This is the third installment of my posts about lessons learned from slush. You can read the other two parts here: Part One, Part Two.
We read a lot of slush. We’ve written a lot of stuff. Sometimes we see bad habits that we realize we’ve been doing all along. These posts are about lessons we’ve learned.
Short recap of disclaimers:
- I hate canned advice.
- There’s a reason that advice exists.
- This is skewed towards short fiction editors because I am one.
- You can’t account for luck, but you can make choices about your fiction. This is about those choices.
Welcome to part two of “I’ve read a bunch of slush and I think I’ve learned something.” You can find Part One here. You can find Part Three here.
This post also got long, so there will be a part three. Sorry. I babble.
To recap stuff from the other one: we’ve read a bunch of stories over the years, and we’ve noticed things that a lot of writers do that are frustrating as an editor. Many of these things are things we’ve also done as writers, so it’s extra embarrassing. This is a chance to share these insights.
Here’s the super short version of my disclaimers.
- I hate “conventional wisdom.”
- But knowing what editors experience can help.
- I use the term “editor” because I’m an editor. This advice may not apply to other groups.
- This advice is about controlling what you can control, because there’s so much you can’t.
We just finished reading through 240+ stories for our new anthology. Other people have echoed similar sentiments, but reading slush really highlights things I’ve done as a writer that I probably want to rethink. I thought I might share some of the things I’ve seen over five years of slush.
This post got longer than intended so I’m breaking this up into
two three posts. You’re welcome. (Click here for Part Two. Click here for Part Three.)
I’ll try to focus more on things I could do better. When using examples from things we’ve edited, I’ll also try to highlight things from Mad Scientist Journal rather than anything recent.
Before I dig in, here are some disclaimers:
- I dislike the idea of “conventional wisdom.” In part because of survivorship bias. In part because there are constant exceptions to any rule that gets laid down.
- One of the many pearls of wisdom I learned from James Gunn’s writer’s workshop is: never give an editor an excuse to say, “No.” There’s value in knowing why an editor will say no.
- I say “editors” because it’s what I am and what I know. This could apply to agents, publishers, or other literary gatekeepers you want to impress. But I’m just going to say editors because I’m lazy.
- The advice here is about controlling what you can actually control. The universe is fickle and there are variables that you have no way to know about or plan for. So focus on what you can actually do.
It’s Tuesday after the 40th annual Norwescon, held in beautiful and scenic Seatac. While it’s fresh in my mind, I thought I’d jot down a few notes since there had been some interest in things I learned.
I got curious recently, and poked at some numbers for ebook sales. I often wonder whether there’s value in not caving and using Amazon exclusively. Amazon has some perks for people who only publish ebooks through them. You appear in Amazon Unlimited, Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, and get better royalties in some international markets.
But I’ve avoided doing it because it means aiding a monopoly, and it doesn’t sit right for me.
I’ve generally known that my stuff on Amazon sells better, but I don’t usually bother do do an extensive comparison. But here’s a look at 2016 numbers. I’m sharing it here in case anyone is curious.
Today I got a slap in the face for not being more scrupulous about third-party services and Terms of Service Agreements. I don’t have any recourse, so all I can do at this point is share my experience and hope others learn from my lesson.
Shilling is a crappy part of being a writer. Or publisher even, since I technically qualify as that too. I really hate doing it, and when I do shill I try to do it in respectful, non-spammy ways.
I also make no money as a writer and even less as a publisher. So there are obviously some flaws to how I market.
Still, nothing turns me off more than strangers randomly trying to mass network with me. I wouldn’t even think I was worth shmoozing, but it does happen once in a blue moon. (A friend and I were approached after we were on a panel at a tiny convention by someone who wanted to press their business card on us. I had no idea what to do.) Even my tiny little zine, Mad Scientist Journal, gets a bit of spamming from people who don’t know me but want to team up or something.
This weekend represented the first convention I attended in which I got to appear as a panelist. RustyCon is one of the smaller conventions in the Seattle area that caters to the general fan community. The impression I got is that they consider themselves a bit more of a family friendly convention compared to Norwescon. According to their site they have membership of about 500-600. It didn’t seem that crowded to me, but then there were parts of the convention we just never went to.
This year I attended my second conference run by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. This year was a very different experience from last year in many ways. It was at a different hotel, I was able to attend on Thursday and Friday, and I wasn’t pitching to any agents or editors. This led to some good moments, some bad.
I’ve come to realize it’s been almost two months since I last posted anything here. Things have been a little stupid busy round these parts, not helped by the fact that work has been busy and then they revised their internet policy to prohibit 99% of personal internet use.