Please read this interesting newsletter about a new concept in magazine and online publishing. Combining the blog format with short-story publications, and a community forum too. If you ever wanted to get published, this is definitely one way it could work for you. The news is self-explanatory, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments, or send me an email.
The Thinkerbeat Reader Newsletter
Thank you for submitting your stories to UNFIT/UNREAL magazines. This newsletter is to let you know how I evaluate stories, keeping you in the loop on the submission process.
If your story was submitted before 6/20, most likely your story was not accepted for publication in the upcoming round of magazines. I’m very sorry about that because I know how difficult it is to get published these days. I’m not only a publisher, but also a writer.
So keep trying. In fact, send your story to lots of publications. I’m a strong believer in that. I’ll even show you where to find other publications, down below. For the record, I don’t charge for submission, and I don’t require that you to only submit to one place at a time. Simultaneous submissions are the best solution for making any headway in this profession. Seriously.
About the Process
As you may have noticed, I do things a little differently. For example, I don’t typically write to you and reject your story. The terms on the submission page say that if you haven’t heard back within 30 days, take that as a no. If you noticed the date above, you’ll realize I’m falling behind the 30 day window, approaching 50 days. There’s a reason for that.
I’ve decided to release this newsletter periodically so I can let a lot of people know at the same time what the cutoff date is for the submission window. Right now it’s anything submitted before 6/20. Included in this newsletter will also be tips on what I expect to see in stories from you, which should help you in the future. So stay subscribed and I’ll keep you informed.
1. I don’t usually respond to submissions. The truth is, there are a lot of you. And the number of people writing and submitting stories is growing rapidly every year. Currently, I have about 100 stories each at both UNREAL and UNFIT magazine that I have to read. That’s close to 200 stories, right now. And the number grows by 10 to 20 new stories per day. It’s almost impossible to keep up with.
In the future, expect more publications to follow suit. The New Yorker, one the most awarded magazines for fiction, has had the same policy that I follow for years. Their terms say that if you haven’t heard back in 90 days, assume you’re out. You won’t be notified, unless accepted. I shortened it to 30 days, but am struggling to make the deadline. In the future, I’m going to let people know by newsletter how things are progressing, like I’m doing right now. I’m hopeful it will be the best solution for both of us.
2. In recent weeks, I added a new line to the submission forms at both UNREAL/UNFIT magazines. It says, simply, “Your URL”. What I was hoping for was to get an indication of where your blog is. In the past, I’ve searched for your blogs by author name and that’s time consuming because it involves a lot of guesswork about who you really are.
The results of changing the form have been pretty interesting. I would say about 50% of the people submitting stories don’t have a satisfactory online home. Which I think is odd, because you can set up a blog in about 5 minutes, sourced from a variety of places such as WordPress or Blogger.
Many people are rigging the answer to get the story to go through, with things like http://NA.com and http://Idonthaveone.com. Another common response I see on the form is when someone puts an email address in the answer, like this: http://firstname.lastname@example.org. All of these stories are being rejected.
When you sign a contract with me, I’ll be asking for rights to use your name, your photo, and your bio to promote the magazines. Professionals know about this and have little problem with it. I don’t mind that you use a pen name, either. The problem is that I need to verify that you are really you. That you haven’t just stolen someone else’s story and put your name on it. That you are really signing the contract as yourself. That you aren’t trying to sell me three stories under three different names, when I don’t allow multiple submissions. Your online home is one place where I check the facts. It tells me how stable you are as a writer. Plus, I also like to read your blogs. I like to get to know what you’re up to. Often I’ll click on the “Like” button on a WordPress site to let you know I was there. I’m interesting in you and what you’re doing with your words.
A number of people have used a page on Facebook or Twitter in the form. Some put down their author page on Amazon. These are interesting, but I’m on the fence about accepting them. Maybe it’s the first time you’ve written a story and you want to see if you can get published in a semi-pro magazine. I understand that. But as we’ve never met, I need verification that you’ll be able to spread the news about the magazine, that other people find you a good resource of publishing information.
Recently, I’ve started up a website called The Thinkerbeat Reader. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to join and I’ll give you a simple one. I’ll even help you upload your photo and add your bio. You’ll be able to use the URL of your homepage at thinkerbeat.com in the submission forms at UNREAL/UNFIT magazines.
If you already have an active blog, use that. I’ll stop by and see how you’re doing. Even so, you’re invited to join the thinkerbeat.com website.
At thinkerbeat.com, I’ve got an up-to-date list of 800 publications looking for stories written by someone just like you. I’ve got a social network set up so we can all talk to each other. I’ve even put the magazines that I publish online there for you to read. Get a look at the stories I’ve already bought for the next round of magazines, before they go to market. See what you’re up against. This should give you a better idea of what I’m looking for each time. It will help you eliminate the guesswork.
Let me say in advance, the site is not free. However, I’ll upgrade your account to ‘premium’ membership if I can see that you’re on my mailing list, you’re submitting stories to my magazines, or you’re an author I’ve published before. It’s like you paid, but you didn’t. I think this is a fair solution for both of us.
How do I evaluate stories?
With close to 200 stories waiting to be read, I have to have a pretty good system. With years of experience, I think I have a pretty good system.
1. Divide and conquer. First, I take about 20 stories and divide them into two piles, the ten best and the ten not-so-good. Then I take the remaining 10 stories and do the same thing, two piles, 5 and 5. Eventually I get to the top 2 stories from the reading session. Next I take another 20 stories and do the same. Then I evaluate the top stories from each group, comparing them to each other. 20 seems to be a good number because that’s close to the submission rate each day. I can’t compare your story to all 100 stories that I need to read right now. That’s not even close to realistic.
One reason I don’t send out rejections is because sometimes a story will grow on me. A week later, it might be in the rejection pile, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ll go back and take a second look. In the past, I’ve had cases where I’ve contacted an author after a story was formally rejected and then I asked to buy it. I might even contact you several months later to see if the story is still available, if I suddenly find a need for it.
2. Does the story follow a common trope? Most stories do. Even with the top writers in the field, most stories fit into recognizable categories, whether you realize it or not. One way to know if your story has been written before is to read a lot. You do read a lot, don’t you? You’d be surprised how many variations I’ve gotten on the same story. Man kills his wife only to wake up in the police station, being let go, because she was really a robot. Man kills his wife and wakes up in the police station to find out he is a robot. And she wasn’t. Or she was. And so on. If you’re going to write something already written, you’ve got to do it better than anyone before. How would you know? Read a lot.
3. Is the story low lying fruit? Low apples on the tree are easy to pick, and many stories that I get are based on simple ideas. You put a lot of time into crafting every single word in your story only to step back and realize there’s not much going on overall in terms of plot. I know, because I’ve been there before. It’s the apples at the top of the tree that I want from you. Those ideas are harder to get to.
A Brief History of Thinkerbeat
Thinkerbeat started a long time ago and reached a kind of wall that I couldn’t get past as a publisher. We’d put out an anthology called The Art of Losing with 24 authors in it. It wasn’t selling well and I got really discouraged. About that same time, I was laid off from my job and didn’t know where the money would come from for the projects I had planned. So I folded the site and took a break for a while from publishing.
Previously, I had finished my MBA degree and worked for a publisher. They published a children’s book I wrote. More of my history can be found on my blog.
Later, when I got my second wind, I started Longshot Island, knowing this time it was a long shot. That also reached a kind of wall in just the last year. I wouldn’t say it’s gone forever. But I’ve put it on the back burner for now. Both experiences opened a lot of doors and gave me the chance to meet a lot of great people, like you.
From there I started UNFIT/UNREAL magazines, publishing the best authors in speculative fiction.
About two months ago I noticed the URL was available for Thinkerbeat and a series of incidents got me to thinking of setting the site up again. There’s so much I’ve learned about authors and the publishing process and I’m more confident now that I can help you out. I have a strong commitment to helping undiscovered authors get noticed, because I know how hard that is. Put simply, by pairing your story up with writing giants, people are more likely to read it. At the same time, if we don’t cultivate new talent, where will the genre be down the road?
Here’s an older interview I did with Cathleen Townsend on the original Thinkerbeat website.
Interview with Daniel White–Publisher at Thinkerbeat
Thinkerbeat 2.0 is a great resource. The site offers:
a social network feed
a list of publications
Learn more at the site: thinkerbeat.com, where you can talk to me.
The Round of Next Magazines
Here are the authors I’m talking to right now.
Yoon Ha Lee
Robert J. Sawyer
…plus more, tba.
Robert J. Sawyer
D.A. Xiaolin Spires
…plus more, tba.
As I purchase these stories, they are going online at The Thinkerbeat Reader for you to check out, right now. As you can see, I need more stories for UNFIT at this time than I do for UNREAL. This list is not 100% final, but fairly close. I’ve discussed purchasing the stories and been given confirmation in most cases. Some of the stories have been bought already, but I still need to make the final decision in some cases.
The Thinkerbeat Reader has (or will soon have) stories by: Ken Liu • Cat Rambo • Emily Devenport • Martha Wells • Yoon Ha Lee • Jerry Oltion • Matthew Hughes • Daniel Wallace • Tim Major • Eric Del Carlo • David R. Grigg • Bruce Golden • Orson Scott Card • Robert J. Sawyer • Ernest Hogan • Tais Teng • David Brin • Robert Silverberg • J.B. Toner • M. Yzmore • Michael Merriam • LJ Cohen • Jessica Needham • J.D. Astra • Liz Kellebrew • George Salis • Joe Taylor • Adithi Rao • Nathan Susnik • Cathleen Townsend • Pete Johnson and more.
See you there!
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