I may catch some flack for this post, but I really don’t care. The content needs said, and I am more than willing to say it.
Someone once asked why I invite “big name authors” to contribute to my projects rather than allowing more slots for up-and-comers. I tried to be diplomatic in my answer, hoping not to come across as the jackass I really am (just ask my wife). So, I replied with something that sounded nice, sweet, and non-caloric.
Well, I would like to answer that question a little more openly here.
The reason I like working with “big name authors” is because I know I’ll be working with professionals.
I don’t have to worry about egos, petty crap, or prima donnas crowing endlessly about messing with their art. I know that sounds bass-ackwards, but it’s true. The “problem authors” I’ve had to deal with (or pacify) while working as an anthologist or editor, has primarily been first time or up-and-coming writers.
You see, if I LOVE a professional’s story but ask for changes, I don’t get hostility, resentment, or a flame war, I get the story I want with true professional cooperation. The professional wants to work with the editor or publisher, not fight them. That doesn’t mean a professional will not disagree over certain points, but it means each will work together to produce the strongest piece possible…without the attitude.
Let me say this, too. The problem children—the loudest crowers—are by far less talented than those I call professionals. This is my opinion, but I swear I see it on a consistent basis. And by the way, professionals are not all “big name writers” per se…they are merely professionals. I know and have worked with many professionals that do not have the “big name” tagged on them.
And while I’m at it, let’s talk about submission guidelines.
The true professional stays within the guidelines, straying very little…and when he or she veers slightly from the path, I can see why and usually agree with them.
I edited an anthology with Mark Justice called Appalachian Winter Hauntings where the theme was (plainly stated in the guidelines) Christmas ghost stories set in the Appalachian region of the United States. Our first submission was not only set in Oregon (as far from the Appalachian region as one can possibly get and yet remain in the Continental US), but also had NOTHING to do with Christmas, or any other holiday for that matter.
I have yet to put together a project where I have not had to deal with this in mass quantity, and I don’t understand it. Do the writers think the editor or publisher will forget what he or she is asking for and take anything coming in? Or do they just not read the guidelines?
A friend recently took on his first editing job with a themed anthology and I warned him he would get similar submissions. I don’t think he really believed me, but he recently called me with the news that he’d already experienced this phenomenon…and his submissions are not even officially open yet!
While I’m at it, I’ll also mention that within MINUTES of posting the submission guidelines for Appalachian Winter Hauntings, I received the non-Christmas ghost story set in Oregon. Of course this told me I would be reading a trunk story, and I would not be dealing with a professional.
If you really want to be treated like a professional, then you must write, work, and act like one.
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