Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Genius Is This?

I got to know David Brooks during the recent presidential elections when I was obsessed with news coverage and the election debates.  He wrote this opinion piece in the New  York Times a few weeks ago, which deserves a good read by all of you budding modern geniuses out there. Here's a charming highlight: "If you wanted to picture how a typical genius might develop, you’d take a girl who possessed a slightly above average verbal ability. It wouldn’t have to be a big talent, just enough so that she might gain some sense of distinction. Then you would want her to meet, say, a novelist, who coincidentally shared some similar biographical traits. Maybe the writer was from the same town, had the same ethnic background, or, shared the same birthday — anything to create a sense of affinity....it would also help if one of her parents died when she was 12, infusing her with a profound sense of insecurity and fueling a desperate need for success."  Sound familiar to anyone out there?  

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

Speaking of desperate for success, does anyone out there with a profound sense of insecurity or otherwise know anything about smokelong quarterly?? Is this a decent online mag?

Anonymous said...

It depends. Remember high school? Think of publishing like party invitations. If you start going to the mid-level parties, it is much harder to go to the big parties. If you go to the low-level parties, you're screwed for life. The real party is at the real magazines, which come out in print, not online. Think The New Yorker, Conjunctions, Paris Review, etc. The real question is: does a mid-level acceptance in a journal (Smokelong is probably low level; it's very good, but not taken very seriously--Clapper might show up in a moment to dispute that) enhance or hinder your chances to get into a better journal? I think it hinders your chances. You are a brand, and you can't shake off early average lit publication credits. Aim high. Or, if you don't care about publishing a book, aim wherever.

Anonymous said...

Smokelong is a great journal. I like how the editorial tastes change with the different guest editors, so each issue has its own flavor. They publish names you'd recognize, but always seem to have lots of room for new writers too. (The author interviews are fun as well.)

Dave Clapper said...

I'll take "very good" over "taken very seriously," so if we're not one, I'm glad we're not the latter. :)

Anonymous said...

smokelong is flash fiction. if flash is what you are trying to get published, there really aren't that many venues for it, but smokelong is a good one to try. good luck with that. i think you're better off working flashes into short stories.

the party analogy is weak. party-going doesn't even operate that way. i'm sure anon will repost to tell me i'm stupid. suck my balls.

Writer, Rejected said...

Seriously? Is that necessary? Your balls? Really?

Anonymous said...

"the party analogy is weak. party-going doesn't even operate that way. i'm sure anon will repost to tell me i'm stupid. suck my balls."

um, okay, but maybe you and I go to different parties..

the point is that building a publishing history is like building a resume. if you start low, you struggle to get higher. smokelong is a good venue for flash fiction, agreed. i don't want to knock smokelong. but no editor at a top journal will read a pub cred at smokelong and think, hmm, amazing, anon was published at a well-intentioned, ephemeral ezine that people scan for five seconds over their overpriced latte. fiction is a business. you need to think about yourself as a business. you need to think about your ultimate market.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, I guess it's best to not be published at all, and then get into The New Yorker. It may take 12 years or so however (I think Gaitskill shopped her first story for about 10 years). So perhaps it's better for the psyche to get published a few times,even if it has to be at mid-tier journals, rather than facing years of discouragement.

WTF said...

so NO cred is better than SLQ even though people seem to agree it's good??

Bingo Boots said...

Anon above assumes that a getting into the New Yorker is a matter of persistence. I think the vast majority of writers, myself included, could submit a story a week for the rest of their lives and still get rejected every single time.

If you don't have what they want, you ain't never going to have it.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the smokelong comment.

Putting aside that journal specifically, since when do editors know what journals you've been in?

They only know if you tell them... or do you think they google every writer they might accept to see if they've been published in mediocre journals?

That's why the party analogy doesn't work. In high school people all know who you hang with, who your groups are. You submit to the New Yorker and don't list prior pubs, I highly doubt they check.

Also, for what it is worth, I just saw an issue of One Story where in the back the author bio only listed two magazines: Smokelong and Tin House.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, I can't say I agree with David Brooks at all.

Two reasons:

1) Hundreds of thousands of people dedicate themselves to writing (or for that matter basketball or free jazz or whatever you want to pick) and yet only a small percentage of those actually turn out to be really good and only a small percentage of the really good people are succesful.

2) Innate talent is not a myth. You can go to an undergraduate creative writing class where everyone fiction for the first time and even from the start you will notice some people who are good and others who are not. Some people who aren't good starting out can work themselves into being good, but I think the idea that innate talent or genius doesn't really exist and all that matters is being slightly above average + practice to not jive with anything I've seen in life.

Anonymous said...

The point is that when you submit work to a magazine you list your prior publications--the parties you have been to, to start beating a dead horse. So, if a credit is going to be 'secret,' what's the point? I'm talking strictly business here. You'll get a lot of play in some ezines; it just isn't the right kind of play. I really don't understand writers who have top-tier acceptances, and also on their personal websites cite, like, quick fiction. It's like getting a Harvard MBA and on your resume citing your proficiency in Microsoft Word. But the bigger point is this: this kid coming on here to find out if smokelong is a good place is acting very unprofessionally. Do the research first before you get an acceptance. The whole thing is in incredibly bad taste. If you accept the invitation, you should probably go to the party.

Anonymous said...

In case it was not clear with my One Story mention, I wasn't saying I think Smokelong is nearly as good as those journals, but that Tin House and One Story didn't seem afraid of publishing someone who had been there.

If you are submitting to The Paris Review and your only publications are Scary Flowers Quarterly and the Butt Town Poetry Review, maybe you should not mention them. If you've been anywhere decent, I don't think it will turn off editors.

Anonymous said...

The point is that when you submit work to a magazine you list your prior publications--the parties you have been to, to start beating a dead horse. So, if a credit is going to be 'secret,' what's the point? I'm talking strictly business here.Well I guess the point is this: One way of moving through the publishing world is to work your way up. You publish in places like Smokelong, maybe we would call them tier E? Then you use those priors to help you get into tier D like Quick Fiction? Then you use that to get into tier C and so on and up.

By the time you are submitting to Paris Review and New Yorker, you no longer have to mention your old Tier E and D publications.

Or do you disagree?

Writer, Rejected said...

Well, I wouldn't say that either of those journals are Tier D or E, but I get your general point, and I've basically run my career that way, though it hasn't been as linear as you describe. Mostly, I choose journals and magazines that I like to read and then I submit. Sometimes I've gotten into a very good journal the same month I've gotten into a small online journal that has a lot of heart. I guess I've decided that just getting my stuff out there and read is good enough. I have never been published in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, or the Paris Review. If I write a story that I think is good enough for them, I will certainly start submitting to those big name places again. Maybe after I publish my novel. Who knows. Life is long (sometimes short) and surprising.

Anonymous said...

This linear path seems a lot more probable/realistic than the person who says only go for the new yorker A list parties.

What about when literary journals all go the way of the kindle/internet anyway. seems like smokelong will be in a good position.

Anonymous said...

Well, I wouldn't say that either of those journals are Tier D or E, but I get your general point, and I've basically run my career that way, though it hasn't been as linear as you describe.Don't take any offense to those tiers. It is just a matter of how big or small we make the tiers. Is tier A just thew New Yorker, Harpers and one or two more? Or is it the top 10? Is tier b the next 10 best or the next 20 best? Etc.

Anonymous said...

Tier A is anything that pays in $$$.
Tier Z is anything not in Tier A.

the next sensation said...

It is true that moving your way up the tiers is one way, a good way, to run a career. Obviously, most of us do that. The question is whether that is the best way. Again, we would need some specific figures and facts, but without those I'll speculate. The writers who have published short story collections that have received a lot of play recently--Daniel Alarcon, Rebecca Curtis, Tower Wells, Aimee Phan, Maile Malloy; I might have spelled a few names wrong--did any of these people move up from tiers to big name journals? Or were they, suddenly, discovered as 'the big thing'? Meaning, is it not perhaps better to score a big hit than laboriously move your way up the ranks, because moving up is very slow and because earlier journals and ezines can drag you down? Maybe, in many cases, as you move up the tiers your writing improves. But if you are sitting on, say, ten stories that are golden, that in your heart you believe could be published anywhere, it seems to me idiotic to accept any offers from a second-tier place. So in that case, hold out. That is also assuming you want your work to be published with a decent press and you want to make money writing. If you're happy with a smaller press publishing your work, with no advance and no media play, then this doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

His name is Wells Tower, not Tower Wells. You ask a fair question. I can't say I know the exact publishing history of those people, although I know a little about Tower.

Wells Tower was first published in Fence, then in A Paris Review, then places like Oxford American, McSweneey's and the New Yorker. Those are all pretty stellar journals, but Fence is probably a bit below the rest. Fence is still a great journal, but it is no New Yorker. So I would say he certainly moved up a tier or two by starting in Fence.

Danial Alacron seems to have published in mostly pretty high ranked journals, at least for the stories in his collection. Glimmer Train being the lowest.

I am pretty sure Curtis is the same way as Towers, having work in StorQuarterly and N+1 before the New Yorker. Again, good journals both, but not in the upper tier or two.

Although this is only what I know. It is possible Curtis and Towers both published in mediocre magazines I didn't notice and didn't use those stories in their collections.

Now Aimee Phan is a different story. Looking at her credits for her first book her publications are:

VQR, Meridian, Chelsea, Colorado Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Prarie Schooner.

The only one of those that might be considered second tier is VQR. I'd certainly say she has done well by publishing in third or fourth tier journals (for reference, I'm kind of looking at this ranking:

http://www.thejohnfox.com/bookfox/ranking-of-literary-journ.html)

But maybe none of this tells us how possible it is to move from Smokelong to New Yorker.

Anonymous said...

But if you are sitting on, say, ten stories that are golden, that in your heart you believe could be published anywhere, it seems to me idiotic to accept any offers from a second-tier place. So in that case, hold out.Based on the evidence of the people I just listed, your advice seems incorrect. In we look at the tiers at bookfox, ALL of the people you listed were published in at least third tier journals before getting to some place like New Yorker. Phan was in fourth and fifth tier journals before getting her book out.

Of course, maybe you judge the tiers differently, but the top tier can't possibly hold more than 10 or 15 journals max, so I would strongly disagree that you can only publish in those 15.

If you wanted to tell me you should only publish in one of the top 30, I might agree.

It probably does depend on your stage and also what you write. If you write a lot of very short stories, maybe it is better to build buzz in different places. If you only write long stories and only have 5 you love, maybe you should hold out for one of the top journals.

Although again, this doesn't answer the question of going from smaller websites to big big magazines.

the next sensation said...

Wells Tower, right. That was silly of me. I just read his book and thought it amazing, one of the best collections I've read in a long while.

A couple of points. That ranking system you are using is not particularly scientific. A much, much better ranking is at http://perpetualfolly.blogspot.com/2008/12/2009-pushcart-prize-rankings.html


At any rate, there is NO WAY VQR is second tier. Alarcon, for example, published a great piece in VQR that was also in "War by Candlelight." I don't think Glimmer Train was second tier either. But we do need to come to some agreement on the ranking system. People on this blog continually throw around this word 'tier' and I'm never sure exactly what they are referencing.

Are you sure Curtis was in N+1 before the New Yorker? I have that edition and it lists the name of her forthcoming book--so in fact I'm almost positive that she had a few stories ("Hungry Self"--totally amazing) in The New Yorker before N+1. And anyway her piece in N+1--"The Near Son" I think it is called,is junk--and nothing TNY would publish.

But your point is taken. I'd say maybe taking anything below top 50--all of Phan's publications were top 50--is a bad move. And anyway, aside from maybe The Paris Review, The Atlantic, TNY, Harper's, ALL of those top 50 places are insanely competitive. We're talking acceptance rates below 0.1, I'd imagine--for fiction.

Anonymous said...

The other thing I feel is worth mentioning is most of these magazines we are talking about do indeed publish successful authors. People who already have books out will still publish stories in Fence or even Smokelong.

So how does that factor in here? Is it a bad move for the start of a career, but irrelevant once you have established a career?

I ask because I don't' know.

Anonymous said...

And come on, Smokelong is not, say, WOW women on writing or the various "contests" that individuals run on their blogs.

Irian Jaya said...

For clarification, n+1 is not read very far beyond Brooklyn/Manhattan, and really, not very far beyond the social circles of its founders either. It owes its notariety entirely to Gawker--please!

This is the Top Tier:

The &
Fictionville
Smokelong

This is the Second Tier:

VQR
Paris Review
Glimmer Train
Esquire
McSweeney's Quarterly
Ploughshares
New Yorker
One Story
Zoetrope All Story
Asimov's
Analog
F & SF
The Atlantic
Harpers

I'm probably forgetting 2 or 3 more...

Anonymous said...

A couple of points. That ranking system you are using is not particularly scientific. A much, much better ranking is at I very much disagree that the Pushcart ranking is a "much better" ranking. I think it is useful and my own ranking system is somewhere between the two, but the Pushcart one is just one anthology which has specific tastes, tastes I would say trend far more towards the "classic" short story than what is being read most widely today. For example, there is no way that there are 14 small press magazines that would be better for your career to publish in than McSweeneys. That guy's particular ranking also looks at the last 10 years, which is too much time since many of the best journals are more recent, such as A Public Space. It also seems to me that the Pushcart skews towards journals that publish all fiction, while journals that only publish a few stories an issue, but are probably more prestigious (VQR and Oxford American come to mind) are ranked too low.

I do think it is a useful ranking to look at, but not the most accurate.

At any rate, there is NO WAY VQR is second tier. Alarcon, for example, published a great piece in VQR that was also in "War by Candlelight." I don't think Glimmer Train was second tier either. But we do need to come to some agreement on the ranking system.I think the VQR is a fantastic magazine, but I don't personally think it makes any sense to lump the VQR in with the high paying, wide circulation magazines such as Harper's or the New Yorker. Glimmer Train is a fine journal as well, but I don't think it would be pushing it to call it top 30, and again to me a tier that ranges from The New Yorker to the 30th best magazine seems completely nonsensical.

In fact, it doesn't really seem like a "tier" system to me if the 30 best magazines are tier one, then, what, every other magazine is tier two? A two tier system doesn't seem very helpful.

But I do agree with you that these things can be defined in many different ways. For me personally, I think the BookFox ranking is fairly accurate. There are some glaring omissions and some others I'd move around, but overall I think it is good. I think the few remaining high-paying, wide-circulation magazines are a tier of their one. That is what everyone is shooting for, not Glimmer Train. I think the second tier is the ~10 best literary magazines (ie not glossy more general magazines). I think the third tier is something like the 20 next best magazines. The fourth tier is the next ~30 next best magazines. The fifth tier is the rest of the magazines you might find in an indie book store or a barnes and noble or are hip upcoming journals and/or websites.

That is just my personal view of things, as I think those catagories are distinct. Which is to say, I think there is a definite difference between Granta/McSweeneys (tier II) and The New Yorker. I think their is a definite difference between a journal like A Public Space (tier III) and Granta. and so on.

Not saying you have to agree, but that is what I mean when I reference tiers.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure Curtis was in N+1 before the New Yorker? No, I'm definitely not positive on this point.

For clarification, n+1 is not read very far beyond Brooklyn/Manhattan, and really, not very far beyond the social circles of its founders either. It owes its notariety entirely to Gawker--please!I have no love for N+1, but its a somewhat "hip" journal that is read by agents, editors and the types of people who "matter" in terms of your career. This doesn't make them better than other readers per se, but this discussion is about where you should publish to move up the ladder, right?

I think a lot of journals people view very highly on websites like this, such as Glimmer Train, are really not thought of nearly as highly by agents and editor types in NYC or other publishing centers.

Anonymous said...

I really should have spell checked my 11:30 AM post. Yikes.

Irian Jaya said...

I forgot Granta!

When I think of my tier system, each of the top journals has so much cache that it's not worth it to sub-tier them into the top 5, or top 10, or bottom half of the top 10, etc.

I can see where inclusion of Glimmer Train might be questionable for some people. But they are damn selective, with their pay rates and contests, they probably get as many manuscripts as the New Yorker does.

As for a what a previous commenter mentioned, if there is such a thing as tier Z, it is solely occupied by Narrative Magazine. With all the negative press they get on blogs, I think a pub cred there would hinder.

Anonymous said...

I guess I disagree with you.

I think the "cache" you'd get from Tin House, Granta or McSweeney's is significantly higher than what you'd get for being in Glimmer Train or Kenyon Review or the like. I really do, I think its as big of a gap or bigger than between Tin House and the New Yorker/Harper's.

Maybe I'm judging things wrong, but this is my feeling from what I've seen in the publishing world.

None of this is a knock on Glimmer Train. They are a great journal, highly selective, win awards and are a fantastic place to publish. I just don't think they are on the same tier. Like I said, they are probably on the outside of the top 30 magazines (for reference, they are ranked 36th on your pushcart list, and that doesn't include New Yorker, Granta, Harper's or any other big circulation place. And it also ranks more experimental and diverse journals lower than more traditional journals) but would certainly be in the top 50 (maybe top 40?) and anything in there is a great place to publish.

All to the top 50 will be highly selective and most of them will pay pretty well.

Having talked to someone at the New Yorker department, I highly doubt Glimmer Train gets anywhere near the submissions NYer does. That place is crazy. I don't get why people even submit, as they rarely take out of the slush, but so be it.

But I've explained my ranking, what would yours be? Just genuinely curious, like to hear other people's lists to adjust my own.

the ntext sensation...i know this handle is annoying but will keep it for this thread said...

Your wrote: "In fact, it doesn't really seem like a "tier" system to me if the 30 best magazines are tier one, then, what, every other magazine is tier two? A two tier system doesn't seem very helpful."

I stand corrected. Maybe the Pushcart Prize ranking is a little cloistered and the Bookfox one is better, for all the reasons you mention. It is also seems silly to have a tier including thirty journals. So, basically, you are right.

From now one when we talk about tiers on this blog, maybe let's use the Bookfox one as a reference point.

You wrote: "I think the "cache" you'd get from Tin House, Granta or McSweeney's is significantly higher than what you'd get for being in Glimmer Train or Kenyon Review or the like. I really do, I think its as big of a gap or bigger than between Tin House and the New Yorker/Harper's."

Agreed.

My only one objection to this tier system is that it suggests that moving up a tier is to have a better chance in some tangible way--meaning, say, you have a 5 percent more likelihood to get published going down a tier. In fact, it is probably more like half a percentage point, if. So, in an important way, within the top fifty, while it is true there are tiers, the actual difficulty difference is not particularly large. There is probably a term from physics here I am forgetting.

My next question is whether winning a prize from what in BookFox land would probably be a sixth tier makes that acceptance 'count' as a higher tier. Any views, readers?

Dudeyouvebeentalkingto said...

I'm giving myself a "name" here for a second so it doesn't get too confusing. This is a fun conversation, I hope some others chime in.

My only one objection to this tier system is that it suggests that moving up a tier is to have a better chance in some tangible way--meaning, say, you have a 5 percent more likelihood to get published going down a tier. In fact, it is probably more like half a percentage point, if.I don't disagree with this at all. The only thing I would say is that there might be a much higher chance of an agent or another editor reading your work and soliciting you if you are in a place like Tin House or certainly the New Yorker. I have no idea how common this is, or how much of a chance you improve going from Colorado Review to VQR or whoever.

I agree that the chance of getting published through the slush based on your prior publications is probably very low. 1% increase might be right.

So yeah, much of what we are talking about is perhaps fairly irrelevant.

My next question is whether winning a prize from what in BookFox land would probably be a sixth tier makes that acceptance 'count' as a higher tier. Any views, readers?Now this is an interesting question. The role of contests has never been clear to me. Speaking purely for myself, whose been on editorial staffs on magazines, I wouldn't think any more about a contest than a publication. Ignoring tiers for a bit, is it more impressive to win a contest at Indiana Review (or VQR or New Yorker or any magazine you wish) than to just be published by them? I imagine the odds of winning are not that different from merely being picked out of the slush. Obviously winning a contest is nicer because you get more money, but does it reflect better than a normal acceptance? To me, not really.

But I may be completely alone here and maybe most editors would consider a contest win to be a whole step above a normal acceptance?

Another possibility is that this changes at the low levels. Maybe it is always near-impossible to get into VQR, contest or not. But to get into a 6th tier journal isn't nearly as hard as winning that same journal's contest? Due to the prize money to make up for the lack of journal prestige and thus drawing more submissions?

Dave Clapper said...

Regarding contests, I can't speak for normal contests, but I can speak about the odds of winning SmokeLong's annual fellowship versus having a piece selected from the slush. Believe it or not, the odds of winning the fellowship are almost exactly the same as having a piece pulled from the slush. Both are about 1%. I'm not sure why this is, considering we don't pay for regular publication, but the fellowship pays $500 and doesn't require an entry fee. Perhaps because applications for the fellowship require more work on the part of the writer (five pieces and a goals statement)? I really don't know.

The prestige of winning contests is an interesting question. My gut says that it does elevate the tier a bit, if only because more visibility is ascribed to contests. But maybe that's not the case. Would winning Esquire's current contest, for example, carry more prestige than getting into Esquire in any way?

One item above, aside from contests, that makes me laugh a bit is the idea of an agent being more likely to solicit someone who appears in The New Yorker. Is there ANYONE who appears in TNY that doesn't yet have an agent?

Writer, Rejected said...

No, there is not. In fact, you NEED an agent spinning your work as the next hottest thing to even get in the door at the New Yorker. That's just how it is.

the next sensation said...

A couple of things.

Nell Freudenberger was working at the New Yorker when Bill Buford discovered she was writing a short story, and asked to see it. Later, he published it, and I think it was her first publication (first, and best, in my opinion; the rest was junk). I'm almost positive she did not have an agent at the time. Give me some time and I'll think of a few other examples. Obviously, W, R, your point stands, but there are a few exceptions.

I think the visibility of winning the Esquire contest certainly makes that a more important acceptance than just being published in Esquire. For a start,Poets and Writers publishes your name on their website, which is good media play. People will google your name if you win. They'll try and find out who you are, what you are about. In general, I would say winning a few contests in lower tier journals but still respectable journals is as good as if not better than being published in one of the journals listed in the Bookfox Tier. A lot of these places get five, six hundred entries, and there is only one winner. That's well below one percent.

Let's take a particular contest as evidence. The Georgetown Review had 857 entries this year to their contest (Jacob. M. Appel was one of the finalists, W, R) and published five of the fiction entries. One of those writers, Jackie Thomas-Kennedy, has won some big stuff from Narrative and elsewhere and is in fact an excellent writer. So: the Georgetown Review is not a big deal publication, but some top writers are trying to win those contests. The same thing can be said of Glimmer Train: some of their winners have published well-acclaimed books. The point is that lower-tier journals get a lot of contest entries, and some of those entering the contests have even published in better journals. So: this should move those acceptances up a tier. But do agents and editors know this?

And yet the counterargument stands: readers for contests read with half an eye on pushing an entry through to the next round. Readers for regular submissions read simply to reject--that's a fact. So,in an absurd way, maybe your chances are better in a contest.

At a certain point, if you have some mid-tier acceptances, again on the BookFox list, it stops making sense to enter contests run by below mid-tier journals.

What are your opinions on this, W, R, as someone who has won a few contests?

Anonymous said...

There are lots of excellent "mid-tier" journals out there: Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Georgia Review, Mid-American Review and so forth, also lots of lower ranked ones: Cold Drill, Santa Clara Review, etc – hundreds if you find them. I think many writers like to send to multiple journals as the same journal is unlikely to keep printing your stories in successive issues. Further, as some writers write so much they have enough pieces to send to smaller places. Some of the posters have ti understand that even at say lower tiered journals (university-ran ones at least) the competition is still fierce; the competition being, in fact, writing professors, professional writers, MFA students etc (people who study and practice writing as a part of their lives and professional and artistic development). My advice is to only send pieces out to journals in which it will fit aesthetically and your level of craft and originality matches what you read.

Dudeyouvebeentalkingto said...

Dave Clapper Thanks for giving us some data on Smokelong. That is pretty much what I assumed. In fact, perhaps we should assume getting into contests is actually a tad easier? Since there are likely less submissions due to entry fees than the normal slush? I know I submit tirelessly to journals but only pony up money for contests once or twice a year.

One item above, aside from contests, that makes me laugh a bit is the idea of an agent being more likely to solicit someone who appears in The New Yorker. Is there ANYONE who appears in TNY that doesn't yet have an agent?In the specific case of TNY, no not many if any without agents. But certainly being in the New Yorker will make it more likely for a publisher to pick up your book FROM your agent, don't you think? Also more likely that another editor will read your work and decide to solicit you.

Dudeyouvebeentalkingto said...

In general, I would say winning a few contests in lower tier journals but still respectable journals is as good as if not better than being published in one of the journals listed in the Bookfox Tier. A lot of these places get five, six hundred entries, and there is only one winner. That's well below one percent.Again, I really can't speak for other editors, nor have I been editing long enough to know how others think. But for me, if your cover letter lists a magazine I've never heard of I'm not going to think anything of it, whether you were just published there or won their "best fiction writer alive" award.

Even if there are a lot of entries in a low level award, the pure numbers don't necessarily mean much. It is also about the quality of the manuscripts being sent in, and if it is a journal I've never heard of I'm going to assume the competition wasn't as high as a higher tier journal.

So,in an absurd way, maybe your chances are better in a contest. Speaking purely for myself, I've had a much higher rate of publication through contests than through the slush (rarely have I won, but I've been a finalist who got published several times)... even at the same journals.

Anonymous said...

That is a rather mundane truism and, as far as I can see, adds little to the discussion. Basically you are saying read the journals you submit to. Duh.

the next sensation said...

Dudeyoubeentalking to: Did you recognize most of the names on the Pushcart Ranking Prize--the ranking system I mentioned earlier--in the top 100? These contests you've been a finalist in: they are in that top 100, or top fifty? Be as opaque as you want to protect your identity but that's kind of relevant to this discussion. When I'm talking about short story prizes, I'm talking about competitions run in journals that rank in the top 100 of the 'perpetual folly' ranking. Not below that. So are you saying that, say, winning an award from a top 100 journal is less significant than, say, being published in The Alaska Quarterly Review? Really?

Dudeyouvebeentalkingto said...

Next sensation:

A fair question. Looking through the pushcart ranking I think I'd recognize roughly 90% of the top 100 (or in this case, those tied for 95 for better) journals. Which is I guess to say, there are about 10 or so journals I don't recognize. I'd recognize pretty much everyone from BookFox's ranking.

I'm not putting down any journals in the top 100 of that ranking. All of those are great places to be published. I'm just suggesting, that for me personally at least, I wouldn't distinguish being accepted in a journal from winning a contest. Whether that journal/contest is Post Road, One Story, Missouri Review or The New Yorker. Winning contests is great, especially since you get money, but I wouldn't rank it much higher than a normal publication in that same journal.

But like I said, I have no idea if other editors agree with me or not.

Dudeyouvebeentalkingto said...

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not meaning to degrade any of these journals. I just wouldn't assume automatically that winning a contest means more than getting in from the slush. My sense is, as our Smokelong representative says, the statistics are pretty similar.

the next sensation said...

Agreed, then. Getting published through winning or being a top finalist in a contest is roughly the same as getting an acceptance in the same journal, but--here's my take-- it might be slightly better because your name is broadcast more (in the journal, you'll be mentioned; on poets and writers you'll be mentioned; newpages.blogspot.com will mention you; etc.)

Before this blog thread dies, I'm interested in whether anyone with an agent (I don't have an agent, but haven't looked for one either)has had an agent pitch them at tier three, four or five on the bookfox list. Does that help? Do agents even bother with journals below tier two? Does anyone have experience with this? It'd be nice to have you join in, W, R, although ever time I pitch a question to you the horizon is silence. These aren't spitballs. They go straight and true.

Dave Clapper said...

I find it interesting that, as an editor, publications listed in the cover letter carry some weight. I absolutely don't care to read the bios of our submitters until AFTER we've decided whether or not to accept a piece. It just doesn't affect the quality of the piece being considered in any way.

Dudeyouvebeentalkingto said...

I think I'm going to back peddle a bit. I think that I would consider winning a magazine's contest to be better than just getting out of the slush (dependent on the contest's scope), and I do think it would be better for you for the reasons you say.

I still wouldn't leap a contest from a lower tier magazine above an upper tier magazine publication I dont' think.

I'd love to hear the answer to the agents question. I'll ask some friends. I'm pretty sure tier III (according to bookfox) would get some submissions. Conjunctions? A Public Space? One Story? I know for a fact those get agented submissions. For lower tiers though I'm not sure.

Dudeyouvebeentalkingto said...

I don't think publication credits carry much weight in a cover letter. Certainly editors aren't going to publish something they don't like merely because some other story had been taken by a good magazine.

But that's why I think it is better to get in the journals that agents and editor types actually read, instead of say winning contests in other magazines. Because editors and agents will definitly contact people they see and like in journals they read.

the next sensation said...

Dudeyoubeentalkingto: Be great if you can ask your friends with agents about the third tier deal and get back to us.

I agree that it is better to get in the big journals. But, again, you hear of other writers getting agents through winning awards in slightly lower-tier journals.

Not that any of this matters. I'm about to read Kolbert's new article in The New Yorker about how we will all be extinct by the end of the century. Cormac McCarthy got it right in The Road.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be rude, but this discussion is naive at best. It is not the where that counts nearly so much as the what. A stinker published in McSweeney's VS a gem published in Ninth Letter, which one do you think will more impress an agent reading both journals?

Agents do not read the top 20 journals exclusively. Every print journal is read by at least some agents. Some online journals too. If you have an amazing story in a third tier journal, it will get noticed. And even if your sweet editorial connections manage to place your mediocre story in a top tier journal, you will still fail to impress an agent because your story sucks.

This is amateur stuff, going on and on and on and on and on about tiers...Put the effort you spend analyzing this to death into your stories!
This

Anonymous said...

Anon that sounds both tautological and very naive. Obviously publishing bad work is bad news. The question isn't whether the greatest story every in Ninth Letter is better than publishing crap in New Yorker, it is whether it is better to publish your greatest story in the New Yorker or in Ninth Letter.

the next sensation said...

Anon above: You have some examples to provide? Without those, your point makes little sense. For a start, Ninth Letter is pretty experimental,as you probably know. I'd be surprised if any agent would snap up an 'amazing' story published there. Secondly, this isn't amateur stuff at all, worrying about where to publish, is it? Obviously, nobody is saying worrying about tiers means less effort goes into your writing. It's about where to place the good stories you have put a lot of effort into. Thirdly, agents are tiered too. "Getting an agent" can mean the same thing as "getting published in the Rat Tail Review." The people I know who have scored agents have done so in the top tiers, which is why we are here blogging on Memorial Day weekend. Let's hear some contrary evidence.

the next sensation said...

On that note, anybody know about a 'tier' system published regarding agency houses? Or is it more like individual agents?

Dave Clapper said...

Actually, the anon referring to Ninth Letter is right, at least in my experience. A number of writers I know from Zoetrope's online workshop have had agents contact them based on work read in online magazines, several of which don't appear in any of the tiered lists discussed above...

The biggest issue has been that most of those inquiries have been from agents who liked short stories they read online and wanted to know if the writers had novels. In a couple of cases, the writers did, but in many, they didn't...

thenextsensation said...

Dave: Interesting. I believe it. Can you go the whole hog and tell us which online journals? Do agents ever try and push work on you from writers?

Dude said...

I think anon is certainly correct that agents read different journals and lower tier journals (although I would consider Ninth Letter to be a great journal and well up there) and even obscure online journals and/or new upstart journals.

I'm not sure what that really has to do with this discussion though. Whether or not an agent might read X web zine doesn't really say much about whether it is better to be published there than in VQR or Tin House. As sensation noted, not all agents are created equal for one thing. For two, more agents read the bigger journals than the smaller journals, so that is a positive. For three, agents will be better able to sell your collection and/or novel if you have big publication credits and your name is out there in popular magazines. For four, you should want your own writing to appear alongside writing you like and in magazines you admire (whatever tier they happen to be). Part of what is neat about publishing is entering a dialogue with editors and writers you admire.

So if anon was saying "don't worry too much about the tier, just publish in magazines you think are great and alongside writers you love and hopefully your work will find an agent when you are ready" then I'm with him.

If he was saying "You should just publish wherever you can without worrying about how good the magazines are because some agents will read anything remotely decent and all that matters is your work being strong" then I disagree for the reasons above.

Dave Clapper said...

We haven't had agents try to push their clients' work on us (probably because we don't pay, so the agents wouldn't get a cut). Most of what I know of agents contacting writers is anecdotal, stuff I heard from other writers at Zoe. Knowing where their work typically appeared, though, we're talking about a tier that would include places like Cafe Irreal, 3am Magazine, Eyeshot, etc. Good magazines all, but nothing that would likely appear in the tier lists mentioned earlier in this comment thread.

Anonymous said...

Ok, this might be a silly question, but what about publishing in something like Weird Tales? If you subscribe to the party analogy, would something like a genre mag (that published Lovecraft in its heyday, but still) be the kiss of death?