March 29, 2008

How to Get Me Wet

Or, at least, be the editor of my dreams.

In fairness, I thought I should post a Writers' Bill of Rights to balance my Editor's Rant.

Writers’ Bill of Rights

1. Writers should be paid. If an editor gets paid, the writers should be paid. I’m still irked by the editor who said she didn’t receive enough of an advance to pay the contributors in her anthology. This is something she should have stated up front in her guidelines, before she accepted the stories. I was too inexperienced to drop my piece from the book, but I don’t work with her anymore.

2. Writers should receive a response. Even if the response is No. (“No” is actually the note I received scrawled on the top of my first attempt into a big-time collection. Just the word NO written on the top of the story. But at least I knew the answer.)

3. Whenever possible, writers should be allowed to approve edits on their work. Or at least, major edits. If a title is changed, or a last line dropped (this has happened to me), an author should be alerted.

4. Schedules should be shared—again, whenever possible. Writers love to know when a book is due out, so they can tell their friends, family, strangers in the streets.

5. Good news should travel. If a review comes out that positively mentions a writer’s story, this review should be forwarded to the writer.

6. Bad reviews should be kept to oneself. Enough of us are Google whores. We will undoubtedly sniff out the cruel reviews ourselves. No need to forward the ones that demolish our stories specifically. My editor at Masquerade loved to send me bad reviews of my books. They gave him glee. Sadist.

7. Writers should receive timely responses to update queries.

8. Submission guidelines should be clear and concise. Tell me what you want from me, and I will do my best to give it to you. (That said, I’ve absolutely read clear and concise guidelines and gone and done the opposite thing. I totally missed the boat on He’s On Top, writing from the sub POV instead of the Dom’s. And I once forgot to put sex into a story. Ooops.)

9. There should be a written contract between writer and the editor or publisher. Early on, an editor tried to tell me that no editors she knew held contracts with their contributors. That I was lucky to even get a contract from her. (It was an unfair contract, and I was arguing the point that let her sell my story without any further compensation.) Without a contract, how else can you protect your work?

10. ???

Do you agree with my items? What am I missing? (Aside from my sanity and another cup of coffee.)



Jeremy Edwards said...

Great list!

re. #2: Personally, I could live with never getting a reply to this or that story I'd submitted if (a) I were sure of a definite date after which I could definitely definitely assume that no reply meant "no"; and (b) 100% of all e-mails reached their intended recipients, meaning that the submission I e-mailed, and any responses, were definitely definitely received. Since (b) is not true and (a) is usually not true (unless one wants to wait until a book shows up in the stores to conclude that one's story hasn't been selected [and even that won't work for websites and magazines]), #2 is pretty important to me.

Alison Tyler said...

This post was more difficult to write because I know that as an editor, I am guilty of breaking some of these. (I just had a thought—I wish I'd written them as commandments! "Thou shalt not reject a story by lack of response.")


Smut Girl said...

#10: Writers should receive paid vacations to warm locales. Total and final say over all art/covers/fonts and should always have nice glossy professionally shot headshots included with their bios.

Did I miss anything? Is it time for my meds yet?

Alana said...

10. Writers should be supplied free coffee, free food, free anti-depressants, free back rubs, all expenses paid housing, and free health insurance. I'd say free alcohol as well, but that's really just asking for trouble.

During his ten years as a raging alcoholic, Raymond Carver didn't write a fucking thing. I can quiet my demons with wine or by writing. The writing reaps better reward.


I can't count the number of times I've never heard from an editor in regards to a submission. For instance: I'd heard a rumor the gentleman who edits fiction for Nerve Magazine is notorious for not responding to submissions even if to just say "No, thank you."

I can now personally vouch for the validity of this rumor. Meaning, it's not a load of crap fed to the rest of us by jilted writers.

Obviously I've created excuses for this particular editor as I have for countless others. Which is:

My story was so god-awful it didn't even warrant a response let alone a rejection.

I mean, what else am I supposed to think?

I know. It's possible the poor man is so backlogged with submissions he never gets around to all of them. This is true for the editor at the New Yorker. It's also possible that the other editors who never responded actually had nothing to respond to, i.e., my manuscript was lost in the mail, glitch in the system, stuff like that. I understand it happens. It does!


Smut Girl said...

Fuck it. I'll say what Alana didn't. Free alcohol. Man, oh man, I write more when I'm drunk (unlike Raymond). So, I could get totally ripped and write a book a week if someone else were paying.

And the no answer thing is my biggest pet peeve. Ever. It makes me crazy angry. My second favorite (I lie) is when I have to follow up and I get a...'I'll look into that' and then a huge stretch of silence. Like. Forever. I have three or four venues that I will never ever ever sub to again due to rudeness. Ever...EVER. Wow. I need a pill.

Seriously...what time are my meds?This painting the dining room shit is driving me bonkers. Can I say shit here?

jothemama said...

Great list, you did them all for me :)

I can't think of any thing else that would improve on it, except a quick shoulder rub, perhaps.

Alana said...

Oh Sommer, I love you. I do. I love you so much. But just so you know, I write nothing drunk, nothing. I can't focus; I don't care. The demons are silent.

With one exception: once I got ripped and wrote a Dennis Cooper type story. Like, I wrote this entire thing gleefully thinking "I'm Dennis fucking Cooper!" Also known as a Dennis Cooper rip off story. And I was so genius. So good. So cerebral and ethereal.

Next day I opened the file and wanted to vomit, and not because I was hungover, but because I was so NOT Dennis Cooper. The story was a shameful embarrassment. :-)

I've blogged a couple times tipsy but not drunk. Unlike Alison, who remains articulate and tactful when drunk blogging, I bend over and show my entire ass crack while drunk blogging: I mean more crack than usual, and then I fall over on my head. If you know what I mean. I show enough crack as is. I'm forever a stripper, you know?

P.S. Alison is tired of me today. :-)

Craig Sorensen said...

You know, I'm definitely kind of spoiled. I suppose I've fallen in with a good crowd or something, but I've managed to work with good editors (present company included.)

Okay, there was that instance with a website where a story I submitted didn't get a response for 14 (count 'em) months, but in deference, when I asked for updates, I got them.

Let me qualify that. I've worked only with great editors while working in erotica. I did have a short stint where I shopped around some literary stuff. That's a different story, and yes, those are the experiences that make this list essential.

Oh, and Sommer, I'll be popping around later for some of those meds. I'll slap up some paint while I'm at it.

Stephen Elliott said...

Hey you, this is really great. Especially number 9. It's absolutely ridiculous that an editor should be able to resell your work and not compensate you.

You have to be careful, I think. Don't put yourself at the mercy of your publisher. They're just as excited to publish you as you are to be published by them. As an editor, I know it's very hard to find stories that I want to publish.

In an anthology, you should maintain all rights to the work. You should be able to republish, you should get all the money from any individual sales of your story. It's very rare than an anthology pays well enough to justify giving up rights.

Writers should recieve a response. As an editor, I've found it's best to be honest. You can reject the story and not say anything, or you can say the story doesn't work for you. But don't make excuses like, "It's really great, but it's too smart for this collection." In publishing, like in relationships, lies come back to haunt you.

Smut Girl said...

I am officially drunk and I luuuurv Stephen Elliott (though I feel the urge due to T. S. to chop off one of his t's) and I love Alana and her ass crack and I have a pill for Craig. And he owes me some painting.

#11 Writers should always feel free to drunk comment on their favorite editor's blog...can I say favorite here?

Craig Sorensen said...

Stephen's statement:

You can reject the story and not say anything, or you can say the story doesn't work for you. But don't make excuses like, "It's really great, but it's too smart for this collection."

Is a very important one to me. If the editor is not going to give a truthful assessment of why the work didn't make the cut, I'd rather just get terse a "No thanks." Editors' feedback can help me decide what, if anything, I should submit to them in the future.

If it's not honest, it may point me in the wrong direction for a subsequent submission, and this benefits no one.

Alison Tyler said...

#9 is a tricky one, too, as an editor. Because you are working with two sets of contracts—the one from the publisher and the ones for the authors.

But I do try to make sure writers know that they still have all the rights to their stories—that they can resell, post, record on audio, etc. etc. That the publishers only want the rights for use in the anthologies—and if subsidiary rights sell, the authors will be further compensated.

One of the first contracts I ever signed gave the publisher the right to excerpt 25% of a book for undeclared use. This publisher then went on to excerpt 25% of four of my books, making a whole new book that I didn't receive a royalty on.

Live and learn.

For more on these topics, check out Shanna Germain's "Both Sides of the Desk" post, which links to two of her own articles. (We're getting a little incestuous with links, here, but click through to her articles. They're great.)


t'Sade said...

The only one I could think of is the one that I felt myself. The writer should know when something serious changes after the fact. I'm talking about MG and the company going out of business (most of the places that published me so far have gone out of business now) without telling anyone. I found out after the point, but it felt like I was abandoned for years before I found out, even with my google-fu.

Alana said...

Dammit, Sommer, I still love you, and you can love Stephen Elliot all you want, but I love him more. Yeah. Something like that.

Anyway: My ass crack, dear heart siren, thanks you. :-) You have any Ativan?

Allison Wonderland said...

Yes, yes, yes to number 2 (Writers should receive a response. Even if the response is No.) I would much rather get a "no" than nothing. It's aggravating and humiliating to be ignored, to feel like I'm not even worth the five seconds it would take to type a simple "No, thank you."

It's also nice to receive confirmation from the editor that he or she has received the submission. Even if I have to wait a week or a month for that confirmation. And even if that confirmation is impersonal or automated. It just puts me at ease. 'Cause I'm paranoid like that.

Sharon Wachsler said...

Writers should not be solicited for their work, have it accepted and then hear (3 times) from the editor that they lost their piece and can they please resend it (again).

Writers should not be told (and receive a contract that says) that they'll be paid for their work and then never get paid. And then later, when they ask if they will be paid for a new anthology since the editor wasn't able to pay last time, be lied to and accused of lying by saying they did pay the writer.

This wasn't very coherent, but I'm trying not to use this editor's name. It's such a long, convoluted story, it's hard to summarize.