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NaNoWriMo Notes 16: Waiting For Replies

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All good intentions aside, there is realistically only so much editing one can do in a day. Hell, there’s only so much one can do in a week, but that would be pushing it back to being far too sporadic to count as a concentrated effort. Since I’m trying to made such an exertion, so I’m not left scrambling when the happy event of manuscript acceptance occurs, I’ve been trying to find something to do besides editing and posting to my blog each day to keep me focused.

A couple of months back I received the advice from a couple of sources to try submitting some of my work to magazines. This is something that has crossed my mind from time to time in the past. I have all these articles that I’ve already written on a variety of subjects after all, so why not put them to use?

Now the first thing I had to do was to find out what was out there and what sort of potential market for my work existed. I pretty much figured I could discount most of my reviews, as most magazines have in-house people to do reviews. I also realised that the majority of my op-ed would only be of interest to a limited market, for much the same reason as reviews.

Even before I had begun looking for magazines I began to realize the paucity of my marketable material. The whole experience was beginning to sound a little less like fun, and a little more like work. Oh well, I had said I wanted to be distracted from editing and this looked like it would be quite the distraction.

I decided to focus on a couple of specific articles and see if I could sell them to genre magazines. They weren’t actually articles, they were interviews, and I thought that might make them easier to sell. One was with an established author, Ashok Banker, author of a modern retelling of the Indian epic tale The Ramayana, and the other was with Robert Scott, whose Eldarn Sequence had just had its first of three books, The Hickory Staff, published.

My next step was one that seemingly thousands, if not millions, of people do each day, Google. It’s amazing how many science fiction/fantasy magazines are in existence. I don’t know what I expected, but the numbers were staggering. I decided to refine my search slightly and augmented it with the word “submissions”.

It may not have reduced the number of returns, but it at least meant I wouldn’t have to search every site for their submissions page. I picked three for each author and set about fulfilling the requirements requested of the individual publications. Each submission would consist of a query letter, a word document I’ve prepared containing quotes about how wonderful I am, and most important of all, either an excerpt or the whole manuscript depending on their requirements.

One thing that most people offering you advice about making submissions tell you is to always make sure that the query letter you send is distinct for each publisher. The last thing they are going to be impressed with is a “Dear Sir” form letter. They will be much more interested if you can tell them why your article will sell them more magazines then they did last month without you.

Usually magazines will offer you the alternative of submitting by e-mail, especially if it’s only a query letter, but most of them will even accept your story as well. One thing I did notice, and this is something that you have to be really careful of, is that some them accept items as attachments to their emails, while others want them included in the body. It really felt odd pasting seven or eight pages of text into a letter as a postscript to the signature.

I had figured on making those two interviews my trial balloons. I’d see how they went over and make a decision based on that whether or not to keep trying to sell existing pieces or to start writing for specific targets. I was still keeping my eyes open for other magazines to submit to as well.

Somehow or other, I can’t remember how, I came across the submission guidelines to Adbusters, so I sent them off some of my snarkier satire pieces, because that would be along the lines of what they’d like. I also came across a magazine based out of Oakland called Color Lines, which publishes all manner of articles that deal with issues of race.

As I have written quite extensively on the subject of race, I thought it would be worth a shot to try and get one or two of my pieces included in their magazine. What was promising about Color Lines was that they will hold on to submissions if they think they have merit and publish them in an appropriately themed issue. So if an article doesn’t work right away, it could work three months from now.

I have since heard back from three of the magazines. One was an outright rejection, one was a ‘we can’t use this article, but please keep us in mind for the future’, and the third was from Color Lines saying “your article is in the hands of the appropriate editor for possible use in a future issue”.

You know what they say about not encouraging people sometimes, because they won’t shut up. Well that’s me, give me an opening and I’ll blasting away at with everything I’ve got. I immediately sent them off four more articles that they could hopefully make use of for some upcoming issue.

What’s also nice about Color Lines (aside from the fact they don’t spell the name of their magazine properly) is that they pay. Not just a pittance either, but $250 (in American dollars which would be close to $300 in Canada) per article. Even one of those a month would make a huge difference in our lives, let me tell you.

I have a nice fantasy that involves getting picked up as a stringer by a few magazines and starting to make enough money that way to be able to augment my disability checks through my work as a writer. Being paid and being able to make enough money every month to put a dent in our horrific debt load would be an astounding thing.

The only drawback is my slightly astringent tone. Not many popular magazines, the ones with money enough to pay real amounts, want stuff that’s a little bit nasty, or even outspoken. They want stuff that a housewife will feel comfortable reading while she’s waiting in a doctor’s office.

Since one of my stated goals with my writing is to be a little unsettling, I don’t think Good Housekeeping and Redbook are my ideal target market. But it seems there are enough magazines out there that are willing to look at work that isn’t completely mainstream so I can always hold out hope of earning a partial living from what I love doing, while awaiting the fame and fortune that will come my way when I’m a published novelist.

Speaking of which, the novel that is, I have finished editing up to the end of chapter eleven, and have surprised myself twice by laughing out loud at my own prose (not at typos, but in genuine amusement, thank you very much). I’ve also submitted it to another publisher, this one a little closer to home than the last one as it’s based out of Toronto.

Kunati Inc. is a brand new publishing house that’s looking for what it calls “Fresh Voices.” I guess that means they are looking for different approaches and new ideas. Well I’m different, so I figured they were worth a shot.

They wanted a query letter, and a chapter pasted into the body of the email. So that went out a day or so ago, and we shall see what we shall see. It hasn’t even been a month since I sent out the query and three chapters to the folks in India, so I don’t suppose I’ll be hearing from them for a while yet.

That’s okay as I still have a way to go to finish editing the rest of the book, and also have to figure out a way of breaking it to them that it’s in two parts. Of course if they happen to be checking up on my web presence and me they might just end up reading this, and find out anyway.

So there you are, an interlude post as we await with bated breath anything exciting happening in a writer’s life.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Richard, that’s great news about the mags. It really is exciting (albeit sometimes nerve wracking) to send those babies out into the world, and it sounds like you’re poised for a “hit.” And good luck with the novel too; it seems like you’ve been targeting markets with a good “fit” there as well.

  • http://wisdomandmurder.blogspot.com Lisa McKay

    Richard, pursuing a career in writing is clearly not for the faint-hearted – the glimpses you share of the seamy under-side of the writing profession are really invaluable. Cheers to you for sticking with it!

  • http://www.crowscry.com John Spivey

    Richard,

    Try checking out The Sun Magazine. They are a highly regarded literary magazine that embraces probing, thinking pieces of writing. They also pay. Sometimes we have to look for every scrap of hope we can to keep on going. I wish you much good fortune.

    John

  • http:blogs.epicindia.com/leapinthedark Richard Marcus

    Why thank you all for your words of encouragement and praise. I must admit that I seem to think of everything as far less a “big deal” as everybody else.

    My wife keeps telling me that I’m doing amazing things, and to me it just feels like doing what comes naturally. Amazing to me will be able to make a living from doing this, but for now I’m just grateful that I’m able to write and have fun doing and writing about the whole process.

    thank you all for your support and encouragement.

    Richard Marcus