Submitting to the New Yorker

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lostlore

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i read somewhere that a new yorker editor, or maybe it was harpers, said that if an author submits an unsolicited manuscript, they obviously don't know what they're doing.

Yes, that's Deborah Treisman, the current fiction editor. The fiction editor before him said that he never once, not once, picked a submission from the slush.

They used to get 50,000 unsolicited manuscripts a year. The fiction editor got 20 "recommended" manuscripts from personal contacts every week.

Good article about at that here: http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/opinions/among_the_unsavvy.php
 
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WendyNYC

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Yes, that's Deborah Treisman, the current fiction editor. The fiction editor before him said that he never once, not <i>once</i>, picked a submission from the slush.

They used to get 50,000 unsolicited manuscripts a year. The fiction editor got 20 "recommended" manuscripts from personal contacts every week.

Good article about at that here: http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/opinions/among_the_unsavvy.php


Oy.

Why don't they just stop accepting unsolicited manuscripts?
 

lostlore

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Slowing down (or not)

At any rate, when a writer does flood the slush pile with too many unwanted submissions, the editor will, again from my experience, always let him know he's overdoing it, and will politely ask him to slow down.

If an editor thinks you can't deliver what he needs, will he ever say "Please, no more"?

I'd like to break into Mag X. Sent a personal note with my first batch of poems, got a reply to my note and a scribbled message that the poems had been recycled. Sent 3 more batches of poems that were carefully targeted to the mag, three more signed rejection slips, never once a comment on the work.

After these 20-odd poems, I'd begun to think that I was never going to write something that would please this editor. No "sorry" or "try again" or "no thanks," just the rejection slip with his name on it which is probably what he sends to everybody.

At first I thought, "just keep sending until he either buys one or says 'get lost,'" but at some point you have to think about the time and money it's eating up and whether an acceptance there is going to be worth it.
 

lostlore

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I've never thought it was wise to write a story first, and then look for suitable markets later. Better, I think, to read the magazine first, and then try to write a story suitable for it. If it doesn't work there, there's plenty of time later to look for other markets where it will work.


This is, I think, the best advice on professional short story writing ever -- it's about as iron-bound and fundamental a rule there is, but I think it also has an important caveat which is important for some writers. That's this: if you're already a famous and established author, and not only that but a world-class talent also, then not only does this rule not apply to you but you are more or less bound to avoid it: you should write your stories first, write strictly toward your vision, and not write to particular markets at all.

I bet the majority of literary magazines would print a new short story by JD Salinger, David Foster Wallace, Tom Wolfe and so on practically sight unseen, provided that the author was supplying the real goods and not just obvious lees and castoffs.
 
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mikeland

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Oy.

Why don't they just stop accepting unsolicited manuscripts?

This was probably a rhetorical question, but then again I'm a person who likes to answer rhetorical questions.

I think it is the lure of the undiscovered gem. What editor wouldn't want to be able to say that he/she discovered Cormac McCarthy or Ray Bradbury or Raymond Carver. And if that editor pulled the story out of the slush pile -- now that's primo cocktail party chatter.
 

lostlore

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Now, I'm assuming that most of you people have done so, but what have your experiences been? I sent a story at the end of March and have heard nothing since then. A month ago I queried after the status of the piece and have still heard nothing.

How did you send it, paper or email?

I submitted a story via email this summer and got a reply in 2 months. Just sent one out paper earlier this month. My poetry submission took a little longer for the reply, 3 months.
 

lostlore

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And don't feel bad about it. John Updike (from my POV) is a glossy but shallow writer. He's been in the New Yorker for the last half century or so. The profound Richard Yates was rejected by them forever - in fact, they never published a Yates story.

Another take - before I discontinued my subscription, I had noticed that what fiction/poetry the New Yorker did still publish was about as politically loaded as updated Soviet-era tractor factory agitprop.

That's the thing, I mean, the New Yorker is rightfully the holy grail of writers today because they've got highest profile, best pay and reputation by far of any publication, so everybody dotes on them -- but boy would I love to see that change with some serious hardcore competition.

I'd sure love to sell something to the New Yorker, but I'd love it a hundred times more if there were a modern-day Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Gingrich-era Esquire or equivalents, online and not paper, out there buying stories. The kind of stories I love to read most and therefore the kind of stories I want to write. But there just aren't, not right now, the commercial markets for stories are few enough and the New Yorker has been the best of them for decades. Incidentally I don't think this situation is good for the short story, or for literature in general.

If you read the old New Yorker story compilation from 1940 you'll see that what makes a "New Yorker story" hasn't changed at all. It's still the same formula that O'Hara, EB White, Nancy Hale et al. once used. Their politics are more pronounced so you've got to march to that party line, and the cultural taboos have changed and shifted drastically, but the heart and guts of the stories are basically the the same as ever. And there's plenty of writers they've never published. plenty of great writers who just never wrote those kind of "New Yorker" stories or who don't have those politics: Jack Kerouac (good article about him now in the current issue, but his own fiction would be well out of place there), Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, William S. Burroughs, and on and on -- perfectly excellent writers, utterly great writers, and never once did they sell a story to the New Yorker.

The other thing is that while a story in the New Yorker will hopefully do great things for your career, the actual pay is really not that great, especially considering the reputation. I've never sold a word to the NYer but have written for other CN mags and while it's great compared to the lunch money you'll get from StateU Quarterly, you won't be flying in the Russian caviar for selling them your 5,000-word story.
 

luv2dream

Hi all, ok I have some questions.

1.what are sim-subs?

2. what is considered too long for a short story?

3. so far all the magazines and publications I have looked into such as family circle, woman's day, etc.. request only non-fiction. Where can I find publications accepting fiction short stories?

4. ok I can't remember what four was.
 

blacbird

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Hi all, ok I have some questions.

1.what are sim-subs?

Submission of the same piece to more than one market at the same time.

2. what is considered too long for a short story?

Virtually all markets have guidelines that specify their own particular limits. It varies. But, generally, more than 5,000 words is difficult to get accepted in most markets.

so far all the magazines and publications I have looked into such as family circle, woman's day, etc.. request only non-fiction. Where can I find publications accepting fiction short stories?

Writer's Market would be a good place to start. Your friend Google is another.

ok I can't remember what four was.

Me too.

caw
 

mikeland

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An excellent simsub definition from blacbird. Simsubs is shorthand for simultaneous submissions. Some magazines allow simsubs, some don't. Always check the guidelines.
 

Julie Worth

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Hey mnmamma and Julie -- what happened with your stories? Are you still waiting?

My first New Yorker submission took six months for the rejection. My second is at three months and counting.

They never replied to either story. The first one was eleven months ago.
 

Jamesaritchie

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Submit by e-mail. That way, they can dump your story without reading past the "subject" line, and get back to you: no hard feelings, but n-o.
That's the way it's worked for me.

And don't feel bad about it. John Updike (from my POV) is a glossy but shallow writer. He's been in the New Yorker for the last half century or so. The profound Richard Yates was rejected by them forever - in fact, they never published a Yates story.

Another take - before I discontinued my subscription, I had noticed that what fiction/poetry the New Yorker did still publish was about as politically loaded as updated Soviet-era tractor factory agitprop. So CRANK OUT SOME OF THAT, with a New Yorker-y cartoonish sheen. You might get a laugh out of it, even if no one else does.

See, that shows where taste comes in. I think you're dead wrong about John Updike, and about Richard Yates. There isn't a writer out there deeper than Updike. Yates just wallows in his own angst too much for me. I know you're dead wrong about The New Yorker publishing all politically loaded fiction. Or even very much of it at all. That's a really weird statement. Makes me wonder how much New Yorker fiction you've actually read.
 

Jamesaritchie

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That's the thing, I mean, the New Yorker is rightfully the holy grail of writers today because they've got highest profile, best pay and reputation by far of any publication, so everybody dotes on them -- but boy would I love to see that change with some serious hardcore competition.

I'd sure love to sell something to the New Yorker, but I'd love it a hundred times more if there were a modern-day Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Gingrich-era Esquire or equivalents, online and not paper, out there buying stories. The kind of stories I love to read most and therefore the kind of stories I want to write. But there just aren't, not right now, the commercial markets for stories are few enough and the New Yorker has been the best of them for decades. Incidentally I don't think this situation is good for the short story, or for literature in general.

If you read the old New Yorker story compilation from 1940 you'll see that what makes a "New Yorker story" hasn't changed at all. It's still the same formula that O'Hara, EB White, Nancy Hale et al. once used. Their politics are more pronounced so you've got to march to that party line, and the cultural taboos have changed and shifted drastically, but the heart and guts of the stories are basically the the same as ever. And there's plenty of writers they've never published. plenty of great writers who just never wrote those kind of "New Yorker" stories or who don't have those politics: Jack Kerouac (good article about him now in the current issue, but his own fiction would be well out of place there), Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, William S. Burroughs, and on and on -- perfectly excellent writers, utterly great writers, and never once did they sell a story to the New Yorker.

The other thing is that while a story in the New Yorker will hopefully do great things for your career, the actual pay is really not that great, especially considering the reputation. I've never sold a word to the NYer but have written for other CN mags and while it's great compared to the lunch money you'll get from StateU Quarterly, you won't be flying in the Russian caviar for selling them your 5,000-word story.

Where is everyone getting politics from? We must be reading different New Yorkers.

As for pay, what, are you a multi-millionaire? A 5,000 word short bought by The New Yorker is good money by anyone's standard. More money than a pretty fair number of writers make from a first novel. Certainly enough to buy two pounds or so of Royal Beluga.
 

Twizzle

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politics? I have to echo James. Those aren't the stories I've been reading.

I'm curious. Has anyone from the slush ever been published in The New Yorker? In the last ten years? The last five?
 

lostlore

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Where is everyone getting politics from? We must be reading different New Yorkers.

I didn't know it was a secret that Conde Nast's pubs including the New Yorker, like most mainstream markets actually, are super liberal left-wing publications. Not that I am complaining or even commenting negatively on that fact, but simply observing out in the open -- because if you want to get your words in there, you better not be writing outside that party line.

All editorial content from the cover art to the fiction to the poetry carries that party line. Look at the snarling Cheney pumpkin on the cover of this week's issue, and ask yourself if you've ever seen such a thing done for a Democrat? No, of course not. It wouldn't fit the party line, and the cover artist knows that. And just the same, you have to write for the market.

Here's one quick fiction example, the Stuart Dybek story "If I Vanished" from Jul 1:
http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2007/07/09/070709fi_fiction_dybek

Scroll down just a bit and you'll get something about "the Marlboro Man mythos of the genocidal, racist, anti-environmental, Heil Adolph Coors’s right-wing all-American West."

That's perfect, that's it right there -- the perfect summation of the kind of political slant you had better have. I don't recall ever reading a story in there that doesn't have something like that in it. It's often more subtle, sure, but they always have to have it. And you will never ever see the opposite, whatever that may be -- a hero complaining about liberals or something while he waxes on about Ronald Reagan.


A 5,000 word short bought by The New Yorker is good money by anyone's standard.
Depends what you compare it to. Sure it's very good money, just looking at the single check outside of all contexts. But it's a very rare check, and it's not one that's liable to repeat itself -- whereas a lot of pubs pay the exact same rate for much easier, much more repeatable work. And for the reputation that the New Yorker has, that getting a story in it is the greatest feat a contemporary writer can accomplish, the pay is less than great -- it's actually kind of bad, considering the fact that any number of magazines and other markets pay the same rate for much easier work. That's the point I'm making.

It's also terrible money by the standard of a writer working in 1960, or 1945, or 1922 -- writers got paid more money unadjusted for inflation for the exact same work in those years as they do today. A $7,000 check in 1925 is enough to buy you a house. I think that's worth pointing out.

How many of us on this board have sent in submissions to the New Yorker (lots) but how many of us have made a sale (none)? But how many of us have had other assignments that paid a dollar a word or even more and were much much easier to get (many)?

Even if you do ever sell a story to the New Yorker, how long will it be before you ever repeat it? You'll be selling your fiction to the lesser markets and lucky if you get $250 or whatever it is most of the upper-tier markets pay. As opposed to nonfiction where if you can deliver a 5k word feature to a buck-a-word or better market, you're welcome to repeat it for as long as you're able.

I never had a problem earning a living as a nonfiction freelance writer. It isn't too difficult to take in a thousand a week -- you'll be working for it, and constantly worrying about next week's deal, but it's very doable even for an average writer, and the result is certainly enough to live on although you better set aside for health care.

But the problem is, I was working my tail off on stuff I didn't love -- that I actually came to hate -- with very little time for the "real" work that I knew was my one true dream. I have colleagues who have no ambitions for stories or novels and they earn 70k and in a few cases even more annually at what they were doing.

This year I've finally been able to give that up -- no money is worth throwing away your life and the pursuit of what you believe your talent is. So I'm selling a novel, writing another one, selling dozens of stories. But in pursuit of that I've not found anything at all out there that pays anything like nonfiction did. The only way to do it, as far as I can tell, is to sell a successful novel and then come out with another one because otherwise the money is just not there. You have to teach or make your living doing something else, and keep sloughing away at fiction on the side and whenever you can. If anyone out there is able to support themselves and/or their families by selling fiction to magazines or other publications, I'd love to hear about it.


Certainly enough to buy two pounds or so of Royal Beluga.
Not if you also have to pay your rent, and find a market to sell your next story to, and all the other 5k word stories you've sold this year took in only $250 each. That's the point I'm making.
 

Twizzle

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Yes, but. I ask again, has anyone gotten into The New Yorker through the slushpile? I genuinely don't know the answer, but if the answer is no...
 

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Yes, but. I ask again, has anyone gotten into The New Yorker through the slushpile? I genuinely don't know the answer, but if the answer is no...

It's an urban legend I believe. :gone:
 

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Twizzle

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wow. thank you. that's quite the article. so, I'm thinking it's pretty safe to say no. :)
 
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