March 28, 2008

How to make me want to fuck you

Or at least, be the writer of my dreams.

I get like this. When I'm in major editing mode. I arrive at a place where I want to send an email out to all my authors. I've done this before, and I'm sure I'll do this again. But here is the short list of how to be the writer of my dreams:

1. Although it may take me 6 months (or more) to get back to you on a call for submission, please respond to me within 5 minutes when I make a bio request.

2. Be prepared to change your title (if I have a similar title in the book—most recently, I accepted three stories with the following titles: "The First Time," "Like the First Time," and "The First Time Since"), your character name (if I have overlapping character names, usually Jack or Mark or Julia or Mary), or your pen name (if you’ve never published under the name before and I have three other Kristinas in the book already, or if you are going under a name like HankieSpankie3000).

3. Don’t ask me ahead of time whether I pay by paypal or check or money order, or write me long queries about what happens when your story is accepted by multiple venues. Wait until I buy your story.

4. Forgive the occasional error that slips by me. (There is a book in which I’m published under Alsion Tyler. These things happen.)

5. Send me an angry email if I reject your story only if you don’t want to work with me again. I have a great memory for stories, and I will often come back to you and ask if I could use your piece somewhere else. But I also have a great memory for angry emails, which might make me rethink doing the above.

6. Do not send me a partially written story and tell me you’ll finish the piece if I like it. You are competing with people who have already finished and sent their stories to me. By the time I read your piece, I am generally under a super tight deadline. Neither you nor I have time to spare.

7. Don’t ask me to read the piece up on your blog. I think this is a clever way not to avoid being rejected, because you didn’t officially submit the story. But although I might find stories this way on my own (I discovered Madelynne Ellis’ amazing Twister story for G is for Games by cruising to her blog), I don’t generally follow suggested links.

8. Try not to send me multiple versions of the same story. I know sometimes people catch errors on subsequent reads, but consider waiting until I accept the piece, and then say you’ve found a glitch or two you want to have fixed. I will always work with you on this.

9. Be flexible. You might have sent me a story for one book, but I will want to put the piece somewhere else. I am a juggler at the editing stage. Trust that I will try to find the best home for your piece. Don't demand that the story be placed in the anthology you originally subbed to.

10. Know that I am just a person. I try to be an evolved person, yes. But I can’t help but let feelings color my judgment of stories. If you slam me in public, or trash my products, I’m going to have a difficult time working with you. One author blogged about how much he hated a font in one of our books. Look, I love a good font. But still. Another called me a member of the Right Wing Party because of an edit I requested (the edit involved avoiding an incestuous scenario). A third publicly demolished a title, cover photo, and color cover choice (all of which were out of my hands). At the end of the day, I’m still just a girl who reads a lot of porn and tries to put beautiful books together. I’m not terribly vindictive.

But I am human.



Alana said...

Dear A,

I appreciated this post very much. I've not been an editor. Not the way you are so often, and not to your caliber. I mean, you deal with writers and publishers everyday!

I've graded student papers, poems, and stories (tedious and thankless;) I've critiqued peers as part of an MFA workshop (painful;) I've judged writing contests (exhausting;) I've proofread technical papers (tedious!) and I've tutored writers (not bad, rather enjoyed that.)

My point is: I need and am grateful for pointed and honest essays like this one because as a writer I often feel under appreciated and misunderstood. I forget it isn't any easier for editors. Maybe it's harder. T.S. Elliot said, "Most editors are failed writers. But then so are most writers." Which makes you an enigma. Successful at both. Your insight is valuable to someone like me because I get so caught up in feeling as if the world doesn't give a shit about me or the hours (months) I've spent on stories (it doesn't)I sometimes disregard the hours editors spend mining gems from curds of shit.

Fact of the matter is, editors have one of the most thankless and tedious jobs in the world. I imagine you get the brunt of many an author's wounded ego. Sorry; on behalf of all of us who forgot, thank you for the awesome force you are in the world.

Alison Tyler said...

Hey Alana,

My point was probably most to vent, but also to show that I know it's ludicrous what I expect from people. Really. I get to the wire and beg for bios in minutes. I ask people to give me new names and titles and characters. I hold onto stories forever and then ask for more forevers.

But I am doing the best I can.


Anastasia said...

Hi Alison, What a post!

I can identify with all your points, and it is refreshing to see a post like this. I hope you don't mind me linking to this post. I feel that many writers should read it.

I have experienced some of the things you have mentioned, and your tenth point is something I can 100% identify with. It is only natural to keep away from negative people, or those who defame products, publications and editors.

Alison Tyler said...

Thanks very much, Anastasia!

Whenever I post something like this, I wind up with emails from people who are sure that I am writing about them (cue "You're so vain.") And they generally say, "I have every right to blog what I want to." (This is what the anti-font ranter said.)

I get accused of being a censor, of trying to stop people from saying what they feel or think. God forbid. I'm a pretty big supporter of freedom of speech.

But I do have feelings (cue "Feelings"). And I have friends who have feelings. And if I'm slogging through a slush pile of 900 stories (I read 3 submissions each from nearly 300 writers for Flash Fucking) I may choose someone who doesn't give a fuck about whether we end up with Palatino or New Times Roman.

This is not to say I won't work with people I disagree with. Even best friends have falling outs. But I'm also not known for my Zen sensibilities (cue "Everything Zen").

Alison (who used to be a deejay)

Kristina Wright said...

Wow, is the name Kristina finally catching on? I somehow missed your call for submissions, so I'm not in there and Kristina Lloyd is the only other Kristina I know :)

Thanks for the post, Alison. It's nice to get it straight from the editor's mouth.

Craig Sorensen said...

Cutting from “You’re so vain” to “Feelings” to “Everything Zen?”

Interesting playlist, Deejay Alison! Spin some UFO! ;-)

This was a terrific post. As an author, I don’t see the things you request of people to be unreasonable at all. When our stories become part of collection, we become a part of the whole like members of a band. A musician may sit up nights working on perfecting their neo-classical-punk-blues-funk-bluegrass chops, but when he or she joins a jazz band, the playing has to fit the context.

It’s fascinating that some consider what you do as an editor to be “censorship.” They have a right to write things however they want, but you also have the right to present a collection in the manner you see most fitting. If they don’t care for how you prepare a collection, they have the right to shop their story around elsewhere! Editors have just as much freedom as authors (last I checked the Constitution, at least.) Hopefully, some of these folks eventually come to realize just how complicated it must be to juggle mind boggling numbers of submissions, the different personalities of authors and craft a package that is acceptable to the publisher and that the public will buy.

I’m new to being published, but I have a lot of business experience. I have a certain perspective on the patience and professionalism you and so many other editors in erotica (like Anastasia, who I’ve had the pleasure to work with recently) possess. It seems to me to be a bit of a tight rope.

I understand, personally, that it can be hard for writers too, once they have poured their sweat and blood into a story, to accept the fact that it is one among very many out there. It can be hard for many to accept that their story may not fit a collection, or that their editing skills are not perfect.

But to be a serious author, we need to accept these realities. Authors can gain a lot of perspective on an editor’s challenges by reading this post.

Craig (who is neither deejay nor editor, but who appreciates good music and great editors.)

Jeremy Edwards said...

I get accused of being a censor, of trying to stop people from saying what they feel or think. God forbid. I'm a pretty big supporter of freedom of speech.

Of course you're a free-speech supporter. What some people don't understand is that while freedom of speech protects a person from being prosecuted, persecuted, or otherwise publicly oppressed for his or her words, it does not protect a person from incurring criticism, disapproval, dislike, distancing, severing of a business relationship, etc., from individuals who are offended by his or her words. (And it all works both ways: if, as a writer, I ever felt that an editor had attacked me, I would have the right not to submit to him or her again. That wouldn't mean I was trampling on the editor's free-speech rights.) We all have free speech, and we also, as individuals, have the freedom to choose whom we do or don't want to associate with in our personal and business dealings, based on our own reasons—which can include things people have chosen to say while exercising their free speech.

Smut Girl said...

Well, clearly you need to do what you need to do. And you are definitely good at it. Which makes me never want to argue with anything asked of me. Plus, I always do try to put myself in other people's shoes (especially if they fit and are smoking hot fuck-me shoes). So, when asked to do something I just say yes because a) I always picture you with a paddle and b) I have seen your Trollop slip. And c) it's your job. People should remember....'when a problem comes along, you must whip it...'

Isabel Kerr said...

I have a great memory for stories, and I will often come back to you and ask if I could use your piece somewhere else.

I can delightedly vouch for this! :-)

Alana said...

Venting is good. You're not apologizing for your honesty, are you? Jiminy Corncakes, hope not. I've read plenty of essays by editors about editing and writers. I never get tired of them.

By the way, everything in this world is hurry up and wait, A. Everything in the real world anyway.


Alana said...

Forgot to mention: I read an essay by an editor once who begrudgingly if not a bit ashamed of himself admitted he received SO MANY submissions everyday he fell into a habit of reading the first page of each submission. If he wasn't hooked by the end of page one, he rejected the story. He had to find a way to manage the enormous overload of manuscripts.

Honestly, I can't imagine.

Alison Tyler said...

I read until I get to the word Bazoombas.
Then I stop.

Sometimes, though, the slush does get depressing. On my last open call, the very first story I read started with the narrator on the toilet taking a shit. The description was intense, with "stretching brown starfish," etc., thrown in for good measure.

It took me a few days to open the second submission. Which was about snails.


Alana said...

Starfishes and snails, huh? Gawd.

Craig Sorensen said...

Bazoombas, eh?

Damn, I'll have to do a global find and replace to extricate all the bazoombas from my stories. Where's my Thesaurus?

and then there's...

The description was intense, with "stretching brown starfish," etc., thrown in for good measure.

I don't even know what to say to that one.

Finally, so you won't feel bad (or at least alone) about "Feelings," cue the band so I can sing (out of key, of course.)

"If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain..."


Kate Pearce said...

I remember that Alison! I was so proud until I realized I hadn't actually 'sent' you anything at all!
So glad the other KP chose a different name-it might have got complicated :)
And I did sell you a story eventually-one I'm proud to say I actually wrote!