Curious to hear the horror stories from everyone's time submitting stories to publications. Unauthorized, shitty edits? Name changes? Typos that weren't there when you submitted the damned thing? Failure to pay?
A magazine failed to pay me 10,000 yen ($100) for a story once, but it didn't bother me much-- they'd paid for another story, and I was happy enough being published at the time.
I've entered a short fiction contest for a fee that promised a one year subscription for entries, then never received an issue.
Have sent a submission by post and never heard back. Followed up and was told they had a large backlog, check again in three months. Did this every three months for well over a year to finally be told they'd lost my story.
I'll be interested to hear what the worst stories might be. Most journals are under-funded, under-staffed, so I'm willing to forgive a lot. Most of our names won't sell any copies, but we can use them as stepping stones to a potential career, so it's a one-sided relationship in a way.
I'd consider vast unauthorized edits to be the most egregious tresspass if there are instances. (I've brought up Carver/Lish recently--in my opinion some unethical editorial sway involved).
My very first published short story was printed with one of the lines repeating twice.
I once submitted to a journal that changed from simultaneous submissions accepted to no simultaneous submissions in the course of the YEAR that it took them to respond. When one of my poems was accepted elsewhere, I immediately contacted them to let them know. The editor wrote back a scathing email regarding their new policy on simultaneous submissions and all but promised me I'd never be published again. (I have been). The publication has since gone under.
Had a magazine that paid me for writing, but never published it. They've since went bankrupt.
Had a story accepted in an anthology. Was going to pay pretty well. They never paid me, but the anthology was never released. They paid the bigger-named authors. It wasn't really a big deal. Just disappointing. Mentioning it because of Dwayne's comment, which doesn't seem like that bad of an experience to me. That kind of thing happens all the time and at least you got paid. I've never really had that bad of an experience, except for maybe with the publisher of my first book because she rarely responded to my emails.
For the record I don't think my experience was all that bad, just disappointing, especially since it was my FIRST ONE.
@Sands - It wasn't that bad, just the worst I ever had. When I submit something, which I seldom do, I put it out of my mind till I get turned down, so it doesn't feel like I've lost anything when they say no. I've never been published and these people not only said yes, they approached me (I know the owner). I got my hopes up of seeing it in print. I was all excited because I'm private about writing, I've found I either talk about things or do them not both, so it seemed a good chance to show people I care about. Plus it was supposed to be the start of having my own column. I didn't think it would be magic, but it seemed nice for platform building.
I'm not mad at her, she made sure I got paid in the middle of going bankrupt and kept me informed through the whole process. But to a dedicated pessimist like myself who refers to hope as, 'the heavy pointless rock people won't stop carrying around' it really makes me feel stupid for thinking it would be this really awesome little thing.
[This isn't all that bad an experience, but it's my only direct experience with editing based on "good taste" or an editor/publisher covering his behind.]
I sent a book review to a website. The editor rejected it, saying, while he could not articulate what he was looking for, there was some "thing" which he felt was missing. I wrote back and asked if he'd be interested in a fictional, pseudonymous, semi-antagonistic list of possible reasons he rejected my book review. He said he would like to read it. I sent it. He said he thought he could run it if I were to cut out a potentially offensive and easily misunderstood joke. The piece contained several other more oblique references and jokes which shared the same basis for potential offense.
So I thought about changing it they way he suggested; then I thought about changing it to make fun of the website, harping on the idea that only simple and easily-distinguished ideas can ever be offensive, because people don't think or know enough for the really "deep" stuff to even register; then I decided not to pursue publication of the piece.
I was not outraged or indignant at someone trying to "limit my expression" or whatever. They own the website and can do what they want. They didn't want a bunch of flame-mail, so they didn't want to run it "as-is." It makes sense. It if were illegal for them to run such a piece of writing, that'd be censorship. I do not harbor ill will against the website or its editors (even though they wouldn't know a good book review if it crawled up their ass and laid eggs).
When I was ten years old I submitted a story to a popular-at-the-time boys' magazine. Not only did they not accept it, they also kept my only copy (handwritten in pencil) of the manuscript just because I did not include a SASE.
For more information, send a self-addressed stamped evelope to Pueblo, Colorado, 81009.
Utah: Perhaps the magazine got tons of hand-written submissions and couldn't afford the postage to send them back. Unless they were extremely cruel, they probably would have if they only received hand-written stuff every once in a while.
On the subject of SASE, there was a guy who would often submit like 10 long stories for my lit mag at the same time through the mail. They weren't good, so I kept rejecting them and telling him over and over again to only send me one story at a time. He ignored me and kept sending multiple submissions may different times, always including a SASE. I think they may have been his only copies. Perhaps he was an elderly man who wrote on a typewriter and didn't know how to use a computer. He included an extensive list of his publications, with dates, and his last publication was in the eighties (probably not a good idea for someone to mention that).
So at one point, I got so frustrated after receiving another submission from him that I threw it away rather than used the SASE to send it back. Then he send me this crazy letter that was pretty much a death threat done in an extremely passive aggresive manner: http://lawngnomesinspace.blogspot.com/2008/04/crazy-submitter-threatens-my-life.html
I didn't want to admit that I threw out his submissions back when I wrote the blog entry.
Why, because I care not for The Mark Chapman Generation, which hasn't produced a chicken worth busting down the door to eat anyway?
Why, because I care not for The Mark Chapman Generation, which hasn't produced a chicken worth busting down the door to eat anyway?
I thought that was awesome. Nevertheless, I can understand your discomfort at the letter.
The first time I got published, the magazine came out with my name mispelled twice in two different ways. It was mispelled on the cover and on the by-line.
The only other bad experience involved a market that didn't respond to my submission, or to two queries. That's when I learned to pay attention to stats on Duotrope. The market was one of their least responsive. I don't care if you don't want to use a piece. At least reject it so I can shop it somewhere else.
^^^ I have this happening at the moment. I'm on my first query, and I've got another sheduled for a few days, when it will have been two weeks since the first. Their website says to query after one week, but their stats on Duotrope show them to be very slow or non-responsive. I'm just not sure how many times to query. When does it start getting pushy?
I queried twice and then sent a third email explaining that I was withdrawing my piece since I hadn't received a response, noting the dates of my submission and my two queries. I didn't want to label someone non-responsive on Duotrope in case there was a technical error with an email, but after four emails total, I decided it was safe to assume I was never going to hear from them.
I sent a piece by email in July. The reply was from a different address than the one I sent it to. I queried as to whether the address was in fact one of theirs, and whether they wanted to use the piece. The editor said it was, and that he would "make sure ___ gets back to you as soon as possible with an answer in regards to your piece. If you wouldn't mind holding off from shopping your piece around until you hear back from us, that would be much appreciated..." Never did get the answer.
Also never shopped the piece, because it was a sort of reply to a columnist's statements back in June/July. I might rewrite it, preserving the basic idea of the piece, while making it less of a response to an article which is ancient history by internet standards.
[I don't know if the internet is actually reducing people's attention spans, but the general glut of information we experience does seem to make sustained thought, critical attention and discussion appear somewhat antiquated. E.g. "Why would I bother to write a response to some guy's column? Why not just leave a nasty comment and move on?"]
I have ten stories accepted by publishers who seem to have gone AWOL (3 anthologies and one e-zine). They were mostly accepted last summer and scheduled publication dates have come and gone. One didn't answer my email, one sent an automated reply stating dates that were long gone, the other one I'm getting ready to email now but it looks the same. I guess I'll take my stories back and start over. They could at least put a note up on the site, if nothing else. :(
I haven't really had a horror story, but I've probably caused a couple.
Both right before I was homeless in the more real sense for a couple months.
I hastily accepted a story once because it was a GOOD story and feared it would be taken by elsewhere. It would have also been the longest story ever posted to SYW. I didn't realize until I went to post it a week later how many grammar problems there were. For instance, there was no punctuation in the dialogue whatsoever, along with other similar problems. Long story short, it would have been the kind of work for an actual paid editor to fix because it was about 14000 words. I felt a deep sense of relief when the person asked if they could withdraw the story a few weeks later.
The second isn't necessarily my fault or the author's, but maybe a spam folder or something. I accepted a kick-ass bizarro story, but kept forgetting to publish it until I forgot about it all together while being more concerned with the idea of finding things to eat and places to sleep. I sent an email apology not too long ago and offered for it to still be published on the site still, but never heard a response.
I also misspelled a guy's name once, luckily it was fixed within minutes and the guy was really cool about it.
I suppose these should be a tale of caution to all those starting zines on this forum.
Guys, any suggestions on how to politely phrase a withdrawal because the press is being unresponsive? I'd like to give a reason, but I'm struggling on how to phrase it without sounding like an asshole.
My first publication misspelled my name. I've emailed them twice and got no response. Sucks, but the funny thing is my bio has my correct name.
Jess: I can't think of a way to phrase it. I don't think you really need to send a withdrawal anyway unless the story gets accepted elsewhere (unless you no longer want them to publish it).
^^ I think I'm going to sell it to a client as a ghostwritten piece. So I guess it's more a courtesy to my client to withdraw it; it seems a bit unethical offering a story that's under consideration (well, technically under consideration).
I've done that, Jess, and just stated it straight out and neutral. After all, they are the ones who are being irresponsible and unprofessional, not you, so I wouldn't worry about excessive politeness. Something like:
You accepted my story, (name of story here), on (date here). It's been quite a while but hasn't been published, and my inquiry of (date) was not answered. Therefore, with regrets, I am withdrawing my story.
That's assuming they already accepted it but then gone AWOL. If they haven't accepted it but just haven't answered, I'd say something like:
I submitted my story/novel/whatever (story name), on (date) but have not received a reply. My inquiry of (date) was not answered either. Therefore, with regrets, I am withdrawing my story.
Or, if you don't want to get into that, just state that you are withdrawing your story and thank them for considering it, with no explanation.
If it was already accepted before they became unresponsive, I'd be sure to keep a copy of all emails. I don't trust someone who is acting flaky, they may just publish it anyway and then you'd want to be able to show the new place that it wasn't your doing.
Good luck with it. If it's a story and you want to PM me the name, I may know more about it, due to recent problems I've had of the same type.
P.S. Oops, we posted at the same time, Jess. So then, nevermind the "already accepted" part.
No worries, and thanks, Carly. I might go with your latter option. The editor is a friend of a friend of a friend. You know how these things go. ;)
I recently pulled a story from a market that I'd had submitted for 636 DAYS. I never had a response from them, and that 636 days was way over their stats on Duotrope. I just left my submission ticking because I was taking a break with the story and had focused on sending out other ones. I figured I'd wait and see what happened. Neverthless, I got bored with waiting.
The funny thing is that I sent them off an email saying that I was pulling the story, and they replied the fucking next day wishing me luck on sending it elsewhere. Seriously. Fuck them.
Oh my god! Bekanator, I think you deserve some kind of prize. 636 days!!!
I have noticed that too, that many magazines who don't respond to submissions for months suddenly get all chatty with you once it's accepted elsewhere. LOL! I wouldn't think there was much to talk about then...
I kind of forgot how long it was, but everytime I'd log a new submission on Duotrope I'd look up and see how long that submission had been. Then I'd forget about it again. For a long time it was just this inside joke I had with myself.
Seriously, though, I do sometimes have to sit back and wonder how bad it must have been for writers before the Internet, to snail-mail out all these submissions, waste all this money on stamps and wait for ages before a magazine would get back to them, only to see rejections.
I mean, you kind of have to realize where the depressed writer sterotype came from.
These days it's really not so bad.
I remember those days! At least you got cool colored rejection slips, they were smaller than regular paper. I always wanted to save them up for wallpaper but they got lost in a couple of moves I guess. That and typewriters where you had to use "white out" on your mistakes. UGH!
Some publications don't send rejections. If they don't want your submission, you won't hear back. I never bother to withdraw a submission if it takes too long for them to respond and I send it elsewhere. I just assume that it has been rejected (unless they are known for almost always taking a significantly long time in to respond).
I do get pretty annoyed with new publications that just die on the vine and don't bother responding. You could at least send out a mass e-mail "Okay it ends up I don't know how to run a magazine after all."
Some "editors" are afraid of hurting people's feelings and think no response is better. Perhaps others mostly publish solicited submissions and don't care much about the unsolicited submissions that they receive. Responding to everyone they ignore could end up being a lot of work.
As an editor, I've done some seriously stupid shit. Like:
-Emailing Jonathan Riley telling him that, even though we've been communicating for nearly a month about a story, I forgot to get his photo and bio... and it's, like, eight hours from publication time.
-Getting drunk each 31st (two months in a row) when publication is at midnight (early morning of the 1st) and having to scramble when it turns out stuff has been forgotten... like when Meredith and Jessica informed me that I forgot to include a story we had fucking featured for a preview when I sent out the line-up and I didn't realize what they were talking about until it was 10pm.
-Telling someone they'll be featured on accident. I emailed the wrong person. I didn't feature them, and I was too scared to send them an email telling them I fucked up, but they weren't angry and were honestly very sweet about all of it.
-Emailing someone without knowing checking with the genre editor to see if they've emailed them, because back when Parable was a one-person magazine, I had an email for each genre and had them forwarded to the base email. So I still get them without realizing it, and then email back without knowing it's to a genre editor, and usually cause a cluster-fuck of problems with conflicting responses and the like.
I hate when important tasks interfere with my drinking.
In my defense, though, I always got drunk when I thought work was done and then realized there was more shit to do. According to the guys I've drank with these past two months, it's actually very funny to watch, so maybe I'll livestream it next time.
Yeah, I'd say a good rule of thumb is that the job isn't done until it's actually finished and complete. Especially when you are new to doing it. In a couple years it'll be old news and you can be drunk while you do it. For now, wait until the issue runs before you call it a day and drink.
Also, don't live stream it.
Or take the B&B approach and just be drunk for all of it.
Though I can see where that gets sticky if it's printed.
We record drunk and edit sober! Or...I assume we do...
It depends. Sometimes I edit right after the show--so still drunk. Sometimes I get up early on Thursday and edit hungover and tired.
I thought it was all complete. As in, I had all the stories and artwork scheduled for publication, everything was formatted correctly, I had done the triple-check of correct slugs and name spellings (because this post showed me how terrible that can be) and bios and photos and stickied posts, all of it, and then got an email asking where the story was on the line-up. The filter I used on Submittable had ignored the story.
I'm not saying I'm not a fucking idiot, I'm saying I'm a very good-meaning and responsible idiot who makes mistakes.
Also, I would never livestream it.
Yeah, I know. I was just saying, it isn't actually complete until it goes up. Like, if it's been an issue for you, learn from it. That was all.
I fell in with this lady setting up an art exhibit for disabled people, which was supposed to culminate in a book of all the art and stories from the exhibit. You know, coffee table stuff. The lady running this thing was totally out of her depth. No one got paid, production costs weren't comp'd (and frames didn't match, and weird shit that shouldn't have happened like that if she was on top of shit) Then there was some issue with the space rental for the gallery. Dates changed last minute (and at one point I was threatened because I was supposed to be in Seattle during the opening) and the exhibit was moved to a space that was MUCH too large for it, and had for lease signs on the windows instead of promotion for our show....
So no one showed up besides people involved with the show, a photographer, and their respective families.
The book was quietly abandonned by that fall, with no notification to anyone involved. My attempts to contact the lady who put it all together have gone unanswered.
As far as the mag I used to edit, I once accidently listed Anthony Neil Smith's name on the back cover as "Anthony Michael Smith." I didn't correct it for copies printed later because it was a pain/Anthony was okay with it.
That's the only bad thing that ever I've done as an editor, although I assume some submittors have had complaints that I'm unaware of.
At least you didn't list him as Anthony Michael Hall.
At least you didn't list him as Adolf Michael Hitler.