Friday, January 23, 2009

Emboldened Agni


You've just got to LOVE a form rejection (click photo to read) with a bolded statement that says "This is not our customary rejection slip."  
  • Generous business view:  This rejection supports the assertion that there are tiered rejections at literary magazines.
  • Conspiracy theory view: the p.s. confirms that the statement is just a ploy to keep people feeling hopeful enough to buy a discounted subscription. 

105 comments:

anonymous jane said...

For Agni, I vote 'Generous Business View' since many of their contributors are people who don't teach creative writing, which I believe, indicates their editors are open to a wider range of contributors, and therefore they probably do read for quality.

Had this rejection come from Pshares, I would vote 'Conspiracy Theory,' a ploy to get subscriptions out of people whose work they will never accept. 95% of their contribs teach at creative writing programs and the other 5% are famous, or something close. Most people who earn MFAs don't end up teaching CW, and a big chunk of people who consider themselves writers don't even have a MFA. I choose not to teach with my MFA and because of that I will never get into Pshares? I'm not supporting that journal.

Jade Park said...

I love that AGNI has tiered rejections (I've gotten that "not our customary rejection slip" every time I've submitted and gotten rejected).

The litmag at which I'm an editor also has tiered rejections. If you've "almost" gotten in, then I believe you should KNOW!

Anonymous said...

I got one of these from them a while back that had the words, "LOG IN AND RETURN" pencilled on it.

Nice, eh?

Anonymous said...

Any rejection letter that actually encourages you to send more work is NOT a typical form rejection. I would take the bolded statement at face value.

Of course there are tiered rejections at literary magazines! With the high volume of mostly bad submissions, readers and editors need the option of encouraging the better writers whose work is still not right for their magazines.

You can't blame a literary magazine for trying to get subscriptions any way they can. If submitters (ideally part of the audience for literary magazines) don't subscribe, who will?

Cynicism is one way to respond to massive amounts of rejection, but it's not the only way. Cynicism functions well as a self-protective stance, but it's corrosive for morale. I think it's more healthy and productive to learn to be realistic (ie. not naive) about one's publishing prospects in the current moment than to resort to cynicism.

Trying to publish right now requires a long-term perspective. The industry is in transition. The old way (NY-centered publishing houses) is hobbling along, and the new way (yet to be defined but certainly web-centered and focused less on a Capitalist model of pure profit) is just taking its first tentative steps.

If you have a real vocation to a literary life, if writing--the solitary, delighted immersion in words--has chosen you, maybe even against your will, to be a medium through which something unique can express itself, then you have your task, and no one should be able stop you. You have to persevere in the face of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles facing emerging writers trying to break into print.

I'm sure if I'm not ignored, I'll be soundly mocked, but I believe that a literary life is first and foremost about a calling, not about publishing. Naturally, everyone wants to be published. I often feel enraged, depressed, frustrated, and desperate about the state of things. There is something healthy and consoling about people being able to rant and commiserate about all the rejection on a blog like this. But after a certain point, emotion about rejection becomes a distraction for a writer.

Anonymous said...

read an interview by agni's fiction editor that she writes tiny comments for each submission. so why not send them to the author?

also, while esubmission makes things cheap and easy for the writer, i'm not sure it's as good as before ... in the past, you submit paper and if you submit a manila envelope with postage for return of your ms., perhaps the editor will write something on it. now, i NEVER hear of editors writing comments in your file and sending it back. is that new online "submission manager" software that they all use, is that good for writers? is it good for the current lousy state of publishing?

another btw, if i may rant. (this is NOT about agni). but it's still so hard to know what each little journal wants. agni's fiction editor said what she wants but it's like the same thing they all say - she wants great use of language or something or other. what editors say, "i don't care too much about the language, just give me memorable characters?" no, they ALL say "i want my socks knocked off" "i want your story to grab me and punch my teeth out" "i want to read poetry that floors me, sends me off the cliff with joy in my eyes..." - i could put hotlinks here to the actual embarrassing statements of these editors (most of them kids really) but i'm busy. but you know, so much of this talk by editors sounds like a load of bs. (not AGNI here, this is a rant on journals in general). but a lot of it is like total bs. and a lot of these readers who want their teeth knocked out/socks blown off/free group fellatio/whatever, well they talk in the most hackneyed of cliches, expressing nothing but the most trite and tiresome sentiments, and they seem totally oblivious to this. they can't express themselves. they are TOTALLY addicted to being "hip" and fashionable - like the grade school nerds who grow up to be sex symbols. they are HOOKED on this. every move they make is guage to how they will be accepted in their little literary world. if you told them to take responsibility for publishing a truly controversial work they would have to call their hmos and get hospitalized because they'd freak out about how it would affect their future careers. and generally speaking for the most part they are so enormously shallow, all have the same political/religious/philosphical points of view, have all the same everything. it sux.

Native Ink said...

A couple points:

A "good" tiered rejection is ineffective compared to a simple, even short, handwritten comment. Writers really like editors who take the time to pass along their opinions and advice. With the rise of creative writing programs, have editors completely abdicated this traditional role?

Also, in response to the handwringing over online submission managers, these programs do save editorial comments so the magazine can observe a track record of good writing from a particular author. Sounds good to me in theory. I hope in practice it helps deserving authors actually get published.

Anonymous said...

one more anectode, if i may. not wanting to stray off too far off topic of agni's tiered rejections (i've got lots of em both, plus the third "personal note", and am wondering how often to resubmit or to lay off for a while), but it applies to them too:

notice how academic publications hate "college stories"? never set a story in a college, in college time, in the dorms, with college kids. double-no for mfa students or mfa programs. it's considered gauche. one pub even includes, as a potential reasons why your story was rejected: "it was set in college."

it's like they know that college is not the real world, that the real world happens elsewhere and they don't want to hear about what goes on in your tiny college life.

i don't know what this means, just sayin'.

anonymissy said...

I think there is a problem with online submissions too -- is it just me, or is anyone else noticing that online rejections rarely contain anything that could be construed as a personal comment? With paper submissions, I get those heartening, "please submit again" kind of comments about 1/3 of the time. But with online submissions, I can't tell if I got anywhere with my story because the language always sounds canned. Maybe the message here is to ignore that stuff and just keep sending out what you think is your best work to places you like, where the editors sound the way you'd like editors to sound.

And I'm with anon above -- I hate that exhortation to write throat grabbing stories. Who wants to have their throat grabbed all the time? I like to be sidled up to and charmed every once in a while, thank you very much.

Nikki said...

Hey Anon., above...

You write:

"in the past, you submit paper and if you submit a manila envelope with postage for return of your ms., perhaps the editor will write something on it."

Uh oh, oh great, I think I'm doing something wrong!

I always submit a #10 business envelope with a stamp on it and my name and address stamped for the "to" address. Should I be submitting a large envelope with enough postage for return of the story?? No wonder all I have are little rejection slips, no special comments!!

Nikki

anonymongoose said...

I completely agree with the 12:54 Anonymous about these submissions guidelines. "Your fiction submission should be a toothy vagina that bites my ear off and mails it to Van Gogh. I want to read a story that makes me call my estranged uncle Henry in the middle of the night to ask for a booty call."

what? I can write a story about vajayjays with teeth and uncle incest, but a story cannot be those things. Sorry. Maybe if I learn origami it's possible, but I really don't have the inclination. I believe these guidelines are some inside joke/competition among editors to see who can write the most ridiculous masthead blurbs.

Anonymous said...

The compliment implied by the bold type in this rejection slip is just that: a compliment.

I know because just today I received the dreaded "customary" rejection slip from AGNI, and it included the P.S. "thanking" me for submitting by way of a discounted subscription.

As for the e-submission thing, I do think it is good for the writer. First, we've seen nothing but bitter complaints here on LROD every time editors discuss what they really think of writing (VQR, anyone, or the P&W young editors' discussion?). And even if you think you want feedback from editors, there is a space for comments by editors in that online submission format so many journals have adopted. And then there's your email address, if they must tell you how glorious your writing is, or how dreadful.

For me, getting out of the house to the post office is an ordeal, and money is tight, so I greatly appreciate the convenience and non-expense of the online submissions system.

gimme said...

Well put, 12:35.

But would it KILL you people to just choose a danged handle when you post?

I mean, we're supposed to be creative types, right? So how come everyone just chooses the default "anonymous"?

Anonymous said...

I just got home from three hours of reading submissions to a literary magazine I work for (not for pay, of course). I rejected all but three, which I passed over to the senior editor, who quickly rejected those. Sigh.

Most of the stories we get are just plain boring. That's all: not horrible, not embarrassing. They use either dry, uninspired language or pretentious, awkward language. About half of them involve some kind sexual violence, which is apparently there for shock value because it has no meaning more complex than that.

I came home feeling vaguely depressed and wondering if reading manuscripts gives some insight into the inner lives of Americans. I certainly hope not.

Anonymous said...

2:47, one reason is that, even though the comments are moderated, W,R doesn't do a very consistent job of moderating, so that she lets through some remarkably offensive stuff. One poster was told he was too old and should enjoy his oatmeal, for instance. Why expose yourself to that when W,R doesn't care? (She'll come back with how she's on deadline. Right.)

There are other things that puzzle me about this thread. One is that, in fact, I've had quite a number of feedback comments on rejections. Why are people submitting to AGNI via snail mail, and AGNI so exclusively? Many zine editors will comment pretty extensively on e-mail. Following these threads, I get insight into Bukowski's pieces on the track: he doesn't have respect for the folks who always bet the long shots, which it seems to me that many here do.

But many zines in fact include the actual comments from the readers in their rejections: flashquake, for instance, and Sotto Voce. The comments are usually pretty ridiculous -- I think they come from students -- but they're comments. And specific ones. They're not that hard to get.

Anonymous said...

Here's another puzzlement about this site. 1:48 says "never set a story in a college, in college time, in the dorms, with college kids. double-no for mfa students or mfa programs. it's considered gauche." So, er, why did this story get a pushcart nomination?

Not only that, but the editor of the zine that nominated it is a PhD candidate in an English department.

The generalizations here are pretty remarkable.

Anonymous said...

I just want to agree in particular with the very first post. I like Agni. I've gotten a couple of good comments on my rejections. Moreso, reading Agni, they really do publish a variety of stuff. You get the idea it's not a soulless back-scratching place. That said, Ploughshares- I liked reading the stats on them! My biggest problem with them is the whole "guest editor" for every issue. Usually, that editor will publish his/her friends and that's about it! So why bother? I don't. Unless, of course, some friend of mine is the "guest editor". Then I might try them again.

gimme said...

"2:47, one reason is that, even though the comments are moderated, W,R doesn't do a very consistent job of moderating "

I think you're misunderstanding me. I'm not talking about revealing your real identity. I'm talking about just choosing a name - any name - for when you post. See, that way you can refer to me as "gimme" instead of "2:47".

Just makes it easier to have a discussion when people embrace a smidegeon of indivuduality.

Tho, perhaps the fact that it's so hard to get a bunch of writers to do this is revealing in itself...

Anonymous said...

anonymous jane:

i think you've summed it up well. and i offer a question/suggestion for the crowd. have you ever dared to submit to an academic journal like pshares with a fake credit? like "as of jan 2009, i teach creative writing in the mfa program at kalamazoo university"?

after accepting it, just tell them you want to update your bio and drop the teaching credit. if they squeal, call them on their phony insider-ness and proclaim it to the world. show the world that these journals are 100% fricking frauds that only publish the world of their fellow-teachers, as a way to bone up each others' cv's. i mean really, worth a try, isn't it? i think we should consider this as a mass movement, and see what these journals do.

no darin, for the love of god said...

why isn't John commenting under his own name anymore? I recognize the comment about bukowski and the one with the link to the pushcart prize nominee as our boy John's posts.

No Country for Old Men said...

no darin, for the love of god said:

John's not posting under his own name because while he can dole out nasty comments (to the likes of Darin), he can't take it. (Notice how he's still whimpering over the oatmeal comment. I say, "Boo hoo.") But, yes, his comments are transparent. (Zines, anyone?) John needs either to buck up and take the criticism or rethink his past behavior.

Anonymous said...

Tell ya what, no darin, if you can get darin's imaginary friends to straighten things out and post at least as "member of darin's claque" if not our boy himself, I'll post as me, too. But if people know who I am, why identify myself further? It'll just encourage the crazies who'll get after me for being too old (and for getting acceptances).

Anonymous said...

But notice that the discussion here focuses entirely on Agni and Ploughshares as markets. If you go to Duotrope and search on short story markets just in the US, you'll come up with 3-400, and that;'s just the ones that aren't temporarily closed. I'm really puzzled at the persistent mindset here: if I can't get my stuff accepted at the very tippy-top, then I'm going to spend all kinds of time wondering what they mean by saying this isn't their form rejection, and wondering if this is their A-minus or B-plus rejection.

I hate to say this, but the people who think this way aren't serious. And if these are their thought processes, I wonder if they're the ones writing the stuff that vacillates between dullness and pointless sexual violence.

Anonymous said...

Actually, If you submit a shitty story with a fake credit, the readers will probably reject the story and wonder how a terrible writer got a teaching position. Now it is possible, that out there in the wold of lit journals, there is an editor who would fall for the scam, but most editors are just looking for the best stories they can find. If you want to know why lit journals are filled with MFA insiders, it's because MFA insiders send in more submissions. I'm just referring to the numbers here. Believe me, there are countless MFAs out there who submit complete crap, but with such a large pool, the odds of finding well written stories are much higher. It's statistics not a conspiracy.
I suppose it's worth it to point out a couple of flaws in my argument here. Do larger journals give preference to establish writers? Yes, it helps them sell more copies. Are there unscrupulous editors out there who publish their friends, or editors of other journals in hopes of receiving a reciprocal publishing credit? Yes, but those journals are usually pretty easy to spot with a little research. Getting published (and I'm just talking about getting published. I agree with everyone who believes getting famous from fiction is all but impossible) requires you to do three things, perfect your craft, learn the market, and submitting your work to an ungodly number of places. Take, and I cannot believe that I am about to type this, John for example. I disagree with John on just about everything (especially his belief that he's a better writer than anyone here), but I do think he's got the right approach to publishing. He sends his stuff out to, hundreds of journals and lo and behold, a handful of them actually chose to publish his plodding, unimaginative depictions of mid-life disappointment. As he's pointed out to us on numerous occasions, one place even nominated him for a pushcart prize. His system works.

Anonymous said...

Rommel

"flashquake, for instance, and Sotto Voce" If you need comments to salve your wounded ego, then fine, submit to "zines" like this, but no-one will read you or respect you and it will not further your career. Admit it: hoping for specific feedback is a pretty terrible reason to submit to a specific market. Getting into that market -- and wanting to actually appear in that market -- are much better criteria.

The first person is right about a prejudice against college-set stories. No one likes them. The person who questions that statement doesn't know that Pushcart Nominated doesn't mean shit. It means that some doo-hickey journal nominated a couple, doesn't mean that they win. Billions of stories get pushcart prize nominated, but it only means something if you win. And really: a Ph.D. somehow gives the journal credibility? I've known too many incompetent, unable-to-write-fiction Ph.D.'s to ever believe that crock.

As far as the Fake Credits suggestion, that sounds horrible. As a reader at a lit journal, don't you know we Google people? On many of their credits? Especially when they write shit prose and claim to have written for VQR. Then we find out either they're liars, or else they did write for VQR, but only nonfiction, and unfortunately being great at nonfiction still means that you write shit fiction. And by the way, you'll never get in at Ploughshares, whether you claim to have won the Nobel or not.

AGNI is a much better lit mag.

Anonymous said...

I spoke up earlier against the fake credit, but now I wonder what would happen if the person sending a fake credential actually submits a publishable story. I assumed that the story would naturally be crap if the author was resorting to trickery. What if the writer was just really unlucky, or the story was the first good one he or she had produced after a long line of duds? Would the person who set the trap believe the editors when they said, "No we accepted your story because is was good?" Would the writer respond by saying, "No you didn't. My work sucks?" After all, that would be the only way to actually prove that journals are looking for that MFA status.

gimme said...

"Are there unscrupulous editors out there who publish their friends, or editors of other journals in hopes of receiving a reciprocal publishing credit? Yes, but those journals are usually pretty easy to spot with a little research."

This is just tremendously naive.

What you're describing is EVERY journal. Editor friends publishing friends and exchanging favors is *absolutely* common practice. Are there really people who don't know this?

I'm not even sure it could be called unscrupulous, exactly. It's the nature of the biz. And here's a little secret: it's the nature of EVERY biz. It's the nature of every corner of capitalism from the doctor's office to the NY stock exchange to poetry magazines.

People, let's come back to reality a little here, shall we?:)

anonymous jane said...

It got a bit nasty since I last left my two cents! But about the fake credits...it's a fun idea that would make an interesting experiment if every single submitter did it. I don't do it, though I have been tempted just to see.

I have to take issue with the commenter who said:

"But notice that the discussion here focuses entirely on Agni and Ploughshares as markets....I hate to say this, but the people who think this way aren't serious. And if these are their thought processes, I wonder if they're the ones writing the stuff that vacillates between dullness and pointless sexual violence."

I don't think you hate to say it. In fact, I think you sound pretty smug and self-satisfied, with your gross (and false) generalizations of people you don't even know.

I can only speak for myself, but I'm not hung up on any top tier journals, and I know that my chances of getting in are slim at this stage. It costs me nothing to upload my story into the submissions manager, and it costs nothing to bitch about an unsurprising rejection. I'm just joining the pity party like the blog told me to do.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I do think not-darin and I agree on a great many things, including the need to submit systematically. But it almost seems to me that many folks here don't want to put their work to that test: I note that several weeks ago, someone posted in a comment that he/she'd submitted something like 600 times, with no acceptances. That's a message, it seems to me. Not-Darin chides me for submitting so many times that someone's bound to accept something, but it appears that there's no guarantee of this, and I kinda think some folks here are afraid of that outcome. So this site gives these folks the ability to feel literary without actually having the talent to be literary. So, not-Darin, what else should we be doing with our time?

Anonymous said...

"I note that several weeks ago, someone posted in a comment that he/she'd submitted something like 600 times, with no acceptances. That's a message, it seems to me."

I agree. This is a sales job, and in sales, everything is a message. But what is this particular message? Is it that the work is no good? Or is it that the markets are just not buying this type of work?

Anonymous said...

It's hard to get around the implication -- assuming the individual has submitted to hundreds of markets -- that the work is no good. Take no-Darin's point above about John Bruce: let's grant John has little talent but lots of energy to submit. He does in fact get a 2-3 percent acceptance rate. He uses Duotrope and other methods to research markets, and he submits to pretty much any market that reads his genre and length. If someone does this for 600 tries and doesn't get any acceptances, this would be a message, hard to ignore, that his or her writing isn't going to cut it, at least with a very, very wide selection of readers. If you check Duotrope, it's clear that there are hundreds of different markets with different tastes and expectations.

But I'm not sure if not-Darin's point about John is completely correct: anyone early in a writing career would be advised to write a lot and submit widely.

To say that "the markets" (quite a generalization) are not buying "this type of work" is really meaningless, unless you mean by "this type of work" boring stuff that has gratuitous sexual violence about half the time. I think John and not-Darin are in agreement that if you actually mean to be a writer, instead of a lit-phony, you won't act like many of the posters here seem to recommend.

ted said...

> Actually, If you submit a shitty story with a fake credit, the readers will probably reject the story and wonder how a terrible writer got a teaching position.

Then why is it that [x] was published in [y]? I'm so tempted to fill in the blanks here, but don't want to attack other writers.

However, what if you are a good writer and submit a good story with fake credits. That's what I took the anon poster above to be talking about. If some of these academic journals are really just insider CV-padders, as many believe Pshares and others to be, why NOT make a fake cred and submit your good story? Or why don't some of us try it. If our acceptance rates jump up, we'll know that the whole thing is a huge scam and we'll call them on it. I will start doing this and promise to W,R that I will report my findings here.

> If you want to know why lit journals are filled with MFA insiders, it's because MFA insiders send in more submissions.

I believe this. Absolutely. I was a freelance writer for a long time and when I was, I did not even so much as read a single lit journal. Honestly? I didn't know they existed. When I saw them and saw they didn't pay, I thought "WTF? Why bother?" It's like, you can make your own zine and have better distribution than these things. Publication in them was meaningless to someone like me: I was a real, working WRITER.

Unfortunately, I wanted to write fiction. And as the 90's wore on, I could find less and less paying markets for that. As soon as I cracked one, they stopped buying fiction altogether.

> Are there unscrupulous editors out there who publish their friends, or editors of other journals in hopes of receiving a reciprocal publishing credit?Yes, but those journals are usually pretty easy to spot with a little research.

I'd like to see this blog showcase more of that. I thought that post catching the scam of Greensboro Review was pretty sharp. No one else is looking at this "industry" and what's going on with it. It's time for justice.

The situation now is very depressing, but I see this blog as a very good thing.

Anonymous said...

"Here's another puzzlement about this site. 1:48 says "never set a story in a college, in college time, in the dorms, with college kids. double-no for mfa students or mfa programs. it's considered gauche." So, er, why did this story get a pushcart nomination?"

Ok, first off, let's all acknowledge your "er" ... you're being rude and by responding in this manner you lose the respect of the others in this discussion. I mean, what do you want me to say in reply? Should I "er" back? Would you speak this way to me face to face, would you go "er"?

Ok, now let's get down to business.

I said earlier that you can't set a story in college. Generally is, I believe, the way I phrased it. And it generally remains true. Let's look at the top 25 markets for literary fiction. How often do they contain stories set in a dorm room? How about stories of MFA students at home in their university-town apartments? No, these stories don't get published very often at all. And I stand by the reasoning -- college life is not seen as "reality" by these editors. Reality is out there, life after school. Or better yet, life outside of school -- which is why they love stories about the small-town farmer or factory worker (downtrodden by the big mean corporations, of course, and held back by the "backwoods" religious types and other unschooled idiots around them). Stories written, of course, by people who do not know whereof they speak.

"Not only that, but the editor of the zine that nominated it is a PhD candidate in an English department."

I believe you. But as you say it's a zine, and it's natural for the editor/publisher of it to nominate his stories for a Pushcart.

I mean, are you seriously bringing that as an example to refute the don't-do-collegelife-in-lit -stories argument? That's not exactly The Atlantic, is it? It's not exactly Pshares. Or the Wisconsin Review.

It got a Pushcart for the same reason why I right now publically nominate Writer, Rejected for a Bloggy. (Which I do -- the discussion on this blog lately is great!)

The story you linked to is in a web zine called Journal of Truth or Consequences, a publication that does not pay and whose readership is, well, very very very small.

Incidentally, I enjoyed the story. I've followed the author's blog. I don't know much about him but he doesn't seem to be a professional fiction writer. However, I do like his work. I liked his blog better back when it was full of personal observations and his views of publishing in it; now he just posts his stories. I don't understand him. He does not know much about publishing (or if he does, he doesn't seem to care); no paying publication, or publication with any readership at all, will ever buy the stories that he self-publishes on his web site. What's he doing that for? What are his goals? I can't figure it out. He seems very happy with acceptances from these tiny, unknown, unread, unpaying journals. I think he is a decent writer and that some of his stories have promise, or I wouldn't be criticising him like this. But I think it's ridiculous to take a publication acceptance from "Chris' CattyCorner Quarterly" or "WriteJournal 'Zine" very seriously at all. (Unless you're Julie, 38 year old Stay-At-Home Mom who wants to write that 1,000-word story that's been burning in you since senior year of high school. In which case, Yay! Look out, Danielle Steele ... Dairy Queen's on me tonight!)

Seriously, do you get what I'm saying? Any hobbyist pamphleteer will welcome whatever content some Internet soul throws at him. It's not the same as getting your story accepted by McSweeney's or Harper's. Depending on who you are, it's an accomplishment, absolutely -- and it can bring good to many people, but you can't bring it to a discussion about the state of professional fiction writing. I'm not making fun of "Julie" above, or people like her, but if I did that, me the guy who is a full-time work-at-home writer, who pays his bills via freelance writing, and who wants to make it big in fiction, well if I did that isn't it time for me to put my head in the oven?


"The generalizations here are pretty remarkable."

Not really. But if you think so, please expound. To me, it's remarkable that someone would claim acceptance by a tiny hobbyist web zine is akin to acceptance by The New Yorker, or shares its legitimacy in a professional context at all.

Anonymous said...

"There are other things that puzzle me about this thread. One is that, in fact, I've had quite a number of feedback comments on rejections. Why are people submitting to AGNI via snail mail, and AGNI so exclusively?"

This is a thread about AGNI, and AGNI pays, and AGNI doesn't publish exclusively from college professors, so I'd like to crack AGNI.

I get comments on work but not often and it's never much anymore. I've been in this business too long and I see a huge change in protocol. Editors at the newer or "hipper" journals don't even seem to know how to write a letter. There is a huge change in professional courtesies and expectations. As they say, editors don't edit.


"Many zine editors will comment pretty extensively on e-mail."

Zines. I had a zine. You can have it for a trade of your zine or for two stamps or a dollar. Sir? I got out of the zine world approximately six months after I graduated from college. You're still playing with zines?


"Following these threads, I get insight into Bukowski's pieces on the track: he doesn't have respect for the folks who always bet the long shots, which it seems to me that many here do."

What's it better to bet on then? Please, please don't say "zines."

One point that's come across from LROD in "The Death of Fiction" posts is that there are a lot less outlets for fiction. The New Yorker doesn't do unknowns, the Atlantic's yearly thing has one slot and it's probably filled 3 years in advance, the "academic" mainstays of the world (Ploughshares and Midwest Quarterly and Poetry Magazine and their ilk) will only do the academic rising stars, so new work has a pretty limited arena for breaking in. Man, this whole world is a long shot right now.

If it's just a matter of making your story accessible to other people, click the top link on this page and open a blogger account. Post all your stories on it. There. Done. You're "published," the whole world can read you.

But will they? And will bringing all this to them be your career?

That's the point of all this here.

Anonymous said...

"As a reader at a lit journal, don't you know we Google people? On many of their credits?"

Do you really do that? Do you Google only after you've read and liked a story, or do you do that when you read an interesting cover letter from someone whose name you don't recognize and you want to know more?

Writer, Rejected said...

Doesn't everyone google as a matter of course? I google everyone for everything, even if I don't really have a big interest in them. To me it's not surprising that editors, agents, and who-all-else in publishing, do so also.

ted said...

> I spoke up earlier against the fake credit, but now I wonder what would happen if the person sending a fake credential actually submits a publishable story. I assumed that
> the story would naturally be crap if the author was resorting to trickery. What if the writer was just really unlucky, or the story was the first good one he or she had
> produced after a long line of duds? Would the person who set the trap believe the editors when they said, "No we accepted your story because is was good?" Would the
> writer respond by saying, "No you didn't. My work sucks?" After all, that would be the only way to actually prove that journals are looking for that MFA status.

I like this a lot. The way that the writer would know is this: when the journal accepts it, the writer then tells them s/he wants to use a new bio, that s/he doesn't want her job to appear in the bio. If the journal complains, or suddenly de-accepts the story, or says "we have discovered you lied in your bio and out of our academic honesty and high moral principles we cannot print your work" then you know that they are liars and you can call them on it. Call it loud and in public. I think it's worth a serious consideration.

Anonymous said...

"But notice that the discussion here focuses entirely on Agni and Ploughshares as markets. If you go to Duotrope and search on short story markets just in the US, you'll come up with 3-400, and that;'s just the ones that aren't temporarily closed. I'm really puzzled at the persistent mindset here: if I can't get my stuff accepted at the very tippy-top, then I'm going to spend all kinds of time wondering what they mean by saying this isn't their form rejection, and wondering if this is their A-minus or B-plus rejection."

If you go to Duotrope, you will find hundreds of weird and depressing fly by night homemade vanity zines that nobody reads or cares about.

I think a good rule of thumb is to only submit to publications you like to read. I like to read AGNI, I submit there. If my name gets in there, that's great. I do not like to look at most of those small vanity zines that Duotrope lists. And of course most of them pay zero. Sorry, no thanks.

Anonymous said...

12:38, let's take up your points. First, you're back to talking about some "top 25" markets, to which I will simply refer to a number of comments already made: there's a school of thought here that apparently thinks only AGNI and 24 other places are worth publishing. However, it doesn't appear that anyone who believes this has been published in any of these markets, and they're largely here to bellyache about that.

You then draw a false dichotomy between being published in a top-25 market or simply self-publishing on a blog. There are roughly 375 literary fiction markets, some paying, between the top 25 and a self-published blog. Not-Darin and John agree that many folks here find it convenient to ignore this, and they use their little collection of rejection slips from the top 25 as their excuse why they aren't published. This isn't far from the folks who, according to the various writer beware type sites, pay scam agents to "represent" them and blame the agent for why they aren't published.

Several folks discount a Pushcart nomination, I'm sure because they have several. Darin probably has dozens, I'm sure. I will say, though, that I ran into a zine that had a price list: you want a pub cred badly enough, we'll publish anything you send us for $400. Want a pushcart nomination? $650. Not big money, but there's an indication these are worth something, and some editor figures he/she will make some money if someone wants these things.

The fact is that John is at least working on a literary career. Not-Darin pooh-poohs this, but he'll agree with John that the way to have a career, if one is to be had, is to submit, and submit a lot. Also, you've got to write. The daily blog entry helps with the discipline of writing and helps him visualize an audience. How is this hard to understand? John publishes draft material on his blog and then deletes it when he's got it polished and ready to submit. No editor has complained yet. He gets about two pieces a month accepted. You?

Anonymous said...

Rommel

""As a reader at a lit journal, don't you know we Google people? On many of their credits?""

""Do you really do that? Do you Google only after you've read and liked a story, or do you do that when you read an interesting cover letter from someone whose name you don't recognize and you want to know more?""

If I've read and liked a story, I don't need to Google. I liked it -- what do I care about their credits? I would never Google anyone before reading the story, because usually I'll throw their story away in less than the time it would take me to Google them.

I only Google when their credits are disporportional to their talent -- they have good credits, but their works sucks hardcore. Then I Google, because I know I'm a much better writer than them, but they have better credits. Sometimes they're made up, but most of the time they're real but slanted in sneaky ways (like they did a book review for VQR rather than wrote fiction).

Anonymous said...

Rommel, just curious. When you read a story you don't like and find the author wrote a book review for VQR, do you ever contact them and say, "A book review's not the same as fiction" or do you just pass them a form letter? After you Google do you ever suggest, "Tone down your bio and include only fiction refs"?

Anonymous said...

"12:38, let's take up your points."

Great.


"First, you're back to talking about some "top 25" markets, to which I will simply refer to a number of comments already made: there's a school of thought here that apparently thinks only AGNI and 24 other places are worth publishing. However, it doesn't appear that anyone who believes this has been published in any of these markets, and they're largely here to bellyache about that."

Close, but not exactly.

I don't think there are many good markets for fiction. I submit to many. All of them are paying markets, even if the rates are less than professional. I submit to markets that (a) a lot of people read (I want to be read by a lot of people) and that (b) pay (I am a professional writer. I don't work for free. Any journal that won't pay contributors is not a pro publication so there won't by any effort to be widely read, and won't even be a good credit worthy anyway, so I ignore them).

Following this criteria, yes there's more than 25 markets out there -- but not many. In fact if you want to limit it to markets that do pay a professional rate for fiction, there's less than a half dozen.

That sucks. That's why I'm here. I'm also here because I don't like a lot of what these markets are publishing. Look at Esquire, for instance. It's a giant fallen very far down. They ran a few of the best short stories ever written in the English language ... but you'd never know it if you've only read their last 10 years of issues. Rust Hills died last year and you know, no one knows or cares. And I think that's pathetic.


"You then draw a false dichotomy between being published in a top-25 market or simply self-publishing on a blog. There are roughly 375 literary fiction markets, some paying, between the top 25 and a self-published blog."

Ok, I'll bite. How far are these "markets" from either end?

Not very.

Here's one bit of info for you: if it does not pay, it's not a "market."

It might be a place to submit your work, but it is not a "market."

Another tip. Of real markets, there are really only a few places that you can send a piece in and have it work -- you can't write a story targeted at the back page of Woman's World and expect to also send it in to Harper's. Pro, paying markets all have important quirks and you practically have to write a piece to order if you want to sell it. You can't just say, "Oh, there's hundreds of markets for writers!" and then take a story you wrote out of the blue and pretend you can "sell" it anywhere where people will read it (and where you'll get paid to do so).


"Not-Darin and John agree that many folks here find it convenient to ignore this, and they use their little collection of rejection slips from the top 25 as their excuse why they aren't published."

Excuse me. I am well published. But I do not like what is happening in publishing now, and I do not like the state of the art. We're going down the tubes, Big Time.


"Several folks discount a Pushcart nomination, I'm sure because they have several."

Look, don't you see that it's where a nomination is from that matters? How many nominations from that journal won the Pushcart? I mean come on. I could say, I won the Noobile Prize. Yes I did. Last week. Is that on par with winning the Nobel?

John's Pushcart is not something to totally discount. No. It isn't. (And, it's a nice story.)

Actually, it's an accomplishment and he should proudly say that his work received a Pushcart nomination. I never have. Good for John.

But the argument was about the particular venue the work was published. Can you say that a Pushcart nomination from a small unpaying zine is the same as getting a Pushcart nomination from work that was bought by a popular, high-paying magazine? No. Not at all.


"The fact is that John is at least working on a literary career."

In his own way, maybe he is. I personally would never call acceptances by non-paying markets as work on my "career." Hobby, yes. Career, no. Others will surely disagree. If I were a teacher, then yes I would not care about the pay of the journal -- instead I'd focus on its academic reputation and submit accordingly. But I am a full-time 1099'er, and I get paid for my work. I also get read.


"... the way to have a career, if one is to be had, is to submit, and submit a lot. Also, you've got to write."

Yes, absolutely. But I think something is seriously wrong with publishing. Good writing isn't getting published. Bad writing is. (Again, look at Esquire.) Commercially speaking, short stories and poetry are extinct. Specimens of the form abound in the publications of the universities. The people on the streets? They don't read short stories, they don't see the reason why. There are no markets for them. Go to a newstand and look -- not a single magazine (sans the New Yorker, oh and Harper's) that will give you any fiction at all. The only poetry you'll get is in The Atlantic. They don't read or even know about the academic poetry that abounds today, and they wouldn't like or understand it if they did -- it's either the tiresome pomo self-indulgent stuff or the confessional "slam" style poetry, nothing with discipline or form. Two generations ago, the average intelligent American wrote letters, quoted the classics and had a general knowledge of history and the world, they shared a common culture. Today we appear to be a generation and a half away from savagery.


"How is this hard to understand? John publishes draft material on his blog and then deletes it when he's got it polished and ready to submit. No editor has complained yet."

No, of course they haven't. Just try it with a magazine that has a circulation that's higher than John's blog hits and that pays more than a penny a word and see what they say. See what a major glossy magazine that pays a dollar a word will say. Surely John must know that he's alone in doing what he's doing, that him and "Julie" above are the only people who would take such an approach ... and to what goal? A hundred acceptances by a hundred things that no one reads? Hundred times zero is still zero. I really don't care about those tiny little unknown unread "journals" and really I wish they would all go away. Ditto for the academic ones.


"He gets about two pieces a month accepted. You?"

Only two fiction pieces accepted all of last year, with 200+ submissions, a ton of frustrating form letters and editorial fakeries (some shared here on LROD), and at a cost of probably $400 in postage and supplies and a gross pay of less than half of that.

But also $30k and self-employed, a hundred thousand Google hits.

Jennifer said...

Speaking of academic poetry.

Does anyone know if American Poetry Review will accept work from non-professors?

Esteemed Faculty Poet said...

there once was a prof in iowa city
who submitted hid poems so shitty
American poetry review
said "why thank you."
and mailed a check for a hundred fiddy

Anonymous said...

Rommel

""Do you ever contact them and say, "A book review's not the same as fiction" or do you just pass them a form letter? After you Google do you ever suggest, "Tone down your bio and include only fiction refs"?""


No, I don't tell them. Because nonfiction credits are all they got going for them. Besides, the author probably wouldn't appreciate it if I told them their writing sucked so hard I didn't believe they wrote for VQR.

Editors really don't have enough time to give advice on cover letters. Authors have to figure out those on their own.

Anonymous said...

you are all totally insane if you think an MFA is what editors at literary journals want. i should know, i went to a top one. i would even go so far as to say an MFA works AGAINST you when you submit. MFA-type writers produce polished crap, mostly, whereas farmhands and dentists don't. so the current conventional wisdom goes.

Not Insane said...

6:48 begins, "you are all totally insane...," and should have ended it there. Truer words have never been written!

Anonymous said...

Is John posting in the third person now? The 1:15 post, kind of feels like John, what with the repeated topics and all. Anyway, I still maintain that the one thing John has write is his submission strategy. Since he continues to herald his pushcart, I figure I should talk about it. Just about every journal nominates work for pushcarts. The value of a nomination is directly proportional to quality of the journal. John, yours comes from a tiny online journal that has published a grand total of four stories, but you hold it over other writers like it propels you to the level of Mark Twain. Should you be proud of the accomplishment? Yes, although it is a little like winning a prize for tallest hill in Chicago. Should you consider it a license to put down the rest of us? No. Will this get through that thick skull of yours? Never.

Anonymous said...

Rommel:

"Because nonfiction credits are all they got going for them."

Are nonfiction credits bad?

Is it easy to get a book review in VQR? Is it bad, an embarrassment?

Or is it an accomplishment?


"Besides, the author probably wouldn't appreciate it if I told them their writing sucked so hard I didn't believe they wrote for VQR."

Actually, I would appreciate an editor or reader who had the balls to say the truth.

What I don't appreciate are the spinelessness and lameness of most editors and readers. Why not have the courage to put down in words what you really believe? I thought that's what literature was all about.



"Editors really don't have enough time to give advice on cover letters."

Why not? What has changed now that makes you so different, so pressed for time, than the busy editors of the 1960s or 1950s or before? THEY could do it. Why can't you?

Back then, people respected editors. And journals. They don't anymore. I have no respect for journal editors. I think this is the reason why.

Anonymous said...

"i would even go so far as to say an MFA works AGAINST you when you submit."

You read American Poetry Review? How about Poetry Magazine? No farmhands or dentists in either. Everybody's a prof somewhere.

Anonymous said...

W,R, I'm wondering about my post from yesterday since other new ones went through.

I replied at length to "1:15" above.

Did I say something in that comment that you wanted to delete, or did it just get lost in the moderation shuffle?

Please let me know. Thanks!

Writer, Rejected said...

oops...sorry....just got behind for a minute. I'm on a deadline, which is never good for LROD. Thanks for letting me know.

Writer, Rejected said...

oops...sorry....just got behind for a minute. I'm on a deadline, which is never good for LROD. Thanks for letting me know.

Anonymous said...

11:04, I'm sure you can say that because everyone here has lots and lots of Pushcart nominations, and everyone can just act like they've been there, huh? Do you think people should omit them from their bio? What I actually hear here is more or less this: (1) There are only three, or 25, or whatever, journals worth submitting to. (2) These journals don't publish the likes of me; they only publish MFAs, or professors, or dentists, or farmhands -- whatever, just not me. (3) But rather than lower myself to submit to a zine, I will go unpublished, and I will refuse to acknowledge that anyone has achieved anything if they (a) are accepted in zines, or (b) get useless and empty prizes like Pushcart awards.

I agree with the poster who says everyone here is crazy. Or more accurately, feckless.

Anonymous said...

"What I actually hear here is more or less this:"

W,R just put through a long reply to you from yesterday (thanks, W,R!). I'd like to get your response to that. But until then I'll be quick:

"(1) There are only three, or 25, or whatever, journals worth submitting to."

Ok, I'll bite. Here goes:

1) How many journals worth submitting to are there? Hundreds? Thousands? Millions? What do you think? For literary fiction, the markets now are few. Very, very few. And each has their own quirks -- for as much as I love AGNI, they only take a very certain kind of story. You can't say that, for a given story, there's going to be more than a handful of possible markets, and even that the story's going to be changed to fit the home. Many stories do not have a viable market now at all.

2) To your mind, what qualifications makes a journal "worth submitting to"?

And FYI, I almost never submit to journals, because to my mind almost none of them are worth the effort. I do, however, submit to magazines and websites that people outside of college English departments actually read.


"(2) These journals don't publish the likes of me; they only publish MFAs, or professors, or dentists, or farmhands -- whatever, just not me."

I don't think anyone suggested that any of these journals published dentists or farmhands. It has been pointed out many times that many of these journals publish only academics. I don't fault them for this, actually. Why should I? They're published by academics and they're only read by academics for the purpose of networking and CV-padding. The general public doesn't know they exist. Neither do the freelance writers -- these "journals" don't pay.


"(3) But rather than lower myself to submit to a zine, I will go unpublished,"

Abso-friggin-lutely.

You, on the other hand, would lower yourself to submitting serious work to unknown, unread, non-paying hobbyist publications? Why? The thrill of occasional "acceptance"? "Credits"? An "audience"? You're not getting any of that by getting published in zines. You might as well call up lulu.com and self-publish a "book" of your "collected stories."


"... I will refuse to acknowledge that anyone has achieved anything if they (a) are accepted in zines,"--

Depends on who's talking. For a pro writer it's not much of an achievement, no. When I was in college my "work" (juvenilia and all-around stupidity) was accepted by hundreds of zines. That's right. 1 0 0 s. I am in the zine books. I was a zine "star." Today I say big whoopie. It' less than meaningless, actually, because if you're taking it seriously as an adult, with real work, then you have serious issues. That's my thinking. What's yours? (I'd actually really like to know why you think zine publication is something to brag about.)


"... or (b) get useless and empty prizes like Pushcart awards."

No one here said that getting the Pushcart prize was "useless" or "empty," so stop lying about it. Winning the Pushcart Prize is an achievement.

No one here even said that getting a nomination for the Pushcart is "useless" or "empty," either. Imagine getting published by a big magazine and that magazine picks your work over everyone elses, and they nominate it ... well, that's pretty awesome.

However, several people including myself said that if you are published by a tiny zine that has only published 4 stories, and your story is the one that gets nominated by the publisher, it's actually a cause for keeping your lips tight. Don't you see the difference?

Anonymous said...

1:21, again, do you think I should be ashamed of the nomination and not mention it in my cover letters? And you've just acknowledged that you're not going to lower yourself by even submitting to anything but the top n journals, except you already know they won't publish you. But that entitles you to scold someone else, who would rather be published by someone, notwithstanding a zine, than feed your ego by saying you're just too good to submit.

Heck, lots of folks got published in college, too, like you. But then, some writers took a break for a while and then decided to try things out again as mature adults. So John, who started submitting fiction maybe two years ago, has been doing OK by those standards. I'm curious that you, who apparently don't have even his success to point to, are complaining about how he's doing.

And I'm also interested that Darin's claque, which may as well be Darin, is working so hard to discount anything he's done, too. Don't he and his claque have anything better to do? Well, I guess if my writing reminds folks of a decaffeinated Amy Tan, maybe I'd be worried who's gaining on me, too.

Anonymous said...

the black warrior review in their last issue published a farmhand.

C said...

Ok, I think I'll simplify this for John as much as I can. Congrats on your publishing credits and your pushcart nomination. Now stop being an ass about them. Also, Darin is not out to get you.

I will also give John credit for leading the discussion to what it means to be a "professional writer" as opposed to a hobbyist. I think this is the root of most of the arguments we have here. I would say that short stories have become a hobby, but I'm okay with that. I entered graduate school knowing that I would never make a living from writing. At this point, I doubt I'll make a living by teaching writing (I make most of my income from SAT tutoring). So when the 1099er above states that what I do isn't really a career, I agree, but I wonder is this a bad thing? My attitude has given me more hope for fiction in general (hence my previous arguments with those who think it's dead). It also prevents a lot of frustration, but I can see how I would be part of the problem for commercial fiction. I'm willing to give my stuff away and I'll support magazines that pay nothing, or essentially nothing if I like the writing they compile. From an economic perspective, I'm a disaster. What do you guys think?

Dave Clapper said...

C, I think you're right on. As a writer (during those all too infrequent times now that I'm actually finding time to write), my first priority is to be read. There are much easier ways to make a living than to be a writer. (And yes, to the 1099er, I agree, that sucks. But it's also the reality.) But there's a reason we choose to write, I assume, some need to communicate in a very specific form.

And that's where I really part paths with the 1099er. The idea that nobody reads online magazines is absurd. This thread began with discussion of AGNI. According to their advertising rate page (http://www.bu.edu/agni/advertise.html), they reach an audience of 6,000 readers (when combined with Harvard Review). I publish one of these decried online zines and our unique visitors last month was over 10,000 (and I wouldn't consider us to be quite in the top tier of online publications as far as readership goes (yet)). Unless you're talking about The New Yorker, it's fiction in print magazines that nobody reads. I know one online journal that specifically won't take reprints UNLESS they first appeared in print because nobody reads print.

Things are changing. Right now, it's true that most of the online magazines don't pay, but at some point, that will change. Whether that's because universities see the readership shifting and put their money into online publications instead of print or advertisers realizing that their money is better spent where the readers are or something else entirely, the money is going to find what the readers already have found.

And when that happens? Those credits that seem so meaningless now will become much more impressive. Figuring out which of the online publications have the aesthetic, professionalism, etc. is the trick.

Native_Ink said...

I think the worst thing a writer can do to a good story is to stick it in a drawer somewhere unread by the public. As a writer, you can try AGNI and the other big name journals first and collect your inevitable rejection slips. At that point, you can pack it in or you can submit to webzines. I've received some great comments from total strangers about stories I've published in webzines. True, I didn't get a "break" for my career. But letting real people view your work should be a goal of writing.

The Better Angels of Our Nature said...

John Bruce (as Anonymous) writes, "And I'm also interested that Darin's claque, which may as well be Darin, is working so hard to discount anything he's done, too. Don't he and his claque have anything better to do? Well, I guess if my writing reminds folks of a decaffeinated Amy Tan, maybe I'd be worried who's gaining on me, too."

To this I write, "WHAT IS YOUR FRIGGIN' OBSESSION WITH THIS MAN, YOU OF THE MY-FEELINGS-ARE-HURT-BECAUSE-I-WAS-TOLD-TO-GO-EAT-MY-OATMEAL?!"

So does this mean that Amy Tan is a caffeinated Darin S.? If so, what the hell are you even talking about? Let me suggest, old friend, that you quit flicking your oatmeal at people...so to speak.

Oh, and here's why a Pushcart Prize nomination means little. Because you're being validated by someone who has already validated (in other words, the editor who has already published your story is saying, Yes, I really liked your story)! No one at the Pushcart Press is saying, "Yes, I really liked your story!" It's the same when people say that they've been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. I say, Whoop-Dee-Doo. Who cares. Call me when you're a finalist, or when you've won the damned thing, because until then, IT MEANS NOTHING. Or, rather, it means that someone who's already published your book has submitted it for consideration.

As for where to publish one's work and what it means, I say if you get anything published anywhere, that's fine, that's great, good for you! But it makes no difference to me whether a website has 10,000 or 100,000 hits as opposed to a lit. mag. with a circulation of 3,000. I'd rather be published alongside the work of, hell, Darin Strauss (to use an oft-used abstraction of a writer from this blog) than, say, John Bruce (to pull one example out thin air). That's not to say that I wouldn't find myself alongside Mr. Bruce in one of his precious zines one day. (In truth, that's not going to happen, but I'm just spitballing here.) And it's not because Mr. Strauss has published where he's published, etc. It's because I happen to think Mr. Strauss is an infintely better writer than Mr. Bruce (after having read quite a bit of his blog). Now, obviously Mr. Bruce feels differently. He HATES Mr. Strauss' work, so I would suggest that he steer clear of the sorts of magazines that would publish the likes of him. In other words, publish where you like, but try to publish in magazines that publish writers you admire, whether it's Agni or A Moveable Bowel: The On-Line Journal of Yackety-Yack-Don't-Come-Back. And if you admire writers in both venues, why, try to get into both places. Just don't expect both places to carry the same weight when you approach an agent or a publisher. And that, my little scribblers, is reality speaking. (It's a bitch, ain't it?)

suomynona said...

I think we should stop picking on John. I know he is obsessed with DS and I know he has his senior-moments based on several instances of him not answering the right question (and often making up his own question to answer), but there's no need to constantly belittle the dude for getting published in zines. Yeah, he doesn't know when to shut up about them, but not all zines are shit, and not all of John's stories are shit either. Have some respect for your elders people.

His pushcart nominated story is decent and you never know, it could win. Those who poo-poo are J-E-A-L-O-U-S

I see we have Dave Clapper of smokelong joining the party, welcome Dave, help yourself to some chips and homemade bean dip. Just some idle party chit-chat, but Smokelong says its readers can smell drafts a mile away. So, how come all the stories on Smokelong read like, well, drafts? You should go to an Ear/Nose/Throat Doc and get your sense of smell checked out.

C said...

Dave Clapper:
Since you're a forward looking editor, what do you think about devices like the kindle and smart phones? I don't see them as book replacements, but I could see how they could work as journal replacements. To me, the kindle seems like the perfect device for short stories. It's small, easy to read, and it's already attached to a major distribution system. Smart phones, especially the iphone and all of it's clones, seem perfect for flash fiction. Most smart phone owners are used to reading email length blocks of text on the phone. Why not make some of that literature?

C said...

Dave Clapper:
Since you're a forward looking editor, what do you think about devices like the kindle and smart phones? I don't see them as book replacements, but I could see how they could work as journal replacements. To me, the kindle seems like the perfect device for short stories. It's small, easy to read, and it's already attached to a major distribution system. Smart phones, especially the iphone and all of it's clones, seem perfect for flash fiction. Most smart phone owners are used to reading email length blocks of text on the phone. Why not make some of that literature?

Anonymous said...

"So, how come all the stories on Smokelong read like, well, drafts?"

Not that I agree with Mr. Clapper that an aspiring author should settle for submitting to non-paying journals, but there was a tiny thing by Steve Almond in Smokelong that was one of the best things that Steve Almond ever wrote. And I think Smokelong deserves massive credit for instituting their Kathy Fish residency.

blogmouse said...

"As for where to publish one's work and what it means, I say if you get anything published anywhere, that's fine, that's great, good for you! But it makes no difference to me whether a website has 10,000 or 100,000 hits as opposed to a lit. mag. with a circulation of 3,000."

I want the most eyeballs and the most money.

As a 1099er I understand commercial publishing very well and it's a totally different outlook & culture from the journals. The two worlds just completely conflict with each other. If you submit to academic-journal-X and you have credits from ac-journal-Y and -Z, both non-paying and with combined circulations of 5,000, I bet the MFAs at journal-X would look sharp and notice. But if your credits are The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Outside, GQ, Sports Illustrated, OMNI ... well, these are high paying outlets. No, they're not fiction credits so these journal editors are going to turn their nose at you and your work and you won't even get a scribbled note from them.

Magazines and big media have got big problems now. Somebody should link to the Magazine Death Watch site, it's quite interesting. Something's wrong. And these editors won't touch fiction or poetry anymore because they know their readers (the people out there on the streets) hate it. But I can't help but think that the reason for this is the crappy postmodern poetry and fiction that has been going on for decades now. Maybe a new kind of fiction and poetry, much more traditional, would attract more readers.

Anonymous said...

"1:21, again, do you think I should be ashamed of the nomination and not mention it in my cover letters?"

No. Mention it. Did you even read what I wrote?

Some people said to stop picking on John. I've written some of the longer commentaries in this thread and I hope no one reads them as me picking on you, John.

I've said this before, but I like your stories. I used to follow your blog. I love your Dartmouth pieces and I think you are part of the solution, not part of the problem -- if I'm going to be picking on anyone, it's today's college students, totally uneducated and utterly ignorant as well as entitled and brainwashed. Maybe not their fault at all, but no matter -- they're really a huge part of the problem.


"And you've just acknowledged that you're not going to lower yourself by even submitting to anything but the top n journals, except you already know they won't publish you."

I'm here to make a living and find a readership. If there's a better way I'd like to hear it. Are zines the answer? No. I've had things in tiny zines. I've had the few emails that come with having something posted in some obscure backwater of the net. That is not the answer. Incidentally, the "top" journals are not the answer, either. If fiction and poetry is going to matter, it's going to have to appear in the places that matter, the places that people read. In that sense, even AGNI doesn't really matter ... if I wasn't an author I'd never know about AGNI. I tell my neighbor I sold something to AGNI and I'd get a blank face. AGNI isn't in the doctor's office, it's not in the supermarket aisle, it's just not out there in the culture. It's obscure. You can be the AGNI superstar and you're still irrelevant.

Is it all over, like one or more anonymous people on here say? Post-literate America? Better to be a Reality TV star or Rap star or Porn star now if I want to get my "voice" heard? I know on dark days like today it sure seems that way.


"But that entitles you to scold someone else, who would rather be published by someone, notwithstanding a zine, than feed your ego by saying you're just too good to submit."

Oh stop it. When did I "scold" you? Maybe someone else did. I did say you were crazy to mention your zines in th-- oh, nevermind. It's all right there above.


"Heck, lots of folks got published in college, too, like you. But then, some writers took a break for a while and then decided to try things out again as mature adults."

Yes, but didn't you hear the news? It is time to put away childish things.


"So John, who started submitting fiction maybe two years ago, has been doing OK by those standards."

By college-kid standards, yes. Although I don't think that would apply to today's "literary" college kid. They're trying to get published in all the "top journals" that we talk about here, too. I don't think today's college kids really mess around with zines much, either. That's high school kids. Maybe you're pulling a Benjamin Button?


"I'm curious that you, who apparently don't have even his success to point to, are complaining about how he's doing."

You say you can write, but can you not read, John? Yes, by the numbers, my individual fiction acceptances last year are less than yours. But my few acceptances were from big magazines with big readerships, and I've been paid. You say this is not success? What the heck?

If your goal is to be Mr. Zine Man, great, good for you. But I'm concerned with adult matters. With getting fiction and poetry out of the academic specimen box and into the living mainstream, where writers of fiction and poetry can play an active role in the culture again and even make a living at it as once was possible.

Anonymous said...

"I will also give John credit for leading the discussion to what it means to be a "professional writer" as opposed to a hobbyist. I think this is the root of most of the arguments we have here. I would say that short stories have become a hobby, but I'm okay with that. I entered graduate school knowing that I would never make a living from writing. At this point, I doubt I'll make a living by teaching writing (I make most of my income from SAT tutoring). So when the 1099er above states that what I do isn't really a career, I agree, but I wonder is this a bad thing? My attitude has given me more hope for fiction in general (hence my previous arguments with those who think it's dead). It also prevents a lot of frustration, but I can see how I would be part of the problem for commercial fiction. I'm willing to give my stuff away and I'll support magazines that pay nothing, or essentially nothing if I like the writing they compile. From an economic perspective, I'm a disaster. What do you guys think?"

C., this is the nut of it. It's two cultures. Certainly Mr. Clapper will be all for you because he runs a non-paying journal. I wouldn't say that you (and Mr. Clapper) are part of the problem, really, but I don't think either one of you are part of the answer. (Not picking on you guys, either -- as your note implies, I don't think you're trying to be part of the answer. And Clapper has stated his views on non-paying journals many times.)

If short stories have become a hobby, it's dead. Fiction is dead. Has anything replaced it, or is there now a void? Is TV scriptwriting the place to be now? When the arts are on the way out, it's time to sit up and notice, because other stuff will soon follow. And the specimen-set of academia won't have the kind of writing that some people are trying to write. This is a greater cultural issue.

If you're okay with this as a hobby, ok cool. But we have different goals and are working toward different problems here: I write more than a hobby and my goal is to change this situation, to bring literature to the mainstream again. It's not everybody's goal. I'm not asking it to be. But I am sure interested in those others who also share this goal, and I know that there are at least a few right here on LROD.

That's why I think people who share this view need a forum or a blog to discuss this at length. This topic grows huge interest on LROD but it inevitably explodes in a flamewar simply because there are two conflicting cultures on here.

Anonymous said...

So 10:59, I'm still puzzled. You say several times you're here to make money and find a readership, and you aren't a "hobbyist", which seems to be the au courant term for those who lower themselves to submit to zines.

But you imply above that you simply aren't published, or at least not recently. So how are you making money and finding readership? Darin (or not-Darin) and I actually agree on quite a bit, including the need to submit. Yet everything you've been saying has been that you don't submit because the top n journals won't run your stuff. In other words, it's only "hobbyists" who get published; your motives are pure, and you don't even submit. Those who submit are stuck back in college. Am I missing something here?

Anonymous said...

"So 10:59, I'm still puzzled."

I enjoy the discussion on LROD, but this latest post by John Bruce is very disturbing to me. I don't have time for mental retardation. Can this man not read? Does he need a head-shake? What the heck's wrong with him?



"You say ... you aren't a "hobbyist", which seems to be the au courant term for those who lower themselves to submit to zines."

Thanks, John, I guess I must be au courant since I made it up. Describes it quite well, doesn't it? Or is this zine game of yours actually a paying job?

Is it not a hobby of yours, Mr. Bruce? Do I lie? Is the zine thing John Bruce's new job? Is it something he's required to do for his school? What is it? To me it looks like a hobby, that's exactly the word for it. And it becomes a very sad hobby when it's spoken of as "career" ... what?!




"But you imply above that you simply aren't published, or at least not recently."

John Bruce, you are either trying to alienate people who enjoy your work or you selectively read these posts or you truly cannot comprehend what you read. Go back and read those posts above, please.



"So how are you making money and finding readership?"

By ... writing and publishing? As had been written above? Can't you read? What's wrong with you? You make me want to call you names. I can't have a discussion with you because you're not listening to anyone but yourself. It's insane.



"Yet everything you've been saying has been that you don't submit because the top n journals won't run your stuff."

I don't submit to zines, you're right. You read that sentence, ok. So you can read.



"In other words, it's only "hobbyists" who get published; your motives are pure, and you don't even submit."

That's right. I don't submit to zines. The idea is insane. I'm published in places where people can read me. You can also buy my books at the bookstore. Do you comprehend?



"Those who submit are stuck back in college. Am I missing something here?"

Yes, the phrase "to zines" has to go after the word "submit."

And you're not stuck in college. You're playing an infantile game and you obviously don't know how to read or have a conversation.

Man, if you really are John Bruce you've just been lowered pretty down in my estimation. What the heck.

r. said...

Hey. Found something.

According to Duotrope, AGNI just sent over 71 form rejections. These are only writers who track work publicly on Duotrope, a small percentage of the real.

So basically the AGNI editors plow through the submission feed clicking the "Reject!" button on and on and on and on. How much time is spent on each submission, really? Just a few seconds? How fair of a reading does each work get? Look at that long list. I can't see the editors spending much time on each submission. Also they don't send comments on rejected works ever, do they. This is not good.

Whirred said...

"So basically the AGNI editors plow through the submission feed clicking the "Reject!" button on and on and on and on. How much time is spent on each submission, really?"

I worked at a lit. mag. years ago as a reader, and most of it -- yes, MOST OF IT -- was unreadable. Trust me, it often doesn't take more than a paragraph to make a decision. And I didn't care if the person had an MFA or not, or what they did for a living, or what their ethnicity was. I was looking for a good frickin' story. But when you read the slush pile, you get the sense that no one has ever read a book. Ever. As for sending comments on rejected work, it's not realistic. I would send a short handwritten note every 200 stories or so. One time, I called a writer (at the Head Editor's request) to ask him to submit again, and he was an a-hole, so I never did that again.

Anonymous said...

"Trust me, it often doesn't take more than a paragraph to make a decision."

Dunno about this. You can read a best-of anthology or a book of classics and get "bored" at the first paragraph or page but the story is great, something that must be published. Yes, there's a lot of sub-par amateur work in any slush. Ok, that's stuff anyone can flush through. But the guy above was talking about writers tracking on Duotrope. Undoubtely some "bad" writers do that too, but these are not going to be the incompetent utterly-awful submissions in the slush. So what's going on at these journals?


"But when you read the slush pile, you get the sense that no one has ever read a book. Ever."

Which books?


"As for sending comments on rejected work, it's not realistic. I would send a short handwritten note every 200 stories or so."

If all the stories are so bad that you reject nearly 99.9% of them, and if you can tell by the first paragraph of every story you read, what are you doing with all your time? By your logic, you could be the fiction reader at the New Yorker where they get 1,000 submissions a week, and you could click through all of them in a matter of hours.

You're too busy to even write a comment? What are you too busy doing? Or are you afraid to assert yourself ... afraid to be shown as utterly clueless, afraid to be shown that you don't "get" something that maybe you should, afraid to put your assertions down in the written word? (Just asking. For all I know you've got 1,000 other duties that fill up all your time as a lit mag reader.)


"I called a writer (at the Head Editor's request) to ask him to submit again, and he was an a-hole, so I never did that again."

I submitted a story once, and got a form letter rejection, so I never did that again.

Whirred said...

12:39...

"I submitted a story once, and got a form letter rejection, so I never did that again."

Good. You probably did both yourself and the magazine a favor.

Anonymous said...

Just for grins, I copied 10:59's post into my word processor and ran a word count -- 475 words. Now I'm realizing that this individual has made many of the posts on this thread. Steinbeck could turn out 3-500 words on a good day. Looks like right here, 10:59 et al have put in several thousand in the same period. I plead guilty to not keeping track of what anonymous hh.mm has said in the context of what anonymous hh.mm(2) said above. Don't have that kind of time.

Somebody needs to get a life. If you're actually writing and making money at it, seems like you might still be able to make better use of that time, guy.

Anonymous said...

"Somebody needs to get a life. If you're actually writing and making money at it, seems like you might still be able to make better use of that time, guy."

Are you asking for LROD to close? Or would you rather this discussion not take place in public, where it might actually end up changing something?

Anonymous said...

"Good. You probably did both yourself and the magazine a favor."

Nice comment. Can't answer the questions, eh? Coward.

Whirred said...

Okay, here's the opening of a story by John Bruce (I'm assuming he won't mind since he does the same thing to other writers on his blog) and why I would have rejected it (and possibly not read much beyond what's here):

*****

Ed got an e-mail one afternoon with a sender’s name that he recognized from college days.


"Been a long time, hasn’t it? I’ve had a slow afternoon at work, and sometimes when that happens, I google people I used to know. Remember Terry Blandon? Went to work for the weather bureau right after college; he’s still there. Bob Fisher? Passed away of AIDS. I’ve thought of you a lot over the years, have tried to google you several times, but didn’t locate you until today. What have you been up to?"

Ed and Bill McMann actually didn’t, at least at first, have that much in common, other than a certain tendency to plunge headlong into their respective educations, to the occasional distress of the deans. But Ed was a regular at the late-night bull sessions in Bill’s room at Anderson House, and they agreed on certain key topics. They felt, for instance, along with a few others, that most of their fellow students were too preoccupied with routine studying or conforming to various collegiate expectations to accomplish anything of much importance. They had a point.

*****

Okay, the first sentence doesn't do much for me one way or the other. But when we get to the email (I put the quotes around it, just to distinguish it from the rest of the story), I don't believe the sentence, "I’ve had a slow afternoon at work, and sometimes when that happens, I google people I used to know." It's stilted. Would anyone actually write this? It sounds like overt exposition coming directly from the author, not the character. The last paragraph is dull summary. It begins, "Ed and Bill McMann actually didn’t, at least at first, have that much in common, other than a certain tendency to plunge headlong into their respective educations, to the occasional distress of the deans." At this point, I feel like I'm just being talked at. While I realize "show, don't tell" doesn't always apply, this story just isn't going anywhere for me narratively, and I'm certainly not pulled into any unique world or perspective, and there's nothing narrative about the language; it's the language of exposition, which, for a short story, is the kiss of death if that's the primary rhetorical mode. Phrases like "plunged headlong," "late-night bull sessions" and "certain key topics," using just two examples, are examples of easy language, the language of default. There's not a single interesting image anywhere here, or an internal thought that nails the character as being original. Also, the beginning of that paragraph -- "Ed and Bill McMann actually didn’t, at least at first, have that much in common" -- makes me wonder why there's foreshadowing ("at least at first"). Foreshadowing tends to be authorial, so, once again, I'm not getting any sense of the character here; I'm getting more of a sense of an author simply typing. It's lazy. And if this is Ed's story, why not begin that paragraph, "Ed didn't have much in common with Bill."? I mean, let's get into his consciousness. Why muddle the p.o.v. by offering up a collective subject so soon in the story.

I'll stop there, but that gives you a sense of my frame of mind if I were to have found this story in the slushpile. By the end of that brief section, I would really have to ask myself if I should continue. Bear in mind, there would probably be a few hundred more stories waiting for me to read. Maybe there's a great "story" here, but there's so little control over language that my confidence as a reader is already shot. This isn't to say that Mr. Bruce's story won't get published. I'm sure some zine will snap it up. But this isn't going to get into Agni or The New Yorker or any of the other magazines that are regularly disparaged here. Whatever you may think of the writing in those magazines, Mr. Bruce's is not anywhere near that level. Would I write up a critique for him or offer some comments? No. It takes too much time, and there's nothing about his story that would compel me to encourage the man to submit again. Sorry, Charlie.

Anonymous said...

1:20

Quit whining, dude. It's unbecoming.

hannah said...

Ouch. Somebody here is jealous.

Anonymous said...

1:19, folks have accused some others here of bad reading comprehension, but I'm wondering if maybe you've got that problem, too. Where did 1:06 suggest LROD do anything? The issue was simply that somebody has logorrhea in an unpaid forum while claiming to make money out of writing, thus undermining his or her credibility.

I will say, though, that for those who might wish to study how Narcissistic Personality Disorder manifests itself in a literary context, LROD would be an interesting case.

Anonymous said...

"Quit whining, dude. It's unbecoming."

What's the deal, dudette? Weren't those questions legit? Or don't you want them answered here? I called Whirred on his statements and in return was insulted on this forum. You tell *me* that I'm unbecoming? That's crappy.

By "whining" I've gotten Whirred to comment on a John Bruce story. I think I'll whine some more.

Anonymous said...

1:52, you're much better looking without the mousse.

John said...

Whirred, as you know, the stories on my blog are draft and notebook material. Apparently there are many folks here who would appreciate such personal attention, so I'm grateful to you for providing it. As the saying goes, call me what you want just as long as you call me to dinner!

But why not critique the stuff that's been in the zines? You'll find a dozen or so on the sidebar.

Whirred said...

Actually, I was already typing my reaction to J.B.'s story before I read your "coward" comment, so there's no cause-and-effect here. But next time you want to call me a coward, I suggest we meet at the bike rack.

Whirred said...

John: This is all hypothetical. I picked a piece of your writing (for the purpose of this exercise, it doesn't matter if it's been published already or not), pretended you submitted it to me, and I went through my thought-process for why I wouldn't have read beyond that first section. If my comments are in any way helpful to the story itself, good; if not, that's fine, too. But the main point was to show how I might have read it as a slushpile reader. I assumed, based on your own close readings of other writers, that you wouldn't mind.

John said...

Of course I don't mind. But it looks like 17 slushpile readers from last year, not all completely obscure, didn't agree with you. Two so far this year, for that matter.

Maybe somebody sent you a hundred bucks for one of your things, and I didn't get that check. Big deal.

Whirred said...

I'll make my point one last time and then sign off for good. John: Your work isn't appearing in places like Agni, Missouri Review, Shenandoah, Southern Review, etc. Maybe you don't want to appear in those place -- that's fine (I could give a rat's ass) -- but those are the places that agents pay attention to, that editors at publishing houses are inclined to know; and it's not because they're all part of an MFA cabal; it's because the quality of the writing -- regardless of what you (or anyone else on this post) thinks of it -- is much higher than the stuff that appears in the places where you're publishing, John. I was just tryin to be honest with my critique, since there seemed to be so much mystery surrounding the "slushpile reader" and what must be going through his or her mind. As for your hundred bucks comments, I have no idea what you're even talking about. But I do have this question: If you're so goddamned happy about your publications, why are you always on this site?

Anonymous said...

And why are you always here in your forms, Whirred? To push around an old man and his hobby, yes, but not face up to your own omissions and deficiencies.

John said...

Well, Whirred, I just got an awful lot of free publicity, from you!. And I've frankly got to wonder, one more time, why someone who claims to be such a big deal in publishing is spending so much time on me and my stuff.

And this site does give me an insight into what the narcissists, phonies, and wannabes think. Bukowski called it research. And if you criticize the time I spend here, based on word count, you must spend much, much more than I do. And you're the big deal published guy!

After two years of submitting, and some success with the zines, it's plain that I need to raise my sights. As it happens, I just re-submitted to The Missouri Review, since they asked me to.

Anonymous said...

Everyone wants an honest answer on here, but when Whirred drops in and gives one, people start belly-aching. Remember this speech? "You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You?" John sounds a bit defensive, and yet he doesn't mind laboriously tearing apart writers more successful than him. Does he want the truth? No. Does anyone on here want the truth? A few, maybe. But, mostly, no.

Anonymous said...

3:53, it appears that Whirred has signed off, but not the spirit who guides him!

Whirred said...

"And why are you always here in your forms, Whirred? To push around an old man and his hobby, yes, but not face up to your own omissions and deficiencies."

Sorry, I can't resist one final comment. "...in my forms?" What the hell does that even mean? Am I a shape-shifter?

Next time you see me, I'll have a forked tongue and a bifurcated tail.

Writer, Rejected said...

Don't be alarmed, Whirred. John accuses everybody of posting under aliases. In fact, usually he gets to the point where he accuses me of being every commenter just to stir up interest. You know what the psychologists would say about that, don't you? The p word.

John said...

No, I think Darin Strauss is actually the one behind this site, and you're a pseudonym.

Writer, Rejected said...

LOL

williamsberger said...

"The p word."

Penis envy?

Anyway, what a day you people had. Slow day at the office? But reading through all this I really don't know what to make of it in the end.... I feel drained and a bit sad.

This blog seems to flare up out of nowhere and produce some of the best talk on literature online (compare some of these heated debates to GalleyCat or Nathan Bransford's blog). But then it turns into vitriol and hate and bad feelings all abound. Yuck.

Writer, Rejected said...

I meant projection, but I agree. Why can't we all just get along, people?

Dave Clapper said...

Oh, and about that price list mentioned above? $400 to be published, $650 to be nominated? I think I just saw the site to which you're referring. Knowing the sense of humor of the editors, I feel pretty safe saying it was a joke. And, uh... I think their language made it pretty clear:

BUY YOURSELF IN: Are you lonely? $400 installs text of your choice in our gaping loins. Leave the money on the dresser. May or may not include disease.



PUSHCART NOMINATION: Want famous? Cock? $650 buys text publication plus an OH BOY Pushcart nomination and/or nude photos of someone's mother.

Link: http://nocolony.com/

Writer, Rejected said...

I LOVE that! Funny

Anonymous said...

Ah, I wondered where I'd seen that. But nocolony is the one that sends rejections that say you didn't have enough death/fear/death/death/death in your story. Joke! Great! But if it's all a joke, why waste everyone's time?

Isn't it peculiar, though, that folks genuflect at a top 25, (AGNI has a zero percent acceptance rate on Duotrope) but something actually achievable, like a pushcart nomination, is denigrated.

Dave Clapper said...

Incidentally, I did respond to questions asked further up. Dunno if it got lost in the ether or is still sitting in a moderation queue...

Billy Bob Loser said...

Here's what I've taken from this very very long thread.

1. Many people are obtuse.

2. Publishing in zines is a hobby. An expensive, time-consuming, not-very-fulfilling hobby.

3. You should write a novel if you want to make a living and be recognized professionally by anyone other than your mother.

4. The Short Story is Dead. Dead culturally, dead financially, dead professionally, dead, dead, dead. It's a practice, an exercise, a staging grounds. But you do it for arts sake. Because it's beautiful. If you can't handle that oxymoron (dead but you still love it) you shouldn't be writing them.

5. Everyone prizes the top 25 mags, but no one can get published in them (answer: try the top fifty lit Js, or top seventy-five lit Js).

6. I'm the guy that submitted 600 times in the last 4 years. I'm not going to quit. But most of those were to the top fifty lit Js. I've broken in a few times to lower-level print journals. But no big boys yet. But I have a threshold -- I don't publish in online journals. Only print journals with decent websites affiliated with a university. Did you catch that:

A. Print.
B. Good Website.
C. University Affiliated.

99% of my submissions fall under those categories. That kills about 2500 of the journals in Duotrope. But that still leaves about 75 I would be very happy to appear in. I'll get in someday.

Anonymous said...

I would go along with Billy Bob, but I think several of his assertions are factually challenged. Submitting to zines is expensive? It's "free", for the cost of your monthly ISP bill, which you'd pay if you submitted or not. But submitting to top journals? Most require postal subs. A 25-page story submission costs, I would say, $5 in postage, stationery (including SASE), and ink. Five postal submissions per week is $25, plus the time and hassle of a trip to the post office. And Billy Bob strongly implies the majority of his subs are postal, if he's subbing to the markets he says. But he's 0-for-600 or something like that. That means he's spent as much as $3000 over the past 4 years, with effectively nothing to show for it. And he calls subbing to zines an expensive hobby?

I'll go along with him that some people are obtuse.

Miranda Merklein said...

"The story you linked to is in a web zine called Journal of Truth or Consequences, a publication that does not pay and whose readership is, well, very very very small."

Actually, Journal of Truth and Consequence has 10 readers, to be exact. The rest of the zeros are marinating.

However, I am glad the John Bruce story has inspired such fruitful commentary!

I do think absolute rules applied to any art form or genre will always be challenged--if not by the individual than by his or her neighbors--and in the end proven to be stunted attempts at framing what is multidimensional.

We will have a new issue out after the weekend with a lot of great artists, visual and literary.

Yours truly,

A small, small editor.

Renee said...

so... didn't read all the hundreds of comments before this, but i would like to add that this is a sincere though form rejection--i interned at Agni while i was in the MFA program at BU and the "better" rejections got this rather than the standard rejection form.