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When we left Dick and Bane, they were in the initial stages of jointly ruining my department’s next issue of Fringe. A few of you guessed at what might happen next, and a couple of you got it right.

Yes, Bane did indeed write back a few days later to tell me that her agent wanted her to “shop” her story “elsewhere.” It caught me off guard … I’d heard of writers turning down acceptance before, but never did I think it would happen to me at Fringe. Especially from someone who really hasn’t published very much. In the words of my Editorial Assistant Anna, “Since when is Bane such a big deal?” Answer: she’s not.

Still, irritated as I was, it got me thinking. Smoke was coming out of my ears because a writer had basically said to me “Your magazine isn’t good enough for my words.” And yet, hundreds of times a week my magazine responds to writers with “Your words aren’t good enough for our magazine.” Is there a double standard in there somewhere?

Not really, I guess. I’m sure some writers we reject take offense. Besides, Bane sent us her story of her own accord, ostensibly in the hopes that I’d see fit to publish it. I didn’t steal the story from off her computer and try to force publication upon her.

Long story short, Bane is blacklisted. In other words, Bane is not welcome to send any more work to the Fringe fiction department. At least, not as long as I’m at the helm.

Time for a mini moral: Don’t do anything to get yourself blacklisted from a publication. It’s just not a good idea.

So Bane was out, and I was still waiting on Dick. Dick’s is a long story, too, and if I don’t want this quasi-educational anecdote to spill over into a third blog post, I better do some quick summarizing.

When Dick finally wrote back, he said (paraphrased), “Sorry. I’ve been out of the country. Glad you enjoyed my story, but it’s already been accepted at [print magazine rapidly growing in prominence].”

There’s no real moral to this part. Dick hadn’t done anything wrong (yet), so I had no reason to be angry. Frustrated, perhaps, to miss out on both of my top-notch stories and all of that imaginary future acclaim, but so goes the life of an editor. Had Dick’s story been accepted elsewhere and he didn’t ever respond to tell me so, then we could’ve turned this into a moral: If you simultaneously submit, you better damn sure contact every publication when your piece is accepted elsewhere. But Dick had a valid excuse.

You’re probably wondering, then, why I’ve been coming off so angry at Dick.

Well, we’re not done with Dick.

A few weeks later, Dick wrote again to let me know that [prominent print publication] had undergone some sort of mysterious editorial changeover (to this day, not noted on their masthead), and that they had sent his accepted story back to the slush pile. He said that since I had enjoyed his piece so much, he was giving me first dibs on it.

If this smells fishy, it’s because it’s made of fish.

But I accepted the story (again) because I still found it a perfect fit. I began to work earnestly on edits (by now I’d read this 20+-page story about ten times), and in the meantime asked my assistant to send him a contract.

Again Dick fell out of contact, but I wasn’t so worried this time. I had his story now. (Notice how I keep saying I wasn’t worried? And how every time I say that, it turns out that I should’ve been worried?)

I nudged him a few days later asking about the contract, and he replied with a question about a clause we have, related to the following guideline:

Previously Published Work

Is not accepted. We consider work that has appeared in print journals or on blogs or other websites to be previously published.

You see where this is going? Dick, after all of the back-and-forth over the past couple of months, was now writing to tell me that his story had already been published online, all the way back in the spring. Which meant that I wouldn’t be allowed to publish it.

And that brings us to this week’s main moral of the story: Before you submit a story—or any piece of writing—always always always read that publication’s submission guidelines

Always. Make it your first step.

So, two good stories turned into two blacklisted writers. Again, such is life as an editor.

Luckily I was able to find some stories to plug the holes of my leaking vessel. K.R. Sands’s “The Face Phantom” is a wonderfully macabre piece of writing about a man with agalmatophilia (sexual attraction to statues—in this case an ophthalmological device). Ethel Rohan’s “Illustrated Girl” is a quality short short about a tattooed girl who allows her co-workers to become very familiar with her body. Jacob Driscoll’s “I Will Miss You When You Are Gone” is a lyrical, mythical tale about a group of young characters dissecting love and life. All quality stories, all from writers who were extremely gracious and easy to work with.

Sure, sometimes I just loathe writers. But most of the time I love ‘em.

Most of the time. As for Dick and Bane? I don’t necessarily wish them ill … but if they never manage to place these two stories elsewhere, I won’t shed a tear.

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3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By Friday’s Links « WriteByNight's Blog on 31 Dec 2010 at 6:04 am

    […] again: do your homework, writers! And please, please, please read those submission guidelines. (cc: Dick and […]

  2. […] an agent? Publish a diatribe about the direction of modern publishing? Slander folks like Dick and Bane? Rant about Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble (yeah, yeah!). Do it here. 400-800 words, give or […]

  3. By Call for Submissions « WriteByNight's Blog on 05 Jan 2011 at 8:57 am

    […] an agent? Publish a diatribe about the direction of modern publishing? Slander folks like Dick and Bane? Rant about Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble (yeah, yeah!). Do it here. 400-800 words, give or […]

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