Why Anonymous Submissions Are a Bad Idea

January 6, 2018

The new year brings fresh opportunities and projects. New magazines and anthologies are being launched, and some of them are embracing anonymous submissions in what has become somewhat of a trend lately. “We want to democratize the submission process,” those editors and publishers say. “We want the new authors to stand a better chance against headliners. We want authors from historically disadvantaged groups and backgrounds to enjoy an equal playing field.” All of those are worthy goals. Problem is, anonymous submissions accomplish none of those things.

Once upon a time I, too, was a proponent of anonymous submissions, but that is no longer the case. When I started editing UFO anthologies, I used semi-anonymous submissions for several years. The reasons were generally good ones — to judge each story purely on its merit, and not to let the Big Names and shiny publication credits sway my readers one way or another… but the more experience I gained as an editor, the less I liked anonymous subs. My reasons sounded good but the logic behind them didn’t stand up to scrutiny. Every editor must make their own decisions on this, but here are just a few reasons why I’m glad to no longer use this system (from least to most important.)

1) I trust myself more.

Early on, I was worried that publication credits and other accolades might sway me as an editor, but I quickly discovered that none of that matters. The only thing that matters is the story. An amazing writer whose work I’m a huge fan of can write a story I won’t like and won’t publish, while someone with no impressive credits whose submissions I’ve been rejecting for years might craft a tale I instantly fall in love with. Moreover, I’m far more excited about submissions from brand-new, previously unpublished writers than from almost anybody else, because I want to be the one to discover the next big talent in our field. I suspect most editors worth their salt — whatever their position on anonymous subs — feel the same way.

2) Anonymous submissions do not truly level the playing field.

Many (though not all) of the stories from Really Big Names published in various magazines are solicited directly from the authors or their agents. Most of those magazines do not anonymize submissions. The ones that do, tend to be newer venues, still looking to make their mark, and authors seeking to be published there probably won’t compete with too many Big Name writers anyway.

3) Neopro writers don’t like them.

Some of the writers who actively submit their short fiction but are good enough to be at least a little picky about their venues tend to push venues that require them to reformat their document in any way further down their submission hierarchy. Creating an anonymous version of the story file doesn’t sound like a lot of work, and it isn’t, but when you’re shuffling a lot of submissions around you tend to want to just send the same file out until someone buys it. Venues that require anything non-standard may become overlooked or at least left for last, thus somewhat lowering their chances at acquiring a good story because other editors will get their chance at it first.

4) Anonymous submissions can actually disadvantage stories written by minorities, foreign authors, and especially translations.

There are certain liberties an author that belongs to a community might be able to take that another author probably shouldn’t. My copy editor once sent notes asking James Beamon to tone down the Ebonics spoken by a magical sword in one of his stories. James responded by e-mailing her a photo of himself. 🙂 There was at least one other time where my team (which is pretty diverse) pointed out a somewhat-insensitive use of a racial stereotype in a story that I might have missed as a reader, and that at least one of them wasn’t super comfortable with since in this case, the author’s background did not align with that culture/background. We discussed the situation at length and I made the author aware of the team’s findings. The author was able to make the necessary changes and we accepted the story.

When we read a story in a vacuum (as we do with an anonymous submission) we’re missing out on what might be important cultural context. A Native American author writing a Native American character should be trusted more with their portrayal of such a character than an author of another background. It doesn’t mean that someone else can’t write a great Native American character, but I feel that, if an author has a close personal relationship to something they’re writing about and wishes to let us know this in their cover letter, we should take this information into consideration when evaluating the story.

This is especially true of translations or stories written outside of the traditional Western culture. Russian stories, for example, tend not to open with a strong hook. The Russian writing style wasn’t influenced by Hemingway nearly as much as English writing has been. Most stories tend to take their time, immersing the reader in the setting of the story rather than dunking them into the tale in media res. So if I want to ever publish Russian translations that aren’t intentionally written to imitate an American story, I should probably know that I’m reading a translation and make certain allowances. I’m also willing to make allowances for how well the story flows before edits, if it’s a translation or a story by an author for whom English is a second language.

As an author, I have no problem with making anonymous submissions (beyond the minor inconvenience factor described above.) If an editor feels the system is helpful and works for them for any reason, that’s fine. But as an editor, I don’t foresee using them again in the future, and I encourage other editors to consider their reasons carefully before electing to utilize this method of reviewing submissions.

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Pay what you want for HUMANITY 2.0 in January

January 3, 2018

Humanity 2.0 is the Phoenix Pick Book of the Month in January! That means you can pay whatever you want for it, or even snag it for free if you don’t want to subsidize my caffeine habit.  This promotion will only last for the month of January, so hurry up and take advantage of the offer!

http://www.phoenixpick.com/botm/Humanity.htm

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The Cackle of Cthulhu Released!

January 2, 2018

It’s launch day for The Cackle of Cthulhu and it’s also the international science fiction day, which is rather fitting, isn’t it? You can grab the book from Amazon or most online and physical bookstores.  I’m really excited about this anthology and think it will appeal to anyone who enjoys the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies.

You can try to win a free signed copy here, or just buy your own!

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2017 Year in Review

December 31, 2017

Another year is in the books as my adventure in speculative writing, translation, and publishing continues. It has been a somewhat quieter year, with fewer short stories written and sold, but there have been new exciting opportunities and new successes I’m proud of. Some of the highlights for me:

* I’ve had two new anthologies published, Unidentified Funny Objects 6 and Funny Horror. And The Cackle of Cthulhu is coming out next week.
* I was nominated for the Canopus award for the second time, for “Whom He May Devour” published in Nautil.us. Winners will likely be announced in January and although I don’t expect to win (there’s tremendous competition in my category, and I predict the award will go to Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds) I’m thrilled to be recognized.
* I’ve translated and sold a number of Russian language speculative stories. I also recently helped judge a Russian science fiction short story contest, which was great fun, and will be translating the winning story into English soon.
* I was involved in a best-selling book! I got to write a story for Monster Hunter Files, edited by Larry Correia and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. It was by far the most high-profile anthology I’ve had my fiction appear in to date and it was great fun to play in the urban fantasy universe I immensely enjoy reading.
* I broke into some new-for-me markets, including the stories Analog magazine (with a story co-written with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.)

Not all of my plans for 2017 worked out as planned. Let’s take a look at my list of goals for the year I posted twelve months ago:

  • Sell Eridani’s Crown (my first novel).

Didn’t happen. Publishing, it appears, is a slow-moving beast. I only got two rejection slips for my book, and the other couple of editors my agent sent it to haven’t responded at all. I remain optimistic and look forward to a better result next year!

  • Write and finish my second novel within the 2017 calendar year.

Didn’t happen either. I’m a bit more than half-way through writing The Middling Affliction. I’m rather disappointed in this, but there were good reasons for the delays and I will keep plugging away at it until the book is done.

  • Sell at least one new anthology to a major publisher.

I haven’t actually tried. I plan on pitching Baen some more ideas, but I think it’ll work better if they see strong sales numbers for Cackle, and that took longer to publish than I anticipated. I do have other editing projects in the pipeline and other exciting editing-related stuff that I hope to announce soon.

  • Publish UFO6 and Funny Horror.

Done, and done.

  • Sell or crowdfund my second short story collection, aiming to be published in 2018.

The book is funded, written, and sent off to the copy editor. It should be releasing in May.

In 2017 I also write eleven new short stories, totaling over 33,000 words of fiction. I wrote over 40,000 words for my second novel. And it’s not til I just looked it up that I realized I actually wrote more words of fiction than I did last year. Yay! Eight of the newly-written stories are already sold, which is a really good ratio. (It helps that four of my new stories were commissioned or written for invitation anthologies.)

I earned $3341 from direct short fiction sales (not counting translations, anthology royalties, etc.) which is a nice bump from 2016’s $2170. As before, aggressive marketing of reprints has been hugely helpful toward this number. According to my spreadsheet I sent out a total of 123 submissions this year, which resulted in 27 acceptances. (These numbers do include translations.) Interestingly, this is the exact same number of submissions as last year, but those only resulted in 20 acceptances.

Here is the list of the original stories and first-run translations of mine that were published in 2017:

Golf to the Death – Galaxy’s Edge – 03/01/17
First Million Contacts (w/Bryan Thomas-Schmidt) – Little Green Men Attack!, Baen, 3/07/2017
Recall Notice – Tales from the Miskatonic Library, PS Publishing – 3/07/17
Parametrization of Complex Weather Patterns for Two VariablesDaily Science Fiction – 5/24/17 Free Online
Catalogue of Items in the Chess Exhibit at the Humanities Museum, Pre-Enlightenment WingNature – 7/20/17 Free Online
The Practical Guide to Punching NazisDaily Science Fiction – 7/31/17 – Free Online
Ambassador to the Meek – The Sum of Us anthology, Laksa Media – 9/8/17
The Hunt for the Vigilant
– Oceans anthology – 9/26/17

The Troll Factory
– Monster Hunter Files, Baen Books – 10/3/17

Translations:
Untilted by K. A. Teryna – Apex Magazine – 11/14/2017 – Free Online
Impress Me, Then We’ll Talk about the Money by Tatiana Ivanova – UFO6 – October 2017
Black Hole Heart by K. A. Teryna – Apex Magazine – 6/21/2017 – Free Online
Despite only a 50% success rate on my 2017 goals, I’ll go ahead and set some goals for 2018:
* Sell Eridani’s Crown to a publisher.
* Finish The Middling Affliction.
* Break into at least one new major short fiction market where I haven’t been published before.
* Continue to translate Russian stories. Translate at least three new ones in 2018.
* At least double the number of subscribers to my mailing list. (Which I haven’t been working very hard to promote so far.)
Happy New Year, and may your goals for the new year be accomplished!
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New podcast: “Dreidel of Dread: The Very Cthulhu Chanukah”

December 24, 2017

Today at Cast of Wonders you can listen to me narrate my own story, “Dreidel of Dread: The Very Cthulhu Chanukah.” Enjoy!

http://www.castofwonders.org/2017/12/cast-wonders-282-dreidel-dread-cthulhu-chanukah/

 


New publication: “Fifteen Minutes” in Nature

December 15, 2017

My latest short story is live at Nature Futures. Read it here. You can also read an About the Story blog post, here.

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The Golem of Deneb Seven Cover!

November 30, 2017

Here are the e-book and print final covers for The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories in all their glory! Art by M. Wayne Miller and cover design by Holly Heisey, who is absolutely amazing at this cover thing (as you can probably tell by looking at these:

 

 

 

And here, for comparison is the original artwork used in creating the cover:

 

The kickstarter campaign for this book has reached full funding and it will be coming out in May. As I write this post, there are still a couple of hours left to back the campaign if you wish to do so!

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