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AHWA chats with Australian Editors (part 2)

by AHWA

[Felicity] Ok, another thing I find interesting: are there "do"s and "don't"s for you each individually in terms of the cover letter/email you receive - ie: author tone, what is said, what isn't said, etc?

[mondy] Felicity Don't tell me the 900 publications you've appeared in. A few will do, possibly the most recent. But a long list is just irritating, especially when you've never heard of Slasher Zombie Girls in Pink Sweaters Issue 6

[Felicity] ROFL Ian! Classic and valuable advice.

[BT] Fel's not quite at 900 yet...yet

[mondy] Felicity - Seriously, sometimes the lists were longer than the story.

[Felicity] I'm not even at 9, BT    

[Felicity] Hmmmn. Maybe some writers think the more credits, the more "cred" their submission will get - but what you're saying is, it's quality over quantity in that regard (in cover letters anyway)?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Felicity, re: credits.... half of my early credits got me nowhere. Publish well!

[Felicity] Yeah, I'm learning the truth in that, Shane...

[BT] Publish well, so does that equal money or prestige and where would a newbie find out if a low paying market was considered prestige?

[mondy] BT - If you're not sure, then leave it out. It's not going to get you a sale, the story will do that for you.

[Felicity] BT, I think that might be one area where networking (such as this) can be really useful. Getting a feel for what's going on, what is thought highly of, etc...

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] BT: if you're unsure of a market's prestige, then go by payment. It also depends on what you want - a reputation in Aust? Overseas? There're a lot of permutations

[ANW] I think anything on Ralan’s semi-pro / pro list is a good start, but there are some great markets on paying as well

[Felicity] I really do think a lot of "publishing well" comes with time and confidence. I'm only now beginning to think, hmmmn, probably could have subbed certain things to other (more prestigious) publications and actually had a chance...

[Stephen Dedman] I don't know how many editors even read cover letters.

[kirstyn] With cover letters, do NOT, EVER, give a summary/blurb of the story.

[mondy] Absolutely. I was always told, anyway, to keep cover letters short. Very short. Like "Please find my story attached. I've been published here and here. Seeya." Some people actually tell you the plot of the story you're about to read.

[Stephen Dedman] I've read a few that were nearly enough to put me off looking at the story.

[Felicity] Yes I know many don't bother, but it's figuring out who *does* bother and in that case, what they expect to see, that is the knack...

[Robhood] I usually read cover letters after I decide I want the story.

[Felicity] *snort* That's funny, Rob

[Andrew_McK] Just write "Dear [editor's name], please find attached my story "Blah, Blah" in RTF format in consideration for inclusion in your publication. Thank you for your time. Andrew" It seems to works for me 

[mondy] Andrew_McK - spot on!

[Stuart Mayne] Aurealis asks for that stuff so we have the info if the story is published. It's looked at as an after thought.

[Stephen Dedman] Likewise, Andrew.

[Robhood] And in a cover letter never say "I think you'll really like this story and if you don't you're a f**king idiot!" It rarely helps.

[angela] I always read cover letters --- I’m beginning to feel like the sore thumb here ;c)

[Felicity] ROFL Rob!

[Stephen Dedman] Don't laugh, Felicity. It happens.

[angela] Many cover letters have told me at a glance that this person is illiterate ... don't bother reading the story

[mondy] angela - how true

[Felicity] Surely you can't be serious, Stephen!

[Stephen Dedman] There's a panel at some cons, "It came from the slushpile", where editors tell the stories of the worst submissions they've received. About half of the stories are about cover letters.

[Robhood] Stephen was serious and so was I!

[Stephen Dedman] I'm serious, Felicity. Ellen Datlow recently posted one on her lj.

[Felicity] Oh. Oh, dear.

[ckbezant] I've got several that are like: I've edited it a bit, but I'm not sure if it's right yet..blah blah. God, just don't send it till you're ready!

[mondy] Ellen Datlow has some classics. She put one up on her LJ recently (names removed)

[angela] Also Andrew ... my advice is also to add "if you have the time, I would genuinely appreciate feedback*

[Andrew_McK] Angela - Good advice, thanks.

[BT] I'm definitely going to add that - thanks Angela

[Stephen Dedman] I'd disagree, Angela. That always pisses me off.

[angela] Why does it piss you off, Stephen ... if it says, "if you have the time?"

[Stephen Dedman] Mostly because it often indicates that the writer doesn't think the story is good enough for the magazine, but doesn't know why, and wants us to critique it for them. Free.

[Stephen Dedman] I don't remember ever buying a story that had that in the cover letter.

[Stuart Mayne] Stephen's right. I get about 5 requests a month to crit a ss or novel mss.

[mondy] Stephen Dedman - I agree with a Stephen here...

[Stuart Mayne] I suggest people who ask for a crit go to a writers group

[angela] Yeah that *may* be so -- but don't forget how quick we *all* are to tell writers to contact us?

[angela] As editors, we can't have it both ways ... either ppl are interested in us .. or they're not .... which do you want?

[Stephen Dedman] Also, it suggests that they haven't read our guidelines, which say that we will provide feedback where we can.

[Andrew_McK] Well, I won't add that last line then... unless I sub to Angela 

[BT] Ditto Andrew

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] I've seen "cover letters" for flash fiction 5 times longer than the story itself (including a detailed list of credits going back 5 years) *yawn*

[Stephen Dedman] Likewise, Shane.

[Andrew_McK] That's what a link to your Wikipedia page is for!

[Stephen Dedman] I remember one story where the author had included his complete bibliography.

[Felicity] God, I just think so much of what we're discussing now is screamingly obvious, I struggle to accept people actually go there.

[mondy] Felicity - it wasn't obvious to me. Not when I started sending things off in the early 90s

[Felicity] But surely you would never say "if you don't like this story, you can get f@#ked" - y'know?

[ckbezant] yes, the internet and groups like this make simple things a lot more obvious, if you take the time to research before submitting

[mondy] Felicity - people do. Because they are crazy in the coconut. Of course they're a minority, but they exist.

[skullmnky] One person once accused me of destroying him from writing poetry for the rest of his life when I rejected his poem. . . . Some people can be extreme and take rejection personally.

[Felicity] Gah. Well, they shouldn't damn well write.     

[Stuart Mayne] Recently I got, "why can't you see a good story when you read one" The answer: Well, it's not THAT good.

[Felicity] Oh, God. My mouth is hanging open.

[Felicity] It reminds me of the crazy caterwauling nincompoops on Idol (yes, I have a troublesome addiction to cruddy reality TV) who *will not* be told they actually can't hold a note to save themselves.

[Andrew_McK] That's what I meant before about being precious about your stories. You'll never improve as a writer if you already think you're the best. People like that will never take advice.

[Robhood] As a writer I always assume that whatever an editor says when they reject a story, what they're really saying is that they don't want it. Unless they make an intelligent suggestion and tell me to re-submit.

[kirstyn] Being in a crit group is invaluable

[PeterBall] I think that can depend on the crit group

[Stephen Dedman] Now, if I had a submission which asked us NOT to include feedback, just buy the story or reject it, I might be intrigued by that.

[Stephen Dedman] Agreed, Peter.

[BT] I definitely think we need to look into a AHWA crit group ANW

[ANW] I'll discuss it with Marty later

[Stephen Dedman] I was once in a crit group that shrunk by one person every meeting.

[Stuart Mayne] Some people prefer to feel as if they are being artistic sitting in a "garrot"

[Felicity] Kirstyn, I might pick your brain (outside this chat) about crit groups. I'm not in one and I think you're in Melb (like me) so I might bother you to fill me in on any you can suggest. Just warning you.    

[mondy] Crit groups have never been for me. I've just chosen a bunch of friends who are quite happy to tell me I stink and my story is rubbish as well, and I rely on them

[Andrew_McK] I'm the same Ian. Honest friends and a brutally honest wife.

[Felicity] Yes that's what I do currently Ian and it seems to work rather well for me for now

[kirstyn] Ian, that IS a crit group ... it's just informal

[Robhood] I think fixed crit groups can be very useful indeed, but all (maybe most) crit groups have a limited usefulness. After a while you know what everyone else is going to say.

[Stephen Dedman] Elaine was my first reader for many years - she was so good at it, that she could predict which stories certain editors would buy.

[kirstyn] It doesn't have to a formal, meet-every-second-Tuesday sort of thing. But you do need outside criticism of your stories - and from people who will be honest

[ckbezant] Brutally honest wife. Heck yeah.

[mondy] But Elaine, if memory serves, is brutal. I remember her tearing one of my early stories to small, tiny, pieces. Which it deserved.

[Robhood] Kirstyn, absolutely. Especially in the early stages.

[Andrew_McK] 100% to what Kirstyn said. You just need to find the right people who will be honest.

[angela] I champion Clarion Felicity

[Stephen Dedman] I kept Elaine honest in this regard by telling her that the sooner I sold a story, and the more I received for it, the sooner and more often I could take her out to our favourite restaurant.

[Felicity] Ooooh I wants Clarion

[kirstyn] I think Clarion would be the end of me

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Clarion is a bundle of soul-destroying fun.

[Felicity] Now there's a cryptic vote of confidence

[PeterBall] Clarion was probably the experience that redeemed crit-groups for me after years of very negative opinions on them

[BT] Do tell Peter

[Robhood] Clarion would be the end of me too, as a student. But I think it's a great experience nevertheless.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Clarion has its down sides, but it has the capability to turn you into a professional or put you off writing for good

[PeterBall] VT: I'd probably echo Shane’s comment

[skullmnky] I must take my leave all. Thanks for the invite and the intelligent discussion. It's been fun . . . and best of luck with Black Angela and Shane!

[mondy] Seeya James

[ckbezant] Bye James

[mondy] Shane Jiraiya Cummings - I think that's its major positive. After Clarion, you know where you want to be. Personally, I could never do it.

[Robhood] The group I taught at Clarion were a fantastic bunch who really wanted to learn and worked hard. And I say that even though Peter is listening! :-)

[Felicity] Ok, question, if I may?

[Stephen Dedman] Sure, Felicity.

[Felicity] Do you, as editors, find yourselves excited, cynical, bored or just blank when faced with new stories from new writers (by way of submission)? Is more weight given to established writers (beyond the obvious - clearly a solicited story will simply be published where a slush sub might not)

[Stephen Dedman] Solicited stories sometimes get rejected too.

[Felicity] Oh, do they? I didn't realise that. Interesting - thanks.

[mondy] Felicity - I was excited seeing writers I'd not heard of.

[angela] I'm more excited by new writers

[Stephen Dedman] I see a good many stories from new writers, too many to get excited by all of them.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Discovering new talent is one of the major reasons editors do what they do. Soliciting stories can be so-so, but there's always a buzz when publishing a great newbie

[mondy] Stephen Dedman - Ahh, you're old and cynical    

[Felicity] I guess what my question is aimed at doing is perhaps dispelling that "boy's club" slur we spoke of earlier.

[kirstyn] I loved getting subs from people I hadn't heard of before.

[ANW] I would guess that in Australia and OZ only mags you would remember people more. Worldwide mags must treat everyone almost like a blur

[Stuart Mayne] Proportionally an established writer is more likely to write a good story than a newbie. But you'd be a sloppy editor if you didn't look at a story by a newbie with the critical view that you should do with an established author.

[Andrew_McK] The thing is, I think there IS a 'boys club' and this is it. It is the people who actually get off their arse and want to learn about writing and how to get published. We have the advantage because we are learning the rules.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Agreed Andrew!

[Felicity] I see your point, Andrew, but that's not the same thing as implying (or is it inferring?!) that there's favouritism or discrimination at play when I don't think there is...

[Andrew_McK] Felicity - we know that, but on the outside it can look that way.

[Felicity] I guess it might, Andrew

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] I'd say editors are more likely to 'discriminate' (or at least treat favourably) those they work well with in the past. It's a snowball effect. Get published, work with editors in a professional way, and most of the time, they'll look kindly at you...

[Robhood] As an experienced writer, Felicity, I can say that I get plenty of rejections, even from friends. Hey, Cat rejected two of my stories for the last Agog! Book. Now is that fair?

[Felicity] I don't know if it's fair, but it's a helluva way to get back at a partner you might be p@#sed off with...    

[kirstyn] What did you do, Rob, steal one of her tacky Hawaiian hula girls?

[angela] With you an that one Kirstyn

[Robhood] No, Kirstyn, I just gave her stories that weren't any good... yet.

[kirstyn] No, I mean AFTER she rejected the stories ... go on, steal some of her tacky gear and hold it to ransom. 

[Robhood] Oh... sorry. I thought you were working a revenge scenario on HER part, not mine. I got my revenge by making her watch zombie movies.

[angela] Ahhh well that may be your approach Rob ... Shane has never actually subbed to me (not in that way at least) ... I keep an eye on what he's sending out and grab the ones that I particularly like

[angela] He has actually refused me ... in the case where he thinks he has a chance with a more prestigious publication

[Felicity] I guess it is relevant for an editor to at least consider which authors might best sell their publication - fair call

[angela] The majority of regular contributors become predictable after about their 6th or 7th sub and not necessarily because of the quality of their writing

[Stephen Dedman] But as a reader, if I see a new name in an anthology or magazine, I'm likely to be excited by that, because I know that story will probably be AT LEAST as good as the stories by the better known writers.

[Stephen Dedman] That said, issues of Eidolon that had Greg Egan's name on the cover (even if he'd written a non-fiction piece) always sold better than ones that didn't.

[Stuart Mayne] Gotta go. Thanks for the invite. It was nice to chat. All the best

[mondy] Seeya Stuart

[Stephen Dedman] Bye, Stuart

[Felicity] Thanks for your great contribution, Stuart!

[mondy] Robhood - You met Romero this week, didn't you? (Off topic)

[Robhood] Yes indeed, Mondy. Thanks to Angela and Black Magazine. He was great.

[kirstyn] I'm just a little bit green, Rob

[mondy] Robhood - Was he wearing those really blocky glasses... the one's that look like they were bought in the 70s. I think they're so cool!

[Robhood] He looks like all his pictures. The shots of himself, that is, not the living dead pictures.

[ckbezant] Does anyone want to tackle views about getting horror NOVELS published, especially here in Australia, or would it be better to stick with short fiction?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] ckbezant - horror novels are about to explode, I reckon

[BT] Craig, Chuck's new displays will probably be a half decent barometer on that

[ckbezant] with a particular publisher, or in Australia in general?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] I'd be writing that horror novel now as they may be opportunities on the horizon

[Stephen Dedman] Paranormal romance is huge, but horror... I don't know

[angela] Horror is definitely a struggle -- but then re-brand it

[BT] I guess it depends on what it's marketed as

[Robhood] I'd better go too. I've got about a dozen articles to write -- some of them for editors other than Angela.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Cya Rob ... put those braaaiiinzzz to good use!

[kirstyn] I should probably call it a night as well. Getting sleepy. Night everyone, it's been fun!

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Trust me on this... it might not be labelled horror, but there're good times on the way

[angela] it's only marketing terms

[angela] Ya beat me to it BT

[mondy] Ladies and Gentleman, I shall bid you adieu for the evening. It's been wonderful...

[ANW] Night all. Thanks for coming

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Cya Kirstyn and Mondy

[Felicity] Argh, I'll have to get over my ruffled feathers at that...I don't like pasting another name on what is actually *horror*.

[BT] I guess we all agree on that then    

[ckbezant] someone should sell horror straight to second-hand bookshops. That sounds terrible, in theory, but these places have a great set of horror books on their shelves. Now tell me to go to hell    

[kirstyn] one last word ... most of what is labelled "horror" isn't actually horror anyway, so I don't have problem with re-branding as it were. But that's a debate for another night, me thinks.

[Felicity] Yep, I'll take you up on that debate sometime, Kirstyn.    

[angela] Just think of it as a wolf in sheep’s clothing Felicity

[kirstyn] night everyone (for real this time!)

[Stephen Dedman] Conversely, Kim Wilkins has said that she wishes the Aurealis Awards didn't call her books 'horror', as it hurts her sales!

[MartyY] is that right?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] BTW... Kim Wilkins is now Kimberly Freeman in the general fiction section

[MartyY] Is Kim really that anti-horror?

[MartyY] she was such a help when the AHWA was starting up

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Yeah, Marty. I don't think Kim is anti-horror by any stretch. I just reckon the publisher wanted her to change her name now she's moving into less horrific fiction

[Stephen Dedman] I don't think Kim is anti-horror at all, but it's not how she thinks of her own more recent stuff. Last time I spoke to her, she said she preferred 'gothic romance'.

[MartyY] That’s fair enough.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] But the Kim Wilkins thing probably does reflect poor sales or a desire from the publisher to move away from her horror roots

[angela] I have a demanding cat chewing at our cords ... must put it to bed ... it's been great .. but oh so fast and furious - bye all

[MartyY] see ya Banshee

[ckbezant] Bye Angela. Thanks for answering so many questions

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] So any parting questions?

[ANW] What is the word length you are after for articles for black -any topics needed

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] ANW - we're after articles up to 3000 words for Black but articles at 800, 1200, or 1600 are your best bet

[Stephen Dedman] I think I'll call it a night, too.

[Stephen Dedman] BCNU

[MartyY] Thanks Stephen.

[ckbezant] Bye all.

[ANW] To Shane - Which issue is going to have the Nick Cave interview?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] ANW - Nick Cave has been a right pain in the arse to track down, so TBA. I think we've removed mention of him from Black's media kit for this reason

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] We do have George Romero, Jared Padalecki (Supernatural), and hopefully Fiona Horne, for issue 2

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Gary K caught [Jared Padalecki] at Supanova (in Sydney)

[ANW] I really hope it does well enough to keep going for you.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Thanks ANW, we have a lot riding on Black but we're sincerely hoping it will be a vehicle to get Aussie horror and local writers out there!

[MartyY] yeah, you must be really happy with how Issue 1 has been received

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Yeah Marty, very happy with the reception to date. It's been like a banner that the dark types (like us here) have rallied behind!

[ckbezant] I'll be plugging it at Uni for you guys, tomorrow, don't you worry. If only there was a Black t-shirt...

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Thanks in advance for the plug Craig

[ANW] Did you do the printing here or off shore

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Adam, printing is done in Melbourne (through PMP, the same guys who own our distributor Gordon and Gotch

[ckbezant] Do you have any short fiction guests lined up for Issue 2?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Craig - we have Paul Haines (interview and new short story) for issue 2. I don't think we'll have anyone else. Not sure about issue 3, either

[ckbezant] cool.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Now... just one thing I wanted to mention

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Adam asked about articles before....

[ckbezant] yep

[ANW] I think I asked about word count

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Black is ALWAYS on the lookout for new articles (particularly 800, 1200, or 1600 word pieces - and up to 3000 for something special/exclusive)... all you need to do is send Angela a <300 word pitch on your article idea

[ANW] Pitch... OK Good idea. Saves writing something totally off-topic

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] And it's not just horror stuff... we're really diversifying but keeping it DARK

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Something unusual would work best - we generally have celebs and author interviews covered, but if you have something a bit weird (for instance, we're planning articles on carnivorous gardens, body weaving etc)

[ckbezant] with Gary's piece on a haunted ghost tour in Queensland, could that be a recurring piece with different States each time (eg. here you have Fremantle Jail, etc)?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Yeah, Craig, the 'Haunted Australia

[ANW] I used to write good articles. I will certainly be sending something in a couple of weeks after I finish the short story I'm working on

[ckbezant] could get advertising too from such places... to help the mag grow, of course

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] BUT, we don't have any others written, so if you have brilliant haunted locations in your area - AND you can get high resolution photos, we'll be sold!

[MartyY] some top places in sydney

[ckbezant] I took my brother-in-law to last year's Halloween tour at the Freo Jail, to get research for my crime novel. It was a blast, and they took you to new areas like the morgue

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Freo has been on our list.... so that's one possible idea

[ckbezant] also explored an allegedly haunted underground car park in vic park, but it turned out to be nothing hot

[ckbezant] good crime location though

[ckbezant] for a story, of course

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Never heard about the underground car park, though!

[ckbezant] it turned out to be a drainage sump, not the urban legend car park.

[ANW] How much of 2 and 3 are filled?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] 2 is pretty much filled (the deadline is up within the fortnight) and 3 is pretty much a clean slate (we have some ideas, but nothing written)

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] We're looking to increase the page count (issue 1 was 56, issue 2 should be 64, issue 3?)

[ANW] Are you still getting time for your own writing at all?

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] My own writing? ha! I'm working two full time jobs (I'm the editor of a medical magazine during the day), so nooo writing for me until either Black is successful enough for me to quit the day job or else it fails and I once again find some free time

[MartyY] bugger

[ANW] Oh, I didn't know you were still doing that as well

[MartyY] am looking forward to Shards though

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] I'm coasting by on previously sold stories, so I have the illusion of proliferation

[ckbezant] This has been a really great chat with everyone, but I must go and do some editing for my novel before reality hits with Uni tomorrow. Bye all     Thanks for hosting another great one.

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Cya Craig

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Shards is touch and go... I'm still hoping it will meet the October/Conflux deadline

[MartyY] I'll keep my fingers crossed.

[ANW] And Black Box

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] It should be very interesting

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Don't worry, Adam, Black Box copies are now sitting on my coffee table ready to be sent out. It's been a long and arduous journey for that project

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] Alright, I guess I should head off, too

[Shane Jiraiya Cummings] It's been great - thanks for hosting the chat, Adam

[ANW] Goodnight Shane. Thanks for coming.

 

Document Created: 6th August, 2008 | Last Updated: 5th August, 2008