“The Temperament of an Artist” is an extremely early story of mine, written in middle school and sent out on submission without any revisions because I was a young idiot who just couldn’t wait to mail a new story to the editors I found in the Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. Sigh. I still owe a lot of them apology letters for sending them so many bad stories those summers when school was out.
Most of what I published in the 1990s is dead and buried in a folder on my computer for good reason, but at the time I was just having fun and trying to sell short stories like my literary heroes.
“The Temperament of an Artist” was the second story of mine to see print, published in a little paper zine in 1995 that doesn’t even seem to have existed if you search the web for information now.
I revised the manuscript a few times in high school and college, but still, I was surprised to like this one as much as I did when I opened the dreaded “old stuff” folder while considering the contents for Walking With Ghosts.
It’s not great, but it’s kind of fun, I think. Especially if you put yourself into the head of the wildly optimistic thirteen-year-old kid who wrote it while believing his work could set the world aflame.
Walking With Ghosts, my first full-length short story collection, is being published by the amazing folks at PS Publishing and my first copy arrived this past week. Here are a few photos I took very quickly the other day of this beautiful book they’ve produced:
This is part meditation on the publishing business, part update for the authors who currently have stories under consideration for Cemetery Dance magazine, and at the end is a mea culpa.
We received 1,750 submissions this summer to fill 20 or maybe 25 slots in upcoming issues of Cemetery Dance magazine.
Approximately 50% of the stories have been read once, 25% have been read twice, and 25% have been read at least three times. Our goal is to have at least three members of our trusted first-reader team read each story before making any decisions about where the story goes next.
That said, you probably noticed above how many submissions there are for so few slots, right?
In this situation, there are always very good stories an editor has to pass on because you simply don’t have room. There will even be some GREAT stories you have to pass on because they aren’t quite right for your readership (wrong genre, etc) or for other reasons that might sound stupid to the author (already bought something too similar in theme, storyline, etc).
Ultimately, you buy the stories that hit you the hardest (in the gut, the heart, the head), were effortless to read (pulled you in from the first line and carried you through to the ending as if walking through a dream), AND also work best for your target market.
What this means is: I’ll be sending rejections to 1,725 or so authors who sent their very best work and have their fingers crossed that the work will spark a fire for us. I have to say: “Sorry, this isn’t for us.”
From watching Facebook, Twitter, and other places, I know most of the authors whose current submissions didn’t make the cut are taking it in stride and often with good humor. That’s the perfect attitude and I have to admit it took me a while as a writer to get there. Every rejection felt extremely personal to me in the beginning.
For those who do still take a story rejection personally, I completely understand. You worked hard on that story! I try to remind writers that a story rejection is not personal. It’s not a criticism of your writing ability or you as a person. There are simply so many good stories and so few slots. If you keep writing and pounding on doors (or forging your own way to reach readers, but that’s a topic for another day), you’ll get where you want to go in time.
So, we all know form rejection letters SUCK. Yet, you cannot send 1,725 personal replies. You’ll never get anything else done. But some kind of rejection letter is necessary, so the author can close out the file on the submission and target the next available market. (All while hopefully grinding away at the next story, too. Remember Alec Baldwin’s ABCs: Always. Be. Creative-writing.)
Last night it was time to send the first rejections for this batch of submissions and I decided to try to transform our standard rejection note into something at least a little more encouraging:
Thank you for sending us “STORY TITLE” for consideration.
We appreciate the opportunity to read your work, but unfortunately this one isn’t for us.
Please note we received more than 1,750 submissions for approximately 20 slots, which means a lot of very, very good stories are not making the cut. (There are even some great stories that just aren’t right for our market.)
Please keep on writing, revising, and submitting to the very best markets you can find. It can be an arduous journey, but a fulfilling and rewarding one as well. And with each new story you write, you’re honing your craft. No effort at your writing desk is ever wasted.
We wish you the very best of luck with your work.
I’m not an inspirational writer and that’s the best I could come up with on short notice, but I felt it was at least a little better than a cold, sterile “not for us, sorry” message.
Unfortunately, when I was rejecting a group of stories, the system glitched — or I glitched — and some authors were sent the letter two or three times. Or maybe more. Sigh.
Dammit and dammit were my first two thoughts when I realized what happened. And then I followed that up with another dammit for good measure.
That said, most of the authors who responded to the multiple messages handled the situation with a good dose of humor and grace IF they mentioned it at all.
There was also this guy:
Hey, I cannot blame that reaction. I’ve been there, although I try really hard to walk away from the keyboard and think about whether that sort of reply is how I want someone to remember my name in the future. (I’m much better at this than when I was a kid and I still feel dumb for all of the time spent BROODING over rejections when I was younger.)
My hope is that anyone else who also received multiple copies of the letter last night will take heart in knowing their story was read and considered seriously, we don’t enjoy sending rejection letters, and we especially didn’t mean to “rub it in” that a story didn’t make the cut.
My apologies go out to any authors who were extra bummed about the notification when it just kept showing up in their inbox like some kind of zombie rejection email rising from the grave. I can definitely imagine how annoying it would be for that same message to just… keep… coming.
For those still waiting for an answer on this year’s submissions, we’re moving forward as fast as we can while still seriously considering each and every story. The process will take some time. If your story sells elsewhere in the meantime, please let us know. We’ll congratulate you and kick ourselves for not reading it sooner!
If your story doesn’t make the cut this time, please keep writing, keep revising, and keep pushing your work forward.
Brian James Freeman
Cemetery Dance Publications
P.S. I should also apologize to my mother-in-law, who is the sweetest lady in the world and always hated when her kids used the word “sucks.” Sorry, Dori!
As promised when I launched my page on Patreon one year ago this week, I’ll never be super pushy to try to convince you to sign-up. That’s just not my style. And besides, I think we’ll both be happier if my supporters really want to be there in the first place.
That said, my first year on Patreon has truly opened my eyes to how much I can accomplish and how much further I can take my work with the help of a small group of enthusiastic supporters.
Thanks to those supporters, I have written more new short stories in the last year than ever before, I’m working on new special editions and revised editions of past books, I’m preparing TWO novels for publication in 2019 (and they might be serialized on Patreon first), and I’m even publishing fun exclusive items like a brand new novel told via a chapbook series just for my supporters and even a one-time only Limited Edition called Patreon Stories: Volume One, which I will print in August for qualifying supporters and which will NEVER be reprinted or offered again in any form or fashion:
In fact, if you sign up to support me on Patreon at a qualifying level by August 31, you CAN still qualify for either the signed trade paperback or signed Limited Edition hardcover of Patreon Stories: Volume One, which will ship next month!
In the future, only supporters who have been at the qualifying rewards levels for six months will receive the exclusive “never-to-be-reprinted” books, but I waived that this year since we’re all still learning about how Patreon and the rewards work.
So this really is your chance to get in on the ground floor of something I plan on doing for many years to come.
FUTURE PLANS & HOW MY SUPPORTERS MAKE THEM REALITY:
I’m especially pleased to report my writing plans have completely changed thanks to my experiences with my supporters on Patreon.
For example, the next two books I’ll be writing in 2019 and 2020 are books I’ve had on my mental back burner (one of them since 2006 or so!) because the idea of finding a publisher for them is painfully unrealistic. I have to admit, thanks to some bad advice early on in my career, I’ve spent too much time trying to write novels that New York publishing companies might embrace. That was a mistake and I’ve finally learned from it. Only took me [counts on fingers] 25 years! (YIKES!)
Simply put, big publishers don’t buy stories like the ones living inside my head, demanding to be put on paper. Yet these are the stories I want to be writing and, thanks to my supporters on Patreon, I can write them without having to kick myself every day over why I’m not doing something “more productive” to pay the bills and keep the lights on and feed my family.
Thanks to my supporters on Patreon, these books I want to write will be written AND I will keep the lights on, pay my bills, and feed my family at the same time. I literally couldn’t do all of this without their help.
Also, for the record, I do think readers who already like my work will really like these new books, so it’ll be a win-win for all of us.
Here’s A Modest Request:
Please consider supporting my work on Patreon at whatever level you feel comfortable with; your support really will be appreciated and it will help me push my work even further along than I ever thought possible.
ALSO: THERE’S NO OBLIGATION:
Please know, if you change your mind after a month or two and want to cancel your support, it’s no big deal! You can modify your support or cancel at any time.
Finances change, interests change, real life happens, stuff comes up; trust me, I completely understand! There will be no hard feelings or annoying “please come back” sales pitches thrown in your face.
Even if you just give supporting my work a try for a month or two, I would really love to see you over there.
Thank you again to everyone for all of your support and encouragement over the years. In the end, you’re the battery cells that makes it possible to get the work done. Thank you!
Greg Nibler and Sarah X Dylan at Funemployment Radio have produced an incredible audiobook for The Zombie Who Cried Human, and because they’re absolutely awesome to work with, this one audiobook actually contains two different readings of the story!
You can download this audiobook for a crazy low price, so please check it out and let us know what you think!
I’m thrilled to report my first full-length short story collection, which has been more than 20 years in the making, will be published later this summer by the amazing folks at PS Publishing!
Walking With Ghosts will be available as both a signed & slipcased Limited Edition hardcover (limited to just 100 copies) and also as a beautiful trade hardcover. Vincent Chong created the incredible artwork for the cover, slipcase, and endpapers. It’s going to be a great looking book thanks to his efforts!