Category Archives: I Shouldn’t Have To Tell You

Building a Reputation

Pictures! Just cause. I took these at Jo’s work a couple weekends ago:

So, I need to write a blog entry this week, but I haven’t got the time. My solution? This is an essay I wrote for school. I’m going to share it in lieu of actually writing something fresh. I apologise, but it seems kind of appropriate because last week I edited a blog entry and handed it in as an essay for the same course LOL

Building a Reputation

So, you want to be a writer. I’ve got some bad news for you—getting published is easy, the tricky part to building a writing career is developing your reputation. Remember, you’re not just selling a story, you’re selling an idea about who you are. Each publication is a brick in the wall that will grow to become your brand and represent you as an author and the mortar between those bricks is your reputation.

Not only do you need to build a reputation with readers, but you will find that establishing one with editors will also affect your career. Every communication you have with an editor will flavor their impression of you. It’s important to set the tone of your future relationship in your very first email to a new editor. Make sure they know you aren’t doing anything as demeaning as submitting your work for consideration, rather you are offering them the use of it. Emphasize that you are doing this as a personal favor to them because your work is vastly superior to everything else they have published to date (even your mother thinks so, and she doesn’t usually read the genre you write in).

For example, it’s good to note that what is expected in professional correspondence is always changing. “Dear Mr. (or Ms.) Editor” may have been the traditional way to begin correspondence once upon a time but nowadays with the widespread use of email and texting, it is perfectly acceptable to start your email without a salutation. You may also skip the complimentary closing. Why bother with obsolete niceties? They take precious seconds out of your day.

If you do decide to include a salutation and address the editor by name, it doesn’t actually matter if you spell their name correctly, so long as they can figure out who you meant. Gender, also, doesn’t matter. If you address a letter to Mr. Doe and then discover they are actually Ms. Doe, at least you got the last name correct. In baseball batting .500 is fantastic. The same applies in publishing. Likewise, while it’s good to mention the name of the publication when you submit or query, if it has any unusual spellings, feel free to ignore them or, better yet point out the editor’s mistake in choosing to spell their magazine or publishing house the way they have.

You don’t need to bother making sure your work fits the genre of the publication you’re offering it to because it is so well-written any editor worth their salt will be happy to publish it regardless. If you happen to find an editor who isn’t willing to accept it because it “doesn’t fit their market” they obviously don’t know what they are talking about. Make sure you reply to their rejection letter and tell them so as emphatically as possible.

What’s more, don’t worry about following the editor’s guidelines for formatting submissions. You’ve formatted your story the way you have for a reason and they are called submission guidelines, which means they are more like suggestions than rules. On a related note, don’t worry about fixing typos or revising before you send your work in. That is the editor’s job. If you made it perfect before you sent it to them, what would they do to earn their pay cheques?

Finally, unless you want to be known as a pushover, once editing on your piece has begun it is vital you make sure the editor knows this is not an equal partnership. You are the boss. Make them fight for every comma they want to alter and absolutely refuse to budge on changing anything bigger than a single word or punctuation mark. It’s at this stage that phrases like “That’s my personal writing style” will serve you very well.

You can’t let editors mess around with your work or your style will be changed until it’s unrecognizable. Editors may say things like “This will make for a stronger story” or “But it’s nonsensical when it’s written this way” but don’t believe them. They aren’t trying to help you improve your work, they are dumbing it down and making it like everyone else’s.

You are not like everyone else. You are unique, special; like a snowflake. When you stick up for yourself, people, both readers and editors, will respect you. Don’t let yourself get pushed around and remember that no matter how many years of experience an editor has, when it comes to your work, you are the authority.

By following these tips you’re guaranteed to make an impression on the editors who work for you. That’s what you want, for people, editors and readers alike, to have an instant visceral reaction when they hear your name. That is what will help bind your work together and build a career, brick by brick, that will be beyond compare.

My grade, in case you are curious (and who wouldn’t be?) was 70% because my teacher couldn’t tell if I was being sincere in my advice or not. My original draft made mention about how editors talk to one another and compare notes, maybe I ought to have left that in to help clarify my position. Oh well. Next time I’ll make my tone a little more obviously sarcastic 😉

Also, in case you’re curious. Yes. Every example up there has happened to me when I’m wearing my Editor hat.

Lastly, in writing-related news, I have a couple zombie apocalypse poems up at Dark Chaos this week.

The Biggest One

I should have made this the #1 thing I shouldn’t have to tell you. I really should have, because it’s huge and so obvious.

I shouldn’t have to tell you to read the submission guidelines.

Seriously. You think you know what they say, but you don’t. Read them. I will know that you haven’t. I really will and it’s not going to pre-dispose me to like your submission. Seriously, at least read the short version, it’s right up there at the top and it says:

Short Version:
Simultaneous submissions: Yes
Reprints: Yes
Attached as .doc or .rtf files – NOT in the body of email unless they are poetry
NOT indented

I highly suggest reading the long version because I am rejecting stories unread if they fail to follow the guidelines. I don’t have time to do otherwise

Do you have any idea how many submissions I get that are indented? Would you care to guess how many of them I read?

If you read the long version it says:

Do not tell me what your story is about or include a synopsis in your cover letter. Let the story sell itself.

Would you care to guess how many submissions arrive with a synopsis?

The end of the submission guidelines says:

My name is Rhonda Parrish. I am not a ‘sir’ and I get cranky when you address me as such.

The magazine’s name is Niteblade. Not Nightblade, not Niteblayde, not even Knightblade. It’s Niteblade. I get cranky when you spell it wrong.

I get cranky when I have to read stories in the body of an email (poems are okay).

If your submission includes a synopsis I’ll know you haven’t read these guidelines and I’ll be cranky.

It’s best if I’m not cranky before I even start reading your submission.

Just sayin’.

I quite often get submissions that reference the fact they didn’t want to make me cranky. That tells me they read the submission guidelines and makes me like them right off the bat. That puts me in a good mood before I read their submission, which makes me more likely to enjoy it. You don’t need to tell me you don’t want to make me cranky for me to know you’ve read the guidelines — following them tells me that.

I love people who follow the submission guidelines.

Just sayin’.

ETA: I had bad timing for posting this. I apologise. In response to a couple comments on my Facebook about this post I would just like to re-assure people this has nothing to do with reading for the new Niteblade anthology. It’s an ongoing issue not specific to the new anthology (which I haven’t started reading for yet).

Falling Behind

I’m sick. When I’m sick I pretty much turn into a useless lump of self-pity. I try to force myself to continue to be productive and I can usually trudge through my day job stuff, but when I’m sick doing anything creative is nearly impossible. So, I’m falling behind. I am working on a collaborative project but I seem to have hit a wall on it, plus the story I wanted to write for the Trafficing in Magic / Magicing in Traffic anthology from Drollerie Press is fighting me with every word.

Plus, NaNoWriMo is creeping closer and the deadline for the new Niteblade anthology draws near as well, which means I’ll soon have a lot of submissions to read.

Yet, despite all this I wanted to blog. And I didn’t want to blog about something depressing like being sick (oops) so I decided to start a new ‘thing’ here called ‘I Shouldn’t Have To Tell You…’

When I am wearing my ‘editor’ hat and reading submissions for Niteblade I am often surprised by the things people do that I feel like I shouldn’t need to tell them not to. Obviously I won’t be sharing names or details, but I thought this could be both amusing and educational. Plus it’s something I can do on those days I want to blog but have nothing else to say.

So, the first thing I Shouldn’t Have To Tell You is:

I shouldn’t have to tell you to spell the name of the magazine right.

It’s also generally considered good form to spell the editor’s (my) name right too.