Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Adventures in Publishing

I’ve been submitting my short stories and poems to magazines for almost 20 years and one thing I’ve noticed is that some of the editors are the most disorganized monkeys in the jungle. While the regimented chimps are happily digging insects out of a tree stump for supper, the editor monkeys are still looking for their special bug-digging stick while picking nits off an associate chimp and baring their teeth at the intern. Here are a couple of the adventures I’ve had. I’m not using any real names because I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus, just giving you a glimpse into my writing world.

I originally sent the first 20 pages of my collection of short horror stories, The Spaces between Your Screams, to a publisher about 9 years ago. I was supposed to hear back in 8 weeks. I finally received a response 10 months later. Not a good start to the process, but they asked to see the entire manuscript so I high-fived myself and mailed it off with a promise from them I would hear back within 6 months. I like to give people time so I didn’t ask for a status until a year had passed. I was informed then that they were behind in their reading but they would get to my manuscript ASAP. Another year passed and I received another assurance they were catching up. My days on Earth grew shorter and the Sun burned fuel toward its ultimate goal of becoming a neutron star, but my mail box stayed empty. After year 3 flew off the calendar into the ether I received this answer to my latest query: “We’ll be out of business within the month and have no record of receiving your manuscript.” Ooooookayyyy. Wooosh! Three years of my life down the crapper.

A few years ago I sent 4 poems to a professional horror magazine. The poetry editor said she liked all of them and passed them on to the chief editor for a final decision. Woohoo! 5 months went by with no more word so I sent a query. “Yeah, we’re going to use a couple of them. Let you know in a few weeks.” Cool. 6 more months go by. I begin to wonder if editors understand the passage of time. I query again. They decided to use 1 of the poems. Ok, I was hoping for multiples but anything is good because this is a professional magazine and I’ll get paid $15 which isn’t bad for a few lines of poetry. Say it with me: A few more months go by. I send another query and finally get the name of which poem they are using. Then I waited for the issue to be published. You guessed it: months go by and I go to the website to see if there are any announcements about upcoming issues. Lo and behold there is a picture of the current issue with my name on the front cover under the poetry section. 18 months to get 1 poem printed and he published it without telling me or paying me. One more email and a few weeks later I get my complimentary issue and a check for $15. I cook up a steak as an offering to God for the ordeal being over and do a jig not fit for human eyes. The magazine looks great and I vow to never submit to it again. However. It’s not over. His check bounces. And my bank charged me a $20 fee. What?! Once more into the email breach! I eventually got a money order for $35, but in lieu of an apology received, “hey, shit happens”. Uh huh, that’s true, but this was 2 YEARS worth of shit happening all over me! I still feel dirty.

I submitted 4 poems to an online magazine. A few weeks later I was informed by the poetry editor they would be using Poem #1 in “the next” issue. Since they come out monthly I didn’t have long to wait except, when it came out my poem was not in it. So I waited for the next issue and the next but no poem. I queried and was told it was scheduled for the “next” issue. Literally 3 minutes later I received another email that it was actually the issue after that. Fine. Apparently to them “next issue” of a monthly publication means “around 6 months from now”. I wait patiently for the day to arrive when I get an email that the chief editor has decided he doesn’t like Poem #1 so they’re going to use Poem #3. Let me get this straight Mr. Poetry Editor, I’ve been waiting for 180 days and in all that time you didn’t bother to clear your selection with the chief editor? And now you casually announce you’re using a poem I already sent out to someone else since you rejected it 5 months ago? Boom! That’s the sound of my head exploding. Excuse me while I pick up the pieces. I had to send an email withdrawing Poem #3 from the zine who was considering it, which thankfully they were fine with. Finally the day arrives and the issue comes out and there is Poem #3 in all its glory. A few days later I received an email from the poetry editor stating: “Just a reminder, this is the month for Poem #1”.

Give me strength.

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