Showing posts with label slush pile. Show all posts
Showing posts with label slush pile. Show all posts

12 March 2019

It Isn’t You

by Michael Bracken

There’s a fiction writers tell one another, though the advice is aimed squarely at newcomers: Editors aren’t rejecting you, they’re rejecting your manuscript.

The editor's toolkit.
While mostly true, it isn’t the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Sometimes editors are rejecting you, but they aren’t likely to admit it.

I’ve edited a handful of crime fiction anthologies, a consumer magazine, a tabloid newspaper, and several newsletters, and I’ve held various non-editorial positions in book publishing companies.

So, I have my personal list of writers I’m likely to reject even if they send me brilliant manuscripts that exactly match my calls for submissions or publications’ guidelines, and I’ve overheard a bit of behind-the-scenes gossip as well.

WELL, MAYBE IT IS YOU

Several years ago, I caught a writer plagiarizing. When confronted, the writer provided several excuses but no apology. Had I heard, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake. I’ll be more careful in the future,” I might have given that writer a second chance. I heard no apology and sensed no remorse, so that writer’s work will never again appear in anything I edit.

Many writers serve double-duty as editors. A few years ago an editor included one of my stories in an anthology and, despite a contract and the knowledge that the publisher paid the editor (side note to new writers: sometimes the publisher pays writers directly for anthology contributions; sometimes publishers pay the editors and the editors pay the writers), neither I nor other contributors of my acquaintance were ever paid. If I ever receive a submission from that editor/writer, I’ll boomerang it back.

Ready? Go.
Writing may be a solitary act, but publishing is a group effort. There are writers I’ll likely not work with again because they lack professionalism. The process—revisions, copyediting, etc.— was a colossal fustercluck, and timely responses at each step of the process were nonexistent, causing me to work harder than should be necessary. I’m an editor, not a babysitter, and I’ve no desire to again babysit these writers.

There are other reasons writers get on editors’ shit lists, but among the most common seems to be inappropriate behavior. Writers who trash editors in public forums, especially those who identify editors by name or by easily identifiable traits, burn bridges at an alarming rate. Even if those writers never say an unkind word about me, I wonder what will happen when their attention turns my direction, and I’d rather not find myself in their crosshairs.

(Note: If you think you’re one of the writers alluded to above, you’re likely not. The fact that you think you might be, though, is a sure sign you should reevaluate your professional relationships.)

YOU, I WANT YOU

Another fiction writers tell one another, and again this is aimed at new writers more than the rest of us, is that good work will always rise to the top of the slush pile.

What's that word?
While mostly true, it isn’t the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Sometimes the best manuscripts don’t have a chance because editors develop stables, whether consciously or unconsciously.

The more time I spend on the editorial side of the desk, the more I appreciate writers who deliver manuscripts on time and on subject, and the more I appreciate writers who respond promptly and professionally.

If I’m assigning work or if I’m editing an invitation-only project, there are a handful of writers who will always be at the top of my list. These writers have proven themselves time and again. Not only will they deliver what I need when I need it, they are also sufficiently self-aware of their skill and their commitments to decline opportunities outside their comfort zone or which conflict with other projects.

When I’m editing an open-call anthology, I want to discover new writers, so I try not to rely on my unofficial stable. Everything else being equal, though, there’s less risk selecting work by writers with whom I have developed strong working relationships than selecting work by writers with whom I’ve never worked. So, new writers must be just a little bit better, a little bit more imaginative, and a little bit more professional than the writers with whom I’m already familiar. New writers must give me a reason to want to work with them.

OK, LET’S BE HONEST. IT ISN’T YOU, IT’S ME

I know what I want, and the editor side of me puts the writer side of me at the top of the list of writers in my unofficial stable. But the editor side of me is a heartless bastard. I’ve twice rejected my own work for open-call anthologies because it wasn’t as good as what I found in the slush piles.

The bottle was full when I started.
The writer side of me has some choice words to say about the editor side of me, and this is the perfect forum to tell everyone what a tasteless, good-for-nothing, S.O.—

Wait. What? Did I just trash an editor in a public forum?

I guess I’ll never work with me again.

And that’s a fiction none of us can believe.

During the first half of my writing career, I wrote a great deal of erotic fiction—erotic crime fiction, erotic science fiction, erotic horror, and regular erotica—and recently some of those stories have resurfaced as audiobooks. Andrews UK/House of Erotica has released 14 of them since late 2018 and several more are in the pipeline for 2019. I won’t list titles, but if you’re interested, they aren’t difficult to find.