited submissions (one needs to query first).
So *if* a publication is open to unsollicited submissions, then they put out guidelines. Then, when a writer decides to send out a story to a publication, it is expected that they comply with these guidelines.
That is called professional behaviour.
If an aspiring writer cannot follow guidelines then this is a sign to the publication that this might not be a person with whom they wish to work: part of the selection process.
Of course, this selection process goes two ways: if a writer doesn't like a magazine, or their guidelines, then simply do not submit.
Now, *if* you decide to submit, then follow the guidelines, which state *no simultaneous submissions*. If you disagree with that, then DO NOT SUBMIT.
What's so difficult about that?
A slushpile is a selection process, and in order to be *admitted* to that process, a publication demands you comply with a certain set of rules: these are the rules to play.
Don't like the rules, then don't play.
Part of the game is that *when* your story is selected, then you can turn down the terms for publication. Which is fine.
|Author:||des2 [ Tue Jun 05, 2007 8:16 am ]|
If you disagree with that, then DO NOT SUBMIT
The danger is that writers with the stories one really wants (custom designed for one's magazine, going to make one's publication top class and successful) may well be the ones who disagree with the guidelines.
It is OK to stipulate style and subject-matter guidelines, but guidelines as to mechanics? Fair enough to stipulate: not published before.
Jetse, you took me to task publicly for issuing guidelines stipulating that stories should never have been submitted anywhere before, which is stricter than just banning simultaneous submissions. I took this to heart and changed my guidelines. I am now taking Dave Hoing's logical points to heart and will change them again when I do Nemo 8.
|Author:||Foxie [ Tue Jun 05, 2007 12:07 pm ]|
I know I'm a bit late, but my computer crashed and took the internet down with it. I come back this morning, and everything's kind of exploded. Fascinating reading, if you don't mind me being a little emotionless.
Anyway, this whole thing did bring up two points in my head:
As you point out, being an editor is a job, like any other. Lets say it's a forty-hour week - a normal full-time job. In an average week, lets say that the editor gets forty stories. That means he can dedicate an hour to each story (I like easy maths). Then lets say his workload triples - 120 stories a week. That means 20 minutes a story. In that case, there is an inevitable loss of quality. Or the other solution the editor has is to simple put 80 stories straight into the reject pile, because he decides that he's not going to read stories by people who live in odd-numbered houses. Either way, both writers and readers suffer.
The other point is that when the customers don't care about your workload, or the management don't care about your workload, you stop caring about the job. An editor who doesn't care about their job will, I'm sure, burn out and go back to their 9-5 pretty soon, leaving a shortage of good editors who care. Their places will be taken by mediocre editors who don't care, and you end up with MacDonalds' style service. And, again, the whole community suffers.
I've, personally, been viewing the subject of submissions as any other consumer agreement, and can't put it more eloquently then Jeste already did: if you don't like the rules, don't play the game. When I worked in a credit card call centre, we used to get hundreds of people calling up to complain about the late payment charges on their account. And, fair enough, charging you £30 for not making £20 payment is unfair. But them's the rules. Those are the rules you agreed to be bound by when you spent the bank's money.
If I submit a story to an editor, then by doing so I agree to play his rules by his game. If I don't like his rules, I'll find another game. With 500 submissions and only half a dozen slots, all the power lies with the guy picking the stories. The only power the writer has is the choice whether to play or not.
I'm not saying guidelines shouldn't be challenged and justified. It's something of a privilege that we can, and in order to ensure that things stay as fair as possible, we have an obligation to challenge them.
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