Thursday, February 02, 2017

***Except I don't

BTW, do you accept short stories for review?
That odd sound you hear when you tilt your head to the left is me gnashing my fangs and rending my garments upon receiving emails like this.

On the surface, it's pretty simple. Yes or no.
And I should know what I want to look at, right?
Well, no.

First, let's all remember that "review" means something very specific in publishing, and it's not what I do with queries. I don't review them because review means "a critical description, evaluation, or analysis of a book, especially one published in a newspaper or magazine."

I don't describe or analyze your query. I don't even describe or analyze your book. I read it.

But what about "evaluation" you ask?
That's probably closest to what I do, but it's still not accurate because what I do isn't a critical evaluation (as in what Michiko Kakutni so deftly does in the NYT.) I'm mostly reading your work to see if I like it. That's so darn subjective that applying the word review would make Michiko clutch her keyboard and shed critical tears.

Now, I can hear you saying "but you know what I mean."***

But there are some people who do write to me (and their entire mailing list) asking to "review" their books and they DO mean buy a copy and post something laudatory on Amazon.

So (and this is where the savvy writer takes careful notes) if you don't use words precisely, I really do NOT know what you mean.

Thus, it's VERY important that you understand general terms used in publishing and you use them with dexterity. If you use them incorrectly, it should be on purpose.

So, no I don't accept short stories for review.
I don't accept anything for review.

But I do consider books for representation.

And if I were to be very specific, I should say I consider only previously unpublished books for representation, usually in the categories of crime or thriller or historical fiction.

And here's your bonus content of the day: generally you will not query an agent with just one short story. If you write short stories, you'll need to have six-ten in your quiver, and they should already have been published in periodicals before you query.

While that isn't what you asked, I think it's the question you wanted answered.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

BTW will you review my essay, my short story, the memo to my boss and my will? I want to make sure my wording, bent and meaning prescribe exactly to my wants and needs, if not only to my readers but to my immediate supervisor and heirs.
BTW will you review my prayer? I hear you are in touch with the big guy, as the all-knowing top-Chiquita sitting to the left of his fiery banana hand.
Thank you.
Have a nice day.

Theresa said...

Precise language is always a plus for a writer.

That's interesting about having the stories previously published.

mythical one-eyed peace officer said...

"If you write short stories, you'll need to have six-ten in your quiver, and they should already have been published in periodicals before you query"

That's interesting. Would the same apply to nonfiction collection? Memoir essays...?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Imagine, writers being asked to use language precisely and correctly. It's too much. Bring me my rodent wheel!

Colin Smith said...

Janet: First off, my interest is piqued by the fact you even suggest that short stories could be considered by agents. I'm currently writing some shorts to get publication credit, as well as some professional validation (and candy money). Here you seem to open up the possibility that, if these stories are good enough, I might query them for an anthology...? Am I hearing you right?

Then we come to the question of definition. By "periodical," do you mean any magazine or journal that is published (online or in print) on a regular schedule? Does it matter which magazines/journals, or is the fact that an editor parted with money for your work good enough?

The woodland creature wheels are spinning!!

Everyone else: I posted part two of the Manhattan trip on my blog today. This is the part where I talk about my visit to New Leaf... :) See my Blogger profile for the link.

Amy Schaefer said...

2Ns, you forgot to ask her to review the timeline. I'm pretty sure we've slipped into an alternate universe, and I don't like this one as much.

Donnaeve said...

Funny 2N's - but are you taking cold medicine? Top Chiquita with his fiery banana hand? Maybe you meant wand. But a fiery banana wand?

IDK. Sounds like the stuff of cold medicine head, but funny at the same time!

Words do matter, very much. Although that statement of 6-10 in your quiver made me laugh - even though I know what you mean by "quiver." Yet...all I could think of was us quivering woodland critters.

But back to words. Last night we're eating dinner, and I said to hubby, "Have you noticed what's out there, in the woods, when you cross of the Black River?

"Those crosses?"


He nods.

"Did you see what else is there too, though?"

He shakes his head.

"A tent."

"Oh. Yeah, he's living out there."

(???) <--- this is my puzzled moment as I digest his words.

"Who's living out there?"

"A homeless man."

"Well, duh, (I might've said sh*t) I know that, considering there's a tent there, that's why I asked if you'd noticed it - and you said you didn't notice it, but when you say, 'oh, yeah, he's living out there,' it makes it sound like you KNOW who's living out there."

This sort of sh*t drives me nuts, and I don't know why.

Karen McCoy said...

*briefly unearths head from sand. January was busy, busy. February will probably be more so*

Love your post, Colin and This Book is Not About Dragons is a favorite of mine. All your "my food is epic" photos made me crave falafels and bagels. (Jessica Faust is on my list too, as well as a few unnamed agents from New Leaf who rep YA.)

And yes, clarification matters. I was just asked to critique a short story--and it wasn't clear if this would be one story or multiple ones. So I want to make sure what I'm walking into.

*buries head back in sand*

Karen McCoy said...

Donna...and now I want a fiery banana wand...

Karen McCoy said...

Or even better, Donna perhaps a fiery banana wand will keep Sir Homeless from wandering across the river? Or perhaps keep him fed, at least?

I try to give change to the homeless whenever I can--as we are all on this journey together...

Donnaeve said...

Karen, Ha, I can think of other things I'd rather have...!

I would give him bananas. Or a fiery wand with which to light his campfire. He has built crosses near the river. (!!!) One is painted blue. His tent is blue and white. It's odd, and at the same time, sad.

There used to be this man who walked our neighborhood talking to himself. (among many of the other strange characters we have around here, he was fairly new) He had long hair, a scruffy beard, and he was usually shirtless. He was not out of shape, but rather had a lean torso - with lots of tattoos. He never looked at us, yet I suspected a side eye glance as he went by on the sidewalk. He would carry his groceries home. Sometimes he would carry his boombox - always playing rock-n-roll.

I keep thinking the blue and white tent is his.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Times like this are when I'm very grateful for my current job. Technical writing for software might seem like it's a world away from creative writing, but I've learned so many useful lessons about precision. Don't write unspecified 'this's (This helps you vs. this feature helps you), avoid passive voice unless the result is ridiculous, and so on. Of course, these lessons don't strictly apply to creative writing, but I'm learning how to write according to a set of rules without stifling creativity.

Also, I learn new grammar facts every day!

Also, everything I write is peer-reviewed so I'm learning how to take criticism!

Also, I spent six hours on Tuesday going back-and-forth with a developer about whether a piece of development needed documentation, wrote the documentation, THEN managed to convince the dev that it wasn't necessary. *sobs*

Joseph S. said...

It’s interesting to me too that short story collections are more marketable if they’ve already been published. I guess it makes some sense. Jean Shepherd published at least two books of short stories that had appeared elsewhere (but I hadn’t read any of them anywhere else).

It does seem there ought to be a market for original short story collections (I think I have one by Neil Gaiman), and not just the books that compile several authors.

Also I didn’t know Janet Reid represented historical fiction. I’ll pass the word along to a friend who’s writing a very good one from what I’ve read of it.

Beth Carpenter said...

Colin, I love the trip log. I, too, carry teabags when I travel. Sorry to hear Juliard was a no-go, but glad your daughter has such a great attitude. Looking forward to hearing more.

On topic -- I'm not surprised that having had short stories published would be a good thing, but I assumed one would need to query new short stories for a collection unless he/she were already famous. Good to know you recycling is preferred.

Colin Smith said...

Karen: Thank you!! My favorite picture is the one where the mouse is insisting there are no dragons in the book, and in the background you see an overturned truck with flames pouring from it, and people running for cover. I'm guessing Joanna what-are-you-doing-in-my-conference-room Volpe repped that one. ;)

Joseph: It wasn't long ago we were told short story anthologies are a hard sell, so don't query them. I'm curious if that's changed. I know Neil Gaiman and Stephen King periodically release short story anthologies--but they are well-established writers. I'm sure they could also publish shiny vampire novels and people would buy them. ('SALEM'S LOT still sells, doesn't it? Those vampires are not very shiny, though...) From what I gather, Laird Barron writes mostly short stories, but he has a lot of "periodical" publications under his belt. What's the story, QOTKU?

Colin Smith said...

Beth: Thank you! :) I'm sorry, but, on the whole, American tea bags are not good. The best we have found that are readily available are Tetley's British Blend. But even though Tetley's is a British brand, and it's advertised as a "British Blend," it's not quite the same as a good cup of PG Tips, or imported Tetley's. And as for finding my favorite tea blend, Assam, forget it unless you want to pay out the nose for it. In the UK, I can get a box of Assam tea (regardless of brand) off the shelf in most supermarkets. Here, not so much. Hence, we always travel with good tea, hoping we'll have access to hot water. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yes Donna I am taking meds and wah...where's my couch? Home dammit.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: I'm a firm advocate for "Take Your Pillow To Work Day." Together, I think we can make this happen. :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Count me in on the "Take a pillow to work" movement. Colin and 2Ns

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

6 to 10 short stories in my quiver? I've knocked that out of the park.

6-10 published short stories in my quiver? Well....I'm halfway to 6, anyway. Ever submitting. Ever writing. And my writnig workshop starts again on Saturday! Several things I started as writing prompts have bloomed into completed shorts over the time I've been running it.

Lennon Faris said...

For some reason, all this discussion is really making me want to try writing short stories.

It took a long time to get the 'gist' of the 100 word ff, and I truly can't grasp the 25 word ones, but I love the challenge anyway.

Bethany - that sounds pretty terrible! least you got more practice?

Colin Smith said...

Lennon: I've been enjoying writing short stories. Since I mentioned Neil Gaiman and Stephen King earlier, let me recommend to you TRIGGER WARNING by Gaiman, and NIGHT SHIFT by King as anthologies that, I think, give you a good idea of what's possible in a short form, as well as some good templates for how to write short stories. Some of King's stories are on the scary side, but not all of them. :)

Joseph S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph S. said...

I just got an email that a new book of Neil Gaiman short stories will be released next Tuesday. It's called Norse Mythology. I don't know if any of the stories have been published before. With him, I guess, it doesn't matter.

Craig F said...

Please be careful when you try to publish shorts. It is a different world for newbie writers than it is for established writers. Established writers get a lot more money than newbs. There is also a sticky little thing called publishing rights. A lot of periodicals like to keep those.

I had an offer from Short Story America. For the whopping fee of $50 they got to keep my publishing rights for entirety of their life. Be very careful to read, and understand, the fine print. With e-periodicals it is hard to do that at times.

Oh, some people are built for writing shorts and some aren't. Some are capable of writing short stories and epic fantasy. If you are not do not be too hard on yourself. They are entirely different kinds of animals.

Susan said...

A few years ago, I wrote a series of interconnecting short stories that ended up being turned into my first book--a novella.

I've come to learn that I'm not exactly one for brevity.

I did used to write a ton of short stories when I was younger, however, if only to get the characters, scenes, and ideas out of my head and onto paper without expanding them in a novel. I've repurposed a lot of those scenes into my novels, so I'm glad they were useful after all. Short story writing is absolutely a skill--one which I sadly don't have.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

My early career consisted of short story sales and belonging to anthologies. Things I learned:

1. You sell a short based on the juxtaposition of being a stunning writer and offering the story the editor wants right now.
2. Sales of copies happen because of the magazine/anthology's reputation, not yours.
3. Most anthologies do not sell well AT ALL. Double ditto for single-author anthologies unless the author is a Name.
4. A reputation can be built on short story sales alone, but this only happens after dozens of sales, and with sufficient sales to magazines with big reputations. Yes, you gain your fame by riding on the back of someone else's fame. That's how it's done.
5. Shorts are candy money. They are not rent money. Do not make money the top reason for selling shorts. It's reason 2 or 3. Non-fiction articles are what bring in the money, honey.
6. Never be afraid to write and sell shorts if this is where your heart lies. It is excellent for your mental health.

What you should be taking away from this isn't "should I pitch/publish this or not", but rather "it is worth my while to regularly ask my peers their experiences in this matter, as my results will be more the average experience rather than the hopeful outlier".

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Want to publish shorts? is a good place to start if you're into Speculative Fiction.

Broken record: talk to your peers. Word of mouth is one of the best ways of learning the best markets. Never think that just because you're a never-been-published apprentice that you can't talk with the journeymen. This is a career where networking is vital for success in the field.

John Davis Frain said...

Interesting discussion on short story writing. Wish I'd gotten home sooner.

I'm curious if publishers are finding numbers to support short stories. For example, with (the perception of) limited time, are readers favoring short stories more than they used to? And if that's the case, is there a shift toward publishing anthologies, whether by multiple authors or a single author?

Typical for me, I have more questions and no answers. Good thing there are so many smart people hanging out around here.

BJ Muntain said...

Duchess, I agree completely about And he doesn't just have speculative fiction markets - he also includes mystery markets as well. He's also a really nice guy who puts in a lot of work to keep people up-to-date on the markets that are out there. And if you send him a tip - say, a market is closed to submissions, and he doesn't already have that on the site - and you're the first to tell him, he'll give you a shout-out with a link to your page. Marketing!

There really is a difference between writing short stories and writing novels. It's probably the same difference you'll find between painting with watercolours and painting with oils - some of the techniques and skills will be the same, but each medium will require its own set of tools, skills, and techniques.

If you're a novel writer wanting to write short stories, it takes focus. In a novel, you can write lovely descriptions and have a few subplots to carry the reader along. In a short story, there isn't room for everything. You focus on one plot (if it's a long story, maybe one subplot, but it has to be important to the story itself), a limited number of characters, and only the descriptions that are necessary to ground the reader and forward the story. You need to decide if theme, plot, character, idea, or whatever is the most important element of the story, and focus the story around that theme, plot, character, idea, or whatever. The other elements are only there to build on the most important element.

TL;dr: Short stories aren't necessarily harder than novels. They just require more focus.

BJ Muntain said...

John MS Frain: No, I don't believe short stories are making a comeback in publishing. Anthologies exist, they sell, but very few anthologies that aren't 'Best of' sell well. However, some authors are finding a home for short stories in self-publishing. But I think most people who want to read short stories are buying them in magazines or e-zines. Small publishers will often put out anthologies, but they often don't pay much, and even more often pay in 'royalties', which you'll probably never see a penny of, because you're splitting the royalties with other authors, and anthologies that don't have at least one major writer involved don't do well.

Very few agents will look at short stories, even as an anthology. At least, that's what their websites say. It's possible that previously published short stories are more desirable, simply because people have read them and may want to read more by that author. And even then, I'd think the popularity of the periodical and the story may up one's chance of being looked at by an agent. If you had six stories published in Glimmer Train, that's going to beat out ten stories published in Joe's Little Journal of Literary Fiction.

Anyway, that's just my take on things, which may be suspect as it's nearly time to try to sleep. I just thought *someone* should answer you, despite the lateness. :)

Craig F said...

All of that said, I would like to see more of things like SONGS FOR A DYING EARTH. Anthologies put together to honor a particular writer. Like this was written in homage of Jack Vance and his Dying Earth Saga.

John Davis Frain said...

BJ, I enjoyed your take on things. Thanks for staying up a little late to proffer your opinion.

I see things like iStories in Narrative magazine, a proliferation of flash fiction, and more short stories than I used to see. But I'm wondering if I notice because there's more out there to be seen or because I look for it (and hope for it).

Craig, I like that idea. A lot. Reminds me of some of the musical releases where various artists pay tribute to a legend. You can find a dozen artists who sing their favorite Springsteen song, for example. That's fun stuff.

I'd read a similar offering where a dozen authors (I volunteer!) put together stories around Hemingway. Not plagiarism or rewriting his stories, so it's different than the musical example above, but here an author might set a story in Cuba or write a short memoir, My Old Man and His Sea or some such.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

A fiction magazine's reputation depends on the curation skills of the editor. If they're talented and have a knack for getting the right aura balance between the stories, then they can create a reliable brand that will consistently draw readers back each issue. Some magazines I love because their taste matches mine (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) whereas others, although a quality product, doesn't do it for me. (Clarkesworld)