Friday, March 30, 2007

When all else fails, fax!

A contract I snail-mailed back on May 5 never arrived in the editor's office, so the editor asked me to fax my signed copy.

Of course, because I keep copies of damn near everything, I had it at my fingertips and was able to fax it right away.

Monday, March 26, 2007

13, 14

I received contracts for two short stories today--both confessions--bringing my total sales for the year to 14.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Getting away from it all

I spent last week in Atlanta. While I didn't have much opportunity to sight-see--I was attending a week-long seminar on new marketing trends for symphonies--I took advantage of the time away from the home office to relax. I spent much of each day attending the lectures/workshops, but still had time to read, walk around the neighborhood surrounding the hotel, and attend a performance of the Atlanta Symphony. More importantly, I didn't take any writing or editing projects with me, and I limited my Internet time to about 10 minutes each day.

I learned a lot about marketing symphonies. And I relaxed.

I'm back home, and, somehow, I don't feel as relaxed.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

It's a Miracle!

My essay "Write What You Know" appears in the just-released non-fiction anthology Teacher Miracles, edited by Brian Thornton and published by Adams Media.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Published, again

I received my contributor copy of a magazine today. It includes a bit of my hardboiled crime fiction--written under a pseudonym...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why writers don't sell

One of my freelance gigs is editing a weekly newsletter. As I was putting together this week's issue, I found an essay in my slush pile that I wanted to use. If I could have contacted the writer quickly, I might have published his essay.

But I couldn't. Neither his manuscript nor his cover letter included an e-mail address. Neither his manuscript nor his cover letter included a telephone number.

I tossed the manuscript aside. I didn't have time to write a letter and expect a response in the half-day I had before deadline, and I wasn't about to waste time looking for a telephone number that might prove to be unlisted.

The writer lost a sale because I couldn't contact him.

Maybe it isn't a permanent loss. Maybe I'll have time later in the week, or next week, or the week after, to write him a letter and await his response. Or maybe I won't. Maybe the manuscript will languish in the slush pile until I get tired of looking at it and I'll just shove it in the return envelope. He may never know how close he was to making a sale or how his own failure to provide complete contact information may have lost him the sale.

I've been on the other side of this quite often--twice in the past month, even--where editors contacted me (one by e-mail and the other by phone) to tell me they wanted to use something immediately. They found me. I said "yes." I made the sale.

My advice: Always, always, always, include complete contact information on your manuscripts. Don't lose sales because you forgot to tell an editor how to reach you.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Today's mail

A rejection. A form letter. From a magazine that's published many of my stories in the past.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Monday, March 05, 2007

I get questions

In a response to a previous post, D.A. Davenport wrote, "I love the short story and flash fiction formats. It forces me to distil my work and insists on absolute clarity at all times. I'd like to know why you have chosen short stories as your major form of writing."

I suspect circumstance more than intent made me a short story writer. In the early stages of my career, the time I had available to write was limited--ten minutes here, a hour there, fifteen minutes somewhere else--and I could not keep a single project in my head. I found that I often had to reread what I'd written before I could continue writing and there comes a point where a project is too long to reread and add to in the short spurts of time I had available.

Also, success breeds. I found early success with short stories, getting them published in non-paying markets while I was in my mid-teens and selling my first story to a professional market while I was still a teenager. Every time I sold a short story, it served as an incentive to write another.

Although every novel I've finished has been published--to good reviews--it took me years to place them all and I couldn't bring myself to invest time and effort into long-term projects like novels with no clear payoff when I could write a short story in a few days and possibly see it in print and money in my pocket in as little as a few weeks.

"I am also curious about how you feel about Ezines as a forum for writers," D.A. also wrote, "Do you feel that they are as viable a vehicle as print magazines for a writer seeking to have her work read and noticed? Do you have a preference?"

My preference is to write for publications that pay me. Currently, the majority of paying markets for my fiction are ink-on-paper publications.

But that isn't exactly what you want to know, is it?

So, a bit of history. When I started writing back in the dark ages, using the burnt end of sticks to scratch my work on cave walls, I was a science fiction fan. Many science fiction fans published fanzines (fan magazines) by, for, and about science fiction/science fiction fans. These were often printed on ditto machines and mimeographs. These were amateur publications that did not pay contributors. And these publications were--except for my junior high and high school literary magazines and high school newspaper--where I first saw my work in print.

Science fiction fans also published semiprozines (semi-professional magazines) that paid contributors a token amount of money--often a fraction of a cent per word--and served as stepping stones into writing for the professional science fiction magazines. I also wrote for a few of these.

I see today's e-zines as the modern version of those fanzines and semiprozines. They are often produced by people with a great love for science fiction or mystery fiction or some other genre but who may lack real background in writing, editing, and publishing. For that reason, they range from terrible to terrific.

If you write for e-zines, try to write for the better e-zines--the ones that look good and aren't filled with typos and spelling errors, the ones that consistently have stories selected for best-of-year anthologies, the ones that are edited by people with some clue about copyright law, etc., etc., etc.

Although there are hardliners on both sides of the write-for-love and never-write-except-for-money debate, I fall somewhere in the middle. If you give your work away, do it with the full knowledge of what you are doing and why you're doing it.

And always strive to place your work in the best publications possible, whether they pay or not. You are, ultimately, known by the company you keep, and if the company you keep is ill-mannered and illiterate, it won't reflect well on you or your work.

Today's mail

I received a contract for a short story (my 12th, duly noted a few days ago when I received the acceptance e-mail), and a rejection for an anthology proposal.

Interestingly, the anthology proposal has funny legs. The first editor who saw it suggested an editor at another publishing house. That editor--the one who sent today's rejection--has suggested yet another editor at yet another publishing house. This is the first time I've ever had an anthology proposal get this much attention without a sale.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cows and chickens

I'm not in the habit of responding to columnists in national publications, but in today's Parade, D.C. of New York, NY, askes Marilyn vos Savant, "If a farmer has a total of 30 cows and chickens, and the animals have 74 legs in all, how many chickens are in the coop?"

She gave a complicated mathematical answer and said there are 23 chickens in the coop, but here's a simple answer:

All the chickens are in the coop. The cows are in the barn.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ain't technology grand?

Last evening I received an e-mail from an editor. She was accepting a story and asked if I would e-mail it to her so she wouldn't need to retype it. I happened to be sitting at the computer when her e-mail arrived, so I shot the story back to her within five minutes.

I attended a business luncheon today and, when I stopped at the office* before continuing on to a client's office this afternoon, I found a voice mail asking if I'd sent the story. I sent the story again and then phoned her. Even though neither e-mail had bounced back to me as undeliverable, she had not received them. Neither e-mail was stuck in her spam filter, and neither of us knew why the e-mails failed to reach her or where they had gone. She planned to talk to her company's network gurus to see if they might have a clue what had happened.

I don't know the end of this story. I don't know if her network gurus solved the problem or if she had to retype the story.

What I do know is that problems like these--though less common than they were a few years ago--continue to interfere with my working relationships. We have all come to rely so heavily on e-mail and the Internet that we may think ill of the person at the other end of the wire (editor or writer) for failing to respond or failing to meet a deadline when, in fact, there's a technological glitch interferring with our communication.
*Sounds more professional than saying, "I stopped at home," doesn't it?