Bad Credits Will Not Help You Get Published.

Rachel Swirsky • December 7th, 2009 @ 5:14 pm • Uncategorized

My friend Ann and I have been running the magazine PodCastle for the past two years and reading slush for it for almost three. I’m nominally the editor and she’s the associate editor, but we chose to work together because, well, we work together well, and as a consequence our tasks often bleed into each other. She picks up the slushy slush when it comes in and filters out the stuff I need to see — or, sometimes, I go and do that myself. I have the final say on what gets published, but her opinion weighs heavily.

I’ve also read slush for 580 Split and the Iowa Review, and helped with one time slush-clearings at Escape Pod and Electric Velocipede. Suffice to say, I’ve read a lot of slush.

I could tell you lots of things about slush. I could tell you, for instance, that if you are submitting an unsold story to a reprint market and your name isn’t Tim Pratt or Greg Van Eekhout, you are not going to sell that story to me. Why? Because you’re competing with stories printed in the best magazines, chosen by the best editors in the business. If your story was ready to compete with top-level stuff, some other editor would have seen that before your story made it down the market list to find me. Could there be an exception? Sure. There are exceptions to everything. But so far, I haven’t found one to this rule.

Ann and I have been watching the recent internet spat over at John Scalzi’s blog about the pay rate offered by Black Matrix Press. We’ve discussed this and decided to blog about it in light of our experiences as editors. Ann’s excellent entry is here. This is mine.

Some authors who’ve published with Black Matrix (and presumably been paid their fifth of a cent per word) have leapt into the fray to defend their decisions. They have a number of reasons for having decided to publish with Black Matrix, and some of their reasons may well be legitimate, but as people who have read read slush, Ann and I can tell you one that’s not:

You do not need to publish in crappy venues in order to get a publication credit that will make the editors of better venues look at your work.

There’s this terrible, oft-repeated canard that editors won’t take you seriously if you don’t have any credits. It’s not true! Many editors have spoken in numerous locations about their desire to find new authors. It’s true that I, as the editor of PodCastle, have no desire to find authors no one else has found — but that’s because I’m in the business of reprinting things. I want to reprint the genius story by an unknown that someone else scooped up out of the slush.

Let me say it again: You do not need to publish in crappy venues in order to get a publication credit that will make the editors of better venues look at your work.

In fact, sometimes putting a crappy credit in your cover letter will have the opposite of the intended effect.

I’ve read a lot of cover letters in the past two years. Taken in general groups, they do actually give me important information about the contents of the submission. If someone’s story comes in as a prospective reprint from Realms of Fantasy then I need to take a look at that story because it comes, as it were, endorsed by Shawna McCarthy. If a story comes in that wasn’t in Realms of Fantasy, but the author has appeared in Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, and Strange Horizons, then I will still probably take a look, because better editors than I have found merit in other work by this author. I won’t necessarily like the story, but I do give it the benefit of the doubt, or as Ann says it’s one of the submissions that I “will start reading with the expectation that what [I'm] about to read is not, in fact, going to be the sort of headdesky slush that gives the slushpile its name and reputation–a reputation, I might add, that is thoroughly deserved.”

It’s this benefit of the doubt that I think newer authors are trying to curry when they say the point of publishing with a market like Black Matrix is to get a credit, any credit. (Either that or they think submissions with creditless cover letters are thrown into an automatic ‘no’ box with a malevolent editorial cackle.) But I’m not giving that benefit of the doubt to a credit, any credit. I’m giving it to authors with work published by editors I respect.

In general, mentioning a few mediocre or poor credits has a completely neutral effect. I’ll just skim over them and get to reading. But just as a credit from Fantasy Magazine will signal me that what I’m about to read is not “headdesky slush,” there are certain kinds of credits that signal me that what I’m about to read will probably be more headdesky than usual.

To a certain extent, this is a matter of taste. There are some editors whose tastes I disagree with to the extent that theirs is almost an anti-recommendation. I’m sure there are editors like that for every person in the field, and that we would all disagree on which ones they are. I’m sure I’m the editor like that for some people. If a story comes in with a credit that indicates it came from Respectable Magazine X — which could also be titled, as Ann quips, Journal of Stories I Don’t Like — then I can expect that this one, too, I probably won’t like.

But there’s an aspect of it that isn’t just a matter of taste, too. There are markets that accept nearly every submission, or that always seem to end up on the bottom of the pile. I’m sure that good authors have published in these magazines, but in every instance that has turned up in the PodCastle slush, if a story comes in by authors who are still mentioning these magazines in their cover letters, the story will be worse than average slush — including stories that have never been printed anywhere.

I’ll note that I didn’t assemble this list of bad-sign markets from a priori assumptions. These aren’t markets that I came in with a bad impression of, or that I had even necessarily known much about. These are magazines whose names I began to remember because I saw a pattern in the slush.

It’s even worse when the cover letter comes in with credits from a large number of magazines that I’ve never heard of. At the beginning of our run, we had someone submit with a full resume of over one thousand publications, none of which I’d heard of before. These are, I assume, the fly-by-night for the love markets which publish for a month or two before dying, only to be replaced, hydra-like, by two more.

These stories have almost always proven to be substantially worse than average slush. I don’t know exactly why, but I suspect some writers get themselves into some kind of pernicious, spiraling death dance with these markets. They submit something bad and get accepted and feel that rush of acceptance joy. Next time, rather than feeling the need to push themselves to write a better story, they do the easy thing that gets them a reward. Somehow ambition withers and soon they aren’t striving to make their work better.

New writers, though — new writers have potential. Am I going to be publishing someone who has no credits when they put their story before my reprint market? Almost certainly not, for reasons stated above — we’re a reprint market after all. But new writers, writers with no credits, writers who are still finding their voices and figuring out what kind of writer they’ll be… their work often has strengths they haven’t discovered yet. I can see where it will become robust and excellent. And sometimes I’m excited to read their writing as it develops.

New writers almost always turn out stories that I’m happier for having read than the ones with crappy credits that, I’m sure, their authors thought at one point would help them get published in better venues.

So, the moral of the story is, again, you do not need to acquire crappy credits so that the editors of better venues will take you seriously. If your work is good, editors will pay attention to it. You can’t trick editors into buying your work by filling your cover letter with previous publications. And, in fact, when you’re trying to get a credit, just any credit, to toss into your cover letter, you may really be achieving the opposite of what you hope.

Non-standard Disclaimers:

1) At PodCastle, as I’m sure at every magazine, we read everything we receive. We’re happy to find exceptions. I’m only relaying the observations I’ve made from reading slush so far.

2) PodCastle, being a reprint market, has an abnormal slush pile. I don’t know to what extent that affects the contents of the post, but it’s always a factor to bear in mind.

3) We do not buy based on cover letters. No one does. However, writers who believe they need to get a credit for their cover letter so that editors will take them seriously are sculpting their career progression around the half-second subconscious impact that cover letters actually make. Given that they are so worried about this relatively small effect — which makes sense; as a writer, I am too; I think it’s natural to focus on the aspects of the business that are under our control — I think it’s only fair to discuss what that impact actually looks like.

4) This is tangential at best to the subject of the post, but the best way to improve your reception in the slush pile is to write better. My suspicion from looking at the slushiest slush stories is that these authors need to A) engage with their material more deeply, and B) revise more.

5) It is not my intention to condemn all for the love markets and the writers who write for them. Like Scalzi, I’ve written for the love when charity was involved. Unlike him, I’ve also done it when someone asked me to and I knew it wouldn’t take much time. There are legitimate reasons why someone may publish for the love. However, gaining credits so that you can later publish somewhere “better,” is not one of them.

6) Nor is it my intention to take on the entire Black Matrix debate in this space. Scalzi’s criticism of Black Matrix is, perhaps, too pay-rate-focused. For most short story writers I know, pay rate is one of several factors which they consider when they decide where to submit. In her post, Ann proposes three considerations which I broadly agree with — pay rate, audience size, and reputation. There are several markets, such as Electric Velocipede and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, which have small audiences and low pay rates, but which I consider worth publishing in because of their reputation. As far as I can tell, Black Matrix does not qualify as one of these markets.

7) I named Tim Pratt and Greg Van Eekhout because I think both of them may have sold us flash stories that were not previously published. That’s because we pay competitive rates for flash.

50 Responses to “Bad Credits Will Not Help You Get Published.”

  1. Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Guest Posts at Jeff VanderMeer’s Blog says:

    [...] Bad Credits Will Not Get You Published. You do not need to publish in crappy venues in order to get a publication credit that will make the editors of better venues look at your work. [...]

  2. Jason Sanford says:

    I agree with most of what you’ve said here. The reason story credits help writers is they show a respected editor has given your writing a stamp of approval. Such a stamp from a bad editor or publication is worse than not having any pub credits at all.

    Is this totally fair? No. But it’s how things work in the real world. We all rely on the opinions of others to decide what we’ll invest our limited time in reading/watching/playing/doing. If a friend whose opinion I trust tells me a movie is great, I’ll watch it. If a friend who loves bad movies tells me to watch something, I’m less likely to ever see that film. The same principle applies to publication credits.

  3. Cat Sparks says:

    Thanks for this, Rachel. It occurred to me recently that I pretty much owe my current writing standard to all those editors along the way who said no, and thus forced me to lift my game. Sadly, many new writers are not going through this self improvement process. They don’t think they have to because it seems so easy to get “published”

  4. Rachel Swirsky says:

    “Sadly, many new writers are not going through this self improvement process.”

    Absolutely! Although I wonder how much this has always been true.

    I also see people having the opposite problem, though, where their standards are so high that they never send work out. One of the people from my and Ann’s Clarion class gives stories one chance. If they get rejected by Asimov’s, no matter how lovely the note, then back they go! Into the trunk! At least, that’s what he was doing; I get the impression that now he doesn’t send things out at all.

    It’s a really hard balance, I think. I worry I’m being too complacent with myself these days.

  5. Atsiko says:

    Quite an articulate post. As much as I supported the pay-rate argument put forth by John, I think it’s good to give those following the debate (not necessarily about BM specifically, but about credits and markets in general) a look at the other factors involved. Not being up to snuff for “better” markets was such a common defense, and it is disheartening to see that attitude taken to the negative extremes of credit-chasing–and often bad credit-chasing at that.

  6. Kristan says:

    That’s actually so great to know, thank you! Because I sometimes wonder if I should just submit my stories *anywhere* to get published. What I’ve been doing is submitting to a list of the top 30-40 publications I actually *want* to be published in, and if they none of them bite, I just put that story on my website and move on to the next. I guess that’s what I’ll stick with, especially after reading this post.

    And, a big fat DITTO to what Cat Sparks said. :)

  7. Andreas Black says:

    Very close to what I’ve been told for a number of years now. Glad the pro writers, editors, and the HWA got to me before I did something stupid. :)

  8. Deb Layne says:

    Yes! My experience with Polyphony slush mirrors yours completely.

    Thanks for this post. Let’s hope some beginning authors take some of your excellent advice.

  9. Wendy S. Delmater says:

    Amen to this post. I have had exactly the same experiences with cover letters. Well-known authors rarely say more than, “I have been published in such markets as Well-Known Print Mag A, Pro Zine B, and Critically Acclaimed market C.” A string of unknown web markets is a warning sign. I think it is perfectly acceptable for an author to list NO markets in a cover letter and just say “I hope you enjoy my story.”

    Over 20 percent of Abyss & Apex’s stories are first-time publications for our authors. Yes, editors buy the story, not the cover letter.

  10. stonetable.org » Doing the Limbo – How low will you go? says:

    [...] Bad Credits Will Not Help You Get Published, from Rachel Swirsky guest blogging on Jeff VanderMeer’s blog, discusses why no credits are potentially better than credits from “bad” credits, from her experience as an editor and slush reader. [...]

  11. Other Bill says:

    “If your work is good, editors will pay attention to it. You can’t trick editors into buying your work by filling your cover letter with previous publications.”

    I think this is the buried headline of this discussion. As a writer, it’s hard to see your own failings. When a writer reviews the result of their labor, they see it as they meant it to be. And they are moved by it as they meant it to move others. It’s like recounting a dream. To the teller it is necessarily remembered in full technicolor.

    Aspiring writers are quick to damn others who deny their technicolor brilliance. It’s sure to be the malevolent attitude of the editor that failed them, and not their pen. This is not intended to be a criticism. An aspiring writer risks their self confidence with each submission as they try to show others a piece of what they perceive as art. It’s a piece of their soul. I think this is what separates the amateur from the professional. The professional accepts the criticisms and strives for improvement.

    Writing is a challenging skill and it is most definitely one that requires constant refinement. To use an outdated comparison, if writers were making wheels, well we could pack it in and start over easily enough when the wheel doesn’t roll. But this, I think, is the challenge that all successful professional writers meet full on.

    It’s a tough lesson to grasp. And there are some that prey on that weakness. Though, I can’t forthe life of me see the motivation to try and profit from subpar writing. You get what you pay for.

  12. Patrick Nielsen Hayden says:

    As I posted over at your co-editor’s LJ, my basic editorial optimism is undamaged by a cover letter that simply says “Here’s a story, hope you like it.” But my spirits sink when the cover letter says “Here’s a story, here are 25 mediocre small-press publications I’ve managed to sell to over the last eight years, hope you like the story.”

    I think a lot of aspiring writers fail to grasp the basic emotional relationship of editors to their work.

  13. Darin Bradley says:

    Well said. We used to encounter the same problem at Farrago’s Wainscot. There were some ‘zines that we genuinely did not like because we found the caliber of the material appearing therein to be routinely sub-par, so seeing a litany of these in a cover letter rarely disposed me positively toward the submission-in-question. Somewhere, somebody evil is circulating false information about what should go into a cover letter, which, in my experience, was always one of the first, fastest ways to shoot one’s submitting self in the foot.

  14. Amy Sterling Casil says:

    A long time ago, the way I came to understand this was that, whenever I made the error of sending work to some small press or low-paying publications, I experienced horrific treatment which fell into 2 categories – 1) no response no matter what – i.e. lost submission, didn’t bother, wouldn’t let you know, etc.; or 2) abusive rejection – a mirror image of troubled/confused writer response to being rejected. When I started thinking “I” was worth more than that, which didn’t take long, and was a kind of mental trick that’s probably related to “lying to myself” and thinking I’m good-looking or something like that, I suddenly, miraculously, began to sell my work to legitimate, above board, professional venues. I won’t say it’s always a “mistake,” but people need to think about what they are doing. If payment rates are that low (by the way, years ago, I racked up like 8 rejections from Ann because I was confused and thought I was some type of horror writer . . .) then it’s worth some reflection. I’m disturbed enough as it is about the short fiction situation as it has been for a long time. I don’t like the idea of it getting any worse or “freer” as it were.

  15. Katya says:

    I’m glad I read this post while I am still in the early stages. I didn’t know being published in an unknown market could be suicidal. I honestly thought boasting of pub credits in the cover letter could be could was good.

    Now, how do I sift the good from the bad? Are all token or for-the-love publications necessarily bad?

  16. Rachel Swirsky says:

    “Are all token or for-the-love publications necessarily bad?”

    No. Here are a few token-payment markets that are specifically good: Sybil’s Garage, Electric Velocipede, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. I can’t think of any for the love markets that are good offhand because I don’t pay attention to them. It’s possible that Behind the Wainscot and Expanded Horizons are both for the love, I don’t remember; I hear generally good things about them.

    “I didn’t know being published in an unknown market could be suicidal.”

    It isn’t. I’m sure there are good authors who have published in the markets I think of as bad signs. It’s just that by the time they got good, they had other credits to boast about.

    “Now, how do I sift the good from the bad?”

    Keep your ear firmly to the ground. Attending Clarion or one of the other writing workshops will hook you up with a group of short story writers, all of whom are talking about this constantly. When I hear about a market 8 or 9 times, it sticks in my head; I know people are reading it. When I hear about nightmare long response times, or bad editorial treatment, two or three times, it sticks in my head; I know to stay away. Frequent places where writers are talking. Livejournals, Codex Writers Forum if you can get in, the Online writers workshop.

    It might be useful for you to check out this site: http://catrambo.livejournal.com/251628.html

  17. the view from atop the slushpile « paper fruit says:

    [...] for paying one fifth of a cent per word (500 words for a dollar, etc.). This has now mutated into an excellent blog post over at Jeff VanderMeer’s blog, by guest blogger Rachel Swirsky, editor of PodCastle. Ms. Swirsky’s point was riffing off of [...]

  18. molly says:

    The pingback showed up before I could comment: thanks Rachel for a great post, I agree with a lot of what you’ve said here. I’ve had similar experiences over at Fantasy Magazine (thanks for the shoutout!) and as an aspiring author myself.

  19. Alan Yee says:

    “It’s possible that Behind the Wainscot and Expanded Horizons are both for the love, I don’t remember; I hear generally good things about them.”

    As far as I know, Behind the Wainscot was for-the-love.

    Expanded Horizons pays $30 per story. I generally like the stories, so they’re on my list of potential markets, although further down on the list.

  20. From the Palantir! Annoying Scorcerers, HOBBIT Casting, and a Gory Wolfman | TheTorchOnline.com says:

    [...] speculative fiction magazines is paying 1/5 of one cent per word — a shockingly low rate. An editor says that obscure credits in magazines no one has heard of won’t help you break through. What do [...]

  21. Richard says:

    Thank you for the post. I will want to read more from you.

  22. Writer pay rates « Nick’s Musings says:

    [...] the love” market. Rachael Swirsky guest-blogged on Jeff VanderMeer’s blog about the value of certain publishing credits. I would have to agree with her, and with Cat Rambo, editor for Fantasy Magazine. Too many unknown [...]

  23. Sam, Editor House of Horror says:

    I think you are down right rude! What right do you have to call another publication ‘Crappy’ just because they pay low rate or nothing. I am the editor of House of horror and we are a token and low paying zine. We get around 4000 hits a day and slushpiles of 2-300 just in a month. Do you really think that those writers think that we are crappy or actually give a damn about how much they are earning? NO! They do it for the love of writing. They do it because money isn’t everything in the world. Writing is like breathing to most of us, and to see our work in print is exciting, be it a ‘Crappy’ non-paying or a ‘Crappy’ pro-rate publication.

    I suggest that in future, you keep your mind on your own work instead of slagging off others that help writers to get into you ‘Crappy’ pro-rate markets. We do’t send out form rejections. We work with writers to define their skills as a writer and we do this in form of payment to help new writers climb the ladder.

    Just watch what you are saying in future because I found this post where they are over 300 irate writers of ‘Crappy’ non-paying zines and publications!

  24. Rachel Swirsky says:

    Writing is like breathing to you? Really? I find writing — at least writing well — to involve a great deal of work. Breathing is something that happens when I’m asleep.

  25. Sam, Editor House of Horror says:

    Obviously if you have to work at it, then youdon’t have a natural talent for writing. Maybe you should spend more time homing your own skills than slagging off publications that have absolutely nothing to do with you. Writing is a release for a lot of people, especially people with ‘natural’ talent. They don’t have to work at it and its those people who write for the love and want to share their written word with others.

  26. skippy says:

    “Obviously if you have to work at it, then youdon’t have a natural talent for writing.”

    you’re killing me, really?

  27. Rachel Swirsky says:

    I believe the difference between pro and amateur perspectives has just been neatly summed up.

  28. Rachel Swirsky says:

    I shouldn’t have said that. It was glib. There are many amateurs who would never believe in the fallacy that good writing is always easy.

    What I should have said is that it reminds me of the way I thought when I was sixteen (when I was, among other things, an amateur), that writing was all muses and inspiration and transcendent metaphysical whatnot, rather than work. Work which is sometimes easy, sometimes transcendent, and sometimes drudgery.

    Not that some excellent writers don’t find fiction easy; I think Mamatas says he does, though perhaps I’m wrong about that. But it was important for me to hear Octavia Butler say that writing is always hard, that once you’ve mastered part of it, you should always be struggling with the next set of skills, because your expectations for yourself continue to increase. It should be obvious that any job will have its boring and difficult parts, but all that fluff about inspiration and muses deludes us into thinking it’s supposed to be like magic delivered through your fingers instead. Silly.

    Anyway, I won’t be back to answer snark or posturing. If people have genuine questions or concerns they want me to address, I’ll do my best.

  29. Short fiction, small market controversy | The Blog at GateTree says:

    [...] credits. The editors of Podcastle (who are also specfic writers) stepped in an dismissed this (Rachel Swirsky and Ann Leckie). – There is one popular impassioned defense of the lower paying markets – at [...]

  30. Taking Another Shot at the Pros | Scribbles says:

    [...] of one-fifth-of-one-cent per word to their esteemed writers. Scalzi’s posts were followed by a guest post from Rachel Swirsky on Jeff VanderMeer’s blog and a post by Ann Leckie on her live journal blog about what type of [...]

  31. The Week in Links 12-12-2009 – Grasping for the Wind says:

    [...] Syndrome; Presumably Final Notes on Rates, Markets, and Blah Blah Blah Patrick Neilsen Hayden Rachel Swirsky Tobias Buckell Jim C. Hines David Forbes Jennifer Brissett Douglas Cohen Ann Leckie [...]

  32. Bob F. Martinez says:

    Rachel Swirsky:

    “No. Here are a few token-payment markets that are specifically good: Sybil’s Garage, Electric Velocipede, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. I can’t think of any for the love markets that are good offhand because I don’t pay attention to them. It’s possible that Behind the Wainscot and Expanded Horizons are both for the love, I don’t remember; I hear generally good things about them.”

    End of quote.

    I have genuine questions and concerns.

    Look, Rachel, I understand where you are coming from. I really do. But those are literary-style magazines that you mention there. Is this just a war between literary editors and genre (or commercial) writers? Otherwise, why mention those magazines in the above quote that have low pay and poor circulation like Black Matrix? What sets them apart? The style is definitely literary. Do you believe that the literary crowd considers adventure/pulp stuff to be terrible writing and wants to see such magazines ended? If Black Matrix were literary, would these attacks have ever have taken place? As an adventure writer, these are real concerns for me. My stuff won’t sell to some literary magazines because it’s hard pulp style and the prose is very straightforward and commercial. So what are writers like me supposed to do? But I’d rather you answered my former concerns, if any, than that last one.

  33. Rachel Swirsky says:

    Bob,

    Sorry if this is short in tone at all, it’s not meant to be grumpily written, I just have something to get to so I’m writing fast.

    There are three kinds of credits that appear in cover letters that are listed as bad signs.

    1) Markets that accept almost everything. Mostly if there’s a market that has over a one third acceptance rate, and no reason to explain that (like the fact that Nature has a very specific submission pool), then that’s a really bad sign.

    2) Markets that “always seem to end up on the bottom of the pile.” This is ambiguous and I apologize for that ambiguity. I am referring to a specific magazine. It does publish adventure fic, but that’s not its specialty, and believe me, you’re not talking about it.

    3) Cover letters that come in with 30 credits (or sometimes 100, or sometimes 500, or sometimes 1000 — people do send us credit lists longer than their stories) from markets that are mostly “fly-by-night for the love markets that are open for a month or two then disappear.”

    Those are the cover letters that come in that make me go “hmm, this sub will probably be worse than an average submission.” Basically, to get this reaction from credits alone (sometimes other things in the cover letter will trigger it, like the person who told us in their cover letter that they didn’t like our market), the cover letter has to contain one of two specific magazines, or a long list of unknown credits (the long list is also a signal of unprofessionality on its own, since you should limit your publication credits in cover letters to about 3, with 5 at the outside. A list of 3 unknown magazines would read as neutral.)

    There are also cover letters that make me go, “Ah, this will probably be a better sub than average.” They feature what I would call the usual suspects, the magazines that make most people sit up and go, “Oh! You got published there! I love their stories!”

    Other credits in cover letters are neutral.

    Black Matrix is not listed at all. I haven’t read enough (read: any) reprint submissions from it to know what kind of material it publishes. If mentioning it in a cover letter becomes a reliable predictor of bad submissions (as there are two magazines I’ve found that are), then I will end up noticing that. Odds are greater that it will remain neutral.

    Some people say that any credit will make an editor sit up and take greater notice of you. That’s not true, because while some credits make editors take notice, most credits are neutral. A very few may even make the editor wince. Therefore, you should not sub work to places *you* don’t like because you hope that it will make other editors like you more. If you’re going to sub somewhere you don’t like, do it for some other reason (e.g. you just wanted a fucking sale, damn it); don’t use editors as an excuse.

    I just want to repeat that because it seems to have gotten lost.

    *

    In regard to you specifically, I have three things to say:

    A) I’ve never seen work from Black Matrix. I’m not responding to Black Matrix specifically. I am responding to the claim that authors have to publish somewhere, anywhere, to get noticed by other editors. This is false.

    B) There are pro markets and high-level semi-pro markets that specifically look for writing in a spirit of adventure, e.g. IGMS, Baen’s, etc. I published in a recently defunct one, Spacesuits and Sixguns. Yeah, this writing tends not to win big awards at this point, but people do sort of constantly create markets to publish it in.

    C) There are pro writers who have been involved in this flap who are known for writing adventure and not literary fiction. See also: Scalzi. Given that, this really can’t be reliably characterized as a tiff between lit people and pulp people.

    D) It might be useful for you to look at this link: http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/2009/12/10/some-of-the-ways-i-decide-where-to-submit-my-work/ In it, I talk about what sets magazines apart in my opinion, and how I decide whether or not to submit somewhere. Now, in that link, I’m talking about myself as a writer not an editor. (Since the editorial way is simple: I evaluate markets by the subs I see that are reprints from those markets. Running PodCastle means that pulp is good for me as an editor — it translates well into audio — and so I am biased more toward pulp as an editor than as a casual reader.)

    Since I’m talking about myself as a writer in the linked post, the specifically deliniated markets are somewhat more literary because that’s what I write — e.g. I include Shimmer and EV and LCRW. But there are also some listed markets that are at least borderline (e.g. Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Lone Star Stories, etc.), and in any case, my procedure for figuring out (as a writer) whether an adventure market would be worth my time would be the same as the procedure I use for looking at literary markets. How does it look? Who runs it? Do they pay on time, or if they don’t pay, do they handle other issues with their authors in a professional manner, e.g. sending out contracts in a timely fashion? Does their publisher know something about editing? Is the product available to readers? Is it read by the people you want as your audience? Do you like the stories that appear there?

    If the market has a website from 1996 with flash animation on a black background, and text that’s in 10pt red font and impossible to read… if it’s run by someone who never published anything before but thought it had to be easy to run a magazine, and who doesn’t know what a contract is, and regularly declares the magazine dead because they’re too overwhelmed to run it, then resurrects it under a slightly different name… if it has a website hit count of an impressive 2,000 daily, but 1,900 are on the sub guidelines, and the other 100 are spammers… and your writing mentors have never heard of it… and the reason you wanted to sub is because what they publish seems so poor that they would have to leap at a quality submission like yours (I’ve subbed for that reason; it was always a mistake)…

    …then this may be a bad credit to have instead of a neutral one.

    E) I should totally have included Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine on my list of places I sub to. It’s awesome, adventure- and humor-oriented, still running, and also, did I mention? Awesome.

  34. Rachel Swirsky says:

    Sorry, to respond to a couple specific questions:

    “Do you believe that the literary crowd considers adventure/pulp stuff to be terrible writing and wants to see such magazines ended?”

    Which literary crowd?

    The actual litfic people who say genre like a dirty word? Maybe. Mostly they probably think it’s fine for us pleebs to keep doing what we’re doing.

    The literary SF crowd?

    OK, I belong to that crowd. Some people in it do seem to have an aggressive POV toward any SF writing that is not literary SF. It’s kind of like how SOME of the mundane SF folks called everyone else childish and implied that non-mundane SF was killing SF. (I love how fragile SF has to be in these discourses; it’s dying all the time, killed by some or other malevolent group.)

    Personally, I do NOT want to see adventure writing go away. I do believe that fields are robust when they serve many different tastes. I’d like to see mundane AND optomistic SF, and pulp SF, and space opera, and whatever. Some of it may happen outside the magazines I read or write for, but i don’t want it to *stop.*

    And really, I suspect even the people who say they want it to stop are probably just using hyperbole for teh sake of rhetoric, and if you made them stop and cool down, tehy’d admit they don’t really want to break other people’s keyboards.

    “If Black Matrix were literary, would these attacks have ever have taken place?”

    If it were literary, as in not-genre? No. The lit community is very different in terms of how its standards work than the spec commnity.

    If it were literary as in literary SF? Absolutely, and the reason that this question is not a good one is that you’ve got to look at who is “attacking” black matrix. The pro who started it is Scalzi, known for his accessible, military, pulp SF.

  35. Bob F. Martinez says:

    Thanks you very much, Rachel Swirsky, for taking time out to answer my concerns. You’ve answered them very well. I think you’ve dispelled some common myths that I had fallen under. I plan to pay more attention to where I sell my work. I know that some magazines have stories in them that have made me cringe. They’re too easy and it seems they take anything! I think that hurts us all as writers in this industry, because we lose respectability in the eyes of readers.

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  40. TTNET ADSL Basvuru says:

    Those are the cover letters that come in that make me go “hmm, this sub will probably be worse than an average submission.” Basically, to get this reaction from credits alone (sometimes other things in the cover letter will trigger it, like the person who told us in their cover letter that they didn’t like our market), the cover letter has to contain one of two specific magazines, or a long list of unknown credits (the long list is also a signal of unprofessionality on its own, since you should limit your publication credits in cover letters to about 3, with 5 at the outside. A list of 3 unknown magazines would read as neutral.)

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  44. CounterStrike1.6 says:

    Thanks you very much, Rachel Swirsky, for taking time out to answer my concerns. You’ve answered them very well. I think you’ve dispelled some common myths that I had fallen under. I plan to pay more attention to where I sell my work. I know that some magazines have stories in them that have made me cringe. They’re too easy and it seems they take anything! I think that hurts us all as writers in this industry, because we lose respectability in the eyes of readers.

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