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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

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James D. Macdonald

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Julie, you're probably thinking about this from Teresa Nielsen Hayden:



Personally, I can't think it would be all that awful if we let the slushpuppies submit to several houses at once, especially if they let us know how many and to whom. If we started working up a serious interest in a book, we could let the author know. If the author got an initial offer from another house, he or she could let us know. You're not likely to see two houses going into full-scale acquisition mode over the same book within the same four-day period. It'll doubtless happen once in a while, but it's not likely.

Mind, I'm not suggesting that anyone should do that. It's contrary to policy, at Tor and everywhere else. I'm just saying that I personally don't see that it would be all that bad an idea.

This is an example of publishers constantly thinking about ways to improve. This suggestion didn't get implemented, based on this argument: "Do you really want to have every single slush manuscript in America arriving in our mailroom within the next two weeks?"

Another suggestion that's been floated around Tor is ending the open submission policy, on the grounds that with subsequent books from people they already publish, plus agented material, plus authors they solicit, they don't need to read slush. That hasn't happened yet either.

Please put Kaavya Viswanathan out of your head. She's anomalous data. Notice that her publisher dropped her four days after the story broke, which in terms of the publishing industry is lightning speed.
 

Julie Worth

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James D. Macdonald said:
Julie, you're probably thinking about this from Teresa Nielsen Hayden:

Thanks. The one I read was quite a bit stronger, but I still haven't been able to find it. (Maybe it was redacted and the editors (there were two of them, I seem to remember) horsewhipped.)
 

HapiSofi

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Julie Worth said:
Well, here I am wiping froth from my face.
Egg, Julie. That's egg.
As an editor--and I’m sure a very good and knowledgeable editor--I wouldn’t expect HapiSofi to either like or approve of this viewpoint.
No. You don't get away with the "You only think that because you're an editor" routine. The reason you're on the opposite side of this argument from me and Jim is that we know more about the industry than you do. Going on about why things work the way they do, or whether or not they should work that way, makes no difference. What we're talking about is the way they do work. Ignoring that will do no one any good.
But not all editors feel that way.
I did ask you to substantiate that point.
I really wish I could find the interview where an editor (from Tor, as I recall...or maybe it wasn’t and that’s why I can’t find it) was discussing this issue, and was saying that the stricture against simultaneous submissions was both unnecessary and unfair to authors, but as it was corporate policy, there wasn’t much to be done about it.
An editor from Tor? How interesting. Do try to remember where you think you saw that.
I didn’t mean to suggest that anyone go straight off to publishers, but if you can’t get an agent after a hundred queries, do you really mean to say there’s a chance in hell that you’re going to score with two publishers at once? Well...I guess there is a chance in hell, but it’s not a very big chance.
If that's what's happened to you, then in your case multiple submissions probably don't matter. It's still bad advice for you to be giving other writers.
And so the chance of getting a publisher mad at you is small, and the chance of a publisher wasting time is also small. And really, it’s no greater than when an agent sends out multiple submissions, is it?
It's a completely different situation when an agent sends out multiple submissions. Let me reiterate: you don't know what you're talking about.
And probably less, since an agent submitted ms is more likely to be taken seriously.
No. That's not the way it works.
Cris Robins and Robert Fletcher? No, those weren’t the ones.
Sorry; I was misinformed. Who was it?
 

HapiSofi

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Julie Worth said:
That is true.

It all depends on the punishment, and from what HapiSofi implies (Life is long. Publishing is incestuous.) there seems to be some sort of informal, around-the-water-cooler black-balling going on. Apparently, such behavior is taken very seriously indeed. Perhaps it is even more serious than plagiarism! (Wasn't Little Brown going forward with that second book of K.V.'s at first?).
Self-dramatizing much? As I'm fairly sure you're aware, that wasn't what I was implying.

You made some assertions. They happened to be wrong. You can keep arguing the point, but at no point in the process is the Magic Flashbulb going to go off and make your opinions right after all. They'll still be wrong. You can't change that.

You have two options. One, you can suck it up and move on. Two, you can keep pushing the point, which is only going to draw more attention to the fact that you were wrong.

It's your choice.
 

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Originally Posted by Julie Worth
My feeling is that you should ignore the “no simultaneous submissions.”

Publishing is a business, though, and one's feelings can get in the way of selling something.

When a publisher says "no simultaneous submissions" trust that it's there for a reason and that they take a dim view of people who ignore them.

We have to be professional and respect their rules. If not, then there are plenty of other writers they can check out who did bother to pay attention.

Agents can do simultaneous submissions because they are more familiar with the territory than most neo writers. It's their job to know that sort of thing and when and with whom they can go down that road.

The hardest thing a writer has to learn is patience. I sold right off the slush pile--after 2 years of one-at-a-time submissions.

That may seem an eternity in this instant gratification age, but I'm including the time it took for me to re-write my partial (and eventually the entire book) each time I got a rejection.

All the books I'd read that covered the submission process warned that it would be slow. They also urged that while the partial was making the rounds the writer should be busy on the next project.

Good thing I did that or my head would have exploded.

Besides--when the 1st book sold I had 2 more ready for the editor to check out. She did. She then cut me a 6-book deal.

Keep writing--keep writing!!
biggrin.gif
 

Birol

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HapiSofi said:
Forgive me, moderators. I've been biting my tongue for what seems to me to be a long time now; but in my book, Failure to Play Nice is a minor sin next to giving writers potentially damaging advice.

Hapi, nothing to forgive. We've tried to get Julie to stop handing out bad advice, but she seems to know it all and doesn't like to be bothered with the facts. If you can make her see sense, it would be appreciated. I doubt you'll have much luck, but there's always hope, right?

If all else fails, at least you will have saved someone else from typing out the accurate responses to counter her misinformation.
 

HapiSofi

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Thank you, Birol. I was starting to think there was no use to it at all, so "saving someone else from having to type out accurate responses" is looking kinda good.
 

maestrowork

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Julie Worth said:
So do what maestrowork suggests--tell the others that you're withdrawing the ms when you’ve signed with someone else. But no need to tell them why.

I want to clarify that I did not say "ignore 'no simultaneous submissions' " -- if you reread my post, you'd see that I said if the agent asks for exclusivity, honor it, and that includes "no simultaneous submissions," which implies they require exclusivity.

You really must go by the submission guidelines. Listen to the pros; they know what they're talking about.

Thank you.
 

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This discussion has focussed on the big houses, but I'd just like to add that most small presses also have a no simsub policy, and in this case it can be even more important to follow. Many small houses don't want partials first; they want the entire ms right up front. Generally the small houses publish niche material -- high quality niche, I hasten to add, not crap writing -- but too niche market for a larger house, and thus for an agent, to be interested in. And the small houses within a niche genre -- e.g., gay fiction -- are if anything even more incestous than the big houses.

Not being able to attract an agent is not necessarily indicative of poor quality or unpublishable writing, and being unagented in no way suggests the writer should have carte blanche to simsub. Risk it if you want to, but for pete's sake at least know =what= your risking and what the consequences will be.
 

HapiSofi

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Julie Worth said:
Thanks. The [interview] I read was quite a bit stronger, but I still haven't been able to find it. (Maybe it was redacted and the editors (there were two of them, I seem to remember) horsewhipped.)
If it was an interview with two editors at once, they weren't from Tor. (And yes, I went and asked.) Do please keep trying to remember where it was you saw that interview. I remain interested in the question.

Returning to more substantial matters: One of my favorite books I've worked on in recent years came to me as pure unmediated slush. The author didn't have an agent, didn't want an agent even when we went to contract on the book, and only got an agent when third parties started taking an interest in some of the subrights.

It didn't sell because it did or didn't have an agent. It sold because it was a good book.

I've been thinking about your scenario in which a book that's been bounced by dozens of agents might receive an offer from one house, but has a vanishingly small chance of getting an offer from any other house. I can't make that scenario work. What it sounds like is a description of a book that isn't going to sell, with a fantasy about "but somebody might make an offer" bolted to its side.

If you can get away with multiple simultaneous submissions because nobody's going to notice anyway, you might as well save yourself the postage.
 

icerose

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Is this the one you were referring to?

http://www.breaktech.net/EmergingWritersForum/View_Interview.aspx?id=129

Dan:
How about simultaneous submissions? Do you feel it’s fair for an author to have a story out there for up to six months with a journal without submitting it to others at the same time?

Larry:

As an author I've suffered long waits only to get a rejection slip at the end of the process. I make every effort to be fair and get back to writers as soon as I possibly can. (It's hard
when we're doing special issues with two guest editors and every text has to wait for diverse judgments.) But no, I don't accept simultaneous submissions--and nothing makes me more angry than when I spend time with a story or essay, rereading it on several occasions to make absolutely sure I want it, and then, after accepting it, receiving a note to the effect that the work has already been accepted elsewhere. It's OK with me if writer say in the cover letter that they give me exclusive consideration of the manuscript for, say, two or three months, and then they'll feel free to send it elsewhere. I can make
that deadline, or ask for more time if I come up against it.

Keith:

I've heard that the average story is rejected 20 or more times before being accepted. With three month response times an author would have to wait over six years to get a story published. You mentioned six month response times and that's even worse. No, it doesn't seem fair to us. Even if you don't tell us in your cover letter, we assume that all
submissions are simultaneous.

Amy:

It seems snotty to not accept simultaneous submissions.

Tessa:

No, of course that's not fair to the author. And although we discourage simultaneous submissions, since our turnaround time (especially for fiction--there are so many fiction submissions) can be so slow, I understand that sometimes it happens. It's very, very, very inconvenient to decide to accept a story, only to have the author say that it was already
accepted elsewhere. We don't like it. But it happens, and we take it on the chin.

T.R.:

We don't accept simultaneous submissions. It would require a lengthy paragraph here for me to say precisely why. I recently went on record about it in The Writer's Chronicle, in a piece called "The Digital Slush Pile," written by Michael Bugeja (Volume 37, #3, December 2004, 53-56); anyone who wants to know more about my thinking on this subject may refer to that article.

Whitney:

I feel like it’s horribly unfair to keep these poor people waiting for 6 months or more to find out what we think of their stories, but that is occasionally unavoidable (see above, “day job”). And so yes, we accept all the simultaneous submissions we can carry, so long as people are respectful and let us know if their story is published elsewhere, or let the other places know if we decide to publish it. A couple of times with the website there’s been little snafus where we’ve run something at the same time as someone else, just because no one bothered to tell either of us the story had been picked up. Writers who sent out sim subs need to be real good at keeping track of them. I know that’s a pain in the *** thing to say, but we’re not psychic. Yet.

David:

Most of our submissions are simultaneous, at least enough are that we assume so. Of course it’s a problem, from both ends. I’ll just remind folks that a writer may easily multiply his or her work by ten copies or more, and send them all out, but our staffs don’t multiply. So the piles get higher.

Kevin:

We do accept simultaneous submissions. It is unfair to make an author wait six months before being able to try again. The pressure of competition keeps us going. While we have missed a few great stories because of this policy, it’s something I’m willing to live with.

Julianne:

As an editor I'm not crazy about simultaneous submissions. As a writer I completely understand the need to make them. Twice in my writing career I've had work published with no notification that the work had been accepted. Over a year after making the
submissions I received contributor copies in the mail. No, it's not fair to keep writers waiting so long. It's a slow process as-is. The work needs to keep circulating.

If so this was between 8 literary journal editors, NOT publishing houses. There is a huge difference between a 500 word article and a 400 page manuscript.
 

janetbellinger

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I don't agree with what Amy said about it being snotty not to accept simultaneous submissions. If as an author, I do not have some expectation that the publisher might accept my submission, why am I sending it in the first place? It's like inviting a friend or relative to be bridesmaid and then uninviting her after she's already brought the dress. It's just very bad manners.
 

icerose

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Yes but these are literary journals. Picture this.

You as a writer have 20 literary journals to submit to. Each one wants exclusivity for 3-6 months while their editors decide to take it or not. The article is 1000 words. That is 4 pages. Each of them take 3 months to read four pages, then eventually reject it. The 16th journal would have accepted it, but the topic has moved on.

That is why literary magazines and journals might consider it to be snotty. Because there is a small window of topical interest, and its 4 freakin pages.

Books are way different. And this is from an editor, it is her opinion.
 

maestrowork

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If the story is good, you would have it accepted by one of your first-choice top markets. If it's no good, it doesn't matter if you send it to 100 markets simultaneously.

It might be 4 frigging pages to you the writer. But to the editor, there are 1000 of these 4 pages, and she could only choose 3 for each issue of a quarterly magazine.

That is, I believe, the biggest gap because writers and editors. The writers want their work to be read NOW, and the editor has 300 people expecting her to do just that.
 

icerose

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maestrowork said:
If the story is good, you would have it accepted by one of your first-choice top markets. If it's no good, it doesn't matter if you send it to 100 markets simultaneously.

It might be 4 frigging pages to you the writer. But to the editor, there are 1000 of these 4 pages, and she could only choose 3 for each issue of a quarterly magazine.

That is, I believe, the biggest gap because writers and editors. The writers want their work to be read NOW, and the editor has 300 people expecting her to do just that.

I completely agree Maestro, I was merely illustrating why an editor might feel it snotty to have exclusives for a literary journal. I wouldn't wish to have an editor's job.

And I understand why editors have the exclusive, who wants to go to all that work, to find one or two articles you want, to find out the author has had it accepted elsewhere.
 

maestrowork

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icerose said:
And I understand why editors have the exclusive, who wants to go to all that work, to find one or two articles you want, to find out the author has had it accepted elsewhere.

Absolutely. Is it unfair to the writers? You bet. But that's the way it is, and if we want to stay in this business, we have to play by the rules. An editor's first priority is making it easy for her to do her job and finding the best work for the publication. She is not the writer's best friend or nanny. Exclusivity assures her that when she decides on a piece, it would be available, so she doesn't waste her time. However, if she asks for exclusivity, she should really try to meet that deadline or at least ask for extension, or if she can't meet the deadline, she should accept the fact that the piece might not be available anymore. Throwing a hissing fit after 8 months (when she asks for 3-month exclusivity) would be unprofessional.

That's why there's this tiered screening system: first the query; if the query excites her, then comes the partial; and if the partial shows real promise, then comes the full. At that point, it shouldn't take TOO long for the agent to decide -- she has everything she needs to know to make up her mind, and there shouldn't be 300 full mss. on her desk either.

For literary journals, my guess is they have some kind of screening process as well. And interns! My experience has been that they usually reply within 3 months.
 

icerose

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maestrowork said:
Absolutely. Is it unfair to the writers? You bet..

I never actually considered it in terms of fair and unfair before this thread. I just figured we need them to take a risk on us, financially, time factor, and everything else. So I always assumed that by this fact that they have hundreds if not thousands of submissions to choose from, its up to us to not only get noticed through merit, but to not eliminate ourselves from the game early by failing to follow the basic submission guidelines.

I just don't see it as a fair/unfair situation. I see it as a this is the only way editors can possibly endure slush is to know that if they find one good one out of 500 they haven't wasted their time and melted their brains for nothing. I mean think about it, if an entire year is filled with finding 3 good manuscripts out of a thousand and 2 of the 3 have been accepted elsewhere, the next logical step is cutting off unsolicited manuscripts and deal only with agents. I was always grateful to see the unsolicited mark on their guidelines so why screw it up with overstepping a very specific rule?

JMO
 

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I'm dubious about statistics like "The average story gets rejected 20 times." There's no such thing as an average story. A very good story is not going to get rejected anything like that many times. A poor story will get rejected as often as it gets submitted.

Jim was less than clear when he quoted Teresa Nielsen Hayden. As I understand it, she was the online source of both the speculation about the feasibility of allowing simultaneous submissions, and the response about why it wasn't feasible. The reason given for it not being feasible is that Tor receives an almost unmanageable number of submissions as things stand. If simultaneous submission were allowed, there'd be nothing to keep every aspiring author from sending every publisher a copy of everything they've ever written. The system would grind to a halt.

An editor I know works at a trade publishing house that allows electronic submissions. When I asked how that was working out for them, she looked pained, and said it was getting them a tidal wave of submissions. She explained that with normal submissions, at least you have to make a copy of the manuscript, address an envelope, and mail the thing. Electronic submission imposes no such costs on the authors, and so they send absolutely everything.
 

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I think that one misleading thing about these statistics is that they are generally based on those stories that are eventually accepted (i.e. assuming success--which is not walways warranted).

It is like a recent colleague of mine who was bemoaning that the average academic now spends eight years as a post-doc before getting tenure. Not to depress him further but that should be *those post-doc who do secure tenure* completed their Phd an average of eight years ago.
 

Roger J Carlson

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Julie Worth said:
... but if you can’t get an agent after a hundred queries, do you really mean to say there’s a chance in hell that you’re going to score with two publishers at once? Well...I guess there is a chance in hell, but it’s not a very big chance. And so the chance of getting a publisher mad at you is small,...
Even if your writing is not good enough to be published (and therefore your simsub might not be noticed), you are still doing yourself a disservice by submitting simultaneously. Why?

Suppose it's not good enough to be acquired, but shows some promise. It is not unknown for an editor to tell the writer why it was rejected (I know this from painful experience). If you simsub, you have sent the same below-par manuscript to two houses. If you'd waited for the rejection from the first, you might have been able to fix it for the second.

I'm not saying every editor will give you a detailed critique, but it DOES happen. Of the many rejections my book has received, I've also received a number of suggestions for improvement. In every case, they were correct and the book became stronger each time.

The easiest thing is to blame big-publishing and uncaring editors for the failure of your book to sell. But the truth is most books don't sell because they are poorly written. The best gift an industry professional (agent or editor) can give you is an honest rejection.
 

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"I'm dubious about statistics like "The average story gets rejected 20 times." There's no such thing as an average story. A very good story is not going to get rejected anything like that many times. A poor story will get rejected as often as it gets submitted."

That's demonstrably untrue.

And I'm not referring to distorted anecdotes about "Gone With The Wind", nor to anything I've done, because personal anecdotes have implicit bias and are therefore unreliable. But I've spoken with writers who *have* had books rejected that many times, and went on to sell them. Are they the exceptions? Certainly. But some of them are "very good [stories]", and were rejected 20+ times anyway.

Sending multiple submissions is probably a bad idea, but people are going to do it anyway, because the submissions process is perceived as unfair, and any system perceived as unfair produces cheating (in this case, multiple submissions). Any aspiring writer soon realizes that the odds stacked against him or her are enormous, so why not send out multiple-subs? After all, what's the risk in taking a chance when you really don't have anything to lose?

It's poor manners, to be sure, but when has that ever stopped anyone?
 

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Any aspiring writer soon realizes that the odds stacked against him or her are enormous, so why not send out multiple-subs? After all, what's the risk in taking a chance when you really don't have anything to lose?

It's poor manners, to be sure, but when has that ever stopped anyone?
But you do have something to lose. A book that's publishable, is publishable. Simsubbing against the stated guidelines of the publisher will catch up to you.
 

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JonMoeller said:
But I've spoken with writers who *have* had books rejected that many times, and went on to sell them. Are they the exceptions? Certainly. But some of them are "very good [stories]", and were rejected 20+ times anyway.
Very good by whose standards? Published by who? Reputable, effective publishers, or AuthorHouse and Lulu, because the author got desperate to be in print?

HapiSofi has a lot of experience in publishing, friend--a lot--and has seen this issue from both sides. I'm inclined to listen when Hapi speaks.

Sending multiple submissions is probably a bad idea, but people are going to do it anyway,
And those are the people who aren't going to be published. And wonder why. And whine about it. I have no sympathy. If you can't act like a professional, and an adult, you have no business trying to pass yourself off as one.

It's poor manners, to be sure, but when has that ever stopped anyone?
It stops me. I would imagine it stops many other people who think that being polite and ethical is both decent and smart, in the short and long terms.
 

Birol

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JonMoeller said:
the submissions process is perceived as unfair, and any system perceived as unfair produces cheating (in this case, multiple submissions). Any aspiring writer soon realizes that the odds stacked against him or her are enormous,

I'm really not so certain the odds are stacked against any aspiring writer with skill and talent. As for it being unfair, I've heard these allegations before, but I don't understand how it is unfair. Less than ideal, certainly, but unfair? What are your perceptions that lead you to believe it is unfair?
 

icerose

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As Carlson said, it could be a huge benefit. It gives you time to re-evaluate your story before shooting down every single editor in one fatal swoop. Why not use that time to better your story, improve it, using every critique as a step up, rather than looking merely at the time spent?

Besides if you are writing another book while waiting, there is no wasted time, and as the old adage goes, "Nothing easy is worth doing." (or something like that correct me if I got it wrong.) If publishing were easy, everyone would be doing it. It's not, and its through that time, rejection, and everything else, that our skills are honed and refined and made better. Without this learning curve time, what quality of books would be left for us to read? I am afraid it would fall significantly.

Pulling in the plagarized book, Opal, many have said it reads like a 17 year old wrote it. She took the fast road and even had it not been plagarized, it had not been given the chance and time to fully develop into what it could have been. The fast road isn't always the greatest and many poor works come of it.

Just my feelings on it.
 
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