Crowd Funding and Open Calls, As Well As the Inevitable Rambling

There comes a time between dusk and 3:00 am – the hour of very naked silence, that not-quite-morning of too-full darkness and unwelcome ghosts – when everything fades out. A time when the quiet settles in and everything stops, as though the clock of the world had wound down and its final tick lingers in the air.

If you’re a horror writer then you’re probably familiar with this phenomenon. Some writers are fond of the witching hour, others of the burning light of day. To each their own. I myself prefer the darkness – the dead of night. And in the winter, here, in Canada, there is a lot of night to be had. As the days grow shorter the feel of the world shifts. Black fades to white (or will when we get some consistent fucking snow in Toronto; enough to lay down a proper blanket, anyway), white to black, and back again.

Fall and winter are beautiful seasons. Both possessed of fascinating qualities of light. Those moments when the afternoon sun crests in mid-autumn, the fall of light breaking through a copse of trees. Or the light turning golden and filtering through shifting shades of leaves to hit ground covered in a scattered, fallen field of ruddy, cast off dried-blood foliage. The liquid, blisteringly white sun of winter turning a field of ice and snow so brilliantly luminous that it burns the eyes. There is a subtle scent to the approach of winter, a change in the world, often coming with the first, burning kiss of hoarfrost.

Hold close to your springs and your summers, seasons of growth and change. I will hove to the subtle tang of decay, the blank slate of winter. I will find my own sense of burgeoning in the corpse-riddled earth, that it may pave the way for your newborn springs, birthed from the cadaverous blooms of my season. Yes, leave me winter, preceded by the slow decay of autumn.

Given my seasonal preferences it should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that I was born in the winter. Deep winter, really, heading on toward spring. During a blizzard, no less. Couple of days before it hit New York, apparently.

*sigh*

It is an evening, or night if you prefer, of rambling and stray thoughts. And I find myself not in the mood to talk about my own projects. Instead, I think, I will share the work of others. The work of enjoyable people all, and things properly dark and bleak (in terms of atmosphere, conversely quite compelling in terms of quality) in this, the onset of winter.

If You’ve Some Funds Handy, Toss It To These Fine People

Apparitions 2: Michael Kelly, who is a friend, a bloody good writer, and a damn fine editor (and who has also been good enough for the second year running to act as one of the Final Panel Judges for the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest), is fundraising to produce a sequel to his Shirley Jackson Award finalist anthology Apparitions. Mike is fundraising specifically to get enough money together to pay pro rates to the writers, the artist, and the designer. He’s running what IndieGoGo terms a “Fixed Funding” campaign, so if he doesn’t make his goal all bets are off and everyone who contributed gets their money back. I, for one, would very much like to see this anthology happen as Mike produces some stellar work through his literary journal Shadows & Tall Trees, as well as his other editorial work (if you haven’t read the first volume of Chilling Tales you’re missing out on some fabulous stories), and the rewards are quite excellent on this fundraiser. Not to mention that Mike has solicited for work from Glen Hirshberg, Kathe Koja, John Langan, Sarah Langan, Mark Morris, Reggie Oliver, M. Rickert, and Simon Strantzas for when the anthology comes together. Mike is also planning to hold an open call for a few (not sure how many yet) slots once this thing happens, with the open call to be held in February of 2013. Any opportunity to publish alongside names like those – and at pro rates? – is a welcome one. If you’re contributing to this one, you need to do so no later than January 15th, 2013.

Fearful Symmetries: An Anthology of Horror: Speaking of potential opportunities to publish alongside extraordinary names in the field, Ellen Datlow has teamed with ChiZine Publications to produce an anthology of all-original horror fiction (non-themed) from some of her favourite writers. I gather from something said elsewhere that Datlow has tentatively solicited for work for this anthology. She’s actively named Laird Barron, Kaaron Warren, Elizabeth Hand, Lucius Shepard, Sarah Pinborough, Jeffrey Ford, and Joe. R. Lansdale, among others, as the kind of writers she enjoys working with and plans to go to again for this. Again, this is an anthology looking to provide professional funding to everyone involved, and pay for production costs as well. And like Apparitions 2 there will be an open reading period for Fearful Symmetries – the date for which will be announced once the funding goal is reached. This anthology, too, is a fixed funding campaign (this one through Kickstarter), so if the funding goal isn’t reached it won’t come together. You need to back this one before January 10th, 2013 if you’re going to.

Places You Should Consider Submitting Your Work To

Black Apples Anthology: Belladonna Publishing (a new Scandinavian publisher taking novels in English for international distribution) is compiling a dark/gothic fairy tale (not straight retellings) anthology centering around the notion of the princess (this does not have to be literal).  The editors want work that is “beautiful, sensuous and sinister,” and are looking for stories ranging from 3,000 – 10,000 words in length. The anthology pays a flat $120.00 upon publication, with royalties on e-book sales to boot. Multiple subs and simsubs allowed, though no reprints. Deadline on submissions is January 15th, 2013. Though the publisher is new, and this is their first attempt at putting together an anthology, I very much like what I’ve seen of this company via their website and their fascinating blog posts. If you’re going to sub to this, you really want to spend some time reading their blog to get a feel for what the publisher is looking for in this anthology, and in more general terms for novel submissions. There is a very particular aesthetic to Belladonna Publishing, and you want to ideally capture that.

– Actually, you know what? That prompts a long timeout containing a whack of free advice from an editor (seriously, I’m wearing my editor’s hat as I write this – the one I use for Apex and the FoMSSC, among other things, so pay attention):

There are only three real mistakes you can make when subbing to a publisher, and they’re all easily avoided. We’ll approach them as “dos” rather than “don’ts”.

First, follow the guidelines a publisher lays out. Publishing “Guidelines” are actually Rules and they are used by publishers to streamline their work on the editorial end of things, at all levels. The time you spend formatting, fixing, and preparing a submission allows an editor to give it a reasonable, intelligent look at speed, and decide what to do with it. It’s not just an act of courtesy: you’re ensuring that an editor gives your work a fair read, and that the formatting doesn’t detract from the work. Not following a magazine/publications’s guidelines tells an editor you’re either too new to this to know better and will hopefully grow out of it (i.e. you aren’t reading the guidelines because you’re still figuring out how this submission thing works), or, conversely, that you just don’t give a shit (you’d be surprised how many people actually fall into category B).

Second, don’t ever argue with a rejection (especially if someone has taken the time to give you feedback as to why something doesn’t work for them, or has gone out of their way to provide a critique). Arguing that the editor doesn’t know what they’re doing (and if you truly believe that why do you want to work with them?) is not going to do you any good, and you’re going to be the asshole nobody wants to work with. Also? Editors have a habit of sharing stories about the assholes we don’t want to work with, and then you get blacklisted at not just one, but at multiple publications.

Third, figure out the aesthetic and publication preferences of the publication you’re submitting to before you submit. The advice “read the publication before you submit” is great advice, but not for the reason that’s normally given. Every publication has an image of itself, and what it thinks it wants. This is partly based in editorial style, and partly in a publication’s stated intent. And, yes, the aesthetic, and content type, of any magazine changes with a change in editor(s). Witness Strange HorizonsApex, and Weird Tales within the last year and a half or so – the editorial changes for which have resulted in shifts ranging from minor aesthetic changes to radical departures from the aspirations of the previous editors. And even without editorial changeover, a magazine’s self-image seldom holds true, partly because editors don’t always know what they really want until they get it, and also because they think they’re producing one kind of publication and are really producing another. Also, sometimes, because the definitions they use for what they want aren’t actually the definitions they need to be using, but that discussion turns into a long digression on the nature of marketing terminology and the absurdity of genre differentiation, so we’ll leave that alone for now, shall we? Tied into this third point is the idea that by familiarizing yourself with a publication you can get an accurate read of the kind of story you should be submitting. Some publications have a wide range of stories they’ll look at and publish – most actually have a surprisingly narrow range of moods, atmospheres, or aesthetics they regularly publish. Take Daily Science Fiction, which ostensibly runs stories of all kinds. The vast majority of stories that DSF buys are sentimental soft SF, heavy on the saccharine and human condition angle. Not a bad thing, but definitely not as diverse a range, aesthetically speaking, as they think they buy. And you should alwaysalways send submissions to publications where they’re likely to actually sell (or where you think they might be appropriate to try your work because it might fit).

Speaking to this, one of the dumbest fucking pieces of advice I ever read was someone (I forget who, and I’m really hoping it’s not someone I otherwise think well of) suggesting that writers should send everything they write to Clarkesworld first, and then work their way down through the pro markets. Is trying pro markets generally a good idea? Sure. Though, not everything you write is going to sell to a pro market (it’s a combination of limited space, the fact that not every story is ready to try for a pro market yet – a lot of the stories I see coming in at Apex still need multiple rounds of editing before they’re ready for pro subbing – and also the fact that for some types of stories there aren’t pro markets that will generally take that genre[s]). Now, speaking specifically to Clarkesworld, unless you’re writing exquisitely written (as in “brilliant prose”) stories that play with boundaries, borders (personal or societal), or assumptions, (and fair warning, Clarkesworld publishes primarily SF with occasional, but rare, forays into other genres) don’t submit your fucking story to Clarkesworld, because the odds are not in your favour. Literally. Clarkesworld solicits for two-thirds of their stories right now. Unless that policy changed and wasn’t noted anywhere, they’re only able to buy 12 unsolicited subs in a year. Clarkesworld receives over 12,000 submissions in a year. By sending your stories that don’t fit the magazine, or that aren’t yet pro quality (if you’re going to be submitting to venues, especially pro venues, you have to take the time to assess your own work in this light) all you’re doing is wasting everyone’s time, theirs and yours. If you honestly think your story has a shot at Clarkesworld, or you’re not sure and you want to try, then go for it. By all means. They’re nice people, and the worst they can do is say no (and their no is a form rejection, so it won’t ever be something unkind). But subbing to them first will tell you nothing about why your story works or doesn’t since Clarkesworld isn’t in a position to offer personal feedback given the constraints on their time. And you should never send a submission because someone else thinks that market is a great starting point for your scattershot submissions.

And that’s another point we’re now going to cover. Scattershot submissions are a bad idea on so many levels. Start sending your stories to a market that the story is appropriate for. Do it one. At. A. Time. The only time it’s ever okay to send simultaneous submissions (which you should totally get out of the habit of doing, because this will fuck you over) is when ALL of the publications to which you are submitting that story take simsubs, and you’re honestly not sure which of them it would make more sense to try for, and/or they all take a really long time to respond. For the record, a year actually isn’t a long time. Does waiting a year to hear back on the status of a story suck? Oh, hell yes (this is another one of those stupid reasons why whoever it was suggested flinging everything at Clarkesworld first, since they usually respond anywhere from same day to within four days – newsflash: that was the first read pile and if Clarkesworld sent you the rejection that fast it means the story had no hope of selling to them in the first place and all you did was waste everyone’s time). To avoid the year long wait you should look for publications with a shorter turnaround time. Guess what? Many genre publications have a six month or less turnaround time. The year+ turnaround tends to be more intrinsic to lit pubs, for a whole whack of reasons we’re really not going to go into right now (maybe another time, I’m just not in the mood for that long of a digression at the moment). Duotrope‘s collated listings of response times are usually reasonably accurate, though since DT is going paid access come January 1st, I’m not entirely sure that information is going to be publicly accessible, and it’s worth mentioning that the response times information will become less useful since it’s compiled from user input and it’s reasonable to assume that most of DT’s (current) full user base (you know, the ones who weren’t supporting DT with donations already) won’t be sticking around once the system requires them to pay for the submission tracking system.

Jesus, these potential digressions are endless. Perhaps at some point I should start talking about different aspects of the publishing industry post by post. I don’t know. What do those of you reading the blog think? Leave some input in the Comments section if you’d be interested in seeing more of this material or if you want to see something specifically. Granted, this site doesn’t get a huge amount of traffic, but if people want to see this kind of thing I can put it together on specific subjects.

Anyway, back to places to submit your work:

Sword and Mythos Anthology: Note: This one doesn’t open until January 15th, 2013Innsmouth Free Press ran a successful IndieGoGo campaign to put together enough funds to make this a pro rate anthology (.05/word). Taking stories up to 5,000 words in length, Sword and Mythos combines the pulp genres of the Cthulhu Mythos and sword and sorcery. Variety is key here, in terms of characters, setting and other aspects. The guidelines speak volumes as to what the editors (pretty sure that both Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles are going to work on this one) want, so you should read them carefully. The sub window will be open from January 15th, 2013 – February 15th, 2013.

Imaginarium 2013 (Year’s Best) Anthology: For those of you not familiar with Imaginarium, the first volume of this Canadian-only year’s best anthology (the first one edited by Sandra Kasturi and Halli Villegas) came out this summer, and it was fucking amazing. The next volume will be released next year, and this year’s editors, Sandra Kasturi and Samantha Beiko, are already reading for the second volume (have been for quite a while, actually). And now I’m just going to cheat and paste the guidelines for submitting your previously published work below:

Imaginarium 2013 will be edited by Samantha Beiko and Sandra Kasturi. It will again feature the best genre writing published by Canadians (citizens, residents & ex-pats). Please send any genre (SF, fantasy, horror, magic realist) short fiction and poetry you had published in 2012 to bestcanspec@chizinepub.com, as an attachment, citing where it was previously published. Deadline: December 31, 2012.

There are other open calls, but these are the ones that came immediately to mind tonight. Also, I’m finicky about what I choose to lend credence to, and the vast majority of publications whose open calls consist of the word “exposure” in terms of payment can, and should, go fuck themselves. There are very few reasons to publish your work without payment, and in all but a few cases the words “charity anthology” should be in there somewhere. Though magazines like Supernatural Tales are exempt from the vitriol I spew in the general direction of non-paying publications because of the quality of the work David Longhorn pulls in, and the quality of the pub itself, and I’m sure if I thought about this longer I could come up with one or two other non-paying publications who I like, and would not deride.

Again, that is material to be posted another time.

For now, I’m just going to bugger off and do other things as we’ve passed the 3:00 am mark, and sleep is still very far away …

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