Tuesday, April 2, 2013

New Yorker Magazine Rejects Itself.

The New Yorker Rejects a Story it had Already Published.

I recently read a very funny article where writer David Cameron “grabbed a New Yorker story off the web, copied it into a Word document, changed only the title, created a fictitious author identity, and submitted it to a slew of literary journals”. His letter simply stated that he was unpublished writer who was deeply appreciative of their consideration.

Every single magazine, including the New Yorker itself, rejected the story. Just to be sure, Cameron choose another story from the New Yorker and did it again, with the same result.

A writer’s immediate reaction might be ah-huh, those magazine editors don’t have a clue what good writing is. But there is no indication in the article that the editors actually read the story. As he says all he received back was boilerplate replies of “good luck placing your work elsewhere”.

And why should they have read it? After all, these magazines probably receive a lot of stories from name authors. Stories from a well-known author will help them sell their magazines.

David Cameron offers no analysis of why the story was rejected. Well I reckon most probably the attachment to the email was never opened. He was rejected because of his lack of sales pull.  

But Stories from Name Authors Often Disappoint.

I used to buy speculative fiction magazines and still buy the occasional best of speculative fiction anthologies. I did/do not buy them because of the authors listed on the front of the cover. In fact, I often sneer: not him/her again, as I am not a fan of their obscure stories. I often find the stories from authors I have heard of are usually the weakest in these collections. The one exception has been Greg Egan, whose complex stories always intrigue and delight me.

Generally the best stories in the collections are from authors I have never of, as they have gotten into the collection on merit. They have survived the slush-pile and been enthusiastically endorsed by a number of readers. Whereas the name writer was probably asked to submit a story – and the editor did not want to offend by telling them that their story sucked. Besides it will get people reading the magazine or anthology.

So if your stories are constantly being rejected unread by magazines, change your name to Stephen King or better still Greg Egan.  Then your story might be rejected on the writing.


graywave said...

It's all such a crap shoot. The fact is that there is no good basis for accepting or rejecting a story, only the editor's taste. So why should "pro" magazines be any better than free webzines? Allegedly because they have a wider choice of good material to assemble each edition from, but it doesn't seem to help - maybe because, as you suggest, their first filter is on the author's name.

I stopped reading the big-name sci-fi mags about 15 years ago because every one I read was full of mediocre rubbish interspersed with total crap. I'll pick up an Asimov's or a new "pro" start up every few years just to see if things have changed, but they haven't.

I find good stories all over the place (online, in self-published collections, and in small press anthologies) but they just don't seem to be published in "pro" magazines any more.

Like you, the exception I'd gladly admit to is Greg Egan. I've never read a bad story from that guy.

Graham Clements said...

I am maybe not so harsh on all the stories being bad - I just often feel disappointed by the stories in them, especially those by big name authors. The problem with the local market is the magazines try to be all things to all readers, having both fantasy and science fiction. I don't think epic fantasy works in short story format. I have more time for Analog or Asimov, which have more science fiction in them, and longer stories too. Short stories with twists do nothing for me.

Anthony J. Langford said...

I am not at all surprised by this and I do hope you share this on my Author Page as it's very interesting. I have submitted to them twice and to many other top tier and not so top publications and often, there is that feeling that they did not read the story. I've been having the same problem trying to get an agent to represent one of my novels - this has been going on years now and I do believe that they don't bother looking at the proposal. There are too many submitters/writers etc and as you state, unless they are 'names' of some degree, they provide the cut and paste rejection form email. I've seen hundreds of them now if not more.

I also believe that some of these publications have staff writers who use synonyms. I believe this is the case with The School Magazine, an iconic publication full of really dull stories (rejected 8 stories of mine). Ironically enough, my partner knows someone who used to work there and they were going to publish something she had written and she's not even a writer.

As you say, many of these names produce work that is lacklustre. I mean, they can't be on fire continuously. I read a really bad one by Christos Tolkias that shouldn't have been published. Again, the name sells. They have to move copies, so names will always get a run. It's not about quality, that's for sure.
I find Aueralis magazine fairly dull too. And Wet Ink. They are too much driven by the whims of their editors so you end up with content that is similiar to the point (talking about Wet Ink now) it feels like the same writer has written 75% of the work. Not that its bad, but its just not diverse enough. I subscribed to both and let them lapse.
I could go but its very tough to get a foot in, in any creative capacity and writing is no different. The old vicious cycle. So around we go again. Perhaps if your the daughter of a famous agent (Kristen Tranter) you'll get a look in. Otherwise, it's very difficult indeed.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Anthony,

I am still yet to really experience the frustration of submitting to magazines and publishers. I have only submitted a few stories to magazines because writing courses I was doing forced me too. The magazines I submitted to were all Australian speculative fiction magazines. The rejections I received indicated my stories had been read. For example, one said they found the story amusing, it was a comedy. Another said they could see what I was trying to do with a story that was very experimental. It would be so discouraging to think stories I submit in the future might not be even read before being rejected. I think the only thing to do about it is to try alternative platforms. Ebooks suddenly appeared, so hopefully something new is just around the corner that suits yours or my style of writing, which we can jump onto in the early stages.

Anthony J. Langford said...

You were lucky to get personal feedback Graham. That is very, very rare these days, let me tell you.
The cut and paste rejection emails are very brief and almost identical.

Unfortunately it is a business like any other, and unless you are already somebody, the mainstream publications arent really interested in newbies, though they claim otherwise on their sites. Wouldn't want to present a bad image after all.

So I target smaller publications where it seems I will have a chance at getting through. That;s all anyone asks for, to be giving a fair chance. Unfortunately it's not a fair business.

Anthony J. Langford said...

In addition, your post has made me reconsider my future - I've already been on this ridiculous treadmill for almost 8 years. Constant rejections are bad for my esteem - anyone's really - that's why in the past 12 months I've been concentrating on getting poems published as I was starting to believe that there was a black list with my name on it. It's really not healthy for me and I'm not going to self publish.
See what happens for the rest of the year.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Anthony,

I think one of the reasons I got some feedback was that the magazines I sent my stories to were local speculative fiction magazines, and I think the editors know that the majority of their readers are people who will be submitting stories to them. It pays not to annoy a potential buyer of the magazine.


Graham Clements said...

And I hope the rest of the year brings you lots of success.