Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Anatomy of a Process...

So you’ve written your Stoker-winning short story and sit poised with your finger over the “Send” button. Once you grant your masterpiece virtual release, your creation rests in our hands. But, did it even arrive in our Inbox? When will we read it? Will the rejections be short and sweet or long and angry, form or personal? Lots of questions, lots of unknowns.

Let’s demystify a bit, shall we?

On the story queries we’ve received to date, our average response time has been days – not weeks – in responding. Unless your pitch sounds blatantly like something in the science fiction/fantasy or mystery genres or another genre outside of what we’re looking for, we’re generally greenlighting most (hey, we're adventurous...). You receive an email welcoming you to send over your submission as a Word attachment with a promise that we’ll confirm receipt of your submission. And we always keep our promises.

Once we receive your submission and send you a quick confirmation, we log your submission on a monthly tracking sheet. Our reading schedule runs something like this: All submissions received up to and including the last day of a given month are slotted for reading and discussion by the 20th of the following month. For example, everything we received in our Inbox up to and including October 31st was read and individually considered by November 20th. Chad and I use a wildly clever evaluation tool on which we assign two codes; one with an overall impression score, the other our individual recommendation. Lots of room for comments.

Chad and I exchange our individual evaluation tools to compare and contrast. Any submissions on which we agree – both in terms of impression and recommendation – we take as a testament to our mystical editorial prowess and follow the mutually agreed upon disposition. To date, there hasn’t been one. In the majority of instances, we’ve each come away with a different feeling and analysis of the submission. So we discuss. And discuss. And discuss. Until we reach consensus on a recommendation: accept, pass, hold for a second reading, or request changes from the author. This occurs between the 20th and 25th of each month.

Between the 25th and 30th/31st of the month, the business of sending out communiqués to writers ensues. The acceptances will be short and sweet, with promises of contracts and payments and all that good stuff. The rejections will be accompanied by some degree of feedback as to why we’ve decided to pass. Time-consuming, yes. The right thing to do, yes. We’re writers, too. Do unto others…and that kind of thing.

If we request changes and offer to re-read later in the submission period, it’s because we found something promising in the premise, your writing, or how the alliteration of your first, last, and middle names would add a degree of literary whimsy to our TOC. Take the advice we’re offering and work it the best you can. If you think what we’re asking is a crock of manure, thank us politely and move on.

More maddening will be the emails stating that your story has made it through to a second read and that we’d like to mull it over a bit. Maddening because this is neither a “yes” nor a “no” and you’re stuck in literary limbo. Here’s a hint: if we’re asking to hold your submission for a subsequent reading, it’s because it’s 1) damn good and we need time to determine if the story fits into the larger context of the anthology or 2) a little edgy, a little experimental and we want to gnash our teeth on it some more. Seriously, though, we realize that time is money and that no writer (struggling or otherwise) wants a story held up indefinitely. Submission to us is not binding until the contracts are signed – writers are free to pull their story from consideration if they find a better/quicker/alternate home for it. All we ask is timely notification in this event so that we pull your story out of consideration. That said, the submission period wraps in the spring of next year – in the time it would take to find another market, submit to it, and wait 30, 60, 90 days for a response, you will in all probability hear back from us in that same timeframe.

Take a deep breath, be patient. Quality is not a race.

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