Monday, April 2, 2012

Didn't punch a single hipster. And a basic publishing guide.

I went to CD101 Day Side A on Saturday and I didn't punch a single hipster. I didn't even find one person that I would consider that that was good. Maybe it was too cold that night. As far as the show went I liked the set by J. Roddy Walston and the Business (Link to their song "Don't Break the Needle"), and Of Monsters and Men (Link to their song "Little Talks"). Left before Kasabian because it was too cold outside.
Before the show we walked over to the Three-Legged Mare and had a couple beers. It's a pretty nice place and the bartenders are cool, so I think I will definitely go back there in the future. At the LC I can't believe people pay $8 for a giant cup of horrible beer. Recently I have begun to examine my hatred of Bud Lite and Miller Lite, and then realized that I drink PBR sometimes so I have little room to talk... but I never drink it ironically.

The review of Queer Fish will be posted later today. I had to go back and reread several stories and that has slowed down the process. I don't mind rereading them because I like the book.

This is a basic intro to publishing that I wrote for a writing group I'm involved with on VampireFreaks:

Big Publishing Guide

Publishing can be a heartbreaking process even for the best of writers. You create a concept for a story, your characters live on paper--or in your head, or maybe they're a part of you...maybe they talk to you-- and you give them an adventure, then you revise that adventure to make it perfect, and you locate a magazine/anthology/etc and send your story off into the unknown...just to get a form letter in return "I'm sorry, but we're going to pass." There really is no arguing with it, and all you can do is to hope to understand the process.

Researching markets in advance will save you some time, and possibly rejection, if you generally know what a publisher is looking for. It does help to read the publications as well. I've been researching markets for about a year now and still haven't figured out all of it because there are a lot of publications and then there are anthologies, too. If you have a particular piece that you're interested in sending to a publisher I may have a lead on who might be looking for that sort of thing, so reply to this post or send me a message.

What are publishers looking for and where do you find that out?
Make an account here, I'm serious. This page is easy to use and they send out a weekly digest of market updates including new markets, dead markets and temporarily closed markets.

Poets & Writers: Tools for Writers
This page has listings for publishers, magazines, contests and agents. They also list grad school programs, jobs and grant opportunities.

Writers Market
Web page for the book by this name. Requires a subscription fee.

I personally hate writing cover letters, but it does seem to get easier each time. A cover letter is likely the editor's first interaction with you and your writing so it should be professional and courteous. It's okay to be a little clever in tone, but don't be obnoxious. A cover letter is like a sales pitch, so you want to sell yourself and your work as best as you can. It's similar to a pitch letter, but a pitch includes more information on a project and is usually done before the project is finished.
When I worked as an editor on a university-related Arts magazine most cover letters we got said:
"Hi, my name is------- and this is my submission"
And in that situation it was fine to have such a short message. It really depends on where you're sending your work. We didn't refuse to read any submissions due to poor cover letters.
Other places are a bit different. I've seen one place that wants the official cover letter as the first page of the submission, but most places just want the cover letter in an e-mail and the submission itself attached to that e-mail as a word document (or other document type, I know one place that only works with PDF). Pay attention to the individual publisher's guidelines.

When writing a cover letter include:

Editor's name, if you can find it, or just say editors of (whatever the publication is).

Your name--should be obvious.

Publishing history, or if you lack publishing history, but have Creative Writing education you could list that. When it comes down to it most places will only be judging on the merit of what you send them and not your publishing history--unless you are a big name that will help move their publication's sales.

Title of piece, approximate word count and brief synopsis.

Acknowledge where you are submitting it--the magazine, anthology, book, etc.

The fact that you think it will fit what they're looking for.

Thank them for considering your work.

Sometimes the publisher asks for specific things in a cover letter--where you're most easily contacted, where you're from, a short bio in 3rd person, etc.

I figured that the best way to give you an example of a cover letter was to post one that I actually sent out--they rejected the story, but gave me good feedback, (I'm reworking the problem they had with the story and will try submitting again later)-- I just deleted a lot from it.

Dear editors at -----------,
My name is J. Lannan and I'm most easily contacted at (e-mail address here). I've previously been published in Shawnee State's Arts magazine (Silhouette: Spring 2011), the Dylan Days Publication (Talkin' Blues: 2011), and Ohio University-Lancaster's Arts magazine (Station: Spring 2011). "Hey, You Never Know" is my submission to be considered for inclusion in the -------------- anthology. Its complete word count comes in at just a little under 17,000 and has a summary that goes a little something like this:

In "Hey, You Never Know," Ian Winter picks up the missing persons case of Conrad Blum as a favor to a family friend, but has trouble getting any of the homeless people around the park where Conrad was last seen to talk. In fact they seem a little scared of him. With the reluctant guidance of shelter worker Brend, Ian concocts a new identity---------------------In this quest of disappearing bodies, a silver shuttlecock to a quasar, clandestine yard work and political intrigue everyone has a past.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

J. Lannan

I currently have submissions in at a magazine that takes up to a year to reply. I think I sent it out in November and obviously I'm still waiting. My fastest rejection came in at a number of hours after sending the e-mail out, and then there are some that never reply. Some places will not allow you to simultaneously submit your story to them and other publications, but some will. Make sure to keep track of these things.

Rejection happens. And, if you know the piece is of a good quality, the rejection usually happens because an editor did not like your style or it was just not a fit for their publication. Send it somewhere else. I had a piece rejected last year--personally I think it was too edgy for that publication now that I've actually met the group associated with that anthology-- but I read the story again and made a couple minor revisions and it was picked up by another publisher that is more interested in the sort of things that I write. I currently have plenty of rejected stories that I'm revising at the moment.

After acceptance you'll have to do a contract of some sort, or sign off on it. For the arts magazine that I worked on we were pretty relaxed and just wanted first rights, and we had each writer sign off on how their piece would look in the magazine. That's when they signed the agreement. I didn't sign off on anything for one of my poems to be included in another university's arts magazine. Currently I'm waiting for my contract for a short story publication. It seems like it will be pretty official and legally binding.
Usually you will get contributor copies. If there is money involved it seems that a lot of small publishers pay through PayPal. I haven't worked with any big publishers. I also have no experience with royalties at this time.

This is an addendum because novels are different. I have not pitched a novel, yet, but I've watched my friend go through the process and so far that story is not published.
1. The novel must be complete before it is pitched.
2. Smaller presses will let you pitch the novel directly to them if they are accepting novels, but the really big publishing houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts--meaning: you need an agent.
3. For novels I suggest getting a copy of the Writer's Market book because they do include statistics on how many novels that a publishing house publishers per year where the novel was represented by an agent or not.
4. The Association for Authors' Representatives is a good place to start looking for an agent. Poets & Writers Literary Agent Database. The Writer's Market also has listings of agents.
5. Whether pitching to an agent or directly to a publisher you will have to write an effective synopsis of the novel and a query letter. (Note: figure out the name of the person you're sending the letter/e-mail to) Some accept e-mail and others do not. There's a lot that depends on the publisher's or agent's preference--they have submission guidelines on their web pages. Query letters pitching the novel should go out much like cover letters for other submissions, so take note of the guide to cover letters I posted in this publishing guide. A synopsis seems like a more common request, but some publishers want the whole novel attached to that e-mail. In general the synopsis itself determines if the publisher or agent wants to read any more of the story. If you only sent a synopsis and the agent or publisher liked it, then they will ask for the first three chapters. If they like those, then they will ask for the whole novel. Here is a link to a successful query letter, so you have an example other than my lack of novel pitching letter experience.
6. Much like other forms of publishing once the letters are sent out, you just wait.
7. If it's rejected: Look for more feedback, reread it yourself, make repairs and try somewhere else. If it’s accepted, good for you.

Even if a piece is accepted by a publisher make sure it is a place where you actually want to be published before you sign a contract. You do not want to be published where they accept everyone because that doesn't speak very highly of the quality of work that they accept.

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