An Editor’s Thought

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Last week we chose the stories for Lawless Lands from the open submissions. It was a hard experience – we received over 300 stories, and there were far more great stories than we could possibly fit into one anthology. Honestly, the turnout was incredible and the quality was high.

The experience was also painful. Several stories were submitted by people I know and call friends. People who are good writers and sent us good stories. People that I would have been delighted to publish for their first time. But we didn’t choose them. Because for one reason or another, their stories didn’t quite impress us as much as other stories did, or their stories were too much like other stories that were just a little bit better, or their stories might have needed more editing than others.

The rejection notices went out last Tuesday, and since then, I’ve been seeing Facebook posts from my friends. They’re disappointed, and heartbroken, and probably feeling a tiny bit betrayed. When you’re dealing with a friend, you come to expect a certain level of special treatment, because hell, these are friends. I can’t tell you how much I wish I could have chosen all my buddies for the book. It’s been weighing heavy on my mind for the last few days. I feel horrible at having to turn down some of my friends. At the same time, I had to consider the anthology. We’re a small operation. We have to do everything we can to make this book a sales success. We don’t have the room to take anything less than the absolute best stories we were offered. If one story made me smile but another made me jump up and down, guess which one I’m going to choose? Not to mention the question of balance. If we had only twenty stories all featuring white male cowboys, the book would become irritating to most readers. Finally we had to keep in mind the stories that our anchors are submitting. If one of our anchors was working on a story featuring a female Chinese half-demon pony wrangler, we can’t accept a story from the submission featuring a female Mexican half-demon goat wrangler.

It’s the hardest part of a career in writing and publishing. You do everything right, come up with a great idea, follow the guidelines, and still don’t make a sale. And then, on top of that, it was your friend who turned you down. Every time I see one of their disappointed posts, I want to rush in and tell them I’m so sorry, but I don’t feel like they want to hear it from me right now.

I hope that my friends who didn’t make it into the book understand that I still love them, and I want to see them succeed. They all know how to be professionals about this, so I have to hope they understand. It’s absolutely nothing personal, even if it feels that way at the moment.

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1 comment to An Editor’s Thought

  • Ken

    Hi there, Misty!

    It is difficult to get rejection letters and it does sting. I think it probably always will. But that’s the way it goes sometimes. It’s part of being a writer.

    Part of this response is for you. I got one of those rejection letters and I’m pretty sure you didn’t get a slew of stories about Navajo women and trixter gods. I understand your decisions. I don’t take it personally, and I want to thank you for what you do. I hope that by saying this, it eases some of the burden you’re carrying.

    The rest of this response is for my fellow writers. I look at the bigger picture: At the end of the day, I still have a story. My response to rejection: Submit somewhere else. My story sat on my virtual desk for less than 24 hours before I sent it off again. Will it get picked up? Maybe. But it’s out there and, now, I’m working on something new. Keep going. Good Luck!

    -Ken