What the Editors Mean, Part 1 -- Guideline Buzzwords
by Brian Plante
When considering which markets will receive your writing work, you should always check the for that publication. These guidelines are published in market reports like Speculations, Gila Queen's Guide To Markets, Scavenger's Newsletter, Writer's Market, and Writer's Digest. Better yet, you can usually obtain them directly from the publication by sending them a self-addressed stamped envelope.
So now you're armed with an collection of writer's guidelines. How do you select which one to send your precious pearls to? Easy, start at the top the ones paying the most money. The worst they can do is say no. But if you're just beginning, and the acceptances aren't coming, you may have to set your sights a little lower. Now, how to pick from among all those small press and semi-pro markets? It's not like you've seen a lot of these magazines on the newsstand. And you'd go broke sending away for sample issues of all those magazines, many of which may go out of business before you can finish reading the things.
No, you have to study those guidelines. Most of the professional markets really mean what they say in their guidelines, but those smaller markets often have to dance around the issues, to try and lure good writers for little pay, while also trying to keep down the number of inappropriate (read slush ) submissions. You need to read between the lines to guess what's going on at some of those places.
To help you out, here's my cheat sheet to translate a lot of the buzzwords editors put in their guidelines. My interpretations are not always true, but perhaps true often enough for a rule of thumb.
"Pays 1 to 5 cents a word," means you get one cent. If you have to ask who gets the nickel, it ain't you.
"Pays in copies," means they don't buy stories, they take them. For your effort, you get to see your story in print. Whoopee! If you're just starting and need some publishing credits, this isn't really a bad thing, but this is a step along the way, not a goal.
"Raising our rates to a penny a word," means the pays in copies (see above) thing wasn't getting them very good submissions, so now they're offering money (not much) to try and lure better writers.
"A new market paying pro rates," means you should send them something fast before they realize how much money they're losing.
"No simultaneous submissions," means they want a free option on your work. They hold on to your work for some time, you get nothing, and you can't send it anywhere else until they send you a reply. Unfortunately, this is how things usually work. The markets that encourage simultaneous subs are few, and both places you send things to would have to be such places. Selling your work is mostly a waiting game.
"Pays on publication," is another free option. This means the editor can send you an acceptance letter, pay you nothing, and hold your story until doomsday. Make sure you write a clause in the contract that says you get all rights back if he doesn't publish within 18 months.
"Return time 8 to 12 weeksm" means you might get a reply in 12 weeks. Be pessimistic about return times.
"Send us your very best," is meaningless. All editors want this.
"Include a cover letter/short bio," means the editor wants to see where you've sold previous work, so he can decide if he really wants to invest the time into reading your story. Got no previous sales? Sorry.
"Due to illness/computer crash/huge number of subs/carpal tunnel syndrome/moving to a new house/flood," are all excuses that mean you'll have to wait longer for a reply.
"We prefer disposable manuscripts," means the editor doesn't want you to see the spaghetti sauce stains and coffee cup rings he leaves on your work when he's done reading it.
"Read a few issues before you submit," means they have more submitters than subscribers and are in danger of going out of business soon.
"Preference given to subscribers," means they have more submitters than subscribers and are in danger of going out of business soon.
"Looking for believable characters," is meaningless. All editors want this.
"Going on indefinite hiatus," means the market is probably dead, but the editor isn't ready to admit it yet.
"Quarterly," means they put out three issues the first year, one or two the second, and then go on indefinite hiatus (see above).
"Overstocked and/or reading selectively," means the market is closed to beginners but opened to established writers and the editor's friends. If you have to ask, it ain't you.
"Looking for strongly plotted stories," is meaningless. All editors want this.
"Not receiving enough good submissions," is an excuse from the editor in which he shifts the blame for not getting his issues out on time from himself to the writers. See, it's really your fault the magazine is late.
"Our audience can be picky," means the editor knows what he likes and may select stories on a whim.
"No violence/sex/gore unless it's integral to the story," is meaningless. It is always true that these things should be integral to the story. If your story is good enough, you can get away with murder.
"No clichés," is meaningless. No editor wants this.
"Closed to new submissions," means the editor has bought enough material to fill the magazine until it goes out of business, real soon now.
That's my list. If you know any others, drop me an e-mail and I'll add them. Coming up next time, "What The Editors Mean, Part 2" what all the vague phrases mean in the rejection letters.
Copyright © 1999 Brian Plante Count=5481
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