Saturday, January 01, 2011

Things I've learned from BEWERE THE NIGHT

And that's a wrap! All the responses went out, so please query if you haven't received yours. I will announce the final ToC as soon as I confirm a couple of contributors, but for now some things I've learned while dealing with an open call anthology. Was it worth it? Yes, considering that less than half of the stories in the antho were solicited. The rest were received over the transom – some from writers familiar to me, others I only heard of, and finally some new ones to me.

In the course of reading 300+ submissions and many more queries, several things struck me as worthy of talking about. Take this list as descriptive of my experience and nothing more.

  1. Guidelines contain all the information a writer needs. Some guidelines are very detailed and particular – and as a writer I tend to not submit to places which threaten eternal damnation if things aren't formatted just so. For most venues, standard manuscript format is fine. No need to email the editor asking about margins – in fact, I feel that it's counterproductive, since the time I'm spending reading emails asking about my format requirements is the time I'm not spending reading subs. As for definitions of what is and isn't urban fantasy: unless specified, assume it is broad. Same for sex and violence: unless specified, assume there are no restrictions. I want stories, not assignments. I hate themed anthos that only allow for the narrowest possible interpretation of the theme because they end up bland and repetitive. Surprise me.

  2. Addendum: Do not email me with advice – really, I got this. I post my guidelines where I post them because it works for me, and I put all the info I care about into them. If I don't have font specs it's because I don't care. 

  3. Cover letters: the time I'm spending reading cover letters is the time I'm not spending reading subs. Keep them short. Chatty covers about nothing in particular work against you. So do summaries of stories in cover letters, more than five credits, explanations of your credits. The last one worth mentioning separately: don't tell the editor in a cover letter of how good/respectable the venues you've sold to are. Because I either heard of them and already have an opinion, or I haven't heard of them, and thus it's irrelevant. Also, don't let your cover letter write the check your story can't cash: if you tell me I'm going to be terrified, it sets up certain expectations. 

  4. Blog comments: time I'm spending reading... you get the theme here. Asking about tropes is pointless since if the story is good, tropes are irrelevant, and if it isn't, tropes aren't going to save it. Informing me of the story you plan to write is not particularly helpful, since I won't remember anyway, but not harmful either.

  5. Considering the amount of subs I'm receiving and the fact that I'm just one person with a full-time job and a writing thing of my own, I cannot provide detailed feedback, suggestions, referrals etc. Writers entitled to editor's response but not feedback. Emailing a followup asking what I REALLY thought about your story will likely meet with silence.

So, editors in the audience! Any other helpful tips you can share?

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