The Truth About Submissions And Why Editors Reject Your Story

The following is a response to a writer who submitted to the Trump: Utopia or Dystopia Anthology and had questions about what to expect when submitting stories, what it means when they receive comments and why they need to rewrite:

Hi XX,

I am glad that you wrote in with questions, don’t be afraid to always ask – I don’t believe that anyone is a true expert, everyone is always learning.

Generally when you submit anything, you will never hear anything other than, “sorry your piece didn’t make it into the book/magazine.”

As a small publisher for the Trump Anthology we got over 100 submissions (deadline isn’t over yet). An agent typically gets 10,000 submissions/year. Big publishers even more. It is a tough, tough business to select and chose stories. Then it’s another tough road to sell it to readers. 9/10 books don’t sell to recoup costs of editing/formatting/publishing. It’s the one superstar that pays for everything for the publisher during that year.

When a story is selected, it’s because:

1) it connected with the editor (super subjective and editors read a lot, so the story has to be super special),

2) it was well polished, which means that the publisher buying doesn’t need to invest more time/money into the piece,

3) it was an ok story which the editor knows will be an easy sell to the readers.

To be honest, yours is perhaps the 95th story in which the story focuses on a violent incident. After getting so many of them, they all start to blend together unless there was something different about it.

For example, there is a lot of death and violence in one story we bought – “Trump Vs The Zombies” by E. Reyes. His story was the best one selected in which Trump built a wall to keep out zombies (there were about 5 of them) and because he is Mexican American, some of his cultural background also made it into the story. There were many creative twists in the story that made the editors want to  keep reading.

Most likely we will pass on your story, I have another editor I work with on making such decisions. We held back on rejection letters as we wanted to get everything in the pool first before we started tossing out stuff. We are going to send a note out to people to let them know that we will be sending out rejections soon. Already one writer wrote back to let us know that he sold his story to another publisher which is great. That’s why we allow simultaneous submissions; we don’t want writers to miss out on another publisher buying even if we don’t!

When you submit a story and get feedback, that is the most valuable part of submitting. If people don’t give a shit, they won’t give you any feedback.

Think about why we sent you such questions or comments and yes, it means a rewrite.

The next version could be sold to another publisher or you can self-publish yourself. On other projects, I’ve worked with editing teams in which we presented such questions to writers and they refused to rewrite. This means we could not recommend the publisher to buy because it means the writer isn’t willing to meet a higher standard.

There was another story in which we had numerous comments/questions, however, the main theme in the short story connected with us. This means another 4-6 months of editing back and forth (between editors & writer) to get the words and ideas in the story to flow properly to make the story better. If we didn’t like the story, we wouldn’t bother spending so much time cleaning up their writing. Another story was so well polished; we finalized it in 3 weeks.

No matter how good of a writer you are, you will always need an editor. I see writing as an art form and it takes time to discover your voice and to perfect a piece, like a painting (I used to be a painter). Anyhow, expect a rewrite every time you receive comments. It will get to a point in which the editor is satisfied and then it will be published. Then sometimes post publishing readers will point out stuff and then another rewrite. It really never ends sometimes…

I hope that you have a day job as many full time writers struggle to eat. It’s hard to become a writer superstar. I don’t think it was every easy – we just never hear about the struggles as much. Self-publishing does fill the gap for those who want to publish, but even for self-publishing, higher standards are being brought in or else readers will not trust this new group of publishers. The landscape continuously changes and I don’t think anyone knows what the secret is to becoming a writer superstar.

Anyhow, hope this helps and let me know if you have any more questions.

JF

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Entrepreneur Article About Crowdfunding For Books

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Samita Sarkar, on the topic of crowdfunding to self-publish a book. Since she was the one writing the article, I didn’t know what quotes she would use from me versus other people who also had experience in crowdfunding, so it was interesting to see the end result.

In her article, “Crowdfunding Your Self-Published Book? Here Are 3 Things You Need to Know” the latest Kickstarter stats show that over out of 349,504 campaigns, just 123,447 succeeded – a 35% success rate. Some 14% of projects finish without receiving a single pledge.

In the three tips listed, lessons learned includes preparing a lot of videos and illustrations prior to the campaign start, then using social media a lot for the duration of the campaign. I talk about how I’ve mastered more software skills – quite frankly, this is because some people that I’ve hired in the past weren’t that great. Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and do things yourself!

With Kickstarter campaigns there is always a risk that it will fail. But obviously I believe this is a risk worth taking as I’m slowly becoming a serial Kickstarter campaign runner! At dinner tonight I warned my friends that I will be emailing them once again to ask for support for the Trump anthology. There was a lot of moaning about how they were tired of Trump, but they were intrigued anyways! (or so I think)

 

The Writing Process

Lately I’ve been on Linked-In and Good Reads a lot, learning from other writers about what they have been going through in their publishing journeys. Usually there are discussions about how to find readers, build blogs and how useless it is to go after people who pirate your book unless you have hard evidence.

Anyhow, I saw a post from fellow author CR Hodges, inviting authors on a “My Writing Process” blog hop to share what is going on in their writing life. Below are questions and answers for this blog hop on what is going on at this stage of my author career.

I should also mention that CR Hodges is a fairly versatile writer with books on the US civil war, sci-fi stuff and lots of short stories. Stop by his site if you get a chance!

Every writer has a different path and next week I’ll be posting details of the writing process of acclaimed Demon Hunter Saga author, Cynthia Vespias!

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JF Garrard’s Writing Process

What am I working on?

At the moment I am finalizing proofreading for my first novel, The Undead Sorceress before sending it to my formatter in Australia.

This is the first book in a series called International House of Vampires which has vampires, magic users, robots and people all rolled up in the cast of characters. I wrote this book because I love fantasy, sci-fi and horror books, but didn’t see much diversity in them. There is a female lead and characters of different ethnicities as well as LGBT. This book has a theme about filial obligations and how far one is willing to go for family.

The second book, Dark Evolution is 50% done, but I am a bit stuck as I keep rewriting it and then getting distracted by other things. All I can say is that there are mermaids in this and it has an environmental theme to it.

My non-fiction works are in various stages as well. The Literary Elephant is a book I started as a guide for beginning Indie publishers. I’ve learned a lot on my self-publishing journey and there is no need for people to reinvent the wheel every time! I hate books that wave a stick in a general direction, so this book will have links and lots of advice on how to implement action steps!

How to Make a Munchkin is a book about modern tools of baby making and the pressure on women to have babies. This was written after I had a “natural” miscarriage which took over a month and I was really scared for a long time. None of my medical books on pregnancy really described what happens during miscarriages, so I hope this will help others realize that they are not alone if they have issues and not to be too worried if they have to go through the same miscarriage event.

I need to update some statistics before sending it to my editor. As well, I have a family doctor and a nurse lined up who are very interested in reading this and will contribute to the forward of this book.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m actually entering The Undead Sorceress into a novel competition for the “Visionary Fiction” category. This work is different because mixes up fantasy, horror, sci-fi and contains a global cast. My background is in Nuclear Medicine, so I tend to incorporate some science into my stories. As well, growing up with concept of Taoism, I inadvertently wrote a lot of that into the book since Taoist philosophies explain the concepts of magic and vampires so nicely.

For my non-fiction work, I try to incorporate useful information in a simple manner. Many times I read self-help books that are not very helpful and that pisses me off. So I do my best to offer valuable advice and realistic outlooks on situations.

Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always wanted to write and still remember the day when I had to choose between Science or English. My parents were against English as they thought I would starve to death as a writer and convinced me that Science had more opportunities. I loved Science very much too, so I headed down that road and now work in the Healthcare Sector.

One day, I discovered a fellow hospital administrator self-published a book and this sparked my interest in writing again. Self-publishing? What is that?! I thought that the life of writer was becoming depressed over rejection and then dying early, usually by starving or suicide.

Inspired that someone made a book, I started writing again and it was done fairly quickly as I had a story in the back of my mind for the last ten years. It was the idea of how I would sacrifice my life for my grandmother as she suffered different setbacks over the years (fish bone poisoning, stroke, etc.) The Asian notion of filiality is self-sacrifice for the older generation as they sacrificed themselves for the younger generation while raising them.

Generally, I write because I like sharing different truths in fiction and non-fiction. It is a way of disseminating knowledge and contributing to society via this “artform”.

How does my writing process work?

I think too much. I overthink. I hypothesize a lot because I have spent too many years with the scientific method. I am not a healthy writer because I also procrastinate and tend to overdose on chocolate.

Generally, I like reading anything and everything from newspapers to books to magazines. I also like watching lots of films; doesn’t matter what language as long as there is a good story. Also I like travelling, visiting museums, art galleries and random places. I absorb a lot of different cultures and things just spark as I figure out if I want to write a story featuring a certain element I’ve seen or not.

Ideas are scribbled into notebooks and as I’ve learned in the past, I shouldn’t write ideas onto receipts or napkins as I tend to lose them. Eventually, after I’m inspired by enough ideas, I will have a skeleton of a story – I know the beginning, middle and the end. Then I have to fill in this story with people, events, conflict, incentives and plot.

As I write and eat lots of chocolate, the characters will take on a life of their own and unpredictable things will happen. I’ve discovered I can’t have a super rigid outline, as half the time I won’t follow it! I like books with realistic people so I spend a lot of time thinking about how a character will react to a situation.

While writing I am absorbed and I get very grouchy when interrupted as I’m in “the zone”. I used to paint, so writing to me is seeing scenes in my head and then creating a piece of art with words.

Eventually after a manuscript is finished, I edit and ask my Viking husband, along with any willing friend to edit. Then I edit again. After these rounds of edits, I’ll find my editor and pass on the manuscript to them. More rounds of editing. The final step is then proof reading before sending manuscript to formatter.

To give you an idea of timelines – I wrote The Undead Sorceress in three months (thought about it for 10 years!), then it took over a year to edit. Editing takes a long time and is also when what you write gets torn to pieces as people may not understand what you are trying to say. So you rewrite and rewrite until it is good! Then illustration work, formatting, cover design, etc took many months as well. From start to finish, it’s been a two year process.

My last piece of advice is to not worry about what is right or wrong as everyone is different! Just write and get started!

 

Check out my kickstarter article on Authors Helping Authors!

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It’s been about two weeks since the Kickstarter ended and I still haven’t recovered.  In hindsight, doing National Novel Writing month at the same time was not a good idea as combining the two took up way too much energy!

I learned that a campaign was actually a 3 phase thing: beginning, middle and end.  During each phase, I worked madly to build and keep up momentum of the campaign going. It’s a really hard thing to do as you will find out that lots of people really don’t give a crap and will tell you to your face.  So you learn to develop a thick skin because for every nice person, there is also a super nasty one who will hate you because you are in front of their faces.

Lessons learned, tips and resources were written into an article called “Tips for Running a Crowd Funding Campaign”  and submitted to a site called “Authors Helping Authors“. Lots of excellent resources here for people who are interested in writing and publishing!

A book as a product is more difficult to sell on Kickstarter. Innovative thing-a-ma-bobs are easier to sell because they are quirky and general.  Books are aimed mainly at readers and there are so many of them listed under publishing that it is mind boggling. I could barely find my own kickstarter campaign when it was running under the category of “publishing” and had better luck looking for it under “Toronto” projects.

Will I run another Kickstarter in the future? Well, it depends on how well the book sells in general. People that have a lot of readers and press tend to do very well with their Kickstarter projects.  Also, for a third or fourth book, authors tend to give the first two away, which makes better incentives as well. I should never, say never to anything, as I might become involved in other projects. Who knows what the future will bring?!