(Happy Summer Solstice!)
At Balticon52, I had the opportunity to attend an Ask Me Anything panel of Editors and Publishers. Usually in my panel notes, I skim over the panelists to get to the meat, but in this case, I feel their expertise was part of the draw.
The publishers and editors in question were:
- Walt Boyes – an award-winning journalist, writer, and editor of the Industrial Automation INSIDER, the Grantville Gazette, (the magazine of the 1632 Universe), co-editor of Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press, and a member of the 1632 Editorial Board.
- Scott H. Andrews – a writer, musician, and the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies. He’s a six-time Hugo Award finalist and with his podcast, a five-time Parsec Award finalist. [Fun fact: he always gives personalized rejections!]
- For non-querying writers, I know that sounds kinda… pathetic. But if you’re in the querying trenches, you know what that’s worth.
- Neil Clarke – the editor and publisher of the Hugo and World Fantasy Award-winning magazine, Clarkesworld.
- Ian Randal Strock– a writer, plus the owner and editor-in-chief of Gray Rabbit Publications/Fantastic Books (www.FantasticBooks.biz). Previously, he edited and published Artemis Magazine and SFScope. He also worked on the editorial staffs of Analog, Asimov’s, Science Fiction Chronicle, and many others.
- (moderated by) Jeff Young – an award-winning author, bookseller, and editor of several anthologies.
So let’s get this rolling. Here are the questions.
1. What is Your Biggest Pet Peeve?
The top three answers were:
- Zombie Stories — they’ve been done
- Writers who don’t READ THE GUIDELINES
- Writers who argue with critiques
Even if you disagree with the critique or the suggestion, don’t argue with someone who spent their time and energy to give you feedback.
Give that section of your prose a closer look
- Is it moving the story along?
- What is it adding?
- Could you do it better–not necessarily the way they suggested.
2. Should A Writer Use Different Names For Different Genres?
As with all writing advice, it depends on the situation:
- If you’re doing your own marketing, starting over with a new name doubles the amount of work you have to do to get traction.
- If you’re with a large publisher, it can be helpful for the marketing.
That said, there are of course caveats:
- You can end up getting shelved in the library/bookstores alongside whatever genre you first published in.
- If you’re doing both Children’s books and explicit erotica — it can be helpful to make sure kids don’t end up with a book they probably didn’t mean to get.
Regarding publishing names in general:
When choosing which name to be published under (birth name or pen name), searchability reigns supreme.
You want to be high in the search result, but also easy to spell.
Simplified spelling, middle initials, mining family names, or deciding who you want to be shelved next to are good places to start.
3. How Has The Market Changed In The Last Ten Years?
The top 3 ways the market’s changed:
- More exploring of the human condition in fantasy, a lot of the exploration is reactionary — which has a shorter shelf life. Morgan’s side note: It might be more overt, but I’d argue that fantasy has ALWAYS explored the human condition.
- The rise in the respectability of online magazines.
- Massive growth in international markets.
4. Where Do Querying Writers Lose You?
There was a lot of discussion on this question, so I’ll break it into high-level and specifics.
The top three high-level answers were:
- When I quit caring.
- If you make it work to follow the narrative.
- If they don’t remember it the next day.
- Note: This editor also said that the bad stories blur together, they don’t typically remember them.
Top 4 things that break their buy-in:
- ‘Red line of death’ – Boredom, implausibility, names that don’t fit the setting
- Implausibility – where all emotions are explicit rather than undercurrents. Most people don’t spell everything out for each other in real life.
- External commentary (even by the narrator) – “If I’d only known then…”
- A character doing something stupid or out-of-character (OOC)
I always find getting an insider perspective on the industry enlightening. Hopefully, these answers help you as much as they helped me.