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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Slushpile Survival Guide

A question about publication philosophy has come up in a behind-the-scenes discussion, and rather than hypothesize further, I've decided to present the question to you. When I launched STUPEFYING STORIES, I specified some initial directives:

1. We would always treat authors as we ourselves would want to be treated.

2. We would be a pays-on-publication market, at least for the first two years.

3. We would be very relaxed about "first rights" considerations and simultaneous submissions, based on the assumption that our turnaround time would render those points moot.

4. [CLASSIFIED] We would never adopt the usual "pays on publication" market practice of accepting far more material than we could ever realistically hope to publish in a reasonable amount of time.

I'm particularly sensitive to Directive #4, as early in my career I was badly burned by a publisher who I later learned made a practice of sending out acceptance letters and contracts by the bale, just so that he'd have plenty of material to cherry-pick from when he assembled his anthologies. Some of my early stories were tied up for years because of this practice, and ultimately published only when I finally got the rights back and submitted them elsewhere.

As we dig out from under the the massive storydrifts left by the Great Submissions Blizzard of December 2011, though, it's becoming apparent that a lot of other writers have had similar experiences. They are nervous about committing to having their stories published by us, especially when we're looking at a publication and payment date that might be months off. We believe that we are different, but it's going to take time for us to establish a reputation as being better than the usual pays-on-publication market.

Ergo, it has been proposed that we switch to payment-on-acceptance.

IF we were to make this change, it would not be simple. For one thing, we'd have to switch to requiring a lock on exclusive worldwide English-language First Rights, as we have zero interest in buying a story only to see it published somewhere else before we can get around to publishing it.

Secondly, it would slow down our already slightly overloaded submissions and acceptance process even further, as a whole lot more deliberation would have to go into each acceptance. We'd have to start pre-planning and budgeting each issue months out, instead of merely weeks out, which would deprive us of a lot of the flexibility that we value.

So here's the question for you. As an author, which would you rather deal with? A publisher who:

1. Pays on publication, but responds quickly and is relatively relaxed about contract rights, or one who

2. Pays on acceptance, but responds ponderously and has a very restrictive contract?

To make this easier, I've put a survey widget in the upper right-hand corner. The survey will run through the end of January.

Thanks for thinking about this,
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