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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Submissions and so forth

Amanda addresses the business of submissions at Mad Genius Club:
Yesterday, as I was looking at FB, I came across a post from someone I respect a great deal. He also has one of the most unverifiable jobs there is in publishing. No, not reading the slush pile, although that is part of his job. He has taken it upon himself to do what so many publishers don’t do. He responds to those who send something in, letting them know whether or not their work has met the minimum threshold to be passed up the line for further consideration. Believe me, that is definitely more than a number of publishers do. Too many simply never get back to you unless they are interested.

What caught my eye with his post was how unprofessional someone had been in response to his email letting them know their story had not been passed up the line. Now, I know how it stings when you get a rejection. It’s like someone telling you your baby is ugly. But it happens and we have to accept it with grace and move on. Yes, we can kick and scream and curse in public but you do not send a note back telling the editor how wrong they were. Nor do you tell them that the title has been published during the time the editor was considering it, especially if the editor has gotten back to you in less than half the time they say it normally takes.

And that is where this particular author screwed up.
Having been on both ends of the process, perhaps some of you might be interested in an editor’s perspective.

  1. Most of the stuff that is submitted isn’t anywhere near ready. Seriously, we’re talking “WTF were you thinking” territory. Don’t submit just to submit, practice, then file it away if it’s not genuinely on par with what the publisher publishes and move on to the next work.
  2. You have VERY little time to impress the slush reader, who is wading through large quantities of writing that ranges from barely literate to mediocre. Make it count.
  3. Keep the cover letter short and to the point. No one is going to be impressed by how BADLY you want to be published or HOW MUCH you want to work with the publishing house. What you want has nothing to do with how good your book is.
  4. Pay a modicum of attention to whom you are submitting. If you submit a gay teen werewolf romance to Castalia, we’ll reject it right away. If you're an SJW, don't bother.
  5. Spellcheck, particularly your cover letter, bio, and first chapter. The occasional typo is forgivable, but if you simply can’t spell, most slush readers will quite reasonably assume you can’t write.
  6. Pay attention to who else the publisher publishes. Be familiar with some of their authors and read a few of their books to see how your work compares to them. At Castalia, our goal is for me to be the worst writer we publish. If your stuff isn’t objectively as good as my books, or Peter Grant’s, or Rod Walker’s, (and read the Amazon reviews to see how THOSE books are regarded) then you simply have no chance of being published by Castalia. Because John Wright and Owen Stanley and Nick Cole are even better.

All that being said, sometimes a submission does make it through the process. Last night I was discussing some editorial changes I wanted to see with the author of an unsolicited submission who hit several of our interest triggers with a solid, well-written murder mystery and political thriller set in feudal Japan that reads very much like military SF. If he can nail those changes, and I have no reason to think that he can't, Castalia will be delighted to publish it.

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33 Comments:

Anonymous NorthernHamlet July 31, 2016 8:16 AM  

On 2: Skip mentioning any awards you've won. Nothing glazes the eyes over faster.

Would you agree, VD?

For example, that Japanese sorry probably caught attention in its idea alone.

Blogger Samuel Nock July 31, 2016 8:54 AM  

"If you submit a gay teen werewolf romance to Castalia, we’ll reject it right away."

Even if "you" is Chuck Tingle?

Blogger JACIII July 31, 2016 8:57 AM  

Spellcheck, particularly your cover letter, bio, and first chapter. The occasional typo is forgivable, but if you simply can’t spell, most slush readers will quite reasonably assume you can’t write.

Nate - <<<<<< TRIGGERED >>>>>> Because no blackberry.

That's a low blow, VD. And I intend to use it against him the rest of his life.

Blogger JaimeInTexas July 31, 2016 8:59 AM  

What a tease!

Blogger Michael Maier July 31, 2016 9:45 AM  

JACIII wrote:Spellcheck, particularly your cover letter, bio, and first chapter. The occasional typo is forgivable, but if you simply can’t spell, most slush readers will quite reasonably assume you can’t write.

Nate - <<<<<< TRIGGERED >>>>>> Because no blackberry.

That's a low blow, VD. And I intend to use it against him the rest of his life.


ahhhhhhhh.... Brotherly love...

20 years later, I still remember a cut from my kid brother (right after buying him dinner, no less)

ME: "Maybe I should take singing lessons."
HIM: "Mike, There's no teacher that good."

Anonymous JAG July 31, 2016 9:57 AM  

Thank you for these tips. Not that I expect to ever publish anything beyond vanity, but once in a while I get the urge to try to write a novel. It is a hell of a lot harder than the typical person thinks. I have yet to make it beyond the 50 page mark with anything.

I also am similar to H.P. Lovecraft in that I hate everything I write once I read it back to myself. I'm also the world's worst poet.

Anonymous artaud July 31, 2016 10:11 AM  

Spellcheck, unless you're using the word rayciss.

Or unless you're Daniel Keyes.

Blogger 4499 July 31, 2016 10:14 AM  

Deer editor,

Ounce again I an clothes my novel aft or spill chicken it, don't no what for you can treed it cause I grudge you ate it from pub lick's cool.

Love, 4499

Pee ass my mom proof tit form me.

Blogger Hylean July 31, 2016 10:16 AM  

We can send in unsolicited submissions? Man I thought it was an invite only club. Time to redouble my efforts and produce something really worth it!

Anonymous J. Delcano July 31, 2016 10:35 AM  

... Castalia will be delighted to publish it.

What a coincidence! Based on the short description, this novel sounds like one I will be delighted to purchase and read.

Anonymous Mister M July 31, 2016 10:38 AM  

The teens with whom I work want to 'write' and create and get their work out there. I routinely tell them to start a blog, practice - it costs no money, only time. Precious few even start, and those who do usually give up within a month. It takes work. Writing is hard.

Blogger szopen July 31, 2016 10:46 AM  

Some advice I got from publishers and writers:
* Never send a book/a story immedietely after you have finished it, unless you are already published writer and got a good editor. Put it into a drawer, then after few weeks read it and edit
* Edit, edit, cut everything which does not contribute to a story
* Avoid experiments
* Read aloud what you have written

Anonymous Mr. Rational July 31, 2016 11:01 AM  

JAG wrote:once in a while I get the urge to try to write a novel. It is a hell of a lot harder than the typical person thinks.
Supposedly it's easy:  you just stare at the screen until drops of blood appear on your forehead.  Which is no doubt why I've never managed to get far into one... but I haven't stopped trying.

Blogger John Wright July 31, 2016 11:45 AM  

My cover letters have never contained anything other than my name and address, the story title, and a line saying for which imprint or publication it was being submitted.

A brief mention of prior publications or awards within the genre is useful as a hint that one is not a complete tyro. Priors or awards outside the genre are counterproductive to mention.

Blogger bob k. mando July 31, 2016 2:02 PM  

14. John Wright July 31, 2016 11:45 AM
Priors or awards outside the genre are counterproductive to mention.



oh, come on.

an ESPN transgender woman of the year award would be helpful at every major publishing house for most genres.

excepting, perhaps, Christian non-fiction?

Blogger RobertT July 31, 2016 2:46 PM  

This is good advice for everything you do in life. Anyone who's anyone has already mastered this. Everyone else should read it closely.

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr July 31, 2016 3:19 PM  

I've written a bushel of professional papers, a few magazine articles. No fiction...yet. I'm trying to plot out a novel or series (the story may be too big for one volume) now.

My advice:
1. Plot matters. Try to be innovative.
2. For SF, the setting matters, too. Internal consistency is essential.
3. Avoid the buzzwords and fads du jour.
4. Show, don't tell.

Professional papers are a lot easier...just stay focused on what your point is, and keep it short.

Anonymous Farnswords July 31, 2016 3:53 PM  

@6, JAG

I think practicing poetry is a very effective way to improve your writing (structured poetry, that is, not free verse). Poetry forces your message or story into an efficient, compact vehicle, and it draws your attention as a writer to the details that ultimately define your style: syntax, diction, meter, pace, and sound-play.

This effect is obvious when you examine authors like Tolkien and Poe, both gifted poets. Tolkien's prose was so fluid and euphonic it could almost be mistaken for poetry, and it is an important part of what makes his world so immersive. Poe had flawless dramatic timing in his short stories, and he innovated with sounds and meter in his prose more naturally than any author I know.

Personally, I've found that writing poetry has helped me fixate on the goal of delivering the most powerful message in the fewest words. After slaving for days over 14 lines, it's much more obvious to me when writing prose that I have just created 5 pages of completely unnecessary fluff.

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus July 31, 2016 5:05 PM  

If you submit a gay teen werewolf romance to Castalia, we’ll reject it right away.

Well, back to the drawing board.

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus July 31, 2016 5:08 PM  

We can send in unsolicited submissions? Man I thought it was an invite only club. Time to redouble my efforts and produce something really worth it!

Actually, that's a good question.

I have several ideas for some sci-fi short stories that I've been refining for a few weeks/months and was wondering where I'd even shop them to should I finally get them written.

They're not military sci-fi, and I doubt I'll ever write any of that since, 1) I wasn't in the military and thus don't have the "jargon," and 2) I am not interested in that genre anywise.

That being said, I doubt Castalia House would even be interested, but are there other non-SJW outlets that would publish subtle yet purposefully red-pill leaning sci-fi short stories of sufficient quality?

Anonymous The Ramones July 31, 2016 5:13 PM  

Of course if you were to publish a gay teen _vampire_ romance a la Twilight, you'd have a franchise and make enough money for all of you to retire in style the rest of your life.

Wait, forget I said that. (SOTTO) Susan? Get Jeffrey on the line....

Blogger doofus July 31, 2016 5:33 PM  

Now I feel stupid. I have been working on a "samurai noir" book set in 1670s Edo for the past few months, hoping to have something fresh and interesting to submit, and now it sounds like someone beat me to it. Oh well, there really aren't any new ideas under the sun.

Blogger doofus July 31, 2016 5:37 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger doofus July 31, 2016 5:39 PM  

Let's try this again. Here is something you all might find amusing. Maybe not.

TOKUGAWA PERSPECTIVES

I have been immersing myself in Tokugawa period literature and history for the past several weeks as I am writing a samurai novel set in Edo in the late 17th century. It occurred to me that it might be interesting to try and channel my inner shogun and see how President Ieyasu Tokugawa might respond to current American political matters. So, the following is a newspaper account of a press conference held by President Tokugawa that touches on some current events.

Declaring that "the current candidates mark this election as a complete travesty," President Tokugawa announced today that he was cancelling the November election indefinitely, until the political parties manage to nominate candidates that don't "insult the dignity and majesty of the office of the President and that would be worthy successors to myself in this role."

When asked who would be a suitable candidate for the office, President Tokugawa said, "I believe that any of my three elder sons would be excellent choices as candidates to replace me as President."

In addition, President Tokugawa said that the current Presidential candidates were to be punished for their temerity in insulting the office of the President.

For being a corrupt, unqualified hack, Hillary Clinton was to be executed and her head mounted on a pike outside the front gate of the White House.

For fomenting social unrest, Donald Trump was to be executed and his head mounted on a pike outside the front gate of the White House.

For "being an annoying crapweasel," Gary Johnson was to be executed and his head mounted on a pike outside the front gate of the White House.

When asked what he intended to do to Dr. Jill Stein, President Tokugawa replied, "Who?"

Moving onto social issues, President Tokugawa noted that the unemployment rate was at near all-time high and workforce participation at an all-time low. He announced a new government program requiring every person to report their employment status to the government. Those without productive means of occupation would be put to work tilling in the executive branch's rice fields. As part of this new employment initiative, he also stated that he was going to demolish the Capitol and convert the land it was sitting on into rice paddies and have all Senators and Congressmen working in those paddies 18 hours a day. "Now maybe, we will get some actual use out of them," he said.

Another plan of his to increase American productivity was to get people to work harder. He announced that all Android and Apple smartphones were to be confiscated and that anyone caught playing Pokemon Go was to be executed and their heads mounted on pikes at the city gates.

In yet another effort to calm social tensions, he announced the abolishment of the Supreme Court for "fomenting social unrest." The eight justices were to be executed and their heads displayed on pikes outside the front gate of the White House.

President Tokugawa then graciously gave 48 hours for all members of the White House Press Corps to commit ritual suicide after one of the reporters asked him if he thought that these measures were not an "overreaction." Those who fail to commit suicide within that time period will be executed and their heads displayed on pikes outside the front gate of the White House.

Anonymous fred July 31, 2016 5:48 PM  

This wouldn't be Castalia House material, but I think it would be interesting. If you want to do something about the Tokugawa period, instead of doing yet another remake of "Ran," why not do something about Tokugawa pornographers and tattooists? Their pornography has been really weird for a very long time. The creepy Tanizaki story "Tattoo" might be a good place to start.

Blogger doofus July 31, 2016 6:00 PM  

The stuff I am doing is a lot closer to the 'jidai geki' style of Japanese literature (literally 'period literature'). The equivalent in English would be Westerns. In film, think of something like "The Seven Samurai" or "Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman." Since I am already pretty far through the process, I will probably finish it up and see what the reaction is. If nothing else, there is always Amazon.

Anonymous EH July 31, 2016 6:17 PM  

I know a guy who has published humor that I'd re-read over most of Wodehouse or Twain. In workshop-published anthologies back in the '80s, admittedly, but he's been busy running the sensor and satellite intelligence department for the main intelligence consumer in the civilian US government. He's been retired the past few years. We go way back, he was a friend of my parents 45 years ago, though I've had only a few contacts with him this millennium. He's a bit reactionary Catholic, but a diplomat. I gather he's got a fantasy novel mostly done and a few works in the file. Should I suggest he submit to Castalia?

Blogger Revelation Means Hope July 31, 2016 11:20 PM  

I"m reading the Zelazny collections right now. Threshold - Volume 1: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny.

He wrote a lot of poetry, was even published in that field before Science Fiction and Fantasy.

While reading this volume, his childhood friend laid out the story of how the two of them had an ongoing contest for years to write and write and write stories. Starting before they even entered high school.

Zelazny wrote and wrote and wrote long before being published. Then it seemed like he broke upon the world fully formed as a fresh young author.

Anonymous Mr. Rational August 01, 2016 12:01 AM  

Revelation Means Hope wrote:Zelazny wrote and wrote and wrote long before being published.
As goatherd learns his trade by goat,
So writer learns his trade by wrote.

Anonymous SciVo August 01, 2016 12:30 AM  

Speaking of books, as promised, Tom Kratman's A State Of Disobedience is now available gratis as part of the Baen Free Library. There it joins his Caliphate and A Desert Called Peace (except that ASOD is still $6.99 on Amazon). As compromise with the left has become impossible -- because you can be half wrong, but you can't be half lying, crazy & evil -- I look forward to reading his take on how Civil War II might go down.

Blogger ChrisW August 01, 2016 5:35 AM  

I've been going back and forth on this. The best short story I've written in ages is a supply sergeant going through his day in a sci-fi context. I have experience in the military, and honestly, the reason I wrote the story was because of VD's upcoming anthology, and a momentary determination to write a story for it.

Is it sci-fi? Well, technically yes, if you include the spaceships and other technologies. But looking at the story, it's a typical day in my life, building up to a conclusion and there are extra technological details. Months later, I haven't even been able to edit the story to a second draft, and I think it's only fair to get rid of the worst spelling and grammar mistakes before submitting it.

I don't see any reason to put an editor through that. He's getting paid, I'm not, and the story is my problem. Sucks to be the publisher.

Blogger sysadmn August 01, 2016 10:48 AM  

I had to check which blog I was reading. After seeing the reference to Amanda's post (which I had read), I thought I was at Alpha Game, and expected a 'this is how gammas react to criticism' post. Amanda's exemplar showed cringeworthy behavior.

Anonymous EH August 02, 2016 10:06 AM  

27 is an easy question, no referral to Castalia then if there's no interest.

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