Succeeding in Genre VS Literary

Let me first qualify this post by saying I definitely believe people should be writing. Lots of Genre writers are making a killing and lots of Literary writers are happily due to publications able to have careers teaching and editing manuscripts. Other people are writing and reading for free in online groups where they make friends interested in the stories they write and post on the subway on their cell phones.

Whether your writing makes money or resonates with the masses or you have the wherewithal to do a big marketing push, go for it. There are cascades of magazines and anthologies hungry for your work and the interactions with their publishers are excellent. The imaginative arts redeem humanity. Sort of. Taking the raw material of life and turning it with mad skills into something ecstatically exciting for you and your readers is exquisite. Do it.

If anything, this post is meant to comfort if you aren’t succeeding the way you expected to, not to dissuade. Let’s look at what that means.

The methods and benchmarks of “making it” are quite different in Genre and Literary fiction, though some authors merge the two styles, in spite of being warned against it by experts who say it’s a no man’s land financially. Yes, it probably is, but some of us are just like that. Stubborn. Thus, the frustration in our rants. But that juncture is still beautiful and full of promise.

Literary writers have jobs. Or at least they want them. The most common ideal is teaching in universities, which is the reward for being authors. Their writing sure as heck isn’t likely to support them directly, unless they’re the exceedingly rare breed of authors established back in the old days when the major publishing houses did marketing and spent serious money on it.

So, they’re adjuncts. And they live in a closet or an enclosed porch, perhaps. Those are always nice.

Even now big publishers have to pay huge fees to bookstores to place books in the best locations and they need a lot of faith in sales to do that. Publishers must ship 20,000 books to stores to be taken seriously, and they have to expect many returned books. A book has a fraction of a percent chance of being stocked in a book store, anyway.

So most Literary fiction is put out by the small press with no thought of stores, or even selling much. And nothing in stores. They have no budget for marketing. They’re probably losing money to put out people’s books out of generous passion. They know what it’s like because they’re authors too.

The marketing comes from a few reviewers who submit their reactions to the books to Literary magazines, usually without pay other than sometimes a free book, because they are passionate about the work. Facebook writers network by sharing links to online magazine stories their friends have published, once in awhile, if they really like them, or hope their work will also be shared due to good karma. They might make the “best” or “most anticipated” yearly lists. They might get a few reviews on Amazon if they work it.

The more avant-garde the book is, the more it’s doing well if it sells a few, usually to other experimental authors who understand the ambitious concepts and are part of the exciting dialogue of innovation. And truly, each reader who gets it is wonderful and cause for celebration. That’s success.

If it’s short stories, forget about it. Makes a good Christmas present for Mom. On the other hand, no, Mom doesn’t know what experimental short stories are, and she wants to keep it that way. No need to scare her. How about chapbooks? Hahaha! Yeah, right. What the heck are those, says everybody.

Only somewhere around five percent of book sales are Literary. Without the author having the money, personality, health, time, confidence, and skills to do the majority or the entirity of enthusiastic and energetic promotion, his books are not going to create an International sensation and they won’t be one of the twenty Literary authors who carry most of the sales in that style.

Mostly, they will give local readings if they live in that kind of place, and maybe sell a book at a small percent of those events. They might have three minutes to read, or if they score big, ten minutes. The rewards are different from money. It’s like the old tribal tradition of telling each other stories beside the caves, by the fire. It’s having the voice heard, understood, appreciated by the community, and an identity and reason for one’s obscure eccentricity established. It’s like howling at the moon.

However, they may be able to afford to apply for grants, may be able to afford to send their work to contests. Usually if they can, they don’t win, and there’s the rub. But if they do, woohoo! They still might not have many readers, but they have a good line on their resume to get the fourth adjunct job needed to survive, and maybe even a good chunk of cash to use to submit to more contests. And they can feel valued by the people who read and chose their books as worthwhile.

The thing is, the numbers of people reading any kind of books are declining. In Alabama, for example, it’s only thirty four percent. No wonder people looked at me funny when I lived there.

This quote gets its own paragraph. “Only 6.7% of American adults read poetry last year.” Let me say that again. “Only 6.7% of American adults read poetry last year.”

The number of books being written which are competing with those slots is exploding, particularly due to POD and e-book self-publishing, which is where the real money is these days for Genre and non-fiction. Lots of non-fiction and a hefty number of Genre authors are becoming millionaires,  even multimillionaires, and they are making a tons of money by telling people how they did that: what tools they used, what productivity hacking methods, what marketing ploys. That’s become the new mark of success. Some of these methods are free, but most cost money.

Who is actually making money with books? They’re young, usually Caucasian, healthy, business minded energetic men. In fact, they generally write non-fiction. No, actually, they buy PLR (written by someone else with the ability to change the author name to their own) or they outsource the writing. They’re affiliate marketers for the tools they share in their newsletters. They put on webinars which funnel into online courses, they give away free reports as lead magnets, have subscriptions, exclusive Facebook groups, become speakers at events. Because every writer wants to learn how to make more money. The books and courses that sell best are about how to make money as a writer. Often the people who have succeeded as authors did so only by writing those books. I know. Weird.

Literary books are successes depending on what the author decides feels good. That may change as he faces reality. It succeeds if it keeps his brain active rather than slipping into dementia in later years, if it transforms his painful experiences into art, if anyone reads it and likes it and even reviews it on Amazon or Goodreads or shouts out on Facebook.

It’s an expression of creativity. It’s a way of making every moment of life each finely honed sentence is written or read into something spectacular. Something exists that didn’t exist before. Maybe you pushed the concept of what can be done with literature in a new way never before seen. And it probably didn’t cost a lot of money. Time, yes, but what better way to spend it? Did you grow from it? Did you fall in love with the characters? Good.

Genre books succeed by being on the best seller lists. It’s harder to get onto the New York Times list, but even being in the Amazon top 100 is just dandy. If the book doesn’t do that, it tanks. People don’t see it. It needs good SEO to be found for popular keywords that aren’t already saturated. And authors are happy to sell you tools to do that.

With Genre, I’m sorry to say, after studying this extensively for years, success is about spending money. You might not make money. But you sure as heck spend it. Yes, there’s a lot of heck going on in the writing world.

This is the secret. Authors buy fake Twitter and Facebook followers. They buy Amazon reviews and buy reviews that demonize their competition. They have someone buy a truckload of books on launch day, to raise their ranking. They buy countless tools, endless software, much of it rather invasive and unfair. An author will pay 350,000 dollars a month in Facebook ads, month after month.

Not all of them do that. Some succeed honestly and without being rich. It takes all their time, and they’ve found just the right niche, and may be brilliant. They write a series with cliffhangers. They write Romance. They create groups of ardent passionate followers willing to review their work on launch day. They of course, like all the others, have great lead magnets to build their lists, like a free book.

How do people find the websites to know they want that free book? Because they read another of his free books on Amazon and it had a link to the splash page. The splash page is enticing because the author spent good money on it, and on tools to see how many people click the link if it has a red or an orange button, on the left or on the right, and how long people stayed on the site, what those people clicked on after they left the site, and what their social media profiles are.

Truly, people mostly find books because they belong to the humongous number of free or paid lists in which they are offered free e-books continually. They download them. They move on to the others in the list that day and the next and the next ,and the other lists. Do they have time to actually read them? How could they? But that brings the authors into the public eye briefly after the free period is done and so some people might buy them for a whopping 99 cents, of which the authors get 30 percent of the profit.

Genre authors don’t usually bother launching until they have at minimum 1000 people in their newsletter, and ideally 10,000 0 100,000 as a base number, with more obviously better. They have to give away a lot of lead magnets, run contests to give away cruises or a night in a castle, do free webinars in which they employ hard sales tactics, split test like a mofo, spend hundreds of dollars on covers even of the free books, guest post left and right and pay for the opportunity to people organizing blog tours. I haven’t begun to scratch the surface of what they pay for.

Do authors who can’t afford to do all that expensive marketing have a chance of competing for best seller status? Not really. But many authors who judiciously give away books while listing them with lots of services hit the best seller in their sub-niche for a day before sales tank. So they can claim that and get other benefits from that title.Maybe the next time they’ll be taken more seriously.

Or maybe the next series they’ll spend the money to fake it, and sell courses in how to do that and on how to make a business on the back end of book sales by selling courses on how to do that.

 

Setting Yourself Up as a Publisher

If you write Genre Fiction, as opposed to Literary Fiction, you’ve probably noticed that traditional publishing is falling out of favor more and more on a daily compared to the interest in doing it yourself. The statistics for how much money self publishers make are encouraging. Looking at the searches online, I researched “how to get published” and other variants are going down at a steady pace. The interest is instead in publishing yourself and marketing it so it ranks well in Amazon. Ranking as number one in your book’s category really is a matter of marketing, and if you don’t have a lot of money to put into it, you’re at a disadvantage, as many people are putting 250,000 into a launch. But if you give out lead magnets on your website to gain newsletter subscribers and send your books on KDP during free and discount periods every ninety days to the hoards of sites that alert their subscribers to them, you’ll have a chance to get reasonable sales for Genre fiction. I wouldn’t recommend doing that with Literary, as the people who subscribe to the free and discounted book lists are a different set overall than the Literary readers.

The sales rank of your book depends to a large degree on marketing. Many online tools, many of which are free, such as SumoMe, which brings more traffic to your publisher’s page, free trainings by webinar and email marketing are available to publicize your book, and free or inexpensive sites to submit discounted or free books to abound. Building a list of sincerely interested email subscribers to a newsletter can take time, using a Lead Magnet to make people more likely to fill out the opt in form, but once it happens, sales can follow a mention in the newsletter.

But most people discussing self publishing skip over the stage of setting up a business in their trainings, blogs, advice, and personal stories so authors can easily forget this is important. For publishing Literary Fiction it’s not necessarily a big deal to do it because sales will generally be low unless you have a large following due to a powerful position in a magazine for example. So beginning to just test the waters before taking the plunge is reasonable. Still, legally, if you decide it’s your path, beginning as soon as you can to set yourself up officially is the safest way to approach it.

Unless you publish it with your own name as the publisher, you’ll need to register a Fictitious Business Name Statement. You’ll need to fill out the name/s and pay 40.00 for the first one, and 7.00 for each one after that you’re registering at the same time. The form is simple, and you can download it from your county clerk’s website and snail mail in the original and three copies to the county clerk. I found emailing the clerk responsive to my questions.

You’ll then need to publish it for a month or more in a newspaper. Companies can help you do that, but you must wait until you file before you start, so you can give them the file number.

In the meantime, you can apply for your EIN online. Only go to the official IRS website, and do not pay any money to any site asking for it. If it does, it’s scamming you to steal your identity. This is an easy and quick process and you can print the confirmation. Getting the name the same in the different applications is the hard part. For example, one form may allow a “/” and another may not, and one has plenty of space and the other cuts it off with a limited amount of space: yet we’re supposed to write exactly the same thing.

I was never able to find the information though I asked directly and read everything I could find about registering with not only the overarching name and also sub-imprints. What I did was register them both and try combining them when necessary so I’ll see how it goes when I get the paperwork back.

You can set up a bank or credit union account for ease of tax records but it’s not required.

If you expect to buy any of your books, say from CreateSpace, and sell them to people in your state, whether in person or online, rather than directing them to Amazon, you’ll need to get a Resellers Permit. This one is much more complicated than the others, and you’ll need to know the BOE account number of CreateSpace, or wherever you’d be ordering books wholesale from to sell in your state. You can’t use the permit to buy from them if there is any question about whether you’ll resell. You need the account name that you’d be taking credit card orders with: Stripe, for example.

When I was planning to get a permit, I emailed CreateSpace asking for their BOE number to fill it in, assuming that’s how it’s done. They didn’t answer that question, but wrote back with this info:

“As you are ware, in order to enable your account for wholesale ordering; we also require a copy of your Reseller Certificate as well as a copy of our Resale Verification Form found at the link below.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/csp-mw-landing/resaleverification.pdf

Please allow one week for form processing. The reseller number you submit must be registered in the name of your business to qualify for the exemption. Please write your CreateSpace Member or Customer ID number – 285977 on all the forms you submit.

Once we have verified and processed your certificate, you will not be charged sales tax on future orders of your own titles or titles enrolled in the CreateSpace Direct program that are shipped to the state for which you hold a permit. We will email you confirmation of receipt and verification of your forms.

After the your reseller form is verified, you can follow the steps below to place a wholesale order:

1. Log in to your account at: https://www.createspace.com/Login.do
2. Click “Place Wholesale Order” on the upper-left section of your Member Dashboard
3. Enter the desired Title ID number or ISBN, and click the adjacent red dot
4. Enter the desired quantity
5. Click “Proceed to Cart” to complete checkout

You’ll receive an order number after checking out, and you can track your order in the “View My Purchases” section of your Member Account.”

For people who have taken books to local readings and hope one will sell one day, this is a lot of work, and then you’re expected to keep careful records of certificates. After filling it all out, I actually decided it may make more sense to not bother with selling books in person and letting this go, and just focusing on online sales. Book tours are outdated now, and blog tours are in. If you buy a book you’ve published POD, you pay the sales tax, which makes it prohibitive to sell to stores without doing this. But if you only might sell a few on commission some day or at one or two readings, ordering books wholesale for only those in your state wouldn’t be worth the reduction in book cost. However if you expect to buy in bulk from home and aggressively sell to people in your state, you definitely do need to get the Resellers Permit.

You’ll be asked your NAICS code, and for publishers, that’s 511130.

Some states require you set up with a Business License. You will also need to set up one in your city. Check out the SCORE (Service Corps Of Retired Executicves) chapter for help with that.

I’m excited to finally be taking the step to become a serious publisher aiming to make a profit at this point. The process isn’t particularly fun, but having it done will be.

No World View, No World View at All, Sir, No Worries, Sir

It makes sense that for a novel to have the widest universal appeal, it must offend the smallest number of people, not make people turn away from it because their politics or religion are different, their opinions about what scientific choices our culture are following are good, and which bad, about controversial subjects. It can’t be revolutionary, question societal norms, imply anything about government, trends, lifestyle, preferences. And somehow, a lot of books do manage to approximate that impossible “ideal” by strict avoidance of anything that could temp the authors to express individual thought.

But is it truly possible? What seems like a neutral book would only seem to a certain population, because they share world-views. If the book were translated and given to a shaman in an obscure primitive country, for example, the world view would seem very bizarre to him, and would not fit how he interpreted reality. Really, what book publishers are looking for when they require authors to avoid taking a stance on anything is that they want them to fit the status quo.

Here is a quote from Kindle Scout guidelines.

To give your book the best chance of passing review and qualifying for all featured Amazon marketing, you should design a great cover while avoiding the use of:

– Representations of violence, including weapons, blood, or graphic gore
– Iconography, paraphernalia, or imagery that represents a distinct world view, point of view, or political stance
– Partial nudity or provocative imagery that is suggestive of sex or violence”

Authors, characters, books, and themes should have no distinct world view. No point of view. Think about that for a minute. Is that not a somewhat shocking and extreme concept? I’d be curious to hear what you think about that, not just for Kindle Scout. I have no beef with them, am just using them as an example of something much larger in the publishing industry.

Is not taking a stance, making a subtle recommendation through the action, drawing attention through the events to policies that could change, or should be more thoroughly implemented, showing how certain beliefs and practices would play out in narrative a great opportunity for authors? Isn’t that what a lot of people consider the mark of a great book, and the deepest role of an author in the context of cultural progress? Getting people to think?

True, the quote from Kindle Scout is only referring to the cover, but it has to apply also to the text itself, at least to some degree, and I feel it’s a common consideration. What does it mean in Literary Fiction to have no world view? To be a Progressive. To share the same political orientation as most others do within that niche, to be an atheist Liberal. Nothing wrong with that in the least.

But it’s just not — no world view. It just dismisses other world views as not something to consider. Maybe to be popular in that niche, the books shouldn’t have a protagonist whose atheism makes people think, or who confronts a religious person about his beliefs in a way that implies the author shares those ideas. Maybe Republicans, Greens, or Libertarians should not be protagonists. The protagonists’ personal qualities should make people assume they are Democrats, because that’s what the majority of the readers (which means other writers) are in the Literary Small Press enclave.

Vaccines should always be accepted, along with any other Big Pharma drugs, hippies should always be stereotypes, guns are bad, m’kay, anything CNN says happened happened, conspiracies don’t exist, getting drunk is great, all history text books are right, even when they contradict themselves, got it, buster?

But what about Genre? For Kindle Scout, that’s apparently just as much about fitting in and not causing a stir as the Literary books. There is really more leeway there in publishing in general, because there are more readers. If the book has an unpopular political take on the world, there are still more buyers for it with a subset of the population than any Literary book would have, no matter how it fit the dominant paradigm. But the Top 5 of course, would not put it out. That’s one wonderful thing that the self-publishing revolution in Genre books has accomplished — the allowability of personal or unsanctioned viewpoints. In other words, freedom of speech.

Kindle Scout talks about how to make the cover, and isn’t asking for professionally made ones. Where do authors go for that? Many use free photos, and even more use companies that go through pre-made images. Many professional designers also use the images offered out there rather than commissioning new ones. What are the choices?

Take a look at what’s available. Everyone is white. They all have conservative hair, other than the evil-doers. The women are thin and shorter than the men, with medium sized to small breasts and butts, unless they are sexpots, and then they have large breasts and butts. No minorities other than a few African Americans, but no Asians, no mixed, no Filipinos. Looking for an image of a Hispanic executive in stock photos? Good luck with that.

Do any women on the covers have a little pudge, dress down, wear glasses, have frizzy hair, or freckles? If they do, are they going to get the guy? Only if they are secondary characters there to add humor. Are any of people in stock photos unusually tall or short, are beautiful, exciting people in wheelchairs or with white canes? Do any of the male protagonists in the photos have hairy backs, uneven bald spots, moles, narrow shoulders and pale skin? If they do, take a guess at what kinds of roles they play and which they are excluded from. Are they ever shorter or thinner or younger than the women they’re with, unless that’s the point of the book?

There is a strong world view about who matters, who is acceptable for what roles in fiction, who we pay attention to as the protagonist and who is relegated to being in the subplot, largely because of money. The largest buyers for the stock photos have to be represented almost entirely, and advertisers target them. But my point here goes beyond the need for diversification. I’m really looking at an existential thing. “No distinct point of view.”

Seriously, what does that even mean? I would love to hear what people think. “No distinct world view.” Where would that leave Philip K. Dick? Where would that leave anyone? You, me? I mean, a robot, or a mind controlled slave, sure, they can have pretty indistinct world views. But people? How can that be, and what does that statement do to the psyche of authors who want to submit their books there, or to other publishers, most of which have similar criteria, just don’t spell it out. I’m glad Scout actually came out and said it.

We must all have the same world view that doesn’t make waves, or express individual passions and eccentricities, much less thoughts that a large minority of the dominant country have. The world view we share must not be stated directly to be up for dissection but only be understated, implied, so people don’t even realize it’s there, and accept it as reality.

This doesn’t affect only writers, but it affects how all the readers think too, and even people who don’t read fiction, who only see the book covers in the stands. This is social engineering on a macro scale, more effect than direct communication, but through the subconscious acceptance that the images we see on popular book covers represent “no world view.” And that, my friend, is a fiction.

10 PAYING markets: submit cross-genre short fiction

I posted earlier with paying and non-paying short fiction cross-genre markets, ranked by pay rates, with word counts, and descriptions, but my next blog post ate it. So, I did it all over again for you, but just the paying ones, and adding new venues as well. 10 paying cross-genre places took a lot of hours to discover, so may this list serve you well.

Ruthless Peoples Ruthless Peoples Magazine (RPM) is a cross-genre fiction magazine. RPM subscribes to no genre. Capture something of the human condition in a story of ghosts or femme fatales or dusty electricians or rivalries at work, if you like–or in the brass dials of a spy satellite, the wink of an elephant’s greasy nostril, a collapsing circus tent.

With that said, the preference is for character over caricature, drama over hysteria, plot over passivity, fresh observation over cliche. Juvenile or pretentious work is revolting, so bring a sense of a character reaching for the maximum understanding of what lies in front of them, and acting on it. Choice-making ruthlessness needs to be at the heart of every RPM story. The ruthlessness does not have to be brash or brutal–it could be as simple and hurtful as closing a door, or saying goodbye. To 1,000 words. PAYS 100 dollars.

Pulp Literature: genre and cross-genre stories. The quarterly digest-size magazine features short stories, novellas, and standalone excerpts from novels in popular literary genres: sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, history, thriller, and chiller. Up to 75 pages. PAYS 7 cents a word.

Crossed Genres It’s the mission of Crossed Genres Publications to give a voice to people often ignored or marginalized in SFF, which has led us to publish titles focused on older women, overweight women, immigration, skilled laborers, QUILTBAG families, and people marginalized throughout history. Each month CG Magazine has a new genre or theme. Short story submissions must combine elements of either Science Fiction and/or Fantasy with the current theme. – SFWA Market. 1000 to 6000 words. PAYS 6 cents a word.

Three-Lobed Burning Eye We are looking for quality speculative fiction, in the vein of horror and dark fantasy, what you might call magical realism, slipstream, cross genre, or weird fiction. We will consider the occasional science fiction, suspense, or western story, though we prefer that it contain some speculative element. Sword & sorcery, hard SF, space opera, and extreme horror are hard sells. We like voices both literary and pulpy, with unique and flowing but not experimental styles. All labels aside, we want stories that expand genre, that value originality in character, narrative, and plot.  500 – 1000 words. PAYS 3 cents a word.  

Lakeside Circus We want speculative fiction, particularly science fiction (hard, soft, near-future, etc), urban fantasy, magic realism, mad science, and apocalypse tales. Whether prose or poetry, we’re looking for the same kind of almost-weird fiction we publish in our anthologies. We like fiction with layers of meaning; stories that are odd or different without being too strange to understand.  We enjoy interstitial,  genre-bending, and “literary SF/F” writing. Your work has to encapsulate a complete moment; more than a vignette, each submission must have a beginning, middle, and end. Something has to change along the way, but parts of the story can happen off stage. As always, we want beautiful, dark, unusual, and meaningful. 1000 – 2500 words. PAYS 2 cents a word.

Betwixt Betwixt publishes speculative fiction of all sorts—fantasy, science fiction, horror, slipstream, weird fiction, npunk, you name it. We particularly like stories that smash genre boundaries to smithereens, but we also love fresh takes on established genres and in-depth explorations of ultraspecific niches. Experiments in form and style are welcomed enthusiastically—but a straightforward narrative with tight, crisp language is just as beautiful. When it comes down to it, we want stories that will amaze us, astound us, provoke our thoughts, and boggle our minds. 1000 – 30,000 words. PAYS 2 cents a word.

Kaleidotrope Kaleidotrope tends heavily towards the speculative — towards science fiction, fantasy, and horror — but we like an eclectic mix and are therefore always eager to read interesting work that falls outside those categories. In the end, what we want is interesting, sometimes unconventional work, well-written stories and poems that surprise and amuse us, shock and disturb us, that tell us things we didn’t know or reveal old truths in brand new ways. We want strange visions of distant shores, of imaginary countries and ordinary people, and work that doesn’t lose sight of entertainment and the joy of good writing. 250 to10,000 words. PAYS 1 cent a word.

Tales of the Talisman. We welcome cross-genre stories, but they must have some element of science fiction or fantasy. 6000 words. PAYS 10 dollars.

Premonitions Annual print magazine, Original, high-quality SF/fantasy. Horror must have a science fiction element and be psychological or scary, rather than simply gory. No supernatural fantasy-horror, or traditional swords ‘n’ sorcery quest sagas. We are interested in publishing highly imaginative prose on a wide variety of genre themes. Cutting-edge SF and experimental writing styles (cross-genre scenarios, slipstream, etc) are always welcome. 500 – 6000 words. PAYS £5 per 1000 word + contributor’s copy

Mythologue We publish all genres as well as cross-genre work. We’re interested in story-telling, regardless of theme or setting. What we look for is universality of theme – something that adds to the tradition of story – the stories we have been telling since the beginning. A common misconception: this is not a magazine that particularly specializes in fairy stories, though we do publish them. We’re interested in stories – Whether dark, bright, erotic, mysterious, adventurous, dystopian, folkloric, or fantastic. 500 – 1000 words – PAYS 5 dollars.

Interested in my cross-genre SF novel, Unside: A Book of Closed Time-Like Curves? You can sign up to find out when it’s available HERE.

Submit Innovative Genre Fiction to The J.J. Outré Review

Do you like to write Genre Fiction and seek out places to submit that eschew the formulas, the tired conventions, and instead, play with innovations, and are open to Interstitial Genres like Slipstream? I’d like to bring to your attention a new magazine to submit to that is actively seeking work. You might want to follow their WordPress at The J.J. Outre Review. If you have fiction under 5000 words, consider submitting — they read blind so it’s entirely fair and about the work itself.

It’s a new venture by ELJ, a publishing house which has been bringing lots of Literary e-books and magazines for a good while now. To get a sense of their books which are not Genre, you could check out A Taste of 2013.  I’m happy to say ElJ is putting out my Slipstream novella in December, called Equinox Mirror, which is Interstitial, as it rests ultimately on scientific theory, but doesn’t straightforwardly follow the tropes of SF. Outré is a new direction for them, moving toward the highly entertaining pulp fiction that supported authors such as Philip K. Dick and Lovecraft. Weird Tales was one of the most interesting pulp mags.

I find it kind of funny to see how wary Genre and Literary readers and writers are of each other. I understand it, because the goals can be so different. I grew up reading almost entirely Literary, and respectful understanding of Genre wasn’t engendered in school, or University. Academics mostly write Literary, which doesn’t pay as much usually other than with reputation, but pays off because of job opportunities. Literary is written with the hope of lasting value, material that speaks deeply to readers, changes their perceptions, pushes the boundaries of all previous work. Pulp writers on contract have had to write very fast, as demanded by their publishers, and they could entirely make a living with their word-slinging, reaching a wider audience, being more accessible than Literary texts, with more exciting, action-filled plots, extreme, and offering readers predictable satisfaction. If they like Mysteries, for example, they could trust they would probably enjoy most of what a pulp editor would serve up for them, whereas because their voices and methods are so unique and explore in risky directions, it’s not the same with Literary.

Do you enjoy that innovation, the attention to fresh, surprising language, and character depth, meaningful structure that is found in Literary yet want to appeal to readers more with any of the genres or subgenres, or cross-genre, even genre-busting that still keeps the addictive flavor that would hook people into high impact enjoyment? Do you write Neo-Noir — characters doing what they must in a corrupt system? Do you write New Wave Fabulism — about the role of the imagination? Have you gotten the new issue of Year’s Best Weird Fiction? Do you write stories you’d think Genre mags would like, but it doesn’t really fit in after all? Do you know the Genre market well, but still like to push beyond their boundaries?

Here is their About Page:

“The J.J. Outré Review is a quarterly on-line journal with an annual print issue publishing well-written, a highly engaging genre fiction for a new generation. Think Rae Bryant, Cat Rambo, Michael Kelly, Jeff Vandermeer and others.

We here at The J.J. Outré Review are looking to bend and mix the traditional genres and subgenres. Give us crime, mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, science fiction, fantasy, or adventure, magical realism, slipstream, new weird, neo-noir, new wave fabulist or anything and everything in between. But, give us a genre story with heavy literary undertones, a clear concern for the language itself and not just formulaic plot and characters. We’re looking for stories that exceed expectations, surprise the reader in both context and form. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Give us something weird, something nebulous, something gritty, insecure, radical. We’re hungry for surprising poetic prose, prose that leads to unknown wonders.

If your work attempts to bewilder, unsettle, thrill, baffle or completely terrify anyone with language and twists, you’ve found a home with The J.J. Outré Review. We don’t care if you call it crime, mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, science fiction, fantasy, adventure or something blurred or in-between, we want to read it. We want to publish compelling stories, intriguing characters, quality writing and strong literary elements. Come on, try us. We welcome the bizarre, in fact, we encourage it.

The J.J. Outré Review is an ELJ Publications publication.

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How I choose where to submit

Many people say they start at the top and work their way down, the top being famous journals with clout that sometimes pay pro rates, and sometimes don’t pay much or pay anything. That’s fine, and can make them more money, and is good for career and recognition, gain more readers. I’m not saying they are snobs. But they also say other people should do that too, and I’d like to give another viewpoint to consider. There are very few of these magazines that have the Ohhh! factor name recognition, and they are always the ones people list first in their bios. They’re fine, and I like some of them, but I don’t give them any more weight than obscure ones when I’m considering where to submit, or in judging a writer’s fiction quality.

Yes, they raise status and possibly reach a large readership. Who are those readers? I suspect just like the other magazines, their readers mostly consist of writers studying the magazines to prepare to submit. As far as I can tell, most people in the world don’t read literary  magazines otherwise. They don’t wake up and think, what online short story can I read today? I guess many of the people who do read them go on social media sites, see their online friend’s posts of what they’ve had published, and if they’re intrigued, and have time and are in the right mood, go read them, and if they really like them, comment on them on social media, maybe once in a while even going so far as to do that in the publication itself, if it’s set up for that. Then, sometimes they think about submitting there too, to join the party with their friends, to participate in that creative project, to find a home for their work, to feel like they are writers. This can happen in any kind of journal, but the more homey, inviting ones offer more chances of gratification, because they might accept maybe 2 percent of what they’re sent, or even 10 percent, compared to .01 percent that the Oohhh factor ones do.

That gratification raises dopamine. Getting published in the top ones raises it more, but that can take people years of trying, and maybe they prefer lower doses of dopamine more regularly, by people actually reading their work instead of just editors rejecting them. Really, isn’t much of social media there to raise that neurotransmitter that gets us motivated to keep going with our day? And we can raise oxytocin by showing our support and appreciation for our friends’ publications. By “friends” I mean not only actual in person buddies, but the thousands of other writers we befriend, who befriend us, on Facebook, Twitter, etc..

How important is the whole complex of status-raising that is the current trend of the huge number of people out there who identify as writers? We do need some level of status within our community, to keep our dopamine levels high and feel secure. It’s a primal thing.

Being able to identify as a writer seems almost like a compulsion sometimes, a way of justifying one’s life, of being seen as a creative successful person for many people. And that’s one reason for so much posting about the writing life, about every acceptance, every detail about what they’re working on, want to work on, have stopped working on, how they were rejected, often with a lot of resentment in their posts.

Yet, almost no one at all even knows that online literary magazines exist, and have never looked at a print one, have no interest in short stories, don’t know the meaning of “Literary” or “Genre” or “Speculative.” So by surrounding ourselves with other writers, who are pretty much the only ones reading most of these things, we are justified in spending all this time giving so much meaning to our writing.

Some magazines function more than others to give that impression that writing literature is valuable. Those are the ones that sometimes people who aren’t writers might actually read, people who are simply into that particular genre. There are very few of those major publications, and I personally find many of those boring. I just don’t necessarily care about being part of them, because they are still publishing stories in the same conventions as a century ago, without explorations outside the boundaries, without innovation and unique voices, because they have to please a lot of people, not to mention their advertisers and funders. That’s great. Masses should be pleased, and the publications put out fine work. I just don’t generally “start at the top” by submitting there and work my way down to the humble ones, as writers are so often told to do. Some of the SFWA ones I love, and would be thrilled to be published in. But I rarely feel as enthused by them as I do by the quirkier ones.

I chose to submit to places sometimes because so many of the authors I know and admire have been published there. I know their taste, like being part of that community. One nice perk is that the magazines share them on Facebook, and then we see the names we recognize and read their work. I believe most people probably don’t read every piece published in every new issue of every magazine that comes across their feed. We look for names we recognize, and read those pieces, let the people know we have, often, if it’s easy to do that and we like the pieces. It’s a way of sharing love. Some people probably don’t even read them, but “like” that they have been published there, which is some level of support. The more “likes” the more a piece seems to be seen, and without those, the silence can be disappointing.

I never started writing thinking of Facebook, but of being like William Faulkner, contributing something great and lasting, profound, and innovative. But these days, it seems like social media is a major factor that drives short stories to be read. Does that seem accurate to you? Also, if someone is interested in submitting a collection to a publisher, he will buy books, see what they are like. Ideally, this happens, but not everyone can afford to do that. There are so many publications. So material that is available online is what gets read the most. And the ones that have the Oohh factor are usually not available for free, so really, I suspect they are generally not read as much. People often read what is shared on social media, or available to read for free on a publisher’s site much more readily than spending money to order it.

However, if the magazines are not very interesting looking, with poor quality art, design, description, etc. fewer people will take the time to look, and they might remember that that writer is maybe not that good, or discriminating, and won’t pay much attention later. I love my work being accompanied by great art. Appearance of the publication is very meaningful to me, and the tone of the publisher’s words are extremely important as far as submitting. If it’s generic “send us your best work” (and we won’t pay you) or “we publish the best in fiction and poetry,” it’s too bland for my tastes, and I’m not inspired to submit. If it’s too mainstream, and pushes the dominant paradigm agenda, I’m turned off, though those are the high tiered publications that get people tenure track jobs. They often seem stuffy and naive to me. If they are connected with universities, I don’t send my more controversial stuff because I assume they can’t take a stand on something like that, but have to keep opinions out of it. If they pay, that really does help.

If it’s a new magazine that I suspect is started in a flash of over-excitement but won’t last long, or the editor’s comments sound a mentally off-balance, I don’t submit. If it’s got stories I don’t like I don’t submit. If it takes 9 months before they reply, and Duotrope shows they often don’t reply at all, or if they say as much in their submissions but don’t give a date by which we are supposed to consider it a no, I don’t reply. If they want to keep it for 8 months exclusively, I’m wary. And obviously, if I don’t think they’d like my work, I don’t submit there. If females in the art are always young, white, thin, perfect, and dressed to seduce, I don’t submit. If there are elves, wizards, and other High Fantasy tropes predominating, it’s not really my style, so I move on. If it’s crass, ugly, and insulting, nah. If it’s mostly pretty, domesticated poetry, I get claustrophobic quick and run away. If the stories are focused on romance, I’m not really interested in participating. If it glorifies transhumanism, is religious, or has a theme that wouldn’t make me excited to read the issue when it came out, I don’t bother.

These days I write most of my stories not because I’m inspired to out of the blue but because I’m inspired by submissions calls. I adore magazines and and anthologies that have names, art, websites, descriptions, stories that appeal to my imagination in unique ways, that make me extra glad to be alive, that make me want that editor to be happy reading my stories. I want to connect with those places, even if it’s just to get a rejection, hopefully, a personal one telling me what they liked and didn’t feel worked. I’m glad to see the work they put out, and I want to show support, especially if they are new, without many readers, without big name authors. I love to see people with creativity I resonate with doing something great. I find these particularly focus on specific topics, moods, styles, or themes. I especially am interested in they publish Magical Realism and actually know what that term means, and honor its history. If they publish Fabulism, that’s me. If they publish New Wave Fabulism, I’m in Heaven. If they put out Slipstream, Weird, Neo-Noir, I’m already bouncing up and down in my skin. If it’s just the 3 major types of Speculative — Fantasy, SF, and Horror, I consider very carefully before even beginning to think of submitting, because in my experience those sometimes tend to be somewhat formulaic in approach if the editors don’t open them up to the Interstitial Genres too. Again, formula is fine, and I love it too, and sometimes I write it, but I just am more at home if they extend into more exploratory territory as well.

If I love the work of the publisher and/or editor I’m inclined to submit. I don’t send stuff out willy nilly, but read not only the issues, but bios, and the work of the publishers, and the editors. If the theme of an anthology or issue is a topic I’m passionate about or think is new and inventive, and sounds like fun to read, that’s a yes. If they ask for lush, surprising, glorious language, ahhh, yes. If they want subversive plots, absolutely. If they want cross-genre, hybrids, genre-busting, oh boy do I. If they want strong female protagonists, non-white, and middle aged or elderly or other-abled characters, I often am drawn in. If they say to blow up convention and not send work in tired tropes, I appreciate that greatly. If they’re SF and focus on aliens, no. I personally would much rather they focus on the CounterIntelligence’s hoax to make people believe aliens are interacting with us, instead of push that on people themselves. If they are beautiful Horror, yes, but if they are just ugly Horror, no. If their Horror includes Weird, I’m in. If the police and government are the good guys, bye. If it’s Neo-Noir instead and showing how we live in a corrupt system, yes, please. If it’s Conspiracy oriented but doesn’t require the default structural formula, yes yes yes.

Some periods I can only be in the teaching mode, when I’m creating new classes on deadline, or if I’m doing taxes or something. It’s a different frame of mind that when I have the luxury of delving into my subconscious and coming up with fiction. But when I’m in those phases, or can manage to at least go into it to write something short for one place, I will try writing something to fit a submission call. Then, if I don’t get in, considering only .01 percent, or even 5 percent do, I have stories to submit to the other places that interest me greatly. I don’t mind not getting in, as I have material on hand, then. Because I’m continually intrigued by unusual submission calls, and publications, and if I don’t have anything to try with them them, I’m sad.

How do I find these places? Other than social media sharing, I subscribe to Duotrope and New Pages, Poets and Writers, a Yahoo submissions group CRWROPPS-B, a Facebook Submissions group, and Write to Be, and other such things. I also search using key words in the places that allow that, check out Ralan, search using Google itself, see where writers I like publish. Sometimes I look for how long it takes to hear back on a submission, how much they pay, how impossible it would be to get in, if they pay in print copies. I don’t really like it that much if they sell books but don’t give contributor copies unless at least they apologize and explain and give e-books. If they send pieces to Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, etc. that’s a big plus. If they have been around a good while and don’t have many “likes” on Facebook, I might not send my very best work that I want a large readership for, or if they don’t make an effort to get social media attention.

I’d be curious to hear how you chose where to submit. I’m sorry if I’ve stepped on any toes with this little essay, as that’s not my intention. I’m hoping it’s useful to other writers in some way, partly to give a different take on the process than the usual Start at the top and work Down. Many of the ones at the top are getting more open to innovation all the time. But the thing is, I love Down. I start Down. Those publications are often the ones taking risks, with a more niche audience into breaking conventions, or completely loving the less popular genres like Weird, or taking on controversial topics, or into Literary language in their Speculative fiction, or with description in their quirky, individualistic submission calls that make me want to get to know them through the publication process, and feel glorious about life and writing and remind me why I do it in the first place.