I first met Maurice Broaddus back in mid-2009 at a convention in Nashville, TN. We met a second time at another convention a few months later. We hung out, met a bunch of other authors and fans and talked shop (among other things that I won’t mention here). Since that time, the two of us have become good friends and I’ve read all of his stuff (which is great, btw). So, when I started throwing around the idea of a monthly column here on Hellnotes, I knew that Maurice was one of the guys that I’d want to have come in and make a guest appearance. So, read the below article and if you haven’t already, go check out his catalog of work. You’ll be happy you did. So, without further ado, here is his article for my April column. Enjoy.
So You Want to be an Editor
by Maurice Broaddus
You know, I can’t even remember how many times over the course of the years where there were moments – daydreams, snippets of nightmares, post traumatic flashback, perhaps imbibing a little too much Riesling – when I thought that being an editor would be a good idea. The positives came easily enough:
– Get my name out there. Let’s face it, many of us aspiring horror writers go to the usual places, Hellnotes, Ralan.com, Duotrope, Gila Queen, etc. looking for markets and the best places to send our latest opus. We learn the name of the editors so that we can personalize our submission letters or make sure they put a face to the name by “bumping” into them at conventions. Suddenly your fellow writers are looking at you in a different light because you’re the one dangling the promise of acceptance.
Actually, that’s about as far as I got in my day dreams. For years I resisted the urge to pursue this (for the record, this day dream often went side by side with me starting my own magazine. That was definitely the Riesling whispering). Then I pitched the idea of Dark Faith, an anthology that asked horror, science fiction, and fantasy writers to do their own take on the idea of “faith” (whatever that might mean to them) to Apex Books. I’d been writing in the trenches for years. I figured how hard could it be?” I had friends I figured would send me stuff. So, darn, I’d have to “slog” through stories by Tom Piccirilli, Brian Keene, Gary Braunbeck, Chesya Burke, Jay Lake, Catherynne Valente, Wrath James White, and so on. But not everyone is going to be them. That said, Dark Faith received over 600 submissions and I had to get a co-editor to help tackle the slush pile.
Here’s the thing: not everyone is a seasoned professional. I understand that. I’ve been the new kid on the block. I’ve racked up my share of rejection letters. The key has always been “fake it til you make it” – act like a professional until you are a professional. My take home experience from this is that EVERY writer should take a turn at a slush pile, just to appreciate what you’re up against, but also what can knock you out of contention pretty quickly. I’ll keep my list of grievances to the most egregious:
– Read. The. Guidelines. THEN FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. If the editor is asking for stories 5000 words or less, then your story ought to be in that ball park. Querying is okay. What’s not okay? Sending your comic book proposal. Sending your novel. Sending me your thinly disguised fanfic (I’m probably going to recognize Mr. Spock or Buffy no matter how you change their names). Sending your collection of short stories and telling me to pick the one that would work best for me.
– Cover letters. Shorter is better. Seriously: salutation, a line telling the name of the story and its word count, a paragraph telling your relevant credits and/or any personal experience pertinent to expertise in the story you’ve submitted, and a closing (including your contact information, just in case). That’s it. A helpful tip: if you’ve gone to page two (or THREE?!?), you’ve probably gone on a bit too long. There’s no point in telling me about the story, after all, I’m about to read it. Worse, your summary could make me NOT want to read it.
Above all, write a fantastic story. You’re building your resume with your work. Nearly half of the stories accepted into Dark Faith were from the slush pile. For a few, it was their first professional credit. Editors aren’t out to get you, they want to create the best project possible. They LOVE to be the ones to break new writers. Don’t be your own worst enemy.
Dark Faith (edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon) will be available from Apex Books in May 2010. You can learn more on his website, at: Maurice Broaddus
Ty is an author in the horror genre. To learn more about his work, you can visit his website at: Ty Schwamberger