I can’t tell whether it’s the change in the seasons or just the fact that the rejections keep rollin’ in, but have been a little bit down in the dumps lately. I tried last week to write a blog post about my disappointment regarding PitchWars, but I couldn’t make a story out of it that was entertaining or useful, and I thought, why bother? We all know how it feels to be secretly hopeful and then let down. But while I was failing to write a blog post, life continued on, and it’s inspired me to start a new series:
So How Goes Trying To Get Published, Victoria?
I am often asked the above question by well-meaning friends and relatives who have no experience with the publishing industry and think it’s like it is in movies where Our Hero sends a hardcopy manuscript in a box to an editor who opens it, reads the first page, lifts their glasses while they lean in, jaw agape before crying “BRILLIANT”. Doves may or may not fly in the background.
Sometimes I am asked How Goes Trying To Get Published by people who know me a bit from FB and are scratching their heads trying to come up with relevant small-talk questions but don’t really care what the answer is, they are just biding time until the next drink. Either way, the solution to both these questions is ALL THE GORY DETAILS, either to educate or punish.
A Week In The Life Of A Submitting Fiction Writer
(Your Mileage May Vary)
Editor 1: Your short story needs zero copy edits! I would not change a single word!
Editor 2: Your novel is probably not the right fit for this press but despite that I am intrigued and want to read more!
Wow! Hooray! The short story I sold back at the beginning of the month needs zero edits–that’s great! And rare! And Editor #2 is the first person to ask to read the entirety of Ashes without being guilted into it.
I was so excited to get home and email him, only to discover I’d never actually prepared the entire bloody manuscript for submission, because I only did samples as requested. So I had to fight for two hours with Word to get all 160,000 words of Ashes wrangled into something approaching the standard Shunn format without losing any original formatting in the process and crashing the program constantly.
(In the end I gave up and did it in InDesign because I can; took 15 minutes. I do not recommend this approach to people who are not already trained in InDesign and GREP, because to be honest using it for manuscripts resembles a Rube Goldberg machine.)
(Fuck Word, though.)
Editor 3: Form rejection for Ashes, with postscript link (in a different font) to an article series with a cutesy name but subtitled–and I still can’t believe this–WRITING BASICS 101.
Agent 1: “Thank you…for letting me review your query and sample material for ASHES, which I read with great interest. Unfortunately, as thrilling as this story sounds—and as fun as your writing is to read—I don’t think it’s the right fit for me… I wish you the best of luck placing this successfully! Thank you, once again, for letting me consider it.”
Wow! What a great rejection. I mean, as rejections go, it’s lovely. And notice how they enjoyed my writing style, and avoided sending me a link to a
WRITING BASICS 101 SITE.
10/10 would let her reject me again.
Editor #2 (the entire manuscript guy!) wrote back to me to reject Ashes as not being what the press is looking for. Which he warned me about initially, so that wasn’t too big a surprise? At least he must have liked it, right?
I felt pretty okay, all things considered, for about a minute, which is how long it took before he sent me ANOTHER email, addressed to a different author and about a different book to tell them that they were rejected despite the “great hook” and “compelling style”.
So I got two rejections for the price of one! And discovered along the way that the first rejection was probably a form letter and he didn’t like Ashes at all! Yay!
Then he emailed again to apologize for sending me the second email, how unprofessional etc., which is true but we all make mistakes, and let’s just be glad he didn’t send me a link to a
WRITING BASICS 101 SITE.
Sometimes when you have a weird piece of fiction that doesn’t fit any particular genres (or in my case, a bit of SF flash you originally wrote for a “punk rock anthology” that wanted “musical references and lyrics” but not, as it turned out “puns based on Clash lyrics”, you get open-minded to markets. What’s the harm, right? I found a confusing little anthology looking for anything and everything but they won’t know it until they see it, so send it in, etc. I listened to their podcast for an episode to puzzle out what they might be looking for, and learned: that they were a pair of weirdos somewhere in the States who were following their weird little hearts and making a weird-ass podcast and online magazine. More power to them.
I sent them my little orphan flashfic anyway, and because I know what the rules are AND when to break them, I sent it to them in a fun email in the style of their podcast. Maybe they didn’t like it; maybe it influenced their decision to turn the story down; maybe they thought I was horning in on their territory. I don’t know. But I sure did enjoy the hell out of writing that submission letter, and want to share it instead of the rejection for variety.
GREETINGS INTERDIMENSIONAL ONES
I would like to submit my 500-word sci-fi story unto His Lordship. It has some but not all of His requested themes, but more importantly has secret puns related to Clash lyrics. Why? Because REASONS. Enjoy! Or not. Please dispose of all remnants responsibly.
My bio: I have been writing for over 30 years, and yet I have one tooth that is less than 5 years old.
bowing and scrapingly,
You have to look for fun in your routines, otherwise you end up a dried-out old husk that sends form letters with suggestions to check out cutsiely-named articles by someone no one’s ever heard of that is very generously subtitled:
WRITING BASICS 101.
Well, it was a roller-coaster of a week and I developed emotional whiplash but the IMPORTANT THING is that I SOLD A SHORT STORY this month, and the editor said DO NO CHANGE A SINGLE WORD, and it is due today, Oct. 20, and when it is published in their SATURDAY SHOWCASE I will receive $15 yankee dollars which I can deposit into my editing fund and tally on my spreadsheets because THAT IS HOW I ROLL.
Checked the website Saturday morning; no update since Friday. Well, maybe it’ll be later in the day. After all Saturday does encompass 24 different hours.
Check the timestamp when the last “showcase” post went live: noon. It is now 3pm.
Wonder if they will just post it the following Saturday. Realize that the following Saturday is the last weekend before Halloween and so is probably reserved for a spooOOOoooky story which Nights Over Ganymede most certainly is not, unless you are scared of space and/or Greek mythology allegories.
Wonder if I learned any valuable lessons over the week or if I am stuck in a hamster wheel of submission/rejection.
Exhaust all the 24 hours available in that particular Saturday.
Lie awake knowing that next Monday starts the submission cycle again, but at least now it’s Sunday and I’ve gone almost four days without someone suggesting I check out a
WRITING BASICS 101 COURSE.
It is a small win, but I’ll take it.