Disclaimer: This post is not here to “out” anyone or to point fingers. I don’t name names or publications. This is post is meant to show how important it is to research the publication, and outline the red flags I spotted along the way.
First let me say, I don’t claim to be an expert of the publishing world. While I’ve been writing for over 20 years, I’m also not a ‘best selling’ author or authority on writing. I have, however, written a few fiction novels, short stories, and poetry that I am quite proud of, but I am also still learning and perfecting my craft, as well as trying to find the perfect ‘home’ for all my pieces.
That said, I’m relatively new to the submission scene, or rather, what it has become since the last time I wrote fiction to submit a decade ago.
As I wrote the two novels I’m currently querying for, I also wrote a few new short stories to submit to publications. Why not? My thought was, the publication credits would be nice, as would ‘getting my feet wet’ with the submission and publication process before I started querying for novels. I understand and expect rejections, and even look forward to them sometimes (weird, I know, but it proves to me that I’m actively trying and constantly learning. Plus there is sometimes that random bonus of feedback that truly helps us as authors learn).
For several months I submitted short stories on a regular basis. My first acceptance came in January 2018, from a brand new publication I had decided to take a chance on. Again, why not? Everyone has to start somewhere.
I very soon found out why I should not have given them the benefit of the doubt, and should have dug deeper into the editors of the anthology.
My first red flag came when the editing process began. The story was given a major overhaul, and she attempted to more or less plagiarize a well-know author. I was horrified at the idea of my first short story having this association, and pointed it out. It took a bit of arguing, but she finally changed it. I gave her the benefit of the doubt when it came to her editing skills, assuming she had at least some professional experience editing. I found out later she did not.
The second problem of the publication became the launch date. All along, we expected a release of April 1st, 2018. The closer the date got, the more the problems compounded. There were too many submissions, the issue was being ‘split into more than one volume’. Then there were layout issues. Then there were page number problems. Then Createspace booted the publication out due to some type of issue (which, of course,was blamed on the authors, but also blamed on Amazon). By the time the publication finally made it to self-published market, it was TWO MONTHS past the original date.
Now thankfully, my piece (ironically titled ‘Train Wreck’, which is exactly what the piece was accepted into) was to be in one of those ‘next volumes’. I felt relieved, actually, that it wasn’t a part of their first release. But watching how they had handled all the missteps, seeing another editor step in to ‘take over’ because the first editor was having a mental breakdown or something, I decided I’d best contact them to have my story removed completely from their clutches. The final decision came when the original editor and headmistress of this hair-brained idea had spewed out all kinds of information about herself and reasons why she wasn’t ready to handle a project like this. She stated she’d been writing since May of 2017 (no that’s not a typo), had a handful of things published (which, you guessed it, you can’t find), and had a degree in economics that told her there was a market for this type of stuff.
At this point, I’m sad that I’ve left my short story be edited by someone that probably shouldn’t have. I contact the ‘new’ editor, a young pup who’s been ghostwriting for a whole 8 years (also, can’t see his stuff, ‘cuz you know, he’s a ghostwriter), and tell him to kindly do not use my story in future publications. I get zero reply. Concerned he didn’t get my email, I take to the Facebook group, under where he’s stated to ‘please email him for removal’ at his yahoo email address (another huge red flag, folks). His reply to my request was less than professional, and he proceeds to make a huge deal out of my method of contact and demanding to know why I’d need them to reply (So I can take my story elsewhere without concern, maybe?), then stating they purposefully didn’t ‘engage due to conversations like this’. Huh? Why would you be afraid to say “Okay we’ll remove your story from our files”?
As if the above wasn’t fishy enough, he proceeds to get even nastier, stating “your story would never have been accepted at this publication had I been the one to read through it, or any other for that matter. ” And then ‘muted’ me, so I would be sure to read his comment in the private group, but not be able to reply (and yes, mentions in the reply that I’ve been muted).
Rejections I can handle. Feedback I can handle. Constructive criticism I can handle. Unprofessional, childish, and rude behavior I do not tolerate. Especially from someone that claims to be a publisher. Every step of the way this group has been unprofessional, which is mind boggling to me if you are trying to BE a professional.
Now, authors, here’s my biggest issues with all this:
- They’ve wasted 6 months of my time
- They’ve held my story for 6 months
- They had no marketing plan AT ALL, and expected the unpaid authors to volunteer for marketing.
- They were unprofessional, unprepared, and are too stubborn to admit it.
- They have put the authors attached to this project at risk, because they have absolutely no idea what they are doing in relation to publishing or marketing.
Honestly, I think they all saw dollar signs and are lashing out because it’s not going according to plan, and publishing/marketing is a lot harder than any of them dreamed of. They had no experience with self-publishing before hand, and thought they would learn as they go.
What I learned here is to do my due diligence and RESEARCH those involved in any project or person I plan to trust with a piece of my writing. YES a bad publication can damage your reputation, especially if they are marketing poorly. YES the publishers need experience in editing and publishing (NOT JUST WRITING – I can’t emphasis this enough! Having a little experience in writing does NOT make you knowledgeable in publishing!).
NO you aren’t stupid for running as fast as you can from projects such as this. You don’t NEED that credit, nor do you need ‘the exposure’. You as a writer need paid, not ‘credit only’ and advertising duties for someone else’s publication. There are PLENTY of markets that either will pay, or actually provide you exposure and a recognizable credit without you having to market for them. And if all else fails, there is always the avenue of self-publishing and promoting yourself or your own writing.
Above all, authors, do not let a bad experience, bad advice, or bad people prevent you from writing. Let them sink in their own problems. Listen to the actual professionals in the publishing and writing world that have hands-on experience, research, and keep writing!