Blogs by scott c virtes
weird chat experience
1/30/2006 10:41:56 AM
I was in a writers chat recently where, once I let it slip that I had been a magazine editor, everyone wanted to know the "secret" to getting published. So I said, "Send really good stories." So they asked if it helps to say nice things in the cover letter or send a big whomping resume, or mention every piddly little contest they've ever won. And I said, "Send really good stories." Oh, but what if you know a friend of the editor, on package the story in some gimmicky way? "Doesn't matter if the story is no good."
People just want shortcuts these days. This whole group wanted to cheat somehow. But the only thing that matters is the work. It doesn't matter what Stephen King does or what Michael Crichton does - we're not them and there's no plan we can put together to guarantee that we become bestsellers. It also doesn't matter if the writer is a bum who lives at a bus station. If you can tell a story, tell it.
Of course, some of the group suggested bypassing the "crappy editors" and publishing everything ourselves. Ouch -- if their stuff isn't good enough to get past an editor, these people are just printing a lot of first drafts and garbage. Strange world.
On cover letters, all they really need is a friendly hello and some contact info. When I got stories with no cover letter, they just felt like an envelope full of work. When the writer gives away the whole story in the cover letter, it makes me not want to read it. When they list all their college credits, I'm not impressed. Other publications, not impressed -- maybe they had their best story published in Twilight Zone but they're sending me crap. Contests -- don't care. Resume -- I'm not hiring.
So they just characterize the editor as grouchy and outdated and go on looking for ways to cheat.
The more adventurous ones can try running their own zine for a while, to learn the ropes. I did that. Quite an experience. It's probably the single best way to figure out how it all works. But it's no shortcut, that's for sure.
Oh -- read the guidelines, too. If you send horror to a Christian magazine (for example) you're wasting everyone's time. The editor/publisher has an idea of what they want their publication to be, and they try to explain it in the guidelines. It's not for you to decide what they should like. I've seen stories that were just fine, but don't fit what I'm trying to put together ... it happens.
Oh, the first pass through, the editor is more of a "screener", looking for stories they think they can work with. Once accepted they may edit a little or ask for a lot. Authors who think they have everything perfect and nobody else's viewpoint should matter, well ... nothing is perfect, and if we don't care what the reader thinks, there's something funky going on.
Just my few cents worth, on a related topic.
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