I have been spinning my wheels a little bit with my writing lately. I’m still having issues with getting back into Angel Wings, and I have been waiting on edits for Take Me On. While I will not lie, there has been a lot of Netflix and Guild Wars 2 going on over here, I have also been doing a lot of research into some topics involved in the publishing process. Thus, my procrastination has turned into writing! There’s a wheel metaphor in there somewhere, haha. ^-^
Anyhow, here’s the pertinent info. I split it up into a few different categories… mostly to help myself organize my own thoughts on everything. Yay list! ^-^
1. Markets and Manuscripts
Perhaps this first note is obvious to everyone but me, but I think it deserves a quick reminder mention nonetheless: Printed sources cannot possibly be perfectly up to date. Policies change, addresses change, and even editors change, so make sure to double check your info. ^-^ It isn’t too difficult, in most cases a good source book will have an online companion of some kind that can be updated whenever necessary. (I really like Writer’s Market, but there are probably others as well.) Many magazines have at least an information presence online, so you can also just do a quick check on an individual basis.
In my case, I actually went to a magazine’s website to check out the submission guidelines and discovered that they had just gone through an editorial change a couple of months ago, and now accept electronic submissions! I’m very happy that I discovered this, since it will save me a bit of money and extra stress. ^-^ I will be updating my copy of Writer’s Market with an appropriate note.
And speaking of submission guidelines, I am of the firm belief that it is important to follow them to the letter. I don’t have much experience with the publishing process, but what I do have a lot of experience with is human decision making. Unless there is a glaring quality difference, our choices generally hinge on either the technical details, or how we feel about a person/product. It’s probably true that a good story will not be automatically rejected because it is written in size 14 font instead of 12, or something like that. However, suppose your story and someone else’s are equally good? Editors are human beings too, and most likely they will turn to discrepancies in the small details to help them decide. So, be the person who makes their life just that much easier by following the submission guidelines. ^-^
Obviously this goes for electronic submissions as well. In my opinion, possibly even more so than tradition ones. If a market, agent, or editor is offering you the ease and simplicity of sending them your work via the internet -possibly in your pajamas- then if they ask for a specific format you say, “Yessir, right away Sir!” and do it.
2. Copyright Questions
I had looked into copyright a little bit when I was researching nom de plumes; but while checking out magazines I kept running across the phrase “We buy First North American Serial Rights”, and realized I had no idea what it meant. Pretty simply it means that a certain party is buying the right to be the first ones to publish a particular work in the North American market. You can only sell first rights once, but you can sell them separately in different countries like Australia or The United Kingdom.
Whether or not you choose the traditional route to publish your writing, there are a lot of things about your rights under copyright law that are good to know. I found a couple of very nice sites, with good explanations, during my research. Go peruse them, you’ll learn some interesting things!
However, there was one copyright question I had to which I could find no definitive answer. It involves excerpts, specifically posting excerpts of a work on your own website or blog and whether doing so uses up ‘first’ rights, basically making the work un-publishable in the traditional market. There seems to be a lot of opinions on this, but no straight rule of thumb. The closest thing I could find to an official rule is the general consensus that as long as you don’t post more than three chapters of a novel, most publishers won’t have a problem. This doesn’t really help me, because I was mostly wondering about it in the context of short stories.
I am a bit frustrated because I cannot find ANY information on this topic regarding short stories. I kind of assume that as long as I don’t post the whole thing, or any important twists, then I am good. Really, I have just been thinking it would be nice to share the beginnings of various shorts I talk about on my blog, like Take Me On and Angel Wings. However, I’m not sure that I’m willing to risk not being able to publish them later when I have no evidence… *sigh*
The best thing I can think to do is contact a few of the magazines that most of my stories will probably be sent to, for genre reasons, and ask them what their policies are. Probably I will wait to do this until after TMO gets sent out to a few. Just seems like a better idea.
If anyone has insider information, or any other information, on this topic I would love to know!
3. Editing Emotions (though this is technically ‘personal experience’, not ‘research’ ^-^)
One of the big things I’ve learned recently is actually about editing: or rather, about having an editor go through the story you’ve already edited. I will freely admit, I was somewhat terrified at the prospect. My current editor is actually a dear friend of mine, and yet I still had this horrible anxiety while I was waiting to get my notes. Not all the time, but randomly I would just get this image in my head of opening up my email and finding tons of red marks everywhere, or big red Xs painted on with notes like, “Get rid of all of this”. I even played out this horrible scenario where it was just a note that said, “Sorry, there was nothing salvageable. You’ll have to write the whole thing over.”
Having a lively imagination is really awful sometimes. >.<
Thank goodness, reality was nowhere near as bad as all that. In fact, most of the notes I was given were in regards to grammatical concerns. For those kinds of notes, I have nothing but gratitude. Punctuation in particular has always been a struggle of mine, and while I’m happy to say that commas are no longer the bane of my writing existence, apparently I haven’t mastered the ‘comma or semi colon’ rules as much as I hoped. haha Ah well, excelsior! ^-^
Naturally, there were a range of emotions while going through the notes about things that need to be tweaked or rewritten: Puzzlement, mild annoyance, forehead-smack inducing ‘why didn’t I think of this!?’…ness. (Is there a word for that particular emotion? I feel there should be.) All in all though, I am actually really excited to get in touch with her again and go through the changes I have made. ^-^ Hopefully our schedules will match up before the end of this month.