Behind the Scenes
Q & A #6
If you have questions about writing or publishing or whatever, leave them in the comments or e-mail them to roxane at roxanegay dot com and we will find you some answers.
How formal should I be when submitting work to a place where I’ve been accepted before? It doesn’t seem like I should be totally laid back about it, but it also feels weird to send a “Dear Ms./Mr. [Editor]:” type thing to someone who I’ve personally corresponded with before.
I’ve done this once before, but the situation was unique in that I had a collaborative story that was two files, so I wrote to just ask if he’d be interested in reading it. He said yes, so I sent it. It was all pretty informal. I plan to send a story to another editor who accepted a story of mine a few months ago, and asked to see another one. I’ll most likely email him to ask how he would like me to send it: something like “Hey [First Name], I’ve got that second story ready for you; how should I send it to you?” As with most things submissions-related, I tend to feel pretty relaxed about how I try to interact with editors. I think it’s important to get a sense of each relationship, and go with what feels best. To me, “Dear Mr./Mrs. Editor” feels too formal, but “Dear [First Name]” is fine. I don’t know.
I think it depends on how well you know the editorial staff. Dear John seems like it would be appropriate if you’ve established an editorial relationship. The chances are, at most magazines, that editor John won’t see your submission initially but he will eventually. I find that Dear First Name always works well with editors who have published me while I use Dear First Name Last Name for magazines where I am submitting unsolicited work and with which I have no previous relationship.
Do any HTMLGIANT contributors think that the work of language writers have influenced their practice or those of some of the writers regularly loved here. I’m thinking Ever, I guess.
I can only speak for myself, but I’m heavily influenced by the French “écriture” writers of the 70s & 80s, and these writers certainly had correspondence with the language writers. As for the actual language writers I can only claim to have drawn any influence from Craig Watson, but I assume that is due more to the fact that I haven’t actually read many of the language writers than any particularly attachment to Watson (though I will insist that in my meager experience with the language writers, Watson has more in common with the Frenchies than his American brethren).
So, as someone who hasn’t been published yet (but has a story forthcoming), my question is, how do you know when it’s worth it to submit to a publication that doesn’t pay and when it’s not?
Two questions: (1) Is the publication in a magazine or website you respect, where your story will be published alongside stories with which you’d be proud to keep company?; and (2) Is the story a story you’ll be proud to have published five years from now, when the heat and happiness of acceptance has faded and you’re stuck with its continued presence in the world? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then of course you should submit your story to the magazine or website, whether or not it pays. Let’s face it: There’s hardly any money in writing short stories anyway, or not much. And the notable exceptions — The New Yorker, Esquire, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The Georgia Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, Zoetrope, etc. — are more valuable for the audience they offer and the prestige they confer than the money they offer. Where there’s real money (a dwindling thing in the age of ebooks), it’s in writing commercial-ish novels or screenplays or works of narrative nonfiction, and that only for the fortunate few. So money’s not why you’re doing it. You’re doing it for love, and if you’re like me, you’re also hoping you’ll find and cultivate an audience of readers. The best you can do is to do right by yourself and by those readers, by making something worth your time and theirs, and publishing it in a place that will likewise do right by the work, whether it pays or not.
Money is nice, sure. I’ve submitted to editors that seem to pay well. But I also don’t often think about how I can get money from a story. I guess I’m saying it doesn’t drive how I choose to send a story to an editor who pays or an editor who doesn’t or can’t pay. Other things, I think, should influence my decision too.
More than worrying about whether or not a publication pays, I’d aim for worrying about whether or not you actually like or respect the publication that you’re submitting to. Money shouldn’t enter into it. If you like a mag & you’ve got a story that you think would fit really well into the mag, then submit it. From what I can figure out, the real reason to get published, particularly in a magazine that fits your specific aesthetic, is that it will result in people who already appreciate (some approximation of) your aesthetic reading your story.
Does it make more sense to have stories derived from a novel come out closer to the publication date of that novel?
If the stories are derived from the novel, then it would be cool to have them appear around the publication date. But I don’t know enough about the situation, I guess, to make a judgement. The coordinating it would take between different editors and your publisher to try to time the release might create a bit of a headache, but it’s worth asking your publisher, as getting more readers to be aware of your stories and the novel is cool.
It’s so hard to time something like that. Publication schedules are strange. Many magazines are accepting work now for 2012 and 2013 so it would take a lot of coordination to time the publication of excerpts and the release of a novel. I find that excerpts from to-be-published work are a nice pre-cursor, even if they are published well in advance. I wouldn’t worry so much about trying to create a confluence of your writing dropping into the world at once.