Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dear semi-pro publishers: Please try to look a little more professional

It's that time of my submissions cycle - i.e., the time when I run out of known good markets and start looking for new ones - when the anger and frustration which are the inheritance of the Writer-Aspirant boil out in a tirade directed at the inadequacies of others. Thus:

There are some fantastic semi-pro magazines out there. There is Shimmer. There is Ideomancer. There is Kaleidotrope. What is fantastic about these magazines? It is not, dear reader, their fiction - per se. It has been my general impression that even the tokenest of token-paying markets deliver good stories unto their clientele. The profusion of generally good writers, their profusion of stories, and their unremitting desire to see publication through whatever means possible produces this more or less universal result. There is, I find, essential parity between the quality of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and the quality of Abyss & Apex. I even sometimes find that there is more willingness to publish with a certain derring-do among the semi-pros: I've always found that Canada's Neo-opsis produces less-polished but more interesting issues than Canada's higher-paying, better-polished On Spec. What really sets a semi-pro apart from the rest is their... how shall I put it... sex appeal.

...insofar as readers are having sex with their book design/cover art.

That is a really complex and perhaps crass way to say that there is no reason a publisher that can only afford to pay semi-professional rates ought not to try to look and feel every bit as good as a the pros. After all, the writers are doing the writing; how hard is editing, really? Can we please have some Frank Frazetta on the dance floor? CAN WE PLEASE.

This image pre-approved by David Barron.
This, however, is not the case. It does not cease to astound me how many promising semi-pros crop up in the world of genre publishing, only to appear as stunted, disgusting publishing trolls when they at last bear fruit. They extoll virtuous ideas, they hunt out great words, but they clothe these relics of gold in... in... I'M OUT OF METAPHORS BUT IN SOMETHING TERRIBLE. And the thing is, I cannot abide the idea of submitting work to a publisher whose website is less awesome than mine, no matter the quality of the thing inside; and how could I? All I've done with this blog is make some template corrections and slap-dash a banner together - with dragon fruit. If you can't look this prime, I ain't got the time.

And honestly I would say my content is pretty bitchin', so.

I won't name names only insofar as it would single out unfairly those whose names that I haven't in psychological trauma repressed; and, more importantly, because the reason I find them so disappointing is that, in general, they are promising. It is their failure to live up to expectations that depresses me; but I can still be bolstered by the possibility they might one day turn out alright, like ugly children who grow, one day, to be more beautiful than you, causing great sorrow and regret that you once teased them without mercy upon the playground blacktop.

This is really just to say that, if nothing else, one thing that the "Indie Publishing Revolution" has without any doubt shown me is that it is incredibly, incredibly easy to be a self-made professional in this world. All you need do is try. I mean, look at the Red Penny Papers: they're a token market, and they're hotter than hell! I mean I'm just saying...



  1. You took it to those semi-pros as unto that time when Madame Scarlet spun-kick that lizardfolk.

    ...all I'm saying is that I can pay my own damn self (via H2NH ePub) a penny a word in one year, and not have to worry about mailing contracts and 'waiting'.

  2. I completely agree. The way I see it is that how your business looks like reflects how you treat your staff, your writers and whether or not you have plans for the future. Ugly templates speak of chaos, madness and low visibility. At least that is how I feel about it.