Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Hard Part

As Laura revealed in her comments on the last post, I knocked back her submission into the Dark Pages Anthology. I don't expect this to put her off though - there's still a month until subs close.

I began on this antho as a slush reader only, but took on more and more reading and eventually was asked to take over and do all the reading and choosing so as to provide the anthology with some independence from the owner(s) of Blade Red Press. Don't get me wrong, Blade Red Press are more than happy to do a first sift through the submissions for me, but I'd like to see it all so I now read everything.

On taking over this role, I have been amazed and, at first, delighted, to see so many familiar names submitting.

Then I read two stories by known names in the industry which set the standard for me. I don't think we've yet sent out any acceptance emails, but I doubt I'm going to find a dozen stories better than these so they'll probably be included. The point is, that these two are the only two I've got in my probably yes file. I have a growing number in my possibles file. I keep just a few in a third level file for backups (just in case).

Thank you but no thank you notes will go out as quick as I can get them sent - please feel free to submit another piece.

But the hard bit is because I've come to know so many of those who have submitted. I don't play favourites. When I read, I skip over the name and where it's from and just read the story. I like to think I have the ability to firmly wear a simple readers hat while doing this. I overlook grammar errors and mentally substitute letters and words for the occasional typo. I've even continued to read when the formatting has been completely botched and changed halfway through the manuscript. If the story doesn't have anything to draw me in, and it doesn't need to be a lot, then I stop reading (this has happened only once so far). If I get to the end and I'm not pulling a face of wonderment or puzzlement, or smiling as if I and the author know a secret but no one else does, then the story would be very lucky to make the third level folder.

So when I read something I'm not instantly happy to place in my possible file, and then see that it's by someone I know and consider a friend, I have a twinge of regret pass through me. It is a regret that I can't place the piece in this anthology and it is a regret that I know they'll be getting a rejection email.

I'm coming to terms with this - not that I really had a choice. With the number of subs from people I know, I needed to grow an extra thick skin pretty quickly. That's one thing I've learned in this process - editors who have writer friends, need a thicker skin just being a writer alone.

The saving grace in all this is the knowledge that those writers out there I call my friends are professional in their attitude and behaviour. They are knowledgeable in how the industry works and know that there are never enough slots in an anthology for the editor to publish everything he or she would like. With all this knowledge and with every set back, every writer I know strives that little bit harder to improve their craft in order to gain an acceptance the next time out.

I know those of you who have submitted to the antho and haven't been successful, or to those of you who are intending to submit and may not gain entrance - I know you are aware that the decisions made here are nothing personal and we, the team putting this product together, all wish you the best of luck, and the speediest of time frames, in finding a home for your work.

Now, having said all that - get back to work and send me your very best work. I'm looking forward to reading it, with a smile on my face...


  1. Hey Brother, you have the hardest job in front of you. I've been there. Congrats for the honor, and best of luck managing the hard part.

  2. Nah - The hardest bit is disappointing fellow writers. The putting together of the anthology is good fun - as long as enough writers submit excellent pieces even that should be a breeze.

  3. okay, maybe not a breeze, exactly...

  4. It seems cruel to inflict a twinge of regret on you, but I'll see what I can do ; )

  5. I can understand how this can be tough. There seems to be lots of personal politics that you have to set aside, which is easier said than done.

    Like I said on Blade Red Press's website, congratulations. This is huge. But kind of don't envy having to reject all those people.

  6. I hadn't read your blog when I saw my rejection... LOL I looked at it, and thought to myself, what the heck? I had to go look in my Sonar to see when I'd subbed. Everything has been so crazy busy lately, I didn't remember submitting! *hangs head*

    I know you're going to do an excellent job. If I can just find some time to give it another shot.. o_O

    btw - huge congrats! I didn't post it last night and I meant to. :)

  7. I think the toughest job for an editor is to have writer friends! If those writers don't understand, they haven't been through the mill enough times yet.

    What I will find really amusing is if you reject Alan's sub. ;)

  8. Nat - I look forward to seeing it. I'll try not to regret anything too much ;c)

    Ben - No politics here. The work stands on its own. If a fellow writer takes offence to me knocking back their work just because I consider them a friend, then they are, as Laura points out, not seasoned enough, and probably not one of my real friends - writer or otherwise.

    Jodi - I hope you do find some time, but I read your last post - not happening unless you really are wonder there's a challenge...

    Laura - I've not accepted anything from Alan prisoners here.

    Don't tell anyone, but I've knocked back almost as many subs from people I know as those I don't. I know a lot of writers from all over the world and it seems they have nearly all decided to sub to this antho!

    Keep them coming, friends and strangers alike!

  9. I have submitted to antho's where I know the editor (or the slush reader) and have been rejected (many times actually). I have never taken it personally, it is a matter of business and that is the cost of doing business. I have always known it is nothing personal, my story just wasn't up to their standards or didn't fit the guidelines. It happens.

  10. Yeah, the one bad thing about editing a great antho like this is that everyone wants in. It's harder on you than on the authors, I'm sure!

    Such a cool project, though :D

  11. Jamie - so I'll be expecting something from you shortly then?

    Katey - I'm glad you think it's cool. Your sub shouldn't be far away then - is that right?

  12. I know I'd rather get a rejection than get a friend-acceptance for a story that isn't as good as it should be (or which isn't right for the market). Put another way, if I do get an acceptance, I want to know I earned it.

    Of course, I don't have anything to send you. :)

  13. You should have gotten my sub yesterday.