Market Report: The Dark

August 6, 2013

8/27/13 Update: Stories under 1000 words are no longer considered. Sean Wallace has joined the editorial team.
8/25/13 Update: Please wait at least 1 week after receiving a rejection to send another submission.
8/18/13 Update: Mr. Fisher is no longer considering reprints for “The Dark.” Please send original submissions only.

Click here for detailed guidelines.

Genres: Dark science fiction & fantasy, magical realism

Length: Up to 5000 words (query for longer)

Pay rate: $0.05/word

Rights: First North American Serial Rights

Editor: Jack Fisher

The Dark is a new magazine from an experienced editor Jack Fisher. The magazine’s web site is not up yet as of this writing, but he is already accepting submissions and is responding promptly. There’s an IndieGoGo campaign to help raise additional funds for the magazine.

Mr. Fisher answered some questions about The Dark, below:

#SFWApro

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You’ve been an editor and publisher before, when you ran Flesh & Blood magazine over 10 years ago. What prompted you to start a new magazine now? Why start a brand-new publication instead of resurrecting Flesh & Blood?

I’ve been mulling the idea of “coming back” for a few years now. I missed the work, the scene, the people. F&B had its run as F&B – it was time to start something fresh and new.

In your IndieGoGo campaign you describe _The Dark_ as the “dark fantasy and dark SF magazine” that is “not necessarily horror.” What, in your opinion, separates dark SF/F from horror?

I believe there are many variations of horror. What may be “horrific” to some, may not be to others. I so happen to like the softer side of horror, the more subtle horror. Like the supernatural, for example, or anything with a dark bend to it, not necessarily blood-and-gut horror.

Can you name a few published short stories you would have loved to discover first and print in The Dark, given the opportunity?

I’ve been out of the field for so long, I really can’t say. I had been reading a lot of China Meiville’s work (I especially loved his short stories in “Looking For Jake: Stories”), and a lot of mainstream, non-genre stuff.

What’s your take on flash fiction? Do you enjoy very short stories, and do you anticipate accepting that length for The Dark or do you prefer longer tales?

I think that flash fiction can be very powerful if done right. Those little stories have the power to pack a lot of punch.

Will you consider dark humor?

No, I have no desire to laugh when reading dark fiction.

Will you consider reprints that are more than a year old but are still available on the web site of the original publication?

Yes, that is fine, but it should be noted that despite considering them, they’ll still be a hard sell. They’ll have to be exceptional.

What’s your slush process? Will you read all the submissions yourself, or rely on slush readers/associate editors? You’ve been responding very quickly to the early wave of submissions. Do you expect to be able to maintain that pace in the future?

I read everything myself. If I’m on the fence with something, I reach out to others for their opinions. Sean Wallace of Prime Books is one of my go-to-men, for example. He provides valuable feedback and opinion. I try to keep up on submissions as they come in otherwise I will drown. I expect to maintain swift turn-around’s.

So far, is there any one thing submitting authors commonly get wrong? What is it, and how should they fix it?

Study the guidelines, study the magazine. I have a precise vision and idea in mind, and I think I make this crystal clear in my guidelines. You will also see this reflected in the fiction I buy.

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If you’re an editor of a new speculative magazine or anthology paying semi-pro or professional rates and wish to be interviewed for the Market Report column, please contact me.

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“Spidersong” at Drabblecast

February 11, 2013

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“Spidersong” was my first SFWA-qualifying sale and remains one of my stronger flash stories written to date. It’s been a busy week for this little story. First it was reprinted in the anthology of Campbell Qualified authors (see previous post), and today it’s live at Drabblecast!

They do an amazing job, making the story sound awesome and creepy at the same time. It’s also really cool that “Spidersong” got the cover treatment! (It’s one of three flash stories in this week’ s edition).

 


The PEST Method

February 3, 2012

Ask an experienced writer where you should submit your stories, and they’ll invariably tell you to “start at the top, and work your way down.”

The logic behind this is perfectly solid. Even if you suspect that your story isn’t amazing, you may well be suffering from a common writer affliction: underestimating the quality of your work. So why do an editor’s job and self-reject? Let them see the story and decide for themselves.

But where, exactly, is this “top” you should start at? Is it based purely on the amount of payment offered? If this were the case, TOR.com would get to see every story first. Yet I have never submitted there, and possibly never will, because I can’t imagine waiting a year or more, at any venue. Instead, I consider a combination of factors when trying to decide which publication should have the privilege of rejecting my next story:

Prestige – How reputable/popular is the venue
Exposure – How many people will read the story if published
Speed – What’s the likely turnaround time
Terms – Which rights are sought

Let’s examine the PEST method, keeping in mind that I’m discussing speculative fiction only, which is why The New Yorker and its ilk aren’t mentioned below.

PRESTIGE

What publishing credit would you be the most proud of? In terms of respect, nothing comes close to the big three: Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s and Analog. They’re the gold standard, and it’s hard to make the case for sending a story which might be appropriate for one or more of those magazines elsewhere first.

The big three all pay professional rates, but prestige isn’t necessarily tied in to payment. There are a number of magazines that pay only a penny per word that are highly respected. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Shimmer and Andromeda Spaceways are a few notable examples. I often submit to ASIM and Shimmer before sending the same story to higher paying venues.

New publications don’t get completely ignored under this method. Instead of considering the magazine/anthology’s history, I consider instead who the editors are and what their track record is in the industry. I was interested in aggressively submitting to Stupefying Stories right from the start, because it’s edited by Bruce Bethke. If there’s ever an open call for one of Mike Resnick’s anthologies, I’ll be eagerly writing a new story from scratch just to have something I can send in.

EXPOSURE

I care about how many people will ultimately read my story. Every author does. So when the time comes to submit, I am more likely to send my work to a publication with a large readership than a higher-paying but obscure journal or anthology. Every Day Fiction pays token rates, but they provide more exposure than most online markets. I gladly submit to them, and will continue to do so.

On the other hand, be wary of non-paying markets that boast about how appearing on their web site will help promote your brand and advance your writing career. It won’t. Most of those markets are read by a few hundred people, at best. And you won’t be doing yourself any favors mentioning the fact that you’ve been published by such in your cover letter. Things are a bit different on the literary fiction front, but when it comes to science fiction and fantasy, there aren’t any non-paying markets I can think of where I’d be interested in submitting original work.

SPEED

How long does a market take to respond to your submission? Some of the very best markets are also the fastest—Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Daily Science Fiction, F&SF are among publications where most submissions are handled within days rather than months. There are dozens of other great markets that manage a turnaround of 4-6 weeks. It’s logical to submit to all of those before sending your story to Dark Discoveries, GUD or TOR.com where your submission is likely to languish for a year.

TERMS

In their desire to get published, writers often ignore the finer details of their contracts. There are a number of important details you should consider, before signing on the dotted line.

First, never give up the ownership of your work. Very few publications ask for it, but stay as far away as you can from the ones that do. Maintaining ownership will allow you to eventually sell your story to reprint markets, Best Of anthologies, Podcast ‘zines, etc. You might even hit a jackpot and have your story optioned for a movie or a screenplay. Or, perhaps, you simply want to make the story available for free on your blog. If you aren’t careful, you could forfeit all of those opportunities with a stroke of a pen.

Most reputable publishers won’t attempt to grab full rights. But you should read the contract carefully to see exactly which rights they do want. They’ll typically ask for a certain period of exclusivity. Obviously, you can’t do anything with your story until they publish it. In some cases, the rights will revert to you immediately upon publication and you can begin to submit elsewhere. In most cases however, they’ll want a period of exclusivity that can range from anywhere between a few months and a few years. I think anything up to a year is pretty reasonable. My personal upper limit is 18 months.

It’s very important to note that this period of exclusivity (be it 0 days or 2 years) typically begins on the date of publication, not when the contract is signed. In these cases you must make sure there’s a reversion clause in your contract.  A reversion clause states that the publisher has a limited amount of time to print your story. Without such clause, a publisher could hang on to your story indefinitely and you won’t get it back – even if you didn’t sell full rights.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen often. Most publishers mean well and operate in good faith. However, it doesn’t hurt to make sure reasonable terms are spelled out in the contract. If there’s something there that doesn’t sound right to you, it’s perfectly OK to ask the publisher if they’d be willing to alter it. After all, agents negotiate novel contracts with publishers all the time.

 

So there you have it – my method for ranking short story markets. Nothing earth-shattering, but hopefully there will be some glimmers there to help you figure out which editors to PESTer with your own submissions next.


“A Thousand Cuts” accepted at One Buck Horror

January 27, 2012

 

I’m pleased to announce that One Buck Horror will be publishing my short story “A Thousand Cuts.”

This story was originally submitted to a Cafe Doom horror writing contest. The top prize for this contest was publication at One Buck Horror. Although “A Thousand Cuts” comfortably made it into the top 10 (based on anonymous popular vote by the entrants) among 50 or so entries, it was not ultimately selected as a finalist by OBH editor Christopher Hawkins.

But then, a really cool thing happened. Mr. Hawkins was kind enough to offer feedback to any of the top 10 finishers who asked for it. I contacted him and, upon reading the story again, Mr. Hawkins offered some suggestions and invited me to resubmit an updated version to OBH.

I was happy to comply. I spent a few days working on the rewrites and ended up with a slightly longer story that followed the same general plot, but was different in tone and feel. I then submitted this new version of the story, and waited.

Six weeks later Mr. Hawkins got back to me, letting me know that he did not like the rewrite as much as the original. He felt that the longer version lost the dreamlike quality of the original. However, he was willing to make some edits and send them to me, so I could try again.

For those of you who don’t submit stories I must explain that this is a rare thing. Most of the time editors are going to either accept or reject a submission. They rarely have the time to work on the story that’s *almost* there, and a second rewrite request is exceedingly rare. Needless to say, I was thrilled to work with him on the changes.

Turned out, the changes he wanted were smaller and more subtle than I was shooting for in my original rewrite. However, they did smooth out and further improve the story! Over the course of a couple of days we had a version we were both happy with. I’m proud to announce the upcoming publication with special thanks to Christopher Hawkins. who believed in the story enough and had the patience to work with me to make this happen.