And Yes, In Fact, While We’re On the Subject of “The Big Three”

Dear Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF:

Please be aware that here in 2009, you look absolutely foolish for not accepting electronic submissions. We are a decade into the 21st century now. You really have had more than enough time to accept the fact that almost all correspondence and transmission of documents has become an electronic affair, and to create a system that allows you to process and respond to such submissions in an efficient and timely manner. A list of complaints like this, apparently written when Eudora was the hip e-mail client and 56k dial-up was blazing fast, no longer cuts it. Why not? Let me explain.

* On average, it would take us approximately two hours each day just to download submissions. First, only if you’re still working on dial-up, powered by hamsters. Second, so don’t download submissions. Require plain text submissions and have them sent in the body of an e-mail. If download time is really an issue here in 2009, have the e-mails sent to a GMail account; no time required to download because the submissions are hosted on a remote server.

* The risk of computer viruses is higher if we accept attached files. Don’t accept attached files. Route any e-mail with an attached file into a folder that deletes mail unopened and sends an automated response to the sender reminding them that you don’t accept attachments. That way you don’t even have to deal with opening the files or exposing yourself to viruses.

* In our office, it’s very inconvenient to pass around an electronic submission from one reader to another. Why? Because you’re trying to lift a CRT from one desk to another? Put the submissions you want others to see into an online collaboration space, like, oh, Google Docs, which is free and dead simple to use. Heck, several people can look at the same submission at the same time that way, which is actually easier than passing around a paper version.

* I have found it much easier to lose electronic submissions than it is to lose manuscripts. In this day of GMail and online document space it is in fact almost impossible to lose an electronic submission unless you intentionally delete it (and if you unintentionally delete it, on GMail at least, you can undo that delete right after). Whereas it is all too easy to lose paper documents in a pile of other paper documents, or on someone else’s desk, or in a pile of mail, or whatever.

In fact, here in 2009, the only still “reasonable” reason on that list not to accept electronic submissions is this one:

* I hate reading on screen.

Which is fine, but it’s not actually reasonable, any more than a writer insisting on continuing to use a typewriter is reasonable. It’s not reasonable, it’s a quirk or an affectation, since in this day and age everyone else needs to work around that quirk. Eventually people wonder why they have to work around a quirk. Especially for six to nine cents a word.

The real reason “the big three” continue only to accept printed submissions is this one: A postage stamp is an excellent bozo filter. They live in the fear that without that bozo filter they will be awash in substandard submissions from every half-wit with an e-mail address. I understand that fear, which is why when I edited a humor area for AOL, I required paper submissions, too. But that was a dozen years ago now, and in the interim when I’ve worked as an editor I’ve discovered that the crap level is not really all that much higher online than offline, and that in fact it’s easier to deal with the obvious crap online than off (send it to a reject folder; send out a batch rejection at the end of the reading period). The only real difference is that the population of who is sending you crap is slightly different. The point is that the “bozo filter” defense no longer really works.

I’ve been writing freelance since 1998, in which time I’ve written for corporations, for newspapers, for magazines, for online sites and for several different book publishers. In all that time, the only things I’ve been required to print out and send in were W9s and other sorts of contract employment forms, and occasionally an invoice or two. I’ve never had to print out work. On one hand, this is an artifact of me intentionally working with people who accept electronic work. But on the other hand, it’s not as if the Washington Post, the Dayton Daily News or the people who make the Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers are known for being on the absolute bleeding edge of technology, either. And this is my point: Everyone accepts electronic submissions. They have for years.

That the “big three” science fiction magazine won’t accept electronic submissions in this day and age isn’t merely anachronistic in both a business and social sense, it’s actually a bit embarrassing. Written science fiction already has enough problems working around the image that it is trapped in its own alternate universe branching off from 1971; the fact the major print publications of the genre deal with the electronic era as if it was something to be handled from a great distance, with tongs, isn’t helping any of us. The editors of the magazines are always talking about how they love seeing new writers, but I can’t help but think one of the reasons they have difficulty publishing new writers is that they’re showing up to the party in the communication equivalent of 70s powder blue polyester leisure suits and trying to assure the kids that seriously, they’re hip — why, they listen to that groovy cat Dan Folgelberg and everything. I mean, shit, guys. Meet 2009 half way, you know?

I don’t doubt all three magazines still get hundreds of submissions a month, so there’s no reason from their point of view to change what they see working for them. Their choice. I do suspect they’re going to miss out on more writers that they are going to need to survive, as these writers ask themselves what “the big three” are offering that they can’t get elsewhere, and where they’re not required to jump through a truly pointless hoop like printing out their submissions. I don’t really think “the big three” are in a position where they can ignore those writers for much longer. The “big three” really aren’t that big any more.

257 Comments on “And Yes, In Fact, While We’re On the Subject of “The Big Three””

  1. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I actually like that the Big Three handle over-the-transom subs. E-subbing is the inevitable way of the future, yes, but there is something to be said for the satisfying process of actually formatting a MS to proper specs, printing it, getting the envelope and cover letter ready, putting it all together, taking it down to the post office and mailing it, etc.

    Perhaps I am simply the kind of person who unconsciously enjoys ritual? Because it is a ritual.

    E-subs… Eh. Feels to ephemeral and easy. Like it’s not “real” or something.


  2. Hahahahaha. That is so deeply hilarious. Thank you, Scalzi for brightening my day. They really are stuck in the far distant past. No wonder their readership continues to dwindle.

    I was just invited to submit for what sounds like a fab anthology. I was also told I’d have to send my story in snail mail. Ah, no, not ever. I am allergic to paper.

    It’s one of the many reasons that if I ever write a short story my first thought is to send it to Strange Horizons.

  3. “E-subbing is the inevitable way of the future,”

    Sigh. Why do people continually try to deny reality? Online, electronic life is now, not the future. This backwards looking idea that somehow email and the innertubes are all new fangled and hard to understand or that things done on them are less ‘real’ just astounds me. How in the heck is it rational to say that electronic submissions are less tangible when you almost certainly create the work in software and it only exists as bytes on a drive until you print it out?

    This is the reason most existing media organizations are struggling – an inability to stop denying what the world is, insisting that it’s all just too new.

  4. “E-subbing is the inevitable way of the future,”

    Future my ass. I wrote four technical books. Not only did they accept electronic submissions, they *required* electronic submissions.

    The first of these books was submitted to the publisher in *1985*. (And the submission was on floppy disks.)

    If the publishers don’t like reading on screens, perhaps they should buy the printer…

    I find it amazing how people who spend their days reading fiction about the future are so damn determined to live in the past.

  5. I guess I am just old-fashioned, rick.

    I sent my first sub in 1994, when there were no professionally paying markets anywhere that accepted e-subs. Over the years I grew to enjoy the ritual of formatting, printing, packaging, and mailing.

    I suspect the reason the Big Three still require “old school” subs is because the editors are “old school” editors who don’t necessarily want to have to be stuck in front an electronic device while they parse the slush.

    Writers of the Future is also “old school,” even though I am quite sure it’d save Joni Labaqui, K.D. Wentworth — and the contest as a whole — tons of money, time and effort if all they had to kick around were e-subs.

    Frankly, I am going to enjoy the “old school” while it still lingers in the present. Just as I enjoyed my cassette tape collection as late as 2003, and just as I enjoy my CD collection even though MP3 and solid-state media players are making even the CD obsolete.

    Again, old fashioned.

  6. @Brad: I agree that there is something satisfying and tangible about dealing with paper. That’s why when I get stuck while writing, I pull out my multi-color pens and a pad of paper and get to outlining. But you know what? When I get to work, I occasionally get clients who want things in hard copy (I work surveying health care organizations). Our response? Tough cookies. Our surveys aren’t formatted for printing, they’re formatted to be filled out online because it’s more secure, it’s easier for clients to transfer data from their files, easier for us to transfer the data back into our files, and it’s a whole lot harder for stuff to get lost in the mail. All but the most persnickity executives get that, and they’re usually a million years old and have people cushioning them from the real world.

    Publishing is a business, and as Rick said, electronic life is now, not the future. Insisting on doing everything via hard copy is old fashioned, as John said, like using a typewriter, some people do it, but it’s considered an affectation. The only reason the ‘Big Three’ get away with it is because they’ve maintained enough market share and respectability that people are willing to jump through their hoops. That’s not going to last, and that they haven’t recognized it yet is a sign that not only are they not looking forward, they’re actually looking backwards. Ironic given the genre, eh?

  7. This is so totally on, and exactly why I’ve never submitted anything to them. — Cat Valente

    Unless the work you’re writing is not the sort that fits any of the Big Three, why would you allow the format and method of submission to stop you from sending to the three markets still considered to be the Top Dogs in short F and SF fiction?

    I like paper subs. I really do. Doesn’t mean I won’t use e-subs for places like Baen’s Universe or Beneath Ceaseless Skies. If it’s a pro-pay market, I am sending to it, regardless of required format.

  8. There’s a big difference between living in the past for the sake of entertainment, and trying to work in the past. One is fun, the other pathetic. Guess which is which!

  9. Are they still the “Top Dogs” for any reason other than inertia? If I wrote a short story I thought was publishable, I’d be much more inclined to submit to “Escape Pod”, which pays, takes electronic submissions, and last I heard, has a bigger audience than two of the “Big Three”.

  10. Brad R. Torgersen:

    “Unless the work you’re writing is not the sort that fits any of the Big Three, why would you allow the format and method of submission to stop you from sending to the three markets still considered to be the Top Dogs in short F and SF fiction?”

    Because it would cost me money to buy a printer, paper and ink, the rate they pay is shite, and I can reach more people on my Web site in a day than any two of them can in a month. Alternately, I can send it elsewhere electronically, get paid more, and then point people to it from here when it goes up online, so people will actually read it.

    But that’s me.

  11. Brad R. Torgersen: Unless the work you’re writing is not the sort that fits any of the Big Three, why would you allow the format and method of submission to stop you from sending to the three markets still considered to be the Top Dogs in short F and SF fiction?

    There are other places that take e-subs and pay more. You may be in love with paper and stamps but some of us find it time consuming and annoying. Every publisher I’ve worked with has taken electronic submissions. They all pay more and have bigger readerships than the so-called big three.

  12. @Brad: Well, what John said, essentially.

    The fact is, at this stage in my career, I literally cannot keep up with the requests for material from pro markets–often that pay a lot more than the Big Three–coming across my desk. At any given time I’m committed to more markets than I have material for and am actively writing to deadlines for editors who have specifically sought out my stories. So I would have to write something totally new, on spec, specifically for the Big Three, out of little more than a desire to be published there, which…I’m sorry. Maybe I’ll blacklist myself for saying this. But that masthead does not mean as much to younger writers these days. I’ll reach fewer people and get paid less than I usually do (unless I’m writing for a friend’s project) by publishing there. Maybe someday things will slow down and that whole situation will seem like a good idea. Right now? Not so much.

    On top of that, I’m not really so sure I do write stories they’d be interested in. They haven’t been publishing the kinds of stories I like to read for awhile now, with a few exceptions, and some of the flame wars over female writers have not made me breathless with desire to be published there. Either way, it’s not really a priority for me, and the barriers they set up have made me shrug and move on. That might sound horrifying to you, but the fact is I have too much work to do to start a campaign to break the big 3, which is in essence what they are asking us to do.

  13. Hear, hear! I don’t do much submitting anywhere… see what John said above, in re: paying shite and reaching more people through own website, but they really ought to get with the program.

    If the Big Three insist on only dealing with people who will pander to their quirks, they will see themselves become increasingly irrelevant as the generation of writers and readers for whom their way of doing things was normal ages up and out and successive online generations grow up.

  14. I’ve written four books since 2001.

    Total number of printed pages = 0.

    Numerous articles, both online and off-line, during that same period.

    Total number of printed pages = 0.

    I do own a printer, but use it much more for the day job.

  15. Megan,

    I guess I don’t see how requiring paper subs is harmful to the sales or business model of the Big Three.

    How the Big Three get their slush seems to be an independent problem, compared to how they get their sales.

    At the risk of going O/T…

    What frightens me is not that the Big Three won’t do e-subs, but that the Big Three don’t seem to be having much success grabbing and keeping lots of new, younger readers. That’s where the money and the future truly are: bringing in successively larger crops of younger readers who will have brand loyalty and (hopefully) pay for subscriptions and/or buy the magazines off the shelves as they move into their twenties, thirties, and beyond.

    Right now the Big Three seem to rely on a dwindling number of older readers — augmented by a small percentage of younger readers and/or readers who only read the Big Three for market research and craft ‘homework.’ To my mind, that’s a bad business model.

  16. @Cat

    “Maybe I’ll blacklist myself by saying this.”

    If the Big Three won’t have you, maybe you should send letters round to the markets that are pursuing you saying, “Gentlemen, I’m afraid I do not care to submit my work to any publication that would accept it.”

  17. @Brad R. Torgerson:

    You don’t see a connection between a submission model that at best fails to encourage and at worst excludes a large number of younger, more in-touch-with-the-times writers and their diminishing pool of readers?

    I invite you to read the portion of Cat Valente’s comment which includes the reference to how little the stories in the Big Three interest her these days. I’m not claiming she’s a perfect representative of any trend, but… well… the trend is there. You highlight it yourself.

  18. @Brad

    What frightens me is not that the Big Three won’t do e-subs, but that the Big Three don’t seem to be having much success grabbing and keeping lots of new, younger readers.

    Do you think these things might be connected? That the writers willing to use their methods are by and large (though not completely) older and therefore writing stories that appeal to a younger audience? After all, insisting on writers behaving as though it’s 1990 is not going to draw in fresh, new talent of the 21st century.

  19. @ Brad: And I was only this morning reminiscing with my husband over the breakfast table about the Good Old Days, when it took *28 hours* to print out a novel on our nine-pin Oki, then several joyous hours of bursting the manuscript, followed by several more hours standing in front of a hot photocopier at the local print shop copying each page at 97% (and $0.03 the each) to close up the dots and thus make a submission copy (the rules in those days being “no dot matrix submissions”).

    Last week, I sent a novel to my editor by the simple expedient of attaching it to an email and hitting “send.” *Much* better.

  20. Brad:

    “I guess I don’t see how requiring paper subs is harmful to the sales or business model of the Big Three.”

    It’s not helping it, and they need to do things to help themselves if they want to survive.

  21. Oddly disturbing that these science fiction publications aren’t on the cutting edge of technology……. When I think of science fiction, I think of imagined far beyond the bleeding edge technology. Seems an oxymoron they are stuck in time before computers………

  22. All true, John. I occasionally send something to Asimov’s out of nostalgia and a fondness for the editor — she published my Hugo-winning story, after all — but mostly I just can’t be bothered, and the paper markets are all way down at the bottom of my submission list.

    And, at this point in my career, when I can sell pretty much any story I write, I very seldom get to the bottom of my submission list. Too many markets pay better, respond faster, and are altogether more painless.

  23. Brad @17 –

    But in order to even contemplate getting new, younger readers, don’t the Big Three also have to get writers whom new, younger readers would read?

    I mean, you can put up a website and send out free issues and yadda yadda yadda, but if your source isn’t targeted well for an audience you want, I think failure is more likely than not.

    If e-subs are the way to go, and it doesn’t hurt the Big Three to do it, why not try? Survival isn’t something you get handed on a silver platter.

  24. As an international writer who just recently began submitting, I have to say that the e-sub process of Fantasy Magazine and Clarkesworld were a pleasure to deal with (and obviously using the same system).

    1) Dirt simple to use
    2) Acknowledgment of receipt (which you DON’T get with snail mail unless you pay handsomely, which I don’t care to)
    3) Updates on your position in the queue (!)
    4) Timely rejection. Oh well :-)

    If I want to snail mail sub, I have to have U.S. stamps mailed to me here in Canada by USPS just for my silly SASE, which costs me extra money over and above the stamps themselves. And have you seen the price of printer ink lately? Now there’s a scam.

    E-Sub all the way, bay-bee.

  25. watercolor… John is on the bleeding edge. He’s very much an outlier, in terms of SF writers. A lot of them are pretty fearful of this so-called “new technology.”

    There are only two reasons I can think of for justifying not taking submissions via email. One is that the amount of spam they’d get; another is that requiring a specific printed format, and postage, helps winnow down the amount of crap they get. Or so I presume.

    That said, neither of those reasons justify not taking submissions from specific people — heck, if they have to, just use the SFWA directory as a whitelist.

  26. Anybody who has been submitting for a while and getting published can probably do an electronic submission. But the Big Three and WOTF are going to get a lot of newbies, and my opinion is that letting e-subs isn’t going to help them, their careers or anybody. It’s one thing to whip a manuscript into shape and then print it out and look at that physical product. It’s another to whip out a story, copy paste or attach and zing it on its way without ever seeing it, if you know what I mean.

    Focus, clarity — an editor craves these things.

    Slush piles will always be full of crap. That stamp may or not be an effective bozo meter, but it is certainly a bandpass filter in getting some writers to actually look at their work. Because if a story is selected for publication, that author is going to have to deal with details and proofing and editing anyway.

    Now, whether an editor should be using slush rules if they want a Big Name Author to write them a story — that’s a whole different issue. A BNA who is getting published can find markets for their work. A newbie author should be paying attention to BOTH their writing and the guidelines, if they want to try to sell their work – and they have to learn that.

    Dr. Phil

  27. In response to watercolor at #25:

    These editors would probably have to have it retyped.

    The rest of us would scan it and open it as one of any number of workable documents so we could fiddle with font size, margins, etc. I have this technology in my own house right now.

    I am personally appalled that they still require paper submissions.

  28. Thank you for saying this.

    E-subbing isn’t the “inevitable way of the future,” it’s the “accepted way of the present.” As I’ve said in another comment here, there is a very real section of the population for whom things which do not exist online do not exist at all. “Links or didn’t happen” isn’t just a phrase, it’s a way of life. If something is unlinkable, then it’s incommunicable. It’s under quarantine.

    I didn’t even know about the Big Three until I was in my twenties. They weren’t on my radar until I started talking to other writers…in their forties. By the same token, some of those same people have asked me “What’s Futurismic?” (Or “What’s Escape Pod?” “What’s FLURB?”) There’s a divide. Cat has mentioned it, and I’m sure other writers have noticed it. I’ve never written a story that passed the Big Three’s muster, but like Cat I suspect that I’m not their target demographic and therefore (as the old song goes), not a good fit for those publications. I’ve stopped submitting to them, because a) I live in Canada and obtaining US stamps for a SASE is surprisingly difficult, and b) I don’t think they’re interested in my stories. Suffice it to say, when I write a short story, I tend to think of online markets first and paper ones last. That’s the market at work.

    There’s more to be said, and I wish I could be more articulate on the matter, but I’m sure other commenters will pick up my slack.

  29. My goodness, people are testy about this topic.

    And yes, I used to use a dot-matrix for my subs too. In an era when laser printers were far too expensive for me to even think about buying one.

    But even when I was 19 and my wife and I were broke, I could find a way to cover the cost of the paper and the postage. To my mind, any young writer in 2009 able to afford all the accoutrement of youth — including laptops, DVD, MP3 players, clothes, fast food, movie tickets, etc. — can jolly well find the time and the money and the resources to print and mail a frakking manuscript.

    Especially if it’s a short piece of novelette length, or smaller.

    As to the claim that an outdated mode of submission is the culprit for the Big Three having bad youth marketing, I rather think it’s the eyes doing the reading — not the mode of reading itself — that’s the culprit. Hordes of youngsters sub to the Big Three every day. I know this for a fact. So it can’t be that lack of accepting e-subs is somehow forming a barrier between the younger generation and the older. If the barrier exists, it exists in the heads of the editors who make the selections and who shape the ultimate market appeal of the publication.

    Also, JS, I think it goes without saying that a writer at your level is dealing with short fiction markets fairly differently than an aspirant with no publication credits.

  30. This may be a good time to plug what Fantasy and Clarkesworld do: have an automated issue tracking system to manage submissions. When you upload your story, they give you a ticket number that you can use to track your story through the editorial process. I, personally, think it’s really cool. (Of course, I also use darcs to version control my fiction…)

  31. @Sean Eric Fagan

    The e-sub process I prefer is actually not e-mail (which takes care of the spam problem). It’s an upload to the magazine’s servers (which also takes care of the ugly plain text formatting of e-mail, since RTF, DOC et al. are allowed).

    The forms I’ve used allow space for a cover letter, which lets me be polite.

    It’s all good! And we’re not pulping wide swaths of forests here in B.C. to provide for it.

  32. You know, John, attitudes like that will keep you down. How do you ever expect to get published in Asimov’s, Analog, or SF&F if you diss their time-tested submission process? How do you expect to publish (more than 6) novels or possibly work in television (beyond scoring a sweet gig with a SciFi* series)? Keep it up, laughing boy, and you’ll just have to content yourself with a mere 25,000-person a day readership.

    (Yes, Mr. Van Gelder, I am kidding, though you truly are costing yourself some major talent out there.)

    *If you think I’m calling it SyFy, you must also believe I’m eagerly awaiting another Spice Girls tour.

  33. Hi John,

    “…they’re showing up to the party in the communication equivalent of 70s powder blue polyester leisure suits and trying to assure the kids that seriously, they’re hip.”

    I really like Austin Powers and think he’s cool. That can’t be bad, can it?

    “in this day and age”

    I think we need to update this expression. Being a discussion about SciFi writing, we need to update the phrases we use. How about something like “in this region of spacetime”. Yeah, I know that’s weak. What can I say, I’m not a writer.

    NOTE: This message has been printed and will be mailed to you for future reference.

  34. @Brad,

    This policy of the Big Three is not only embarrassing, it’s simply dumb. No one is saying they should refuse paper submissions, but it’s ridiculous that they should refuse electronic submissions.

    Am I mistaken in believing that all material, prior to publication, has to be digitized? Does anyone other than art and special edition publishers use manual type setting?

    So, at some point in the process either the publisher or the author would have to prepare a digitized copy.

    Finally, what’s the deal with people who say they can’t read on the computer? If a person uses a computer she is reading. I don’t get that at all.

    Gardner and friends, please come into the 21st century. I’m 65, but, as a long time science fiction reader, I’ve been here for decades.

    Rick York

  35. Brad R. Torgeson:

    “JS, I think it goes without saying that a writer at your level is dealing with short fiction markets fairly differently than an aspirant with no publication credits.”

    Well, but when I had no publication credits I didn’t submit to them either, because I couldn’t be bothered to print out a story and put it into the mail, even then. My disdain for the process has been constant even as my level of notoriety has been variable.

    As for it just being an issue of the editors, not the submitters, well. You have a three-time Best Novel Hugo nominee and a World Fantasy Award nominee and Tiptree winner telling you they can’t be bothered to submit to the “Big Three,” because of their “no electronic submissions” policy and a Hugo winner telling you that at this point he submits largely out of affectation, because the submission process is a pain in the ass. What do you think? That in the future there will be more people of our caliber who simply won’t bother, or fewer?

    The “big three” are foolish not to accept electronic submissions at this point.

  36. I submitted my very first stories, when I was (a naive and ambitious) 16 years old (in 1989, mostly pre internet), to the Big 3 because that’s what we had around the house, that’s what my parents read, that’s what I _knew_. Needless to say, those early stories didn’t make the cut.

    I finally sold a story to Asimov’s in 2006, and was happy to do so, if for no other reason than it gave my inner 16 year old, the earnest teenager who embarked on this path, a hell of a lot of satisfaction. I’d be happy to sell to it again, if I ever have a suitable story. Which brings me to the next point.

    I’ve only submitted a couple of stories to the Big 3 since then, mostly for some of the reasons Cat mentioned. I’m getting a lot of requests for specific markets (anthologies and the like) that pay a lot better, and it doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing brand new stories on spec. I’m absolutely going to spend my creative energy on a story that I know already has a home, than on one in the mere hopes that it might sell to markets that I have terrible, terrible long term track records with.

    Also like Cat, I suspect I’m just not a good fit for the Big 3. But over the last few years I seem to have carved out a tidy little fiction niche for myself anyway.

  37. Of course many people could afford it, Brad.

    The question that has yet to be answered is, why would they?

    Why should young writers bend to this? Why should a young writer just starting out take some portion of already limited funds and bend them towards the quixotic pursuit of the dwindling personal cachet of being published in science fiction magazines that won’t keep up with science fact? What is the benefit to this?

    And you really can’t see a possible connection between the mindset of the editors, their peculiar adherence to outdated submission standards, and the failure of the magazines to capture a growing youth market? I see it as all interconnected.

    The mindset of the editors informs their submissions policy, which deforms their pool of submissions. Sure they get a bunch of bright young things who are eager to be published in the pages of Asimov or one of the others… but they’re not getting the same bright young things they’d be getting if they had a reasonable submissions policy.

  38. I’ll admit I loathe reading fiction on a screen, so I can see the big three’s point there. However, I hate walking around with piles of manuscripts as well — and we don’t even take unsolicited subs at Subterranean. Still, doing 50-60 books a year, and publishing 240k words in the online mag makes for quite a bit of yearly manuscript burden.

    Solution — Yanni and I both have Sony e-Readers. We aren’t killing trees excessively, and e-Ink is a marvelous invention.



  39. I can’t speak from the submission end of this, as my current writer-status is “stalled” and, in any case, short fiction is not my forte.


    I’m a freelance editor working for a small press (well, technically I’m currently on leave, but that aside). I live in the northeastern part of the United States. My immediate boss is in the northwestern part of the US. Grandboss is, I believe, in London — at least the company’s in London, so she’s at least on that side of the ocean.

    I get manuscripts electronically, as is probably obvious from that distributed network. I mark them up electronically – and I’m not enough of a techsavvy kid that I didn’t have to learn how to do that, but it was straightforward enough to learn. I return them to the author and the managing editor electronically. We do our comments back and forth improving the manuscript … electronically.

    At one point I got a major rush job — grandboss wanted the manuscript turned around ASAP, it was in an area of my strength, boss sent it to me. I turned that sucker around with a complete edit in less time than it would have taken to mail it to me. (Fortunately, it only required light editing, so I could do that without locking myself, whimpering, in the closet with a blankie and some ice cream.)

    So I don’t have to do the slush filtering or whatever else — that’s the acquiring editor’s job — but the actual work on turning manuscripts into something publishable? Totally 2009.

    In other, much shorter, words, my mind is blown by “We can’t pass it around the office!” as an excuse for something received in an email. Even if one doesn’t have the sort of document display thingy that Scalzi mentions, there’s always ‘forward’.

  40. Amen, Mr. Scalzi!


    @ watercolor

    I’ve been very amused for quite a while that science fiction and fantasy magazines don’t allow electronic submissions. Talk about irony.

  41. Brad, are you sure it’s just the ritual of the submission you’re enjoying?

    (Everything I could’ve said has already been said better above.)

  42. Which is fine, but it’s not actually reasonable, any more than a writer insisting on continuing to use a typewriter is reasonable. It’s not reasonable, it’s a quirk or an affectation, since in this day and age everyone else needs to work around that quirk. Eventually people wonder why they have to work around a quirk. Especially for six to nine cents a word.

    I realise that, in this day and age, it isn’t reasonable to expect that you could get away with not spending your days reading on the screen… but I’d like to point out that for many – like myself – this isn’t merely a ‘quirk’ or an ‘affectation’. I personally am prone to horrible migraines, and my eyesight is very poor, too (in fact I’ve had a beginning retinal tear fixed with laser surgery). The fact is, whenever I stare at the screen for extended periods of time, I begin to feel very poorly indeed; my eyes are the first to go, but if I cross the migraine threshold, at worst I’ll be puking. If I had to read submissions in this state, it would mean a distracted auto-reject to everything after the first 20 query letters.

    Not everyone in publishing has such an extreme reaction – some are simply lazy, I’m sure – but I do know many other people who feel poorly after spending too much time at their computers, even without the excuse of ‘proper’ migraines and dodgy eyes. Some people are more sensitive to sunlight; some people are more sensitive to computer screens. That’s just the way it is. I think it’s unfortunate that nowadays we’re all supposed to be joined at the hip to our computers. We who are (I’d say) legitimately computer-phobic would do our jobs MUCH more effectively without them.

  43. … showing up to the party in the communication equivalent of 70s powder blue polyester leisure suits…

    Wouldn’t this make them the communication equivalent of ironic hipsters?

  44. Lee @ 45:

    I’d note, in addition to my lengthy comment about working on electronically submitted manuscripts —

    — I’m someone who has a hard time reading material at any length on a screen. My legal husband is a subscriber to Baen’s online book service thing, and goes through entire novels that way. Blows my mind.

  45. That’s fine, Lee, and certainly I won’t begrudge you your reasons, although as you note they’re specific to you. It does mean I’m very unlikely to submit any work to you, however, unless you accept works electronically and print out work you want to read.

    “Wouldn’t this make them the communication equivalent of ironic hipsters?”

    If that’s what it takes to be ironic these days, I’m turning in my irony card.

  46. About reading on screen… There’s an agent who puts all her electronic submissions on her Sony eReader, which is waaaaayyy easier to read on. She loves working that way–makes the whole reading all day on screen thing not a problem. I suspect there are others who do this (or the equivalent). Haven’t actually looked at one myself, but from what I’ve read from people who use the new eReaders, it’s a truly viable way to get away from the “reading on monitors hurts my eyes” problem.

  47. Lee@45: Get an eInk device, like a Kindle or a Sony eReader. They use an entirely different technology for their screens that don’t generate any light themselves. They have none of the eyestrain issues that reading off a screen can have. Reading off of one of them is very much like reading off of a printed page.

    Domini@43: It is as if the editors at Aviation Weekly insisted on traveling by train.

  48. The editors of the magazines are always talking about how they love seeing new writers, but I can’t help but think one of the reasons they have difficulty publishing new writers is that they’re showing up to the party in the communication equivalent of 70s powder blue polyester leisure suits and trying to assure the kids that seriously, they’re hip — why, they listen to that groovy cat Dan Folgelberg and everything. I mean, shit, guys. Meet 2009 half way, you know?

    This made me laugh for a ridiculously long time.

    I maintain that the Big Three magazines have no audience outside of, well, people who are planning to submit something to them. They’re the place where aspiring writers try to get publishing credits to put in their query letters and apply for SFWA membership with. They’re a quaint relic of a bygone era when the 21st century looked very, very different than it does now. They’re not about predicting the future anymore–they’re about preserving the past.

  49. Re: e-readers – yes, I agree, they’re much better for the eyes. (Not perfect, but I’m sure the technology is improving all the time…) However, you still have to upload the things you like to the device, which means that the biggest problem – sorting out a full inbox and choosing the submissions you’re interested in – still remains. I know I sound like a big baby, complaining about a full inbox… but for someone like me it is a huge problem, and inordinately time-consuming. If somebody came up with an ‘upload all your unread mail to the e-reader’ button, that would be great.

    @Dw3t-Hthr: My legal husband is a subscriber to Baen’s online book service thing, and goes through entire novels that way. Blows my mind.

    A friend of mine does this, too; and she has probably read about 80% of the Project Gutenberg library on her PC screen. The very idea makes me run for the hills.

    @John Scalzi: If that’s what it takes to be ironic these days, I’m turning in my irony card.

    But if you did show up at a party in such a costume, you might just become the first SF author ever to be featured on Vice Magazine’s DOs and DON’Ts…

  50. Lawyers are a tree’s natural enemies; we kill more of them by just thinking about work than any three novelists will in a lifetime.

    In the federal courts, electronic submissions are now not just appropriate, but required for everything except the Supreme Court… and there are some historical reasons for that that will be changing shortly, having to do as much with the difficulty of properly wiring the Depression-era building as anything else.

    Further, electronic submissions in the body of an e-mail gets away from the font wars; writing a macro to cut-and-paste the message into a document, remove extra spacing, then convert to the preferred margins, typeface, and type size — while adding an in-house-generated header to make absolutely certain that separated pages can be rejoined — and send it to a printer is so trivial that my dog can do it. Admittedly, she has a burgeoning career as a literary agent (yes, she actually does get submissions), but still…

  51. Yeah–what Cat Valente said. The thing I find really surprising, although maybe I shouldn’t, is that the Big Three don’t even seem to see any of this. Or to realize that they’re really becoming like little island fiefdoms in the middle of a raging river. It’s the river that’s powerful. Not the stuff being eroded by it.

  52. To the point made above in several places that some people don’t like to read on screen or cannot for physical reasons… print it out. An editor can certainly refuse to read on screen, but that’s no reason to refuse electronic submissions. Take the attached file (or the email with text in it), PRINT IT and voila! Paper!!!

    I’m still befuddled by the idea that anyone would expect a writer to write on a computer then print the digital document, sent it in and have it typeset digitally (I presume that’s what they do).

    However, this is a self-correcting issue – the current editors will one day move on or the magazines will die.

  53. “f I didn’t care about reading the so-called slush-pile, it would be very convenient for us to open up for electronic submissions and then reject them all without reading them. But as long as there are only a handful of us in the office and 400 – 600 submissions each month, we have to ask you to send in manuscripts.”

    In May and June the small press zine GUD Magazine has gotten close to 850 submissions–for each separate month. (They accept electronic submissions).

    Just saying. It’s possible.

    (stats taken from:

  54. The Big Three are like to go the way of poetry, hobby publishing, not because they don’t take electronic submissions, but because the enemy of print digests is technology. Circulation numbers in the hundred thousands circa 1990 for those few digest survivors of the tech war, amounting to millions for genre digests before the dawn of ARPANET, now are lucky to reach 20,000. When Dick Tracy-like handheld devices do everything entertainment-wise but wipe a user’s nose, it’s no wonder paper fiction digests are verging on the sidelines of obscurity. Technology destroys culture, Ray Bradbury said about the theme of Farenheit 451. Technology is winning, culture is loosing. Naturally, the Big Three are wary of technology, right or wrong, it’s the enemy as they see it. No point in collaborating with the enemy any more than absolutely necessary. It’s culture shock. In time, hopefully not too long in the future, we’ll all catch up in our daily existence technology-wise, and technology will be as taken for granted as fire. By the way, does anyone anymore know how to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together? I do. I also know how to say no to frivilous devices, but live without technology, never. I’d be dead, literally, from afflictions that technology manages.

  55. Big Three: C’mon, people, I realize that as peddlers of science fiction half your job is to make people fear technology (the other half is making them love technology), but you really shouldn’t fall for your own propaganda.

  56. Brad@32

    “Hordes of youngsters sub to the Big Three every day. I know this for a fact.”

    Can you tell us how you know this fact? I can’t make the numbers support it.

    The annual circulation of Analog, the largest of the Big Three, was twenty-six thousand last year. Ignoring the fact that their circulation has dropped every year, and assuming that represents 26,000 subscribers rather than some smaller number of subscribers plus off-the-rack sales, it’s hard to imagine hordes subscribing every day.

    Let’s assume that 10% of those are new subscriptions. I think that’s pretty reasonable for a publication with a declining circulation that continues to offer the same content that current subscribers have enjoyed for years (not a criticism, BTW). That means there are 2,600 new subscriptions per year. Some of them won’t be “youngsters,” of course, but even if they all were, you’re still only looking at a hair over seven subscriptions per day.

    You really need a number I can’t count to on my fingers to qualify as a “horde,” in my book.

  57. There are quite a few published, good authors who won’t send work to these guys precisely because they don’t take electronic submissions. It’s kind of pointless, when you think about it, because there are plenty of well-respected mags that pay well and take electronic submissions.

    I don’t send work to them anymore. I’m not willing to spend $3-4 to send them my work when I can do it for free to loads of good markets elsewhere. It’s silly to not take electronic submissions these days. Really silly.

  58. a⋅nach⋅ro⋅nism  [uh-nak-ruh-niz-uhm]
    1.something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time, esp. a thing or person that belongs to an earlier time: The sword is an anachronism in modern warfare.

    or, The postage stamp is an anachronism in electronic publishing and/or general marketing.

    So, let me get this straight. You can buy a subscription to FFS through a PayPal account. You can pay for your general advertising with FFS online. You can pay for online workshops online, heck, do the actual workshops online. But, wait for it, you can’t, wait for it, send electronic submissions to FSS. Wait . . . let me ask my buddy with the pager what he thinks. “Money in, good; money out, bad.”

    By the way, John C. Wright used “anachronism” a lot in “The Golden Age.”

  59. Hey, if some of you refuse to sub on paper and can make your way in the fiction world just fine without it, more power to you.

    To my mind, any aspirant who thinks they’re too good to sub on paper — or that somehow a market isn’t good enough for them because that market requires paper subs — is putting the cart significantly before the horse.

    Me, I sub to the market if it’s pro-pay level and it accepts the kind of fiction I write. I don’t let the format or process stop me. I’ve noticed that outside the SF&F short markets there are other short markets in other realms which are also still requiring paper subs. So it doesn’t just seem to be a thing with Stan, Gordon and Sheila refusing to change and get with the times.

    As Lee noted, there may be and probably are other significant reasons why paper subs just seem to work best for some publications.

    Yes, we can mitch and boan all we want about people needing to get with the times. But not all types of progress are necessary nor warranted in every case.

    Just ask the docs I have to spend time training to do electronic medical records. For the billers and the legal department, EMR is a dream. For the docs, it’s a colossal pain in the ass and most of them resent having to do it, because it takes so much time. Even with all the tools available, including voice recognition. For them, it actually seems like a big step back. Not forward.

    Again, if you yourself have sailed right into a pro career sans paper subs, more power to you. I’m not sure everyone can do this, nor that it would be advisable for everyone to try. As long as there are pro-pay markets that use paper subs, then by golly that’s a market which can buy fiction! In fact, the more people stick their noses in the air and refuse to sub to those markets, the better the odds become for fuddy-duddy antediluvian types like me.


  60. I suspect he means “submit” not “subscribe.”

    Does anybody subscribe to those magazines other than people planning to submit to them? I’ve yet to come across anybody who reads those things for fun.

  61. Brad,

    Even if we take aspiring writers—i.e., those with no publishing credits in [x] field that they’re submitting in—out of the equation, that leaves a lot of pro writers who *aren’t* submitting. Young pros with awards under their belts, who sell a lot of books, who would more reliably bring in readers than newbies.

    What’s fine for you is your affair, but it’s obviously not fine for others, and the larger affair of survival for the Big Three seems is still linked to accepting technology. It’s not the only thing stopping them, but it raises a barrier they don’t need.

    As for “not all types of progress are necessary”—ye gods, to see someone say that in relation to science fiction publications is just surreal.

  62. @Brad

    I’m not saying I *refuse* to snail mail submit. I just highly prefer the e-submissions. I’ll hunt down most pro markets that are open to submissions (but that’s a different problem).

    I don’t think anyone here arguing against paper subs thinks they’re “too good” to submit on paper.

    But at 5 cents a word, a $3 to $4 submission cost (given printing, stamps, etc) eats into one’s profits. So I tend to want to submit to something that eats into my returns a bit less. Every dollar counts. So a print market gets submitted to last on my list of open pro markets.

  63. Brad R. Torgeson:

    “To my mind, any aspirant who thinks they’re too good to sub on paper — or that somehow a market isn’t good enough for them because that market requires paper subs — is putting the cart significantly before the horse.”

    Not since the turn of the millennium, Brad, since I can think of at least one successful science fiction writer since then who did it exactly that way. Actually, I could probably think of several, but I assume you get my point.

    You’re working from the erroneous assumption that submitting on paper is required or even a desirable condition for success at this point. It’s not, nor has it been for some time. It’s not a matter of putting a cart before the horse, it’s recognizing that there’s no need for a cart or a horse in the age of the automobile.

  64. Brad: Wait, look. I think you may be missing another critical thing here in your analysis (though you’re obviously aware of it in practice): no simultaneous submissions.

    When you’ve got a short story, and you want to sell it, you pick one (1) magazine, and you send it to that magazine. Then, some weeks or months later when the SASE comes back with the rejection, you pick another (1) magazine, and you send it there. And so on.

    So, yeah, okay, there’s a definite value in including the Big Three in that list somewhere, since they’re a place that will buy fiction. But why start there? People are saying they’re not the highest-paying. Are they faster at response times? (With the extra three days each way, they’ve got a bit of a handicap to overcome to do that.) Are they more likely to buy a story? (I have no idea. I assume it depends heavily on the story.)

    Then, if you’ve sent a story to all the places that take e-subs, and none of them have bought it, what’re the chances that someplace else will take it? In actual data, I mean, not the “this was rejected 157 times before someone accepted it” anecdotes. Is it worth the small but nonzero effort, in financial terms?

    I’m just not convinced that there’s a higher ROI for submitting to a mix of paper-sub and e-sub magazines compared to submitting only to e-sub magazines. You haven’t really supported the position that it is; you’ve only recast it to claim that only submitting e-subs is some sort of “too good for this” snobbish thing that is by definition foolish and self-limiting.

  65. As someone who currently works in IT and has recently submitted a short story to F&SF (only to be subsequently rejected), I find this article hilarious and could not agree more.

    Printing out the story story for the soul purpose of submitting it to that specific magazine was quite a hassle for me. Even though I had a printer, I go out and buy some more printer paper in order to print it. Printing out the story (as well as the cover letter) also severely depleted my black ink cartridge (which needs to be replaced soon, but I keep putting it off). Not to mention the fact I had to hunt around my house for a while to find some manila envelopes and stamps to mail it to begin with (neither of which are objects I use very often). Considering I’m a bit of a busy person, I’d say that all of this took place over the course of about two or three days, from the time I decided to submit to F&SF to the time I actually mailed it.

    After it got rejected, I decided to send my story to a small publication called Cemetery Moon, which actually does accept electronic submissions. I wrote up a nice little “cover letter” for the email, attached the story, and sent it just today. The total amount of time from when I decided to send it to that publication and the time I actually sent it was about an hour, if that. Compare that to the 2-3 days it took to get the materials to print the story, print it, find materials to send it, then actually getting around to mailing it (not to mention the cost of buying paper and the future cost of having to replace my all-but-empty black ink cartridge).

    So yeah, your points ring pretty true to me. The fact that a relatively popular literary magazine in the year 2009 refuses to accept electronic submissions is ridiculous. I remember reading those very same reasons on their site for why they do not accept electronic submissions and thinking they were ridiculous. So knowing that I’m not the only one who feels that way is very reassuring.

    By the way, the “passing around a CRT monitor” bit made me crack up, hehe. Nice work, Scalzi.

  66. @Neil Clarke

    Those reasons for not accepting paper submissions are gold.

    It’s got to be pretty bad when, not only does a famous author say that the reasons for not accepting electronic submissions are ridiculous, but another publication actually comes out and makes fun of how silly those reasons are. Nice.

  67. Even if they don’t like reading on a screen, there’s this thing called a printer and it makes real copies of what you see on the screen so you don’t have to look at one.

  68. @Neil Clarke

    I hate going to the post office too. Thank you for treating author time as respectfully as your own time.

    Come to think of it, I’m going to up my $ cost estimate for submitting via snail mail. When you factor in my time to walk to the post office, it’s more like $25-$50 per submission (some may say I’m cheating and valuing my time at what I might make freelancing at my day job, but since time away from day job counts when factored into the ROI, that’s not unreasonable).

  69. Sheila @ 65:
    “I’ve yet to come across anybody who reads those things for fun.”

    Now, that is just excessively harsh. I agree strongly as far as feeling that the anti-electronic-submissions policy is regressive and foolish, but I still enjoy reading the B3 from time to time*, and not just as some sort of writing-career chore (especially now that my writing energies are mostly focused on areas other than prose fiction).
    Good stories do appear quite regularly, whatever the barriers to fine writing the policy might create, and that statement was just gratuitous and uncalled-for snark.
    (Again, this is not a defence of their archaic submissions policy, it’s just that the “ha, ha, plus they suck” tone of that comment just seemed like too much, and there was something vaguely ugly about it in my mind.)

    *Asimov’s most usually, followed by F&SF and very occasionally Analog.

  70. Not much to say about the primary topic, but:

    Dear Sheila, what you’re saying (over and over and over) is simply not true. I subscribe to and read all three (have done for Asimov’s since its founding), and I have absolutely zero intention of ever submitting anything to them.

    (Did that, many years ago, to the esteemed JWC; got a nice rejection note; reread the story; realized I have no talent for fiction. Stopped.)

    So, you know, give it up. Yes, all three are in trouble; yes, their submission rules are well beyond quaint; yes, all three pay ludicrously low rates. But yes, they have real honest-to-gosh readers. I’d bet at least half of their dwindling subscription bases are readers, period. (Oh, and you might look at the Nebulas and Hugos sometime; for being irrelevant, Asimov’s in particular sure does show up a lot in the short-fiction categories…)

  71. When you’re absolutely sure you’re the only game in town, the rules of the game tend to mirror your belief systems quite closely.

  72. I sit corrected on the readers thing, then. I simply didn’t know anybody who read the things regularly other than to get a feel for what would sell. This may say more about the company I keep than anything. Thank you for proving me wrong on that point, at least.

  73. I think another element to consider is how writers find places to submit.

    If you go to you can filter the magazines that meet your needs by making a selection and pressing search.

    A list of magazines that accept e-mail submissions will appear in no time at all. When I submit, I don’t even consider markets that only accept snail-mail subs.

    Those magazines that do not, will not even appear in my possible lists of places to submit.

    At one time, authors had to use Writer’s Market to hunt down and find possible avenues for their work. And even that is an outmoded and outdated way of researching new markets. Hundreds of markets would open or close before the next annual addition would be released.

    When authors have other means, that are faster and more effective. Means that allow them to accomplish their objectives with less cost and less hassle–then the old way will slowly be fazed out.

    The Big Three had clout in the paper age, because they were eternal. Writers knew that they would always be there, so there was no guessing if that market would be open to them. The Big Three would get submissions, partly from their reliability.

    The times have changed. And I can think of another Big Three ( U.S. auto manufactureres ) that had difficulties in changing with them.

  74. Brad,

    I’ve made more money electronically than I’ve made in print. And no one will ever mistake me for anything but an aspirant for the foreseeable future. I have limited time and resources.

    You actually have to have a track record to get into the Big 3. Aspirants, unless they write something to knock the socks of the editors, are not going to get into the Big 3.

    However, the caliber of writers they want to attract would prefer e-subs.

    You do the math.

  75. I’ve been published in Analog. Yes, I submit to them on paper, but when they accept a story, they have me email an electronic copy of the manuscript for typesetting. So they are not as inefficient and opposed to technology as some of the commenters presume.

    To all the great authors out there who refuse to submit their stories to any publication that does not allow electronic submissions I say: Thank you for not competing with me. (That doesn’t mean I’m grateful enough to stop competing with you for the electronic submission slots.)

  76. Erika @73: Well, it must be noted that the costs of printing out an entire slushpile would be quite considerable — acceptance rates are likely low enough that it would entirely overshadow the royalties that they currently pay the writers.

  77. My eyes fry after 30 minutes on screen; I’ve skimmed most of the comments here due to that. So I can understand why a low budget operation would prefer hard copies opposed to electronic ones. The cost of printing up manuscripts is a lot if you prefer paper.

    I’m a little put off by the assumption that everyone should get on the band-wagon. I’m a school teacher, and since our report cards went electronic, the processing time for report cards has tripled. Parents now expect longer comments and more careful proof-reading. Since all the proofreaders catch more errors in print than on screen, we actually waste more paper. This automatic love of new technology, which contains instant disdain for the old way of doing things, suggests a love of the practical, but what’s practical isn’t always what’s wise.

    There are times when a calkboard leads to greater depth of wisdom than a smartboard, no matter how cool the smartboard is.

  78. Eric,

    “I’ve been published in Analog. Yes, I submit to them on paper, but when they accept a story, they have me email an electronic copy of the manuscript for typesetting. So they are not as inefficient and opposed to technology as some of the commenters presume.”

    This surprises me. It seems like they actually are making an extra step in there by requiring you to submit the manuscript again by email. So not only are they having you pay extra for the physical submission through printing and postage, but you are then submitting electronically too. It makes no sense to me and is indeed inefficient.

  79. I always thought 90% of the slush pile was fairly obviously garbage right from page one. Horiffic grammar, etc. etc. I would think that being able to cull through those quickly and in particular respond with a rejection quickly (without printing a rejection letter and packing their submission back into a SASE) would balance out printing out the remaining 10% if so desired…

  80. I think it’s just a matter of editors not having any real motivation to change the process. They get what they want but forcing you to toss it over the transom. I suspect as soon as a new editor takes over someday, he or she will say, “You know what? I really don’t feel like dealing with the paper blizzard. Let’s change it.”

    In crime, it’s the same way with the two major paying markets: Hitchcock and Ellery Queen. When their editors move on, it’s likely their replacements will opt for esubs.

  81. Well, yeah, the big three’s approach does seem a bit stuffed shirt. But I have to say, having the actual document in hand in which Sheila Williams called my story “powerful and well done” was frame-worthy, even if it was in a rejection letter.

  82. Eric James Stone:

    “Yes, I submit to them on paper, but when they accept a story, they have me email an electronic copy of the manuscript for typesetting. So they are not as inefficient and opposed to technology as some of the commenters presume.”

    Having you submit a manuscript twice is a strange definition of efficiency.

  83. Add me to the legions flabbergasted that the “Big Three” don’t take electronic submissions. The only professional writing I’ve done is scientific papers, and while I’m sure there are still journals out there that require hard-copy submissions, I can’t think of any. I certainly haven’t submitted to any. Nor would I want to. It’s enough of a pain going through the editorial process electronically, I can’t imagine doing it by snail mail.

  84. Oh for God sakes! I agree. Ellery Queen Mystery Mag and Alfred Hitchcock still requier paper and I. Don’t. Get. It.

    To repeat: Oh for God sakes! Even AARP Magazine has finally gone to e-submissions.

  85. Eric James Stone makes a good point. When you remove yourself from a market, you make yourself less competitive. I think the point that Mr. Scalzi is trying to make here is that the magazines themselves are having trouble being competitive, thanks to a variety of factors which include their current methods of acquiring new talent.

    But we should keep in mind another important point: the Big Three generate award nominees. Take a look at the Hugo ballot. The short story and novella/novelette nominees come primarily from paper markets, with frequent contributions from the publications mentioned here. If the ballot is any indication, the majority of Hugo voters come from the subscription rolls of those publications. However they choose to conduct business, the current reality is that authors who want their stories to be considered for award nominations should continue submitting to these magazines and writing what they’re most likely to accept until the voting population recognizes alternative sources of genre fiction, or until there is another award for stories published and submitted online.

    And now I’m off to cast my Hugo ballot. Via email.

  86. There seem to be two sides going on here, with a lot of snark going on. It’s similar to the same problems I have with my students writing papers for my Physics classes.

    Corey — your three days to get a manuscript up and out to F&SF is a materials and materials handling problem on your end, and not necessarily a failure of the system.

    On Wednesday I ran across a story in my Invenstory and said, Ah perfect for sending as my next sub to Asimov’s, but I need to clean up this part. I edited the story, wrote the cover letter, checked for errors, printed the documents and labels, put the mailing together and dropped it off at the post office. Total elapsed time — two hours.

    Now I’ll admit, I cheated. I already owned the printer, paper, ink, already had the printer configured to work with the WiFi and had a stash of envelopes and stamps handy — though the latter could’ve been bought at the post office. And I had to go to the post office anyway to check the P.O. Box. Plus I make sure that I keep supplies on hand. I need them anyway.

    Eric — sorry, I’ll be out there with you “competing” for those few print slots in the mags. But it’s not really a competition in that sense. (grin)

    As for my sale to Analog, yes I sent in the manuscript electronically later — but they were already using the paper copy to make editing notes. I do about half of my editing with printouts, so that’s no different than what I do at home. And for the record, I’ve been heavily involved with computers and IT stuff since 1976, so I’ve been through a lot of generations of equipment and “how we’ve always done it”.

    Dr. Phil

  87. IMHO, the real problem with the Big 3 and mystery fiction’s Big 2 is that, until today, I didn’t even know they were still being published! A couple decades ago, they went from newstand distribution plus subscriptions to either purely subscription or possibly subscription + direct markets. Unlike comics, they don’t have the advantage of specialty shops that cater just to their publications.

    Point being, there was no way for potential new readers to even find out that these magazines existed. If your only subscribers are your existing readers, and possibly their kids, and you never bring in new readers… do the math.

    It’s like a MMORPG that never advertises, has no boxes on the store shelves, and otherwise makes it hard for new players to find out about the game or join it. Old subscribers get bored, move on, die, suddenly find out that they can eat or game but not both, decide they hate the latest changes and cancel… and the player base just dwindles away with no newcomers to sustain or grow it.*

    When I was a kid, those magazines were on the newstand/grocery store magazine racks, and I would pick one up out of curiosity. I eventually subscribed to “Asimov’s” for a while, back when it was new and Isaac Asimov was still alive. Still have a box of them somewhere. For me, those magazines died the day they stopped showing up on store magazine racks. I suspect that was true for many another reader or potential reader. You can’t read something you don’t even know exists.

    Oh yeah, JS, I completely agree with your editorial. I have been reading it and the comments aloud to my husband, who also vigorously agrees with me. He’s someone who thought back in the 1980s that all publishers should be using e-subs, and absolutely loves Baen Books and their Free Library and their Webscriptions.

    * Regrettably, I’ve just described my favorite MMORPG, Dark Age of Camelot

  88. I read slush for a fiction podcast, and I do absolutely everything electronicly. Seriously, I have no idea how I would keep it all straight in hard copy, and I don’t handle anything like the volumes those guys get. Also, I don’t think the process of handling hard copy has any inherent value, certainly not as a test of one’s dedication to one’s art.

  89. The way I see it, there seems to be one side explaining why electronic submission is a better system for everyone involved, and another side staunchly defending postal submissions without explaining why it’s worth defending. (Whether the Big 3 are still relevant is a separate, albeit related, issue.)

    I see postal submissions as something I have to do if I ever want to be published in Analog, F&SF, or Asimov’s. Therefore, I have boxes of envelopes in the requisite sizes in the closet along with an extra toner cartridge. The laser printer is hooked up and talks with the Mac. I make sure I always have some forever stamps handy. This way, if I have a story that I want to send to one of the Big 3, I can print it up at night, then drop it off at the post office on the way to work the next day. It’s not horrifically inconvenient because I’ve gone to lengths to make sure everything I need is at hand.

    (e.g., if the Big 3 demanded two quarts of chicken blood with each story submission, the people with chicken coops who kill poultry regularly would fail the see what the fuss is about. After all, they have the chicken blood sitting around anyway. The rest of us would just wonder at how anyone manages to submit anything to the Big 3.)

    Is this system (not the one with the chicken blood) better for anyone than electronic submission? Does this system somehow produce a better end result? I don’t think so. It just seems like more work for everyone. If they allowed electronic submissions, I’d switch over in an instant.

  90. @Dr.Phil

    I didn’t mean to imply that it was the system’s fault that it took me three days to submit. I was simply trying to illustrate a point about how the Big 3’s policy of only accepting paper submissions can add some unneeded “chores” to submitting (“chores” probably isn’t the best word, but I can’t really think of a better word to describe it). Granted, many writers probably have all supplies readily available to submit right away, but I don’t think that would be the case for most. Most will have to go out and fetch supplies and get slightly frustrated, like I did. Is it a huge inconvenience to have to get supplies? Honestly no, but it didn’t seem like a necessary inconvenience.

    I am sure there are many first-time submitters who saw that paper submissions were required and simply decided to find another place to submit their fiction to just to spare themselves the inconvenience. I was not among them, but I do understand the feeling. Only accepting paper submissions risks alienating first time submitters who do not want to pay for supplies or go through the hassle. True, this could help filter out some of the people who aren’t as serious about submitting, but I doubt it would have that big of an impact on the amount of bad fiction submitted to the magazines. Let’s face it, they’re going to get a bunch of bad submissions no matter which medium they decide to accept submissions from.

    I’m sorry, but not matter which way I look at it, paper submissions just don’t seem necessary. They really don’t have anything to lose by accepting electronic submissions and everything to gain. They get more submissions (some of them are going to be bad, but obviously not all of them will be), they receive submissions instantaneously, all emailed submissions are stored and easy to access at any time, its possible for multiple people to look at the story at any given time instead of just passing around one copy, searching for a story in an email inbox is way easier than searching for a specific story that is filed or somewhere in the office, and if you have to reject a story, sending 50 rejection notices through email is infinitely more convenient than sending 50 individual notices in 50 individual envelopes to 50 different locations. Not to mention, if an editor doesn’t like reading from a screen, I’m sure they have plenty of printers with plenty of paper at the Big 3 offices in order to do that without that much of an issue. Sure, it’ll cost them paper, but I’m sure most people won’t even have to print stories out since, these days, I think many people (not all people, but a lot) have gotten used to reading from a computer screen.

    I’m not saying that the Big 3 is bad for only accepting paper submissions. I may have went through a minor inconvenience submitting to one of them, but they’re all magazines I respect and continue to respect. I am just saying that they are creating a bit of an unnecessary inconvenience for both submitters and themselves. It just seems like electronic submissions would make everyone’s life better. Not just for the submitter, but for their staff as well. So really, why don’t they just spare everyone the trouble and simply make things easier for everyone?

  91. Speaking as someone who is frequently tasked with the actual implementation of these sorts of things, I have a few thoughts on why the Big 3 might continue to take initial submissions in hard copy.

    First, if something is submitted electronically, there is always a download stage, even it’s a web page or email. When you go to Google Documents, the information has to make it from Google to you somehow, and that somehow is downloading. Thus, if you’re receiving multiple hundreds of submissions a day, it very well could take quite a while to download them all. Depending on the average size of submission, 1hour to download all of them wouldn’t be a bad guess, even over a fast connection. 2 hours seems long to me, but I don’t have any figures on the size of submissions, or the quantity.

    Secondly, it’s hard enough to preserve formatting in email when you’re only sending notes to friends. With all the variables involved (plain text vs. HTML, line wrapping, character encoding, etc.), the thought of trying to preserve formatting on something that I intended to publish makes my stomach turn. If I were accepting electronic submissions, I’d only accept submissions as attachments.

    But even that doesn’t get you much farther: what format to accept the submissions in is a pressing concern. PDF? MS Word? RTF? Even plain text comes in a variety of flavors. Assuming ASCII plain text (the lowest common denominator), you have now restricted your submissions to only the basest formatting: line breaks, and indentation. Everything else is out.

    Having served my time as a repair technician, I can tell you with certainty that viruses are a very real problem, and if you are accepting electronic submissions, you will get infected. There are preventative measures that can be taken, but in the end it is only a matter of time. The best you could do is keep the computers for reading submissions separate from the rest of the network.

    The reality is that creating working implementations of these setups is actually a far more complex operation than most people realize. It would be great if even one of the Big 3 were able to accept electronic submissions, but given the hassle involved in actually doing so, I’m in no way surprised that they haven’t.

  92. Speaking in my professional capacity as a Linux system administrator who deals with this stuff on a daily basis.

    – On average, it would take us approximately two hours each day just to download submissions.

    Are you too cheap to pay for a decent pipe? Business dsl or cable is about $100/month.

    – The risk of computer viruses is higher if we accept attached files

    Whomever is handling your computer security is a moron. He/she should be fired immediately.

    – In our office, it’s very inconvenient to pass around an electronic submission from one reader to another

    You are a moron. Haven’t you noticed the “forward” button. Ask your mom how that works since she forwards every joke, rumor, and outrage she receives.

    – I have found it much easier to lose electronic submissions than it is to lose manuscripts

    Whomever handles your system backups is a moron. Is this the same person who handles your security?

    – I hate reading on screen

    Ask your mom which icon is for printing. Alternately, get a better screen.

  93. joh6nn:

    Speaking as someone who has accepted hundreds of short story submissions electronically, you’re really vastly over-complicating things. Plain text e-mail submissions work just fine.

  94. My wife, Ann, sees literally hundreds of submissions a week via email for Weird Tales. She started editing magazines back when you laid them out with an exacto knife and that blue grid paper, and she’s had no problem making the transition to taking electronic submissions.

    We also take electronic submissions for all of our anthologies, and we’ve found it is, of course, much more efficient than paper. One reason is that some submissions you can tell almost right away don’t fit your particular slant or focus, and it’s much easier to determine this in an electronic submission than leafing through a bunch of pages. I really don’t like even considering snail mail for stories anymore.

    One thing we have found, though–if someone works on a story for a month or two and then sends it in via email, we’ve had to learn to wait a few days before sending a rejection, because even though we can read your typical story in a short time and potentially send a reject within two hours on a story obviously not right for us (when we’re on top of our slushpile), we’ve too many times gotten an irate email back to the effect that “you’ve clearly not read my story.” Trust me, we have, but it seems to be a psychological thing.

  95. One thing is certain: there are many paths to professional publication, and the path that works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. As Eric James Stone noted, he’s sold to Analog and he did it the old fashioned way. Ditto for his two stories that sold to Writers of the Future. Others have said they’ve done just fine without ever going near a market that does paper subs. Clearly, there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way about it, though I still think if you’re leaving a market off your Big List just because they want snail subs, you’re not necessarily doing yourself a favor. Not as an aspirant anyway, when you should be making your Big List as big as possible, discounting no one who can potentially buy your work for pro rates.

    I recently spent a weekend doing a crash course with two best-selling writers who have also edited — one of them earning Hugos on both sides of the transom — and the topic of e-subs versus snail subs didn’t really come up. Mostly they just stressed professional presentation (e.g: standard manuscript format) and paying attention to market guidelines.

    Which is one thing I’ve noticed about e-subs: there is no such thing as an industry standard. Perhaps one will evolve in time, but right now there isn’t one.

    If the markets who demand e-subs could get together and agree upon a standard convention — which has been in place for paper subs since the pulp era, at least — I’d be a happier camper. Right now, every time I send a MS to an e-market I usually have to spend extra time tweaking the file and/or format for each one of them, because there is no standard. This, to me, is more annoying than the routine of printing and mailing via USPS.

    I agree with the notion that the Big Three, and other old-school market like Hitchcock’s, will likely go over to e-subs when the editorial situation changes. Then again, Asimov’s switched out Dozois for Williams and yet the paper sub process remained more or less untouched. So go figure.

    One thing I’ve noticed, lots of people on this thread are drinking more than a little haterade. And I am not sure it has anything to do with who will or will not take e-subs. I understand it’s maddening to get a big wad of rejections from one of the Big Three. But some people seem to have taken it way too personally.

  96. Yeah, guys, seriously. One hour for any amount of plain text is ridiculous. Plain text takes milliseconds for a broadband connection to download, and if you’re doing as Scalzi suggests and auto-rejecting any emails with attachments, you won’t be getting any pictures. If you allow HTML, there’s your formatting, and it won’t be much bigger than a plain text email.

    In any case, the amount of time it would take to “download” is probably less time than it would take to put down a piece of paper and find the next one. It’s a lame excuse these days.

    We are not talking about an immature technology here. We have had the internet for nearly 20 years, now.

  97. Brad R. Torgersen:

    “I understand it’s maddening to get a big wad of rejections from one of the Big Three. But some people seem to have taken it way too personally.”

    I’ve never once been rejected by “the big three,” actually. Nor is there much evidence that people writing in this thread are motivated by a “big wad of rejections.” You might want not to ascribe petty motivations to people whose position you don’t agree with, apparently simply because you don’t agree with them.

  98. John:

    That’s definitely a possibility; as always, there’s the chance that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about (this chance always seems smallest just before I hit “submit”, and greatest just after I hit “submit”…)

    All in all, I agree that they need to play at least a few rounds of catch-up. But I was trying to point out that the actual act of accepting electronic submissions is slightly more complex than we think, especially if we’re experienced computer users. The more experience we having with solving common problems, the less likely we are to realize that we’re solving them as we go about our business. I’d bet you repeatedly run into at least a few of the problems I mentioned, and maybe others I didn’t, and simply solve them as a matter of course. But after a certain volume of submissions, even tiny issues, like incorrect line-wrapping or MS Word’s Smart Quotes, become a real time-sink.

    Getting yourself setup to handle electronic submissions either takes time and planning, or a fair amount of computer savvy. I’m guessing that the Big 3 are all currently lacking both the former, and the latter (as are most people I know). That they don’t accept electronic submissions is definitely annoying, but I’m not sure it qualifies as unreasonable.

  99. John Scalzi:
    “Having you submit a manuscript twice is a strange definition of efficiency.”

    I did not claim the process was efficient, only that Analog was “…not as inefficient and opposed to technology as some of the commenters presume.”

    See Comment #25 by watercolor and Comment #30 by Kara for examples of incorrect assumptions being made.

  100. It’s even worse if you’re an author outside the US. I once or twice tried to submit stories to magazines like Asimov’s back in the 90’s, but living in the UK you had to enclose international postage slips so you could get back your submission or even just a note saying thanks but no thanks. The postage was a good bit more expensive too. The whole process was laborious and expensive and required some dedication. I did score one sale to a small pro magazine since long gone based in the US, but I gave up after that. It was just too much time and trouble without even factoring in the printing out and all the rest. So yes, I can imagine I would be even less inclined to submit short fiction to US markets now if I couldn’t do it electronically.

    On the other hand, I’m a bit surprised some of the online magazines mentioned here actually make enough money to be able to pay their writers, let alone – presumably – their editors. Do they really get that many hits, and are that many people actually prepared to read that much fiction on their computer screens? I’m not saying I haven’t done it, just very, very rarely and when I had no option (I had to skim some of these comments because reading quite so much on the screen was doing my head in). I have a Sony Reader now and when i feel sufficiently driven I’ll copy and paste something into the machine, but I still wonder where on Earth the revenue comes from. Maybe if they formatted their fiction as ebooks I’d bother paying attention …

    Sorry, back on the er, actual subject – I’d have thought one way of getting round the problem was not only buying everybody in F&SF a Sony Reader, but also getting hold of some of the frequently freeware conversion programs that can turn text files very quickly into readable ebook formats. Calibre is possibly the most well-known example of such.

    I suspect it’s also a generation thing as well, i.e. can’t teach an old dog new tricks and all that. Older editors tend to mark up book manuscripts in pencil, younger ones – under forty, say – do the marking up in electronic formats such as pdf. Whenever the big three get around to hiring new editors from a different generation, I suspect then we’ll get a very quick conversion to electronic submissions.

  101. I read and responded to several thousand pieces of slush when I edited Clarkesworld online and without any major problems. I did the same when editing Haunted Legends, though we only received 250 submissions in the two weeks we had an open reading period. It really is extraordinarily easy. If I had trouble reading on screen after a while, I’d take a break or adjust my browser resolution.

    With both projects I used Gmail. I never downloaded anything, but always just clicked “View as HTML.”

  102. I have just as big a wad of e-mail rejections as I do paper ones. I don’t resent those editors, or their publications. In fact, one thing I like about online submissions is that I can get a faster turnaround on the rejections, so that I can quickly submit the stories elsewhere. Paper rejections mean that I don’t get a hardcopy back to send out again. I have to print it out a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) time, and my printer cartridges cost more than most magazines pay out for a single story. With online submissions and rejections, this isn’t a problem. In addition, I get to keep the rejection email indefinitely, and search for it the next time I want to submit to that publication so that I remember my last interaction with the editor. This is especially useful, as I find that the e-mail rejections are more likely to have specific information about why the story was rejected. It might be only a sentence or two, but it gives me a sense of what the editor likes so that I don’t crowd her inbox later with things I know she won’t.

    Everybody wants their stories to be liked. It stings every time they’re not. That’s never going to change. But what does change is business. If I’m reading Mr. Scalzi correctly, he’s interested in how the SF publishing business has changed because he’s interested in the future health and well-being of his own career and that of his friends and colleagues. In short, he cares about the capacity of his field to innovate and maintain relevance. I would think that anyone trying to publish their works with the help of an editor would feel just as engaged in the matter; you can’t feel that sting of rejection if there’s no one left to reject you.

  103. PS – I knew there was something I forgot to say – considering that quite a number of the commentators here are pro writers, isn’t it possible you could just drop a line to the Big 3 and say hi, I’d like to send you a story, can I send it in an email? Since presumably they’d already know who you are, I’m guessing it wouldn’t be very difficult for them to make an exception for the professionals.

    If I *did* decide to send them something, that’s what I’d do: drop a line electronically saying hello, experienced novelist, please can I send a story to you by email. Has anyone done that?

  104. I find it immensely telling there is, in fact, only one person in this entire comment thread who is defending the Big 3, and his only defense is that we shouldn’t leave them out because they only accept paper subs”. Meaning, of course, there is no defense for what they do, other than that they want to do it.

  105. FSF should look back to see the future, beginning with the split-infinitive “to boldly go.”
    should boldly change its format,
    should boldly begin publishing longer novelette-length works only,
    should boldly print said works in mass market paperback format,
    should boldly adapt,
    should boldly evolve,
    should boldly invest in “computers”,
    should boldly accept electronic submissions,
    should boldly change FSF to HAL,
    should . . .

  106. though I still think if you’re leaving a market off your Big List just because they want snail subs, you’re not necessarily doing yourself a favor

    You keep looking at this backwards, Brad. The question isn’t what authors should be doing, but what magazine editors should be doing. It’s as if Scalzi were poking at a SF/F magazine for requiring writers to hand-deliver manuscripts for submission, and you countered that it’s not a big deal to hand-deliver manuscripts because one can hire a courier service.

  107. I find it odd that so many people appear to take it personally that Analog, Asimov’s and Fantasy & Science Fiction don’t do e-subs. Commenters have declared these three publications — all award-winning and with editors who have lengthy track records — to be unfit. That’s a rather strange assertion, given the fact that these three publications still provide us with the lion’s share of our Nebula and Hugo nominees, for short fiction. They also continue to attract — either by request or submission — work from some very heavy-duty writers.

    Some have argued that the Big Three are just limping along on inertia. That they’re dooming themselves by driving off the younger crowd with an outdated submission process. I myself sometimes scratch my head and wonder about the editorial direction the Big Three take.

    Then I read a story like “Arkfall” in F&SF and I say to myself, yes, of course, this is why the Big Three are still the Big Three.

    IMHO the Big Three don’t have anything to “prove” in terms of being on the forefront of technology. I don’t think technology plays much of a role at all in whether or not these mags can get high-quality fiction. The number of big-name authors and quality rising authors who keep showing up in their pages would seem to refute the idea that the Big Three have closed themselves off to a vital pool of talent, simply by using paper subs.

    Perhaps the Big Three don’t pay so great. Frankly, very few F and SF short markets have a word rate I’d call great. Writers of the Future has the best word rate — by far — as well as cash on the barrelhead. And they demand paper subs, too.

    IMHO anyone who still qualifies for Writers of the Future — and turns his or her back on that venue because they won’t deign to do a paper sub — needs to have his or her head checked.

  108. Brad, are you deliberately or accidentally missing the point. Cos right now it sounds like you’re attacking a whole heap of peripheral points while utterly ignoring the main one?

    Is it or is it not stupid that the ‘Big 3’ don’t take electronic submissions, even if that is as well as paper submissions? Why close off a method of submission that you can turn into paper (or epaper) easily enough?

    Yes/No. If answering “no”, please provide rational reasons for this counterintuitive answer.

  109. I find it odd that so many people appear to take it personally that Analog, Asimov’s and Fantasy & Science Fiction don’t do e-subs. Commenters have declared these three publications — all award-winning and with editors who have lengthy track records — to be unfit.

    Not if you look at the circulation numbers and how they’ve been declining for years and years.

  110. Whoops, I also meant to quote the next the next clause, “That’s a rather strange assertion”

    It’s not at all a strange assertion given declining circulation numbers.

  111. Brad, your real argument is “Maybe I am old fashioned, but I actually like that the Big Three handle over-the-transom subs”. Do you really like the process so much that you’re willing to defend it by insulting multiple-award-winning, professional authors? (Telling people who disagree with you that they ought to have their heads checked is an insult, but I think you knew that.)

  112. Eddie,

    I guess I just don’t understand why it matters to people, on an emotional level, whether or not Analog, Asimov’s or F&SF do e-subs?

    As if it’s some kind of personal affront.

    Like, people seem genuinely pissed off at these magazines because they don’t do e-subs, and I’m like, whoa, geez, why does it matter? As long as these markets can count on getting stories from heavy-talent authors and the rising stars alike — to say nothing of the slush — I’m not sure what’s in it for them to change their process.

    That’s the bottom line for me. What business motive would the Big Three have for changing? Perhaps the very reason they haven’t changed is because it wouldn’t be cost-effective in some way. We can speculate at length as to why they haven’t changed, or how they’d benefit enormously from going to e-subs. But because we don’t have their inside perspective on their particular businesses we don’t really know.

    Though it seems there are people willing to conclude that Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF are just dumb/wrong/embarrassing in their continued practice of the dreaded transom submission.

  113. Brad:

    Fair enough. I’d suggest that a decade of declining circulation speaks for itself, but you’re welcome to think otherwise.

  114. mythago,

    Since award-winning professional authors cannot qualify for Writers of the Future, obviously my “head checked” comment was not directed at them.

    In point of fact, the Gold Winner at WOTF gets more money for one piece of short fiction than many new authors will get for their first book contract.

    So yeah, anyone who qualifies for WOTF — and sticks their nose in the air over the paper sub requirement — definitely needs a head check. Why in hell would anyone pass up thousands of dollars, and publication in the most prestigious break-in market in the business, because they can’t bring themselves to do a transom submission?

    That’s just nuts.

  115. I haven’t seen anyone take the absence of esubs personally here, or anywhere else.

    As far the dumb/wrong/embarrassing conclusion, well, when pretty much every other magazine across all genres and subjects, has gone electric (and has abandoned the digest format, and concentrates on getting ad pages, and has a Web strategy better than “okay, we have a website, sheesh!” etc.) and when the hold-outs have far lower circulations than virtually any other magazine or even magazine type one can name, that all rather speaks for itself.

  116. WOTF isn’t the most prestigious break-in market in the business either, not with the taint of Scientology all over it and Bridge’s uneven distribution.

  117. Eddie,

    We can speculate a lot about why the numbers keep going down. Somehow I think the lack of e-subs is not a primary cause. It’s more incidental. The majority of fiction readers are oblivious to how stories make it into print in the first place. They don’t care. They just want to be entertained.

    In the end, the only thing that really matters for the publishers of these magazines is: can they make money? Is it good business sense to keep them in print? Since people like Gordon are both publisher and editor, I imagine he deals with that particular keep-you-up-at-night question all the time.

    Me, if I ran any of the Big Three, I’d definitely do certain things differently.

    But just because these Big Three aren’t doing it the way I’d do it, doesn’t make them idiots, or wrong, or somehow failing.

  118. What Gary Said. I’m in the UK. E-sub wise, I don’t care where in the world my market is physically situated. Snail-wise… well, I’m not poor but by no means affluent either. US markets doing this are effectively knocking a noticeable chunk off my expected returns, to say nothing of the hassle. Hawk it around a few, add even the occasional salesdud to the mix, factor in low rate to begin with… moving towards expected net losses fairly soon.

    Now, maybe I might suck those up as a career investment – if the markets are truly prestigious ones like the Big Three, and for as long as they can maintain their status. Not willy-nilly for every story, even then, because investment that isn’t looking at the money is only vanity in disguise. If I actually ramped my productivity up to professional levels, this would be redoubled, and presently there might be pesky cashflow issues, too.

    For me that’s no big bogey, not being primarily a short-fiction guy either as reader or writer. But this sure looks to me like a significant filter on foreign submissions.

    That might be a net win for the Three – if they felt their core readership was sufficiently US-parochial, that implicitly screening out a lot of alien-accented voices was actively useful.

    Not so likely, eh? I think it’s editorial convenience. Which may be a reasonable decision in-house – but that doesn’t make it reasonable for every potential partner to deal with them.

    Stagnant or declining market, more people finding a reason not to deal with you, maybe reasonable in-house won’t seem reasonable forever.

  119. Nick, is there another F and SF market than can pay me — as an unpublished aspirant — up to $6,000 for a short story? Plus word rate, and royalties if the book earns out?

    As for the taint of scientology… Lordy. If guys like Dave Wolverton and Orson Scott Card can handle the ‘taint’ then by golly I think I trust them to know whether or not WOTF is a legit market for aspirants.

    Again, if WOTF isn’t the top break-in market for aspirants who write SF and F, which market is it? I am honestly curious as to which you believe it is. Because the pros I’ve consulted on this insist that WOTF is the top. And these aren’t just people who have sold a couple of books. We’re talking people who have been publishing best-sellers for decades.

  120. I don’t think people are pissed off at the Big 3 for only accepting paper subs, and when I made my comment about not submitting to people who do not accept paper subs, I was not talking about WotF.

    I plan to submit a story for them this quarter, but with that being said, WotF doesn’t pay amounts that are even close to what anyone else touches. WotF is a great place for new talent to break into the field and make a name for themselves. However, their pay rate is above and beyond what anyone else pays, that puts them in a different stratosphere.

    The Big 3 however, do not pay better than many online pubs. And I don’t think most writers are sitting around worried about where to send their stories in order to win a Nebula or Hugo.

    People are not pissed at the Big 3 for not accepting e-subs. But the business is changing and with the development of e-readers it will be changing again.

    If a company cannot or will not change and technology moves on, then said company will likely become extinct.

    Companies today already need to seriously consider their business model and how to meet the next big evolution in the publishing game, e-Readers. If a company still hasn’t stepped into the information age in the submissions process, then how much more difficult will it be for them to change when paper becomes an obsolete method of publishing.

    Companies need to be forward looking because new developments change how things work. Being ahead of the curve and anticipating the changes will help many survive. Being behind…well, good luck.

  121. Oh, Brad R. Torgensen! Enough already. You get some positive feedback from ONE short story and immediately assume you’re an authority on sff short fiction the world round. Heck, your EGO has gotten too big for that noggin of yours, had to renovate your basement to accomodate it, give it some breathing room, and start a blog to espouse your EGO the masses. Buddy, it’s simple. Unless you have an 80,000 word sf novel published by Tor, Bantam, Spectra, Ace, Harpers, whatever, don’t assume the role of the authority figure. You ain’t no genius, otherwise you would have published a best-selling novel in your 30s. And you certainly wouldn’t be kissing the arses over at FFS, hoping they’ll publish your stories out of obligation. Son, there’s a war being fought in the online sff community and you just don’t have the gonads to fight in it. Now go and play writer . . . leave the aspiring novelists fight this one out.

  122. A.R.,

    I agree wholeheartedly that businesses need to adapt with the times. I’m hip deep in just such adaptation where I work.

    Which is, again, probably why I spent so much time today devil’s advocating on behalf of the Big Three. At my work, I see both sides. I see how EMR hugely helps certain people, and how it hugely doesn’t help others. The company as a whole has declared that EMR is the way to go, as a best practice, and I agree with their conclusions. But I still have to work with these docs every day and if I were in their shoes, I’d be PO’d and fed up with geeks intruding into the way I practice and telling me I have to change. Especially if I’d been practicing for ten, twenty, or more years.

    Time will tell how the Big Three handle the changes that are coming. I remember when I first started subbing to them in 1994-1995, there were people then who said they’d be dead meat by 2000 because they couldn’t hack the drop in subscriptions. It didn’t come to pass.

    Again, if I ran any of these mags, I’d do it differently. I’ve got my own ideas as to what the real problems are, with declining numbers and so forth. But I do try to give people like Gordon the benefit of the doubt, in that it’s his magazine, he publishes and runs it, and he knows best how to do right by his publication.

    Or not. The market is the great leveler. The Big Three will either swim, or sink. If they sink, there will still be readers. Who will just read something else. Might be a print pub. Might be an e-pub.

    If it were up to me, I’d find a way to do e-pub with the option of on-demand print pub, for those who still want tangible magazines in their hands, and to try and save overhead. But I’ve not worked out the exact numbers on that model so I am not sure if it would save money or not. To say nothing about distribution.

  123. You are forgiven, Brad R. Torgensen. Welcome to the Revolution. Now, about submission guidelines to my new sff magazine, HAL. Please include an SASE. Thank you.

  124. Perhaps I’ll just bid this thread goodbye.

    My initial comment was one of whimsy, back at #1.

    Had someone said to me, Brad, by post #100 you’ll basically be arguing against the whole room, I’d have said, say what? And not bothered.

    I’ll echo Eric James Stone at this point.

    Thanks to all those who refrain from sending paper subs. By self-eliminating from the slush, you make my job statistically easier.

  125. $5000 + $1000 sure is a lot of dough, but Brad insists that WOTF is the best “break-in” market.

    Break in…to where? One presumes, the field.

    Well, here is a list of grand prize winners.

    I recognize a number of names, some from short stories, some from novels, and a few have gone on to significantly better and brighter things… but many of the GP winners don’t seem to have done much in the field afterwards. It’s not because people think that all winners are secret Scientologists or blackball anyone, but the WOTF anthologies just are not widely read, and many people in the field do not keep close track of WOTF and who wins what because the whole rolling out of the red carpet with Scientology money is seen as distasteful. One only need go to a Worldcon and watch the members zooooom by the Scientology party room rather than get sucked in, even for free ice cream!

    WOTF grand prize status is certainly is much less predictive of a significant future in the genre than, say, the Campbell Award for best new writer.

    That’s not much of a break-in.

  126. Hey Brad,

    I appreciate your comments and opinions.

    And seeing what you wrote at the end of #128 shows that you see how things can be improved with the Big 3.

    I respect that. But why can’t they see they need to improve.

    Lets be real. Writing is a business. Publishing is a business.

    And as a business it is important to figure out what the consumer wants.

    As a writer I can’t write a story and not worry about what an editor, or slush reader, or post production reader will think of my tale. I must write in a way that someone will say yes to my work. I’m not writing solely for my enjoyment, so I have to take other people’s needs into the equation on how I will do business.

    If as a writer, I let my friendships determine my business practices then I will make many mistakes. If as I writer I do not look to see what will make me more productive and successful then I will fail.

    How many writers only use paper?

    Publishers do not accept handwritten subs.

    How many writers only use typewriters?

    Word Processors are more efficient.

    How many writers depend on or expect the publishers to advertise their books?

    Writers need to be pro-active and get their books out their themselves. Through blogging, networking, websites, etc.

    In order to survive the changes in an environment businesses must change. To hold on to the old way of doing things because of nostalgia, or that’s how we have always done it, is bad business.

    And in the end, that’s what we are doing when we write a story and submit it. Making a business decision.

    And it’s not personal–it’s just business…

  127. My two cents:
    I’m one of those “trying to break in” writers. I have never submitted to the Big Three, entirely because they don’t accept e-subs.

    I probably will, eventually. But they’ll be seeing stories that have been rejected (though hopefully improved since) by every other pro market that’ll look at beginner work. The Big Three shouldn’t be at the bottom of the ‘submit to’ list, to be fair, but they are because it’s going to cost me money to submit to them, so I might as well try to sell to markets that cost me nothing and pay as well or better.

    I’m not sure that the whole many people choosing to not submit has all that much to do with the declining numbers of subscriptions, however, I think that it might be another symptom of an underlying issue with the Big Three. Paper format for short fic is going out the window (maybe even someday for long fic, but I personally believe that day is far far away). Catching up with new innovations in distribution, payment, and format are what is needed to save the Big Three.

    I subscribe to all three, though I’m on the fence about renewing. I enjoy about 80% of what I read in FSF, maybe 55% in Asimov’s, and I can only think of one short story in the last year I’ve liked in Analog (the garden forum/mole problem story), though I absolutely love the articles. If Analog offered a cheap online subscription to their non-fic articles, I’d be all over that. But subscribing and reading the mags let me know where my stories might fit if I do get around to submitting to them, and I found some stories I really loved, so it was worth it, though with money tight and all, not sure if I’ll be resubscribing right away in any case no matter what I decide (though they sure are sending me many letters begging me to re-up, with pretty good deals for the mags).

    (For full disclosure purposes, I did recently submit an entry to WotF, mostly because I decided based on feedback gotten by pros that the story might be awesome and entirely because they do pay the winners very very well. I don’t know how much the postage was, I made my husband take it to the post office for me… :P )

  128. My work for years has involved editing (and chairing) ANSI Standards for the CEA (Consumer Electronics Associataion). Think 100 male engineers in a windowless room, wearing suits. My most significant work is a little number titled ANSI/CEA-608-E, for which CEA, PBS and my former employer won a technical Emmy. (Documentation of Closed Captioning – 2005). If you have run across my avatar, I’m leering at the Emmy.

    While we still hold regular face to face meetings, they are formalities with little work beyond starting new projects being done. All, without exception, documents are electronic – you can buy a printed version of the published work – and all work is done on the phone with an online web-session.

    I’ve edited the newsletter for the NY section IEEE, IEEE among other things brought you Ethernet and wifi, and wouldn’t know what to do with a paper submission if I ever saw one.

    What do you want to bet that the ‘big’ three require the actual article to be in electronic form after it is accepted for publishing?

  129. Eric James Stone:

    “I did not claim the process was efficient, only that Analog was ‘…not as inefficient and opposed to technology as some of the commenters presume.'”

    (rolls eyes)

    Then allow me to rephrase, Mr. “I’m now contorting enthusiastically to make it look like I did not in fact imply that being made to send a manuscript twice was somehow efficient”: Making you send your manuscript twice seems as inefficient as I presumed.

    Gary Gibson:

    “isn’t it possible you could just drop a line to the Big 3 and say hi, I’d like to send you a story, can I send it in an email? Since presumably they’d already know who you are, I’m guessing it wouldn’t be very difficult for them to make an exception for the professionals.”

    It’s possible, and I don’t doubt that some of the magazines’ favorite writers do send manuscripts electronically. But personally speaking I would feel a bit skeezy trying to force my way to the head of the line like that (without a prior relationship), and anyway, it doesn’t solve their larger problem of not quite living in the 21st century. They should be capable of handling e-mail submissions from anyone, not just a handpicked few.

    Brad R. Torgersen:

    “Thanks to all those who refrain from sending paper subs. By self-eliminating from the slush, you make my job statistically easier.”

    This is an obnoxiously smug statement that both you and Eric James Stone have made, and made in jest or not, and it’s not actually true, since getting a story into Asimov’s/Analog/F&SF isn’t actually simply a matter of statistics, it’s also a matter of editorial evaluation of quality. Which is to say if your story sucks, it’s not getting in, regardless of how many other people submit, and it if it rocks the editors socks, it’s going to get bought no matter how many other stories there are. What the statement above really says is “I don’t understand the editorial process, and also my math is a bit shaky.”

    Likewise this obnoxiously smug statement ignores the fact that there are a sufficiently large number of other outlets for work that do accept electronic submissions, so people who self-select for electronic submissions still do perfectly well in placing work — possibly, statistically speaking (as a matter of sales to misses), better than you.

    At this point the question to my mind is less whether an individual writer is doing herself a disservice not submitting to “the big three” and whether “the big three” are doing themselves a disservice by shutting themselves off from writers they could get work from simply by accepting electronic submissions. You seem to believe the balance of power in this equation is on the side of the magazines, but you know. I personally don’t know about that.

  130. It’s worth noting I think, that two of the commenters upstream—Cat Valente and Tim Pratt—recently launched online projects and directly appealed to readers for donations. Both projects were widely discussed, linked to, tweeted about, etc., and it’s the world’s safest assumption that both writers got four-figures worth of donations in a matter of days.

    Then there’s Mr. Scalzi, who if he says, “I sure like the meatball sandwiches at Jerry’s Deli in Dayton,” can be sure that when he next goes to that deli it’ll be full of nerds with rings of tomato sauce around their mouths and all the meatballs will be gone.

    Meanwhile, the Big Three magazines are losing circulation every year.

    Perhaps if they accepted esubs and these new writers with significant online followings had something in these magazines to promote and an enthusiasm for spreading the word… well, you finish the thought.

  131. In my opinion, Bubba, fornicate, fight, or hold on a might. All prank monkeying aside, paper submission follows a mostly globally consistent format, Standard Manuscript Format. Online submission formatting is all over the place, though guidelines and style manuals are shaking out into several narrow standards, depending on whether submitted inline or as attachment and on a house’s sentiment-driven preferences.

    Formatting is not a matter of setting or following a draconian dictate, it’s a matter of reading ease. A line of abstract glyphs represents 65 characters in SMF. Average human vision sees and the mind interprets half the line in one eyeblink, five words, on paper or screen. Blink-blink-carriage return. In book publication format and in SMF. Paper digests vary in column width, but generally follow the newspaper column content/advertisements format. Online formatting line width is all over the place in publication format and submission presentation, though, again, it’s shaking out into a few narrow standards in the high end outfits.

    A recent survey claimed that 60 percent of news readers are now reading their news online. Most online news columns have narrow columns–less than 65 characters. Much of the prose published online is as wide as the page–up to whatever browser accessiblity settings display. Talk about behind The Times. In the news: Paper newspapers are folding up due to waning revenues from advertising and subscriber base migrating to online news outlets. Surveys are ongoing in reading fiction online. MacMillan recently conducted an online survey evaluating online novel reading, results are pending. Hope they release them to the public.

    In my opinion, bubba, it’s all an evolving process. Form follows function. Standards evolve from practice, praticality, and preferential sentiments. Sentiments hold on for a might, but practicality eventually wins out. Meanwhile, talking about it, that’s what’s happening during this testy transition phase. Will the outcome leave paper fiction digests in the dust of obscurity or will online reading reinvigorate fiction’s popularity? For me it’s a foregone conclusion, paper will survive, online will dominate. I’m reminded of a Heinlein title that fits the current state of the genres, creativity- and technology-wise, _The Past Through Tomorrow_ 1967.

  132. Well, that was a slightly predictable progression: Here’s why I’m right and you’re all wrong; those who disagree with me are sad and foolish; oh, I was just being a devil’s advocate and tongue-in-cheek; thanks for the discussion and I’m outta here before I get my rhetorical ass beat any further.

    opinionbubba @138, how is online formatting complicated? Plaintext, and if you feel the need to add EMPHASIS or show time passed, why, the Internets have conventions from back before all that new-fangled HTML came out.

  133. Actually the statistical issue does have some relevance. You can write the most wonderful short story, perfect for the audience of say F&SF and one which will tickle the brain stem of GVG — but if you never submit it to F&SF, for any reason, he’ll never offer to buy it. If many people say here that they’d submit to the Big Three if only they’d take e-subs, I believe them. 0 sent for N stories is a flat zero percent chance you’ll be published in any market.

    Thus the total size of the pool is diminished. Now obviously crappy stories are going to get bounced. But there are also quality stories which don’t get bought because the editor doesn’t have room for them in the near future — and they aren’t going to tie up resources far into the future. Likewise it is easier to sell stories in the lower to middle of the range of word limits than the maximum, due to space in future issues. Baen’s Universe, which takes e-subs, doesn’t like to have buys more than six months ahead. When they fill their slots they close to submissions. If they are closed, then 0 sent for N stories I have in rotation is also a zero percent chance that you’ll be bought by that market during that time.

    Net result, if you’ve written a quality story and it goes through a pool of N stories or M stories, where N < M, the former is statistically going to give you a better shot. Whether this "advantage" is significant or not, it is there.

    It is also interesting that while people here have decried the cost of printing subs, no one has commented on the cost of having an Internet connection in order to do e-subs. Such costs are presumably just chalked up to the "cost of doing business in 2009."

    Dr. Phil

  134. Just to be clear in 140 1st paragraph, that is “zero percent chance you’ll be published in any PARTICULAR market.”

    Dr. Phil

  135. Dr. Phil:

    “You can write the most wonderful short story, perfect for the audience of say F&SF and one which will tickle the brain stem of GVG — but if you never submit it to F&SF, for any reason, he’ll never offer to buy it.”

    Well, there’s always a chance GVG will solicit a story directly, no submission required. I’ve been solicited by one of the “big three” editors before.

  136. mythago @ 139

    din’t say it was complex; said all over the place. Dominus vobiscum, argumentum ad hominem–argument against a belief or opinion of the speaker not the assertion–that it’s all over the place.

  137. Actually Dr. Phil, to nitpick, in the whole formula thing, JBU is a bad example to use, because technically even when the regular slush is closed to subs, the bar slush is open… :)

  138. John Scalzi,

    Do you read all of your books in electronic format only? If not, I think it’s hypocritical of you to criticize the big three for not joining the electronic age. I’m sure that they like printed manuscripts for the same reasons that you like printed books. (eye strain, writing in the margin, like the feel of the real thing, etc.)


  139. liloleme:

    “If not, I think it’s hypocritical of you to criticize the big three for not joining the electronic age.”

    That’s apparently because you confuse consumer preference for business correspondence preference. The one has very little to do with the other.

    What would have been more on point for you to ask would be: “If you were an editor, would you read all your submissions in electronic format only,” the answer to which is yes, in fact, I would and have. Likewise I do all my business reading and writing online and prefer it to paper correspondence to the point of exclusion of the latter for everything short of tax forms and the occasional invoice. Which makes me rather not a hypocrite, actually.

  140. The Big Three may consider the need to post your submission to be a ‘bozo filter’ but if you live outside North America it’s a show-stopper.

    Although the cost of posting hard-copy to the US from the UK (where I live) is high, I used to do it. However, the real problem lies with providing a SASE. IRCs (International Reply Coupons) are no longer accepted by most US magazines, and buying US stamps from outside the US is virtually impossible: the last time I did it through the USPS website it cost a fortune; when I tried to do it recently I could see no way of getting airmail stamps shipped to a country other than the US! So I can get a story over the pond (slowly, at some cost) … but I can’t get a response back. I don’t think not seeing my stuff is any great loss to those ‘zines but there are some seriously talented writers in the UK who are put off by the near impossibility of submitting to US.

    Even the small concession of replying to snail-mail submissions from abroad by email would go a long way to offsetting my prejudice (which I probably shouldn’t voice on (your) Independence Day) that it sometimes feels like Americans don’t think the rest of the world is important, or even real.

  141. Actually John, if it were me, I’d want both printed and emailed. I’d convert all the emailed versions to mp3 files using‘s textaloud then I could quickly listen to all the stories, skipping forward when a story didn’t work for me, while I do other mindless activities.

    But I’d still want the written form, because that’s how I like to edit… with a pen and paper. One tends to see things they miss on the screen for some reason. I’d obviously only need the printed versions of stories I’m considering, but wouldn’t want to waste my own resources and time printing those out.

    Not to mention, requiring printouts does act as a filter as you’ve said. Even though you don’t think there’s much of a difference in what is received, it seems to me, that if it saves only an hour a month in crappy manuscripts not received, that’s 12 hours a year or a good long day of my life that I don’t have to waste on crappy manuscripts.

    Finally, I think first time writers probably like having a tangible first rejection/acceptance letter.


  142. requiring printouts does act as a filter as you’ve said.

    As has been pointed out over and over again, that filter acts to keep out a) non-US submissions and b) submissions from writers who prefer e-submission.

  143. Lilo, that’s just about the most obtuse thing I’ve “heard” in this thread yet. Do you really think an editor of Gordon’s caliper would listen to a computer-generated voice read the submissions aloud, submissions that had miraculously crawled out of the primordial ooze that is the slush pile and found their way to his office in the clouds? Never in a hundred years would he do that, or any other editor worth his weight in . . . stamps! Are you a professional editor? Or do you simply hop around from writer blog to writer blog peddling your software? And what is it with this absurd notion of “writers with stamps and spittle are better writers?” These are editors of sff we’re going on about! They should bloody well know better! SFF magazines are NOT any one person’s to flush down the toilet. Darwin. Evolution. Let the magazine evolve already . . . and if you can’t wrap your head around electronic submissions, then step down! Let a young, dare I say, techno-savvy Internet-friendly editor pick up the proverbial ball and run with it. It’s no different than those shape-recognition toys I played with as a child. The square block DOESN’T fit in the circular hole. And it never will. “SFF writers are the most imaginative people in the history of the world,” says Mork for Ork, the default AT&T Natural Voice with my new Next Up software.

  144. One of the arguments upthread was that the Big 3 provide the majority of short fiction award nominees.

    This year’s Hugo numbers do hold up this assertion, but barely-

    Novella: 3 of 5
    Novellette: 3 of 5
    Short Story: 2 of 5

    -for 8 of 15- just over half.

    As a voter, I was provided access to all of the stories online,(thanks to Anticipation and our gracious host). Subscription/purchase was unnecessary in order to vote. I wonder if the availability of works online will serve as a teaser- and get more people to subscribe to the Big 3 and the online mags.

  145. So, I just found this contest that Tor UK is putting on with SciFiNow: non-published novelists send in a synopsis and the first three chapters of their novel. Six entrants make the shortlist, submit their already-completed novel, and one of those six gets their book published by Macmillan in the UK in 2010. No advance, but 20% royalties and half the revenue from world rights.

    The contest only asks that you double space your entry before you email it in.

    If they can do it, the Big Three (and WoTF) can do it, too.

  146. Asimov’s and Analog are magazines edited by and targeted toward 70-year-old men.

    So if you want a story published there, just write something from the POV of an old man, print it out on parchment and give it to the Pony Express courier to bring it on in. Nothing about that is going to change unless the editorial staff all dies simultaneously and some new spring chicken of a 60-year-old decides to take the magazine in a new direction.

  147. # Sheila @65:

    I’m not sure if you mentioned it multiple times or if you were only one of many to suggest that the only readers of The Big Three are people who hope to sell to them, but I thought I’d add a data-point to your graph.

    Though I’m a (mostly) aspiring writer, and though my inner 16-year-old would be thrilled to be published in Analog or even S&SF, I’ve actually been an Analog subscriber for years as a *reader*. My fiction is mostly mainstream or fantasy, not hard-SF, but most months I quite literally give the new issue of Analog a kiss when it arrives.

    Just sayin’.

    (Mind you, I also think they’re being idiotic in maintaining the paper-bar.)

  148. John, you’re right that any editor can directly solicit from a particular writer. But I considered that outside the normal submission process. Besides, an editor can solicit and an author can choose to not submit a story, or a solicited story can be declined to be published, so that subset is not a 100% system.

    Likewise, Baen’s Bar is not a normal submission venue, one that not everyone would want to participate in. I was assuming we were discussing the traditional author – manuscript – submission – decision system.

    The paid F&SF workshop discussed in an earlier Whatever post, would also be on my list of non-normal submissions.

    Dr. Phil

  149. Great post, John. I’ve sold two stories so far, one to InterGalactic Medicine Show and one to Apex Magazine. Both accept electronic submissions and working with the editors of both magazines, it was easy to do revisions using the built-in revision feature of M$ Word. I still submit to the Big Three, but I’ve often wondered why they don’t accept electronic submissions. Never seemed to make sense to me, but I’m still relatively new at this.

  150. Geoffrey Dow @157

    I did concede that there were, in fact, people who read those magazines for pleasure rather than market research. I just hadn’t known of any of them until I’d remarked as such in this thread.

  151. Electronic subs or lack thereof is just a symptom of a larger issue: mags being run into the ground due to a perverse unwillingness or inability to see the present clearly, let alone the future. Websites that could cheaply be brought up to snuff using WordPress but instead look like they belong to the 1990s, a lack of the most basic creativity in marketing and arranging content, etc. Hey, do a steampunk issue and pull what Conjunctions does–market it like a book and get it in the hands of the gatekeepers of that awesome subculture. Just an example. Run interviews with writers that would attract attention on the newsstand. Revamp your design at least a little bit. But no–no sign of any ability to adapt to circumstances. And no seeming understanding that their friends aren’t the ones telling them everything is okay but the ones who are being critical because they don’t want to see more markets fold but are also looking at this clusterf— of combined lack of imagination and stubborness and thinking, “no. no really? they’re really going to take on modern air craft carriers with a WWII tugboat and a mechanical monkey playing the accordion?” it’s like the last glory days of the Catskills comedians out there. Seemingly going on stage without a care in the world doing old Benny Youngman material in the era of Lenny Bruce. Ah well…

  152. This is just the sort of thing we would have happily accepted (via e-mail, no less!) for Speculations, way back before the turn of the century. Good stuff, John … please keep it coming.

  153. “… I don’t doubt that some of the magazines’ favorite writers do send manuscripts electronically. But personally speaking I would feel a bit skeezy trying to force my way to the head of the line like that (without a prior relationship).”

    Fair enough, but novelists do that all the time by having agents submit material for them precisely because they can hopefully jump the queue that way, and there’s nothing skeezy in that. It’s a demonstration of legitimacy, as is being already professionally published as a novelist in the context of submitting short fiction. Just saying.

  154. Nah. Book publishers have two separate queues, one for agents and one for unagented writers. It’s not a matter of jumping the line, it’s a matter of where one gets to queue (and if there’s only one queue at a book publisher’s, it’ll be the one for agents).

  155. Having considered submitting short stories to various markets in the past (and probably will, again), I can without any hesitation say that “paper submission, trans-Atlantic” is a big no-no. Mostly because it is terribly inconvenient. I’d need to secure US postage (as others have said, this is non-trivial), I’d need to get the printer working again (it seems normal consumer-grade printers die after roughly 13 months, just as the warranty runs out), I’d need to take a half-day off work, so I can actually get to the post office and… and…

    Of course, I am also in the situation where I have to be picky with electronic submission, as most seem to be wanting RTF or MS Word documents and not having any Microsoft office software readily at hand, that is a bit of an issue, too. Plain text, HTML or a variety of type-set formats I can do from my document source(s), though. I doubt any fiction publisher will be asking for LateX documents any soon, though.

  156. Scalzi @ 38:
    “Well, but when I had no publication credits I didn’t submit to them either, because I couldn’t be bothered to print out a story and put it into the mail, even then. My disdain for the process has been constant even as my level of notoriety has been variable.”

    So, John, you were a cranky young fart?

    Speaking of cranky young farts, the blatant ageism of some of the comments here is disheartening.

  157. Oh, and what Brad Torgesen And Ingvar M said, about the lack of standard submission formats for electronic submissions. I really hate having to re-format a manuscript every time I send one to a new electronic market, especially when some of those markets carry it to the level of not only requesting a particular file type, but that it be done with a particular software, in a particular font, and even with particular leading and kerning. (“Dammit, Jim, I’m a writer, not a typesetter!”)

  158. If you take it for granted that the editors at the Big Three must read on paper, and not off screens or e-ink, then this makes sense to me.

    Waaaay up at #12, John Scalzi said, “Because it would cost me money to buy a printer, paper and ink, the rate they pay is shite […]”
    But doesn’t that work both ways? If they have to print off their entire slush pile, AND ease of submission causes the size of the slush pile to increase, then they won’t even be able to afford the “shite” they’re paying now. That will ultimately mean a decline in quality, and probably a decline in readership, leading to a further reduction in what they can pay, and so on.

    That means that all of this argument boils down to telling them, “Don’t read off paper.” Which is all well and good, and some people have had wonderful success with e-ink devices. And the reasons you quote above do seem pretty silly. Hating reading off a screen, though, that’s not just an affectation – if I hate doing my job, I do a lousy job. If they feel that they can do a better job of picking the best work by reading it in print, and umpteen-hundred people a month are willing to submit in print (taking on themselves the cost of printing that slushpile) then that seems reasonable to me. Optimal, no, and not the way I would do it, but reasonable. And yes, it’s a real shame to lose out on the many people who can’t or won’t submit in print – but it’s also a shame to lose out on the people who can’t or won’t write in English, or who can’t or won’t shorten that novella-length piece, or who simply read other magazines and dream of seeing their work in print elsewhere, etc. etc.

    There’s the other thing in favor of paper that has only been touched on above, but is worth rephrasing here in this context: when you take the time and expense to print something out and send it through the mail, there’s just a little bit of extra incentive to “get it right.” It gives one last opportunity for revision and self-correction. In theory, it ought to be the same as electronic submission, since you want it to be as good as possible before taking an irrevocable step… and yet it really does seem that committing to physical form and spending a little cash makes it just that much more important to get it right than sending by email.
    Or you can look at it another way: These places have rolling submissions, unlike the deadlines for, say, academic conferences. That means that with digital submission there’s really no downside (for an unpublished author, at least) to sending out something that’s not quite done. If it gets accepted, score! If not, they’ll never remember you, and you can always do another draft later. The reviewing process risks being turned into a manual version of Word’s spell-check.

    Now John Scalzi, a consummate professional, would probably never even dream of abusing the Big Three’s readers like this. But I’m willing to bet that a lot of people would.

  159. I realize I’m late to this party, but here’s my story nonetheless. My writing partner and I wrote a series of books for one of the big NYC publishers a few years ago. They accepted electronic submissions, but when we got the galleys back for proofing we always found typographical errors that were not in our original doc. We found out they were taking our document and then paying someone to rekey the thing, hence the new errors. We could never get a rational explanation of why this needed to be done.

  160. On the whole paper submissions mean you take an extra bit of time to get it right, I call bs at least from personal experience. Once something is printed if I notice a minor error, I’m not going to reprint the thing just so that typo is gone, it’s a huge waste of resources. (Well, maybe if the typo was in the first page, then I might fix it and reprint that page, because that just looks super lazy…)

    Also, I’ve never spent more than 5 minutes formatting an electronic submission… it’s really not that hard to set a document up in manuscript format. I’ve yet to run into a pro-rate spec fic mag that asks for super weird or hard to accomplish formatting…

  161. I keep hearing the same old hoary statements that two of the reasons print editors refuse to accept online submissions is that that 1) it’s going to mean every Tom, Dick, and Harry will submit a story, with the click of a button, and be deluged with thousands of submissions and 2) that the quality of paper submissions are somehow higher than online, because of the time and expense authors take in prepping said stories.

    I call bullshit. And I call it bullshit because I’ve done both, with transitioning FANTASY MAGAZINE from print to online. (And I’ve seen the slush for WEIRD TALES for several years). I was a bit apprehensive, at first, but I actually found the following to be true: 1) the number of submissions, statistically, did not go higher, and 2) the quality of the submissions actually got better. Yes, you heard that right.

    Consider this: for the print edition of FM we would get paper manuscripts from inmates, from little children, from whackjobs, in various formats and layouts and god-knows-what-else, and it was pretty bad stuff. The chance that I would find two great gems in that great slushpile was pretty slim. And it just ate up time to go to the post office, get the envelopes, open them, respond to them, mail them back, it was just a big waste of item and energy.

    However, with the online submissions I’m far more likely to find four to six, or more sometimes, every month. And possibly one of the reasons why the quality might be higher is that the magazine is out there, online, for authors to read, which helps them to determine if their fiction is right for this venue. On top of that a lot of writing workshops are very much attuned to what’s going online, and are more inclined to submit. Quite a lot of the online submissions I know for a fact have workshop credentials.

    The idea that authors mailing out paper submissions somehow are better “invested” than authors submitting from online is just nonsense.

  162. izanobu:
    It *is* an additional chance to self-correct, whether you use it or not. If the potential waste of resources does not cause you to proofread that much more carefully before printing, why would I expect that your electronic submissions have fewer errors than your paper submissions?

    That is a very interesting post, and I’ll have to think about it. My first instinct however, is that you might not be making the point you think you are: Access to email and the ability to submit electronically is its own barrier to entry. There is a temptation to consider the Internet the great equalizer, and in time that will be true. But today the Internet is not universally/conveniently available, whether to inmates or little children or simply very poor people.

    I would also ask you politely to think carefully before using the word “bullshit” when addressing someone you do not know. If you think I am wrong, fine, but I assure you that I am not engaging in sophistry or otherwise arguing in bad faith.

  163. I can’t think of a single pro mag that accepts hand-written submissions. Therefore, to submit to a pro mag, you have to have some sort of word processor. If you can afford a word processor and the printing costs and postage, you can afford to have a free email address and use a library or other free internet access point to e-submit something, so that whole internet as barrier is sort of a silly argument. Not to mention that others have already pointed out that at least one of the Big Three requests the story sent via email AFTER acceptance for publication, so you’d still need a computer and email access to be published most likely. I tender that your argument there doesn’t hold much water at all when you think about it…

    In the end, for me at least, spending zero dollars and 5 minutes to submit to a pro market will always be superior to spending 2-4 dollars plus ink/paper/envelopes/SASE postage and 30 minutes getting to a post office.

  164. One of my readers sent a link to this discussion, and reading it with the discussions was a convenient way to avoid work. I hadn’t known that The Big Three didn’t accept electronic submissions, but then I wouldn’t. I don’t write short fiction any longer. Niven does, but I suspect he submits short fiction the same way I would: send it to our agent, who will know the best way to get it into someone’s hands.

    I can sort of understand a reluctance to reading electronic submissions: they’re so easy to send. Moreover, they pile up in an inbox until there is this discouraging 5,639 UNREAD staring at you. With paper you have ten feet of slush which takes more physical space, so perhaps that’s just as bad.

    My BYTE columns were always sent on line except once when I was in Europe and couldn’t get a connection. This would have been in the 1980’s. I had a NEC P2101 (I think that’s correct) portable (displayed something like 8 64-character lines as I recall) and I’d been able to send the column back from Germany but in Lichtenstein there wasn’t any way at all. So I used a Radio Shack thermal printer to print a 5800 word column on a 3 inch wide tape and sent that by Emerson. Some editor in Peterborough had to type the thing in. She was barely civil to me next time we met.

    But: FOOTFALL was written in Word, but Lester and Judy Lynne del Rey insisted that we print it and send the novel on paper. All the editing was done on paper. We made our corrections on our master copy, but that was never sent to the publisher. That was, I think, the last book that went in on paper, and may have been the last thing I ever submitted on paper. Sometime in the late 1980’s.

    I don’t get many ideas for short science fiction, and I don’t have as much creative energy as I used to have so I sort of save that for bigger works, which pay better. I am surprised to learn that the Big Three don’t take electronic submissions, but I suppose I shouldn’t be. Alas, although i subscribe to them, I seldom read them. From their circulation figures, fewer people do every year. Which is a pity. I can remember when the arrival of the new Analog (heck I can remember when it was Astounding!) was a big event that stopped every other activity in the house…

    Regarding reading on screen, now that Kindle and other readers exist (and Kindle apps for iPhone) there seems to be a lot more of that than there used to be, but the CDROM book market never went anywhere because a lot of people just didn’t want to read things on screen. Of course in those days the type didn’t look good, the screens weren’t bright or in good color and didn’t have good fonts, and the experience wasn’t all that pleasant. Things have got a lot better now, but so far as I know the number of books read on desktop screens is very small compared to paperback books. But then so is all electronic reading of long works.

    Kindle and iPhone aren’t unpleasant ways to read books. I read much of the fiction I do read on Kindle. I will say, though, that when I am asked to read a work for a blurb or review a book, I really do prefer that it be on paper, even though I spend a great deal of my time reading stuff on screen. Probably a matter of habit. And I suspect Writers of the Future insists on paper copies because it is a lot easier to keep track of how many copies exist, and keep them from getting loose on the Internet, when there is no electronic copy. They send paper copies to the judges.

    Jerry Pournelle
    Chaos Manor

  165. The ‘electronic format’ issue is a bit of a red herring – that’s a criticism of magazines that do accept e-submissions for needing to get their standards right, not a counterargument in favor of paper submissions. RTF is a standard format across many word processors (OpenOffice, which is free, uses it) and certainly requiring plaintext in email solves the whole issue altogether.

    John @173, the Internet may be a barrier to some, but paper-only is a barrier to many – for example, as has been repeatedly noted, anyone who doesn’t live in the same country in which the editor receives mail. And postage costs are a barrier to the very poor – particularly when a manuscript may be needed to be submitted multiple times, along with SASEs.

  166. The simple fact is that it’s far easier to handle a slush pile that is in paper form. And the “big three” mags’ quality far surpasses any electronic mags I’ve seen yet. So their methods must work. Still, change is coming and it probably isn’t going to be pretty.

  167. Heh. Great piece. You’re right, it is embarassing. I’ve been a desk editor at a publishing company as well as an author, and electronic submissions are safer, more convenient and easier to process. The big three come over as fussy, crotchety old men — the very antithesis of sf vision.

  168. 153 @ Pam Adams

    “One of the arguments upthread was that the Big 3 provide the majority of short fiction award nominees.”

    There are a few reasons that may contribute to this:

    1. Many people who bother to nominate for Hugo’s are longtime fen who started reading the big three when they were all that was out there.

    2. Many others who nominate refer to lists on websites like the NESFA puts out. Many of the list makers are long time fen and big 3 readers I suspect.

    3. The big 3 still publish a number of stories from well known writers who have a following and will nominate their work year after year.

    Also consider that only a few hundred people typical nominate for the Hugo’s which skews the results. (more people vote once the nominations are in).


  169. The Past Through Tomorrow

    I apprenticed to a colonial master printer decades ago. He’d made a break from the colonial press and ran a commercial job shop. After a learning period during which I did the measely-peasely and grunt work, I operated a kliggy press, set hot and cold lead, and so on, mechanical intaglio printing. “Cut to the chase” has a noble and ancient meaning in printer’s lingo different than in cinema’s johnny-come-lately jargon. I once had the chance to closely examine and operate a press little modified from Gutenberg’s original. Fascinating.

    No one I’ve encountered who prints production work bemoaned the demise of the hand-operated, movable-type press or the lead type mechanical presses. Some grousing, sure, about how mass production marginalizes craftsmanship. Not that any of the old ways are fully gone, there’s still several ancient, working presses out there. The talking points were a lot like this discussion thread in terms of volume, side-taking, vitriolic contention about tired old ways and new fangled contraptions. But it all shook out into stable production practices for a few decades and output increased markedly and costs came down and labor was saved and profits went up, as it always does before a new production model intrudes. Back-straining tons of lead went the way of the hobby horse, to museums and universities and specialty shops and into the recycling bin. The job shop converted to a Kinkos when no one wanted high-end printing anymore. Oh, woe for the bygone days of genuinely engraved invitations and announcements, not the pre-embossed stock printed with an ink jet printer.

    Of late–always an eclectic vocational tourist–as consumer, I read digital and paper equally: novels, news, references, short forms. As editor, I read and mark up in digital and paper. As typesetter, makeready and layout artist, I can do the old ways–oh, the tedium of opaquing–but impose of late solely in digital. As writer, I write digital and paper. I submit digital and paper. As publisher, I output digital and paper. As graphic artist, I draw and paint paper and digital. My serigraph printing equipment is as ancient in makeup as the art’s earliest origins at the same time as modern as science has advanced it. I wanted that job shop’s platen press, linotype type setter, and type cases and all the other related accessories, but I was outbid by deeper pockets. Maybe that’s not so unfortunate. Nothing like a 20-ton lead ball and chain to anchor a person down. There’s an 80-pound antique book press gathering dust on my bindery table. It’s anchor enough.

    Paper or digital, paper or plastic, wood, lead, tin, cellulose or bytes, the old ways have a place, the new ways have a place. In the genres, it’s not all about future vision, it’s backwards looking too. Nostalgia, sentiments aside, people do as people need to do, publishers too.

  170. First off- thank you for this post! Thank you a million times, since this is something that I have been ranting about for the last year and a half and I’m glad to see it getting some attention and discussion.

    Something about the whole “postal-only” vs “electronic subs” argument that I feel deserves more mention -and that Gary Gibson, Gray Woodland and Jaine Fenn (among others) mentioned earlier in comments-
    Look at the stories published in the “Big 3” compared to pubs that accept electronic subs- how many international contributors do you see?

    There is a whole world of subs the print-only crowd will never see because sending postal subs from some countries is near-impossible. Those in the UK and some parts of Western Europe have it easy compared to many other places…try sending snail mail trans-Pacific!

    I live in China right now and these are a few of the issues I encounter dealing with postal submissions:
    – a minimum 21-day wait each way above and beyond any time spent in the slush pile (often much longer- that is the record so far for any of my friends to receive a letter from the US. There are some things- about 10% or so- that never arrive at their destination.)
    – a postal service that has never heard of IRCs
    – landlords who don’t have the key to the mailbox, so you have to break into the box late at night when there’s no security around to get any mail that might have made it there. (I’ve had this problem at three different apartments- no idea why mailbox keys are such a problem here!)
    -a postal service that randomly opens packages/large envelopes to approve the contents. Unapproved items can be rejected for any reason the postal worker deems necessary. This can include “I can’t read it because it’s in English.”
    – different sized paper. Yes, seriously- they don’t do 8 1/2 by 11 here.

    I could go on, but you get the idea. For those of us who live an ocean away from the US, this isn’t a couple-hour process or a mere annoying inconvenience. This is a major roadblock to submitting to these markets.

    And yes, as a potential international contributor, I am a little pissed off that I am purposefully excluded from their submission pool by policies that make submitting to them prohibitively difficult. Especially when the reasons I’m given for the policies are presented as “You’re obviously not dedicated to the field if you can’t get a postal submission to us.” It’s like insult on top of stupidity.

  171. #meh @156 said: “Asimov’s and Analog are magazines edited by and targeted toward 70-year-old men.”

    I’m not sure that Sheila Williams would appreciate being referred to as a 70-year-old man, but whatever.

    I’m a little surprised at the level of intensity this whole discussion has reached. A business has to make its own decisions, based on its own best knowledge, of what processes work best for it. Perhaps accepting e-subs might improve the bottom line at the Big 3, perhaps not. No doubt that cutting the huge costs of New York City office space by moving elsewhere could improve the bottom line of the big book publishers, too – but I don’t see anyone complaining about that.

    People seem to be forgetting the Golden Rule: he who has the gold makes the rules. For aspiring writers like Brad Torgersen, it’s the editors and publishers who have the gold so they get to make the rules. With established Big Name authors like John Scalzi or Jerry Pournelle, they have the gold (the content) so they get to make the rules. (Well, up to a point, anyway.)

    If Scalzi wanted to go solo with his next novel and go direct to Kindle, cutting out the publishing house middle-man, he could probably do quite well with it. He’s a bigger name now than when he was offering “Old Man’s War” on the web, before Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Tor picked it up. (Am I remembering that right? Certainly paper has been good to you, Mr. Scalzi.)

    BTW, for those noting circulation figures as though they were indicative of anything significant: declines in circulation figures of the magazines — all magazines — has as more to do with changes and bottlenecks in the distribution process than it does with the content. This is also true for mass-market books. It’s hard to sell retail copies and find new subscribers if the magazine isn’t on the stands, something over which the publishers have very little control and the editors none at all.

  172. The B3 want paper submissions for a simple god reason:
    It makes things easier for them. This is the same reason that their formatting rules are so goofy, it makes things easier for them.

    This alows them to offload work to the authors so they don’t have to do it. They want everything in a fixed width 12-point font double spaced with 1″ margins so they can imediately see how many column inches a story will take up. As a writer it’s a pain, I end up with 2 sepparately formated copies of a story, one that’s actually readable, and a subission copy in “editor format”.
    I’m certainly not going to write while using Currier New for god’s sake. Heck, for me, reformating into editor format is a bigger pain than going to the post office.

    Then if they accept it, they want an electronic copy to make the layout easier for them.

    Science Journals want the exact opisite, again for the same reason, it’s easier for them. Since the Journals generally publish by the page, not column inch, they want an electonic copy. Again, they want it formatted exactly, with the proper margins, font, font size, and gutters, basically making the author responsible for the layout (again offloading costs to the author)

    So, requireing paper submissions for the slush pile makes a lot of sense from their perspective. Not having an electronic method for established authors is simply stupid though.

    The reason their market demographics are shrinking has little to do with their submission policies and a lot more to do with the fact that very few people subscribe to magazines (or other monthly publications) anymore.
    I buy Books, not Magazines.

    The only monthly periodicles I read are ones that are either free because they are paid for by advertizing (eg, American Rifleman is a revenue generator for the NRA, even though it’s no cost to members) or are trade publications (agin paid for by adverstizine) or Trade Journals (e.g. Physics Today) which are generally expenseable as part of ones job.

  173. BTW, for those noting circulation figures as though they were indicative of anything significant: declines in circulation figures of the magazines — all magazines — has as more to do with changes and bottlenecks in the distribution process than it does with the content.

    Many of those changes and bottlenecks are at least a decade old. (Many magazines have gotten around this by migrating content online. Check out the websites for the digests and see how they have adapted to this new media landscape. Basically, they hardly have at all.)

    Further, the digests are losing current subscribers at a rate that does indeed suggest indifference to the content in the magazines.

  174. It’s a silly argument. If they want paper (and they do), I’ll
    send paper. If Clarkesworld and Subterranean and JBU want electronic, I’ll send eletronic. My job as a writer is to sell what I write, not to argue with an editor about the method he wants me to use for submissions.

    — Mike Resnick

  175. Well, Mike, you have a perfect right to take that position. That doesn’t make it a silly argument. The question isn’t whether they have a right to do it; they certainly do. The question is whether it’s worth the trouble of submitting to them since they want something so stupid.

    Some say yes, some say no. Everyone is defending their positions on it fairly intelligently. Not a silly argument at all.

    You’re willing to be flexible on submission format. Others, including John, are not.

    It’s astonishing how much that first sentence of yours annoys me. It’s like you’re saying “OK, now I’ll tell you what to think, and you can stop your silly childish bickering.” I hope that’s not what you meant, but that’s how it sounds to me.

  176. OK, mea culpa. It is -not- a silly argument for John or me, who sell everything we write and have editors constantly asking us to submit books and stories to them. But it -is- a silly argument for some of the people here who won’t submit to prestige markets that require paper submissions, who cut themselves out of career-enhancing markets because they claim it is a matter of principle. For example, Asimov’s traditionally supplies half the Hugo nominees; whose career do you hurt by ruling them out, not for matters of pay or content, but because you don’t like their form of submission? Things will change, but as far as I know I’m the only person to make the Hugo ballot twice with electronic stories — and even I know enough not to eliminate major markets like the digests because I’d rather not be bothered with postage and such. So let me amend and limit my opening statement: if every word you write is not, in essence, pre-sold, -then- eliminating any market because it has traditional submission requirements is counter-productive and, yes, silly.

  177. I agree it’s foolish to not submit to a market because you don’t like their submission requirements. Those of us still trying to make our way in the world may chose to bump a market down our priority list for this reason, but then that’s our loss.

    However if a market’s submission requirements mean certain writers simply cannot submit their stories at all (see further the posts above by myself and others, particularly Bridget Coila) then that’s a whole different problem.

  178. Jaine, it’s certainly a different problem, but hardly incapable of solution. I have friends in Africa and Asia; when they want to submit to a US magazine that only accepts hard-copy contributions, they e-mail me their stories and -I- print them out and mail them in. Nothing to it.

    — Mike Resnick

  179. You’re right that there are ways around the problem of posting from outside the US, Mike. One solution I have used before is asking to be paid in US stamps by low-paying markets (yes, I know, the sort of ‘zines you advise us not to bother with). But it is still a lot of unnecessary hassle. Perhaps what I need is a US ‘pen friend’…

  180. they e-mail me their stories and -I- print them out and mail them in. Nothing to it.

    You know what would work as well? If they could email their stories directly to the magazines! Gosh, that’d cut the middleman right out, help those without cooperative American friends, and generally solve the problem completely.

  181. I’m amazed we’re having this discussion in the year 2009. Many US Courts now require electronic filing. Who would have thought that the three leading science fiction magazines would lag behind lawyers and the slow moving federal and state courts. (Although I confess I still do my first draft using a legal pad and tape dictation).

    This is my favorite excuse: “I have found it much easier to lose electronic submissions than it is to lose manuscripts” Clearly someone’s desk is too neat.

  182. I think it’s foolish to do things you don’t like to do, as one of the great joys of being a writer is not having a boss saying that X or Y must be done “because I say so.”

    Is Scalzi really hurting for Hugo nominations because he doesn’t have a printer and doesn’t feel like buying one? Is Cat Valente — whose antho appearances pay off at anywhere between 6 and 25¢ a word — really hurting for not caring about the big three? They are “selling what they write” after all.

    The magazines, on the other hand, seem to have continuing and increasing troubles with selling what they publish.

  183. Wow, some significant people have checked in on this topic since last week.

    I especially liked Mike Resnick’s input:

    if every word you write is not, in essence, pre-sold, -then- eliminating any market because it has traditional submission requirements is counter-productive and, yes, silly.

    What more need be said? Not much, I suspect.

    One other thing that occurred to me: the world is full of people who all think they know how to do someone else’s job better than it’s already being done.

    This entire thread just seems like more of the same.

    But then, I am starting to suspect this has nothing to do with e-subs versus paper subs, and everything to do with a kind of New School versus Old School turf war.

    For the New School, magazines like Analog are a troublesome relic of the past, and the sooner Analog — and Asimov’s and F&SF — are put out to pasture (or reinvented in a New School fashion under new management) the better for the New Schoolers, who all seem to be profoundly annoyed by multiple aspects of the Old School Big Three: their style, their process, who and what they buy, the fact that they still hold positions of such high prominence in the genre, get lots of awards, etc.

    Basically, a lot of the posts in this thread are very much of the, “Nyah nyah nyah, go away Old School, we never liked you anyway,” mold.

    So it seems as if there is less concern for the health and well-being of the Big Three, as much as there is a lot of snarky schadenfreude.

    Hey, if some of you think Analog or Asimov’s or F&SF just plain suck, say so. Makes a heap more sense — to me anyway — than trying to indirectly attack the Big Three via the (improbable) argument that their paper sub policy is somehow personally embarrassing and distasteful.

    Me, I tend to read The Big Three as homework. They are a facilitator for career advancement and it’s in my best interest to study what they’re publishing — because they still put out tons of stories from some of the best authors — and to keep submitting to them; slim chances of acceptance aside.

    There are usually several stories in every issue of The Big Three that bore and which make me wonder whether if the same story had come into the slush by a non-Name, would it have been bought?

    There are also usually at least one or two stories in each issue of each magazine that electrify and make me remember how beautiful it is to see a nicely-told science fiction or fantasy story. (aka: “Arkfall” from F&SF, “Quaestiones Super Caelo et Mundo” from Analog, “The Erdmann Nexus” from Asimov’s)

    As long as the Big Three keep printing those kinds of tales, I am forced to conclude that not only to the Big Three have value to me as a reader, they have value to the genre to boot, and that my only task — as aspirant — is to continue to read and learn and submit. Regardless of format.

  184. As I’m being bruited about as someone who doesn’t have to beg for publication, I’ll note once again that way back when people in science fiction didn’t have the slightest idea who I was (which would have been five years ago), I still wasn’t submitting to “The Big Three” because of their “no e-mail” policy, among other reasons.

    As for the “he who has the gold makes the rules” statement, well. This implies that the six to nine cents a word rate the “big three” offer somehow qualifies as “gold,” which it does not. Any writer with the ability to write non-fiction as well as fiction can make an easy multiple of the “big three” rate without too much trouble, and for markets which have made a full electronic submission conversion. Or to put it another way, since I left college, I never made less per word as a writer, ever, than when I started writing fiction. That a market that pays as poorly as any of the “big three” do would demand I or any writer jump through an extra, pointless submission hoop kept them off my list of markets to consider long before I became a name in the genre.

    At six to nine cents a word, a market needs to be responsive to writers, or lose out on entire strata of them completely. So when a market offers that low of a pay scale and refuses to accept electronic submissions, it’s simply cutting off its nose to spite its face. Especially when in the same market segment there are other markets which pay comparably or better and accept electronic submissions.

  185. But then, I am starting to suspect this has nothing to do with e-subs versus paper subs, and everything to do with a kind of New School versus Old School turf war.

    There are few things more annoying than someone announcing that They Really Know What The Argument Is About, also known as I Know What Your Agenda Is, And It Really Stinks.

    Possibly people actually believe in their stated positions and you should react to that, instead of creating a negative caricature of that position and then lambasting it.

  186. David:

    Agreed. As a former newspaper man, I am delighted to appear in print, in magazines and in newspapers and obviously in books, and have (and do). But in those cases the magazines and newspapers and books also let me file stories electronically.

    From my point of view (and I am the person who started this whole conversation, after all), this really is just about the “big three” having silly, antiquated submissions policies.

  187. I have no doubt some people really do believe it’s beneath their dignity to submit via paper.

    I also have no doubt that some people in this thread really don’t like The Big Three — for a variety of reasons — and the paper sub vs. e-sub argument is just a convenient way to take shots at The Big Three.

    Now, as to why JS cares about the submission processes of magazines he freely admits he never subbed to — and whose word rate he considers poor — that’s something only JS knows. His, “among other reasons,” is something I’d like to see him expound upon.

  188. Brad@194- Wait? What of the original argument (or really, any of the responses) leads to thinking that the “new school” wants the Big Three to fold?

    I think the whole reason for the massive amounts of discussion on their submission methods is because people really don’t want to see them go. We want to see them stay relevant and continue to mean something big to the Specfic community. I think you’re reading way way too much into this if you believe that anyone would want them to go under. More paying markets are a good thing. We (ie those of us agreeing the Big Three should accept e-mail subs as well) want the Big Three to move into the 21st century, that’s all. Not cave. Nowhere in Scalzi’s original post do I see him saying the “old school” needs to die nah nah nah…

    I do, however, agree it is silly to not submit to the Big Three if you’re an aspiring writer (and able, considering the overseas issues). For me that means that they’ll be getting submissions from me *after* every other pro market has seen the story. That’s all… (And to be fair, I’ve seen plenty of pros get started, win awards, and NEVER published in the Big Three, so there are ways around that too. There are many paths to the same place…)

  189. Brad 199: I have no doubt some people really do believe it’s beneath their dignity to submit via paper.

    Mischaracterization. Saying “it’s too much of a pain and I don’t own a printer and they don’t pay enough” isn’t the same as saying it’s beneath their dignity.

    Could you try a post with no sneering in it? I just want to see if you can do it.

  190. Brad R. Torgersen:

    “I have no doubt some people really do believe it’s beneath their dignity to submit via paper.”

    And I have no doubt some people will continue to make baseless assertions not at all in evidence from the discussion, Brad. Likewise, I do not doubt some people think it’s beneath their dignity to smear peanut butter on their chests and roll around on beach sand while singing selections from The Mikado.

    The magic about the “some people” argument is that it doesn’t require much in the way of proof or connection to what’s actually being said in the thread. The problem with it is that it’s not actually a particularly strong argument. Which has been pointed out to you a number of times, and which you seem intent on ignoring.

    I think it’s fine if you want to assume a dark cabal bent gleefully contemplating the destruction of the “big three,” but you really should understand it’s in your head; likewise, that people pointing out willfully bad business practices of the “big three” being likely to hasten a tumble into the print graveyard is nor more cheering on their demise than pointing out someone riding a motorcycle without a helmet means you’re cheering when they splatter their brains out on the highway.

    In any event, Brad, please do get a better argument than your “some people” canard. It’s not a very smart argument, and it’s officially boring me.

    In fact: You’re no longer allowed to make the “some people” argument in this thread. There. Now, this means you may have to actually pay attention to what people are saying rather than making baseless assertions about the beliefs of nebulous, no doubt sinister people, but I have faith you can do it. Go, Brad.

    “Now, as to why JS cares about the submission processes of magazines he freely admits he never subbed to — and whose word rate he considers poor — that’s something only JS knows.”

    No, it’s not, since I’ve discussed it here before: Quite obviously because if the process were different, I’d be more likely to consider submitting.

  191. “Likewise, I do not doubt some people think it’s beneath their dignity to smear peanut butter on their chests and roll around on beach sand while singing selections from The Mikado.”

    The question, it seems to me, is whether some people don’t. (After all, the Mikado clearly calls for wasabi.)

  192. And peanut butter calls for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Leave it to me to have the one fool kite who likes to see a little kid cry.

  193. Perhaps I’ll just bid this thread goodbye.

    Wow, some significant people have checked in on this topic since last week.

    Oh, Internets, I love you and your penultimate exit lines.

    “Some people” is one of those little rhetorical tricks that allows you to take potshots at people (because who is meant by the allusion is quite clear) while offering plausible deniability: Hey! I didn’t say you, I said some people!

    Really, sometimes on these discussions I long for a good old complicated dilemma, or some other rhetorical game that couldn’t be appropriately turned away with and eyeroll and a “Oh, please, Mary.”

  194. Wow, even Mr. Resnick didn’t earn a 350-word rebuke.

    And Mike’s got more authorial and editorial chops than all the rest of us combined — including JS.

    The tone of your original piece, and that of much of the commentary, is decidedly negative towards Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF. The chief complaint is paper subs, but as the “70 year old men” commenter demonstrates, there is more at work here than pique over process.

    How many here that are wailing over the fate of Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF — because, you, know it just sucks so bad that they’re stuck in the 20th century — even bother to purchase these magazines on a regular basis?

    If I were Stan or Sheila or Gordon, and I saw this thread, I’d not give a fig about the opinion of anyone who didn’t at least occasionally contribute — financially — to the success of the publication.

    Talk is cheap when you:
    1) Don’t buy mag.
    2) Don’t read the mag.
    3) Don’t submit to the mag.

    John, I don’t get what your stake is. Unless you’re routinely purchasing or otherwise supporting these three publications out of your pocket. If they go under — for whatever reasons — then some other market(s) will arise. Certainly I believe Nick Mamatas would love to jump into that vacuum, assuming he could gather the capital. And if the Big Three don’t go under, and keep doing paper subs anyway, and keep getting top stories from top Names, well then that sort of puts the lie to the idea that they can’t attract talent.

    So beyond your need to just sort of, you know, stick it to the Big Three, because you feel like it, what’s the point?

  195. My eyes are filled with sand. In the last ten days I’ve proofread and/or copyedited an avalanche of ‘script pages, enough to fill several novels. Screen reading is convenient, but more eyestraining than paper.

    At least I didn’t spend a lot of time and wasted profits feeding the printer. Ludicrous to even consider printing out my workload, marking it up, inputting the results back to the original digital documents and returning them to the clients. Used to do it all on paper: It took twice as long and I didn’t make as much net profit from it.

    At the cents a page piecework rate, a nickel a page printing costs eat me alive, postage and handling too. The work wouldn’t pay as I’m accustomed to no more. My clients and I have evolved a system that fits our highest common determinants, expediency-, efficiency-, and expense-wise. We all suffer from eyestrain and hair pulling from the detriments of our choices, but the alternatives are worse.

    And that is to my mind what any given publisher does, suits what they perceive as the highest common determinant for them, and perhaps for submitters as they see it.

    Paper or digital, each has strengths and weaknesses, sheer volume being one that impacts both, eyestrain from projected or reflected light viewing being another. Neither is perfect, even accepting both isn’t perfect. The New Yorker accepts both digital and paper submissions, digital fiction inline e-mail, digital poetry as e-mail attachment, editorial comments only through a web submission form. All over the place, uh-huh.

    Dateline: Potporanj, circa 4200 BCE; They poets who heed, be so advised and informed by the exalted sacred Temple of Poets and Scriveners that henceforth and forevermore until the end of time, the Highest, His Majesty, the Notary declines wet clay tablets or dried tablets. A poet must hereinafter provide baked facsimile tablets—note admonishment to preserve original compositions as a contributed tablet accidentally damaged and hence irretrievably lost is lost for perpetuity—to the Temple. No exceptions. Unbaked tablets are refashioned into raw clay and disposed of as His Holiest, His Majesty the Notary sees fit. Poets and scriveners seeking raw clay please apply to the Temple auxilliary.

  196. Brad R. Torgersen:

    “Wow, even Mr. Resnick didn’t earn a 350-word rebuke.”

    Mr. Resnick was concise and to the point and didn’t make repeated specious arguments involving nebulous “some people,” Brad.

    “John, I don’t get what your stake is.”

    Well, think about it some more. It might come to you.

  197. Brad- I have subscription to all of the Big Three at the moment… if that matters :P And I’m going to renew at least one of the three, probably two, for at least 2 years (they’re offering great prices at the moment to renew and I enjoy at least 60% of what they print).

    But hey, if you want to persist in believing that the majority of people commenting here (or even silently agreeing that e-subs would be a useful feature for the Big Three to have) are praying that those mags fold, I doubt any amount of sensible argument or proof otherwise will convince you. I think Scalzi did a pretty good job of taking the reasons listed against e-subs point by point and offering up clear points as to why those reasons might no longer apply…

    As for the Big Three, who knows what they might be thinking? For all we know, e-subs might be in the works… I’d not go so far as to saying if they care or not what author opinions are until I’d heard it from them… (and in the end, it is up to them what they do, which everyone knows. Scalzi expressing his opinion is just that, and I don’t think Scalzi would claim that he’s the alpha and omega of what *should* be done, just that on his website he has the authority to say whatever he thinks…)

  198. Scalzi,

    Mr. Resnick also refuted you.

    Look, if you’re not terribly fond of the Big Three — or at least dislike the fact that these markets are operating with a model you consider antiquated — I understand.

    But telling the Big Three markets they’re doing a poor job — when you don’t even sub to these markets, and are not primarily known as a short fic writer, and so far as I know don’t even read nor buy these markets — is a lot like being an NFL player who thinks what’s wrong with the NBA is that the players don’t wear helmets, nor padding, play indoors with a round ball on hard wood, and shoot the ball through the goal, instead of kicking it.

    There’s been enough not-so-nice attitude directed at the Big Three — in your original post and in the many supporting comments that came after — that it’s plain neither you nor many others on this thread consider the Big Three to be of much consequence, otherwise you’d probably have handled things more delicately. Rather than just having some clever fun at the Big Three’s expense.

  199. This is uninteresting, but –

    I know I’ve seen you say this before – one of the big 3 did solicit you, Scalzi – Have you appeared in one? Did they solicit you and ask you to submit paper?

    Sorry, it’s just a curiosity, since you mentioned it.

  200. But without strong one-sided opinions there wouldn’t be anything sensational to evoke potent passions. If a point was inarguably, universally true, there’d be nothing to discuss. A legion of yessayers bores everyone to tears. Fact or fiction, controversy puts eyes on the page. Contention drives conflict drives story imitates life.

  201. Brad R. Torgerson:

    “Mr. Resnick also refuted you.”

    No. I made an argument that the “big three” should accept electronic submissions. Mike made the argument that authors should submit work regardless of whether the market requires paper or electronic submissions. These are two entirely separate arguments.

    Please note also that I have never said people should not submit stories to the “big three” because of their paper requirement. Note also that Mike acknowledged — after someone pointed out to him a flaw in his argument — that at this point none of this is an issue for me personally. If any of this is your idea of a refutation, you need to look up the word again.

    “you don’t even sub to these markets, and are not primarily known as a short fic writer, and so far as I know don’t even read nor buy these markets”

    Yes, I hardly write short fiction at all. Or edit it. Or get award nominations for it. As for you knowing whether or not I read “the big three,” you’re quite correct that you don’t. You also have no idea what my other magazine reading habits are, either, because that, as well as many other things about my life, fall into the bin of “none of your damn business.” Likewise it’s quite obvious that I don’t submit to the “big three” because — all together now — they don’t accept electronic submissions.

    None of which, incidentally, is even slightly relevant to the point I made in the original entry.

    Brad, please save all the rest of us some time and accept that criticism of a perceived flaw in the “big three” submission process does not equal hate; nor does criticism in a manner you seem not to like equal hate. It’s awfully tiresome at this point, and is frankly beginning to make you look a little stupid.

  202. Scalzi,

    There was more in your 1,000 word essay than mere criticism of the submission process.

    It was derisive. It mocked. It belittled. Whatever constructive content the essay had, it got lost in your signature snark.

    If I were the editor for one of the Big Three, I’d consider the essay a deliberate slap at my editorial method and my magazine as a whole — by someone who cheerfully pats himself on the back for a) never having submitted to me in the first place and b) having made it as a working author via electronic method, zooming right past my paper slush pile.

    In follow-up commentary you’ve criticized the Big Three on:
    – Word rate.
    – Circulation.

    Your supporting commenters have criticized the Big Three on:
    – Web site design.
    – Which age group they cater to.
    – Circulation.
    – Word rate.
    – Type and size of published product.
    – Distribution.
    – Difficulty of sales.
    – Etc, etc.

    Whatever you intended this thread to be, at the start, it’s become something of a clearinghouse for complaints about The Big Three. With not just a little bandwagoneering taking place amongst the, “We’re fresh and young and we don’t need your stinking old magazines,” crowd.

    What Mike refuted — and which you tacitly endorsed very early on — is the idea that there is no need on the part of aspirants or starting writers to submit to the digests; out of personal pique or a misguided sense of principle. Mike pretty much comes right out and says that’s silly, but you’ve been selling it from the get-go: ignore the digests, you don’t need them anyway.

    If you weren’t bashing the Three on sub method, it was word rate. If it wasn’t word rate, it was cirulation. If it wasn’t circulation, it was something else. Such as importance and pestige, which you’ve impugned several times.

    Basically, it seems like you — and many of your supporters — have a broader bone to pick with the Big Three, beyond the sub format. Which leads me right back to asking: why care about the editorial process of markets which you don’t care to submit to, and which you think don’t pay enough anyway, and whose importance to your career is miniscule in your eyes?

    I don’t get it, it seems mean or at least unprofessionally rude — in fact I’d call the entire original essay unprofessionally rude — and it also gives newbies ideas which people like Resnick openly label silly.

    Beyond your wanting to just blow off some steam and have fun at the expense of the Three, I am still not sure what this essay was supposed to accomplish?

    Unless it’s just controversy for its own sake, something I’ve been warned is part of your repertoire, by an award-winner who would probably smack me for even bothering to come back and continue with this thread.

    So yeah, I am sure I look stupid. Just not in the way you’re thinking.

  203. Brad, are you associated with the “Big Three” in some way? I wonder, because rarely do I see someone defend an institution they have no stake in so vociferously. If you have mentioned it before, I guess I missed it – I admit I have not read every entry in this thread, although I have scanned it thoroughly.

    Brad, I have never sold a piece in my life. I had two published in free zines last month. Both online, both e-subs. When I look through the magazines I want to submit to, I don’t submit to anyone who doesn’t take e-subs. I also get rejections by email. It’s fast, easy, and I’m more likely to submit. If everyone only took snail mail instead of email, I’d rarely submit anything. Because I have a kid, can’t afford printer ink which is really expensive unless I’m selling stories, and don’t feel like standing in line at the post office or grocery store to buy stamps. Also, my handwriting is atrocious and I don’t like addressing envelopes.

    Brad, not that I feel I can enunciate this better than Scalzi, nor the other commentators, but you are doing a good job being snarky, belittling, and dismissive – and frankly more than a little hypocritical. You also have not made any sort of case for manual subs other than “because I said so”. Quite frankly, you are looking a little stupid.

    Is John controversial (which is a silly thing to call him about this topic, honestly) intentionally? Honestly, I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. It’s always felt to me that he’s just being honest, sometimes brutally so, and direct. It has never felt to me like he’s writing something to drum up hits on his site – he doesn’t need to. Contentious? Yes. Polarized? At times. Politically slanted? Sure, who isn’t. But not specifically controversial just for controversy’s sake. That would destroy, IMHO, the dialog he’s developed with us, his fans, and even his detractors, who come here on a regular basis.

    Brad, you can generally take John’s positions on something at face value – he pretty much says what he means and doesn’t really couch it in hyperbole or fancy verbiage. The things he said in the OP – that was what he meant. You would be hard pressed to find anything different in his comments, here or in any other thread, that would contradict that. Whether or not you believe him is irrelevant, and says more about you than John.

    I know John doesn’t need to be defended by me, nor anyone else. I don’t really feel that’s what I’m doing – I look at it more as if I’m pointing something out that was insinuated, but you never really got, and John just hasn’t taken the time to spell it out for you. (He shouldn’t have to.) Brad, you have taken a contrary position, and admirably are defending it to the death – but it’s a fool’s errand. You are outmatched, outwitted, and seriously out of arguments. And, in the case of how you have called out the readers here for their comments, wrong. Let it go. You’re just pillorying yourself now, and there is no shortage of rotten veggies at hand.

  204. Brad R. Torgersen:

    “Whatever constructive content the essay had, it got lost in your signature snark.”

    No. Most people appear to have followed it just fine, just as they usually do.

    Alternate theory: People disagreed with you from your first comment, you became overly invested, and you’ve spent the rest of the thread attempting to deal with your argument being disagreed with on its merits by ascribing bad motivations to others.

    There is a lot more textual support here for my theory, I’m afraid, than yours. And at this point, your consistent blame-seeking in others is wearying and obnoxious.

    So, Brad, you’re done with this thread. You’ve had ample space to make your point, and I’ve been patient with you long enough. But now it’s time for you to walk away from it. You’re more than welcome to comment elsewhere on the site, but this thread is closed to you now. Further comments in it by you will be snipped out.

  205. So what has happened here is that Brad, clearly a lifelong fan and aspiring writer, has actually found himself in the same virtual room as Mike Resnick, and is thus acting out in order to get his hero’s attention.

    Does Resnick have more writing and editorial chops than anyone else here? I wonder what metrics are being applied. I’ll note that Mike’s recent novels have come out from great independent presses such as Pyr and Subteranean. One thing these indie presses have in common is that they have a greater willingness to publish, say, a 50-80K word novel, while the major publishers are often (not always) unwilling to consider novels below a certain length.

    And yet, will Brad announce to Mike, “Anyone who won’t make sure their novels are 95,000 words long to get a chance at getting back to publishing with the big publishers needs to get their heads checked!”? Of course not. Brad sees Scalzi et al as usurpers, Mike as an idol. Nor does Mike need any such advice; he is selling what he writes, as are we all. Well, except for Brad…

    As far as what Mike may see is silly, so what? The sheer fact is that Scalzi, Valente, E. Bear, Tim Pratt, Dora Goss, et al. have managed to do quite well for themselves without submitting to the three digests, and indeed many many writers do very well for themselves without writing short stories of any sort.

    As far as my own editorial aspirations—and I’m only returning to this thread because Brad dared mention me by name as someone who is engaging in a reargaurd action to bring down the big three in order to take their place—I currently run an entire imprint for a company that pays its editors better than the large New York publishers do, offers expansive healthcare and other benefits, and is located in one of the most beautiful cities in America. That is to say, I’m fine where I am, thanks.

    Nor do the Big Three need me to take them down. They’re doing fine in that department themselves, as are the Big Two mystery magazines (sadly).

  206. The sheer fact is that Scalzi, Valente, E. Bear, Tim Pratt, Dora Goss, et al. have managed to do quite well for themselves without submitting to the three digests

    Or rather, without submitting or selling to the big three until after becoming fairly prominent.

  207. John Scalzi, I really thought we had something, you and I. I thought it was For Real. When we first met at last year’s WorldCon in Denver, and you told me that we’d met before, I thought: here is a guy who remembers faces. I’ve never been one of those guys myself. I treasure a photograph I took of you on that night, your mouth stretched wide open to admit a massive piece of Asimov’s cake (vanilla flavored, I believe). You even ate it with your hands, even though my Nikon was in my hand, and your mother might not have approved of your table manners. I thought, “This is science fiction to me,” and I stand by that imagery. With your voice, you made an impression of Daniel Day Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” as if to say, “I eat your magazine, I eat it up.” That was a kind of metaphor that was beyond me; I just thought of it as you eating a big piece of cake that we bought. No, I will not send you a copy of the picture. It is mine. Not even Sheila has seen it. It is glorious.

    But I came to this website, in my backwards fashion, while listening to Dan Fogerty oddly enough (close, but no cigar!), and, though using Mosaic was difficult, I read what you wrote. (Actually I was not listening to Fogerty, but to Cepia, instead. It is a kind of granular techno, you might like it.)

    When I was a little boy, my father used to walk me around the block of our street. Every day this happened, I’d get a bloody lip because I’d trip over the same uneven pavement and fall down on my face. I’d come home and have first aid applied to my lip and my mother would say, “Joe,” (my father’s name is Joe), “would you just lead him around the damned pavement so he doesn’t fall?” My dad (Joe) replied, “But how’s the kid gonna learn?” I love my father, I really do. My lip is fine, thank you very much—we moved away from that house when I was ten, and before I could do further damage.

    Anyway, John, you’re like a father to me, even though I think you’re only a few years older than I am (I did not check Wikipedia because it seems rude to peek and it takes forever on my 2400 baud modem anyway). When you’re talking about the magazine I tripped into working for, your lessons hurt and they probably don’t have to. My dad (Joe) believed in tough love and was a body builder. I believe in Bactine, and I swim laps routinely and practice an incredibly awkward kind of tai chi with an African American instructor named Earl. I’m not sure what my mom believes in, but it probably doesn’t have anything to do with this conversation.

    I guess what I’m saying is this: my father (Joe) took up horseback riding later in his life. He owns his own horse now, too. He was thrown on my birthday a few years back and cut his head open. He walked, bleeding, to the hospital, and got a few stitches. When he fell off his tall horse, nobody was laughing, especially not me. (By the way, he wears a helmet now.)

    Now before you decide to ban me from your LiveJournal here, I want to thank you for your help. I believe the “big three” … hey, wait, let’s talk about “the big three.” I would just like to say that I have never called my magazine, or Analog, or F&SF, a big anything. That’s like if I came downstairs like Norma Desmond and said, “I would henceforth like to be known as “Big John Stud.” My name is clearly not John, I mean come on.

    Sometimes I feel like maybe Gardner was hanging out with Mike Resnick in the Champagne Room of some 1979 convention with all the money he got from being one of the “Big Three,” and here I am in 2009 and my car doesn’t even have spinning rims. Where did the Big part go? This business has sucked in that way for me. On the other hand, one time a big editor I’d never met was rude about me on his LiveJournal, so maybe things do even out. I was almost famous!

    So I guess what I’m saying is that I hope you’re right. One day the magazines will likely begin accepting electronic submissions, and we’ll get a lot of good stuff from Ted Sturgeon and Phil Klass again and the readership numbers will improve. I can’t wait for that day, and I bet our readers might like it, too. We might also get some from Tim Pratt and Cat Valente, who have commented above. I don’t know about Cat, but I just want to point out that though Tim won a Hugo with his story, our circulation has gone slightly down since he was in our mag, so maybe we should just file a restraining order against him. Just fooling!

    Anyway, John, I just wanted to say that I still love you like a father, like I’m Antoninus and you’re Spartacus, even if my crucifix might not be next to yours on the way to Rome. To quote that fine movie, “Long live the fighters!”

  208. As for the “he who has the gold makes the rules” statement, well. This implies that the six to nine cents a word rate the “big three” offer somehow qualifies as “gold,” which it does not.

    It’s certainly more gold than the half-cent a word many electronic markets offer, although I’m fully aware that there are electronic markets who pay pro rates.

    Any writer with the ability to write non-fiction as well as fiction can make an easy multiple of the “big three” rate without too much trouble, and for markets which have made a full electronic submission conversion

    Yep, and I was selling to them almost twenty five years ago. A couple of articles for BYTE was the equivalent of an advance on a first novel. There are much easier ways to make a living than writing short fiction.

  209. Whatever constructive content the essay had, it got lost in your signature snark.

    So, you’re upset that John is stepping on your hem, or mad that you were out-snarked? I’m a little baffled at somebody who goes around dramatically huffing at Some People suddenly going into dramatic-hurt-feelings-with-J-pop-soundtrack at the notion of snark.

    Your entire argument, Brad, is in your first post – you like paper submissions. Your other arguments are pretty much handwaving personal attacks: anyone who doesn’t admire the crisp snap of a ms. sliding into a 9×12 as much as you do is clearly a’h8n and doesn’t know what they’re talking about and, most likely, is on greased rails to Satan’s remainer pile.

  210. Just as a general note, as I’ve told Brad to move on from this thread, directing comments to him specifically will be frustrating for him, and will not get actual responses.

  211. The way I see it, a valid assertion has been clouded by deprecation of sacred institutions.

    Beginning with the initial assertion: The Big Three are behind the technology curve because they don’t accept unsolicited digital submissions; hence, they are impractical, unfashionably embarassing representatives of the art form. Implied: They are no longer worthy to carry the scepter of fantastical dramatic art visions. The paper monarch is dead; long live the digital monarch.

    It’s an affirming-the-consequent non sequitur argument, does not follow. An entity that doesn’t timely adopt state-of-the-art practices doesn’t diminish the entity’s identity. Deprecate the outdated practice, absolutely, but why the entity? For sensationalism’s sake and maybe, just maybe, perhaps that will force the tipping point.

    A potter who doesn’t buy clay from a ceramics vendor instead digs and works wild, raw clay from the native earth. He must be poor, stupid, and/or out of touch with the real world because there’s excellent products provided by vendors that are far more convenient to use and of a perceived higher quality; therefore, he’s an unworthy artisan. It’s of no consequence that the wild clay has unique properties that make the potter’s artware highly desirable, he’s unworthy because he’s a primitive artist.

    Affirming the consequent non sequitur: If A is true then B is true. A is stated to be true; therefore, B must be true. The underlying assertion might be emotionally persuasive, but it’s fundamentally a logical fallacy.

    Who knows, the wait-and-see period for the Big Three might be over soon, and in the next march of time they’ll begin accepting digital submissions. I noted they were each a little slow coming online with digital mastheads compared to, say, The New Yorker, which wasn’t all that quick on the uptake either.

    My sense is that the Big Three are getting there on their own terms. Digital submission is an up-and-coming process that’s just recently come into its own.

    A squeaky wheel gets the grease though, unless it’s outright ignored. Its wheel bearings are damaged anyway. They’ll need repairs. Perhaps it’s more expedient to wait until the wheel is wrung entirely off the axle. Don’t fix it unless it’s broken, is one way of going about things. If it needs fixing, break it, is another.

  212. If I were still submitting short stories to magazines (which I am not), I would not send paper. If they did not accept electronic submissions, I would not bother, because the alternative is a terrible inconvenience to me for reasons I won’t go on about. It is a pain in the ass and I have no shortage of things to bitch about as it is. I don’t need the aggravation. The same could be said of publishers for novel-length work.

    (Insert clause: I make exceptions if I know the receiving editor–and like him/her, in addition, which makes this a very rare event indeed.)

    Everyone has their own reasons for and against, and I’m not going to argue against their personal truths, except to say that it may not harmonize with mine.

    Submitting through snail mail is more of a hassle to me than its worth. In my case, it’s not the printing-out so much as it is the actual *mailing* of it.

    In short: if you run a magazine or publisher and don’t accept electronic submissions, there’s a good chance that you don’t exist in my world.

    For better or worse.

    My opinion.

  213. So, it sounds like the question of how people decide not to submit to a magazine. I’m more curious at this point as to what you all find attractive in a magazine such that you decide to submit there.

    There are many respected professionals contributing to this discussion who are known for their attention to their craft. Surely there are loftier reasons for selecting a home for your short work than mere convenience?

  214. (My sincere apologies, I hit ‘submit’ instead of preview. That first sentence should have read, “…not to submit to a magazine is well-explored.” Very sorry for that, especially to those people who get an email notification for each comment.)

  215. #229:

    Those loftier reasons would be a digression from what’s being discussed here, which is: (a) not convenience as an incentive, but inconvenience as a deterrent; (b) the absurdity of insisting on such an inconvenience in this age; (c) the irony of ‘science fiction’ magazines/publications who one would think would embrace technology rather than resisting it and holding onto anachronisms; and a line of other exciting letters with exciting words written after them…

    The loftier reasons come after.

    First comes: what’s practical.

  216. Beginning with the initial assertion: The Big Three are behind the technology curve because they don’t accept unsolicited digital submissions; hence, they are impractical, unfashionably embarassing representatives of the art form. Implied: They are no longer worthy to carry the scepter of fantastical dramatic art visions. The paper monarch is dead; long live the digital monarch.

    Again, few things more annoying than people *making up* arguments for their opponents and then shooting down those made up arguments.

    I Know What You Really Mean, And You Suck: just because it’s common to discussions on the intertubes doesn’t mean it’s good.

  217. @Jack Kinkaid #231:

    Do they really come after? Being the focus of the conversation, submission methods have been made to seem very important, and it occurred to me that I wasn’t getting any kind of sense of perspective about how important it really is to people.

    My primary publication experience is in academic journals and conferences. There, the usual MO is to find a good home for a paper, and only then find out whether the submission methods are amenable or not. Frequently, but not always, dealing with an irritating submission process is still worthwhile – I had one conference that required signing up for a downright obnoxious external site with multiple sign-ins and lots of hoops to jump through. But the conference was in Athens, so we did it anyway.

    But in this conversation I’m getting the impression that the perception among authors is that there is nothing so special about any of the magazines involved that people would consider going out of their way to be published there. I’m quite curious if that’s true, or a side effect of a (small?) part of the process being focused on so tightly. Are any of the Big Three the equivalent of an Athens conference, worth putting up with obnoxious crap for?

  218. John Murphy,

    The Big Three used to be the only highly respected games in town. But that changed with the advent of other venues, magazines or online or both, that garnered the same respect. Like Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, InterGalactic Medicine Show, the best anthologies, and so on. With similar or better pay rates; writers are not generally funded by universities or companies.

    If there are multiple Athens, and one of them was located somewhere incredibly inconvenient without accomodations or food within 30 miles… In my experience that one Athens would be less popular for somewhat parallel reasons.

  219. It’s an affirming-the-consequent non sequitur argument, does not follow.

    What good fortune, then, that nobody actually made this argument!

    Magazine editors are not ‘digging clay’. They are interacting with actual people – really, not the same as living rock – and doing so in an extremely Luddite fashion that their competition has overcome.

  220. John Scalzi said somewhere way up in the comments: “That a market that pays as poorly as any of the “big three” do would demand I or any writer jump through an extra, pointless submission hoop kept them off my list of markets to consider long before I became a name in the genre.”

    Most pro markets I’m aware of don’t pay more than 10 cents per word. I’m aware of a few markets like Playboy and Boy’s Life, and Cicada and maybe a few others that pay very, very well. But only a few. I was wondering where all the high paying markets are. There doesn’t seem to be many listed at the usual market listing sites. So, I’m just curious.

  221. Rob, I think part of the point is that while the other markets may only pay as well (but even 10 cents a word is better), they don’t have additional hoops of paper.

    I believe most anthologies pay better than 10c a word, and the odd shared anthology may even have royalties, though I think such an arrangement would be even more Byzantine than usual even for royalty statements.

    But that’s for fiction. The rather low end of the non-fiction track is as good as the fiction magazine higher-end markets.

    And there is such a thing as narrative non-fiction (no lies but it’s still very much storytelling rather than essaying). Same basic skills and all that.

  222. Yes, I know that was part of the point, but I really don’t care one way or the other about the hoops. I’m just curious about where all the high paying markets are. Scalzi says 6 to 9 cents a word is low and I’m aware of only a few markets that pay more than that. Whether it’s fiction or not doesn’t matter. :)

  223. I haven’t bought the Writer’s Market in years, I don’t remember there being too many high paying markets listed in there either.

    I’m not looking for pointers. I just assume that when you say 6 to 9 cents is low that there must be a lot of markets out there that have proper pay rates, and I’ve only heard of few of them. Yes, I have checked around.

    Or maybe they just don’t tell you what they pay until they want to buy your work?

  224. On the one hand . . . on the other, frequently, accomplished authors earn a higher per word rate than writers who’ve never before punctured the paper (or digital) ceiling because of branding recognition. It’s a matter of perception, is any given story worth more because it earns more from name-brand pull, caliber of entertainment, timeliness, or in combinations thereof and then there’s haggling. One side wants to pay as little as is practical, the other wants to be paid as much as possible.

  225. Rob Darnell:

    “Yes, I have checked around.”

    This statement conflicts rather dramatically with the statement that says that you haven’t bought a Writer’s Market in years.

    Also, your recollection regarding the WM is incorrect; I just hauled out my most recent copy and can open any page at random in the magazine section and see at least one market that pays more than nine cents a word, and usually two or more. So there are literally hundreds of markets in there that fit the bill.

    This is why I do suggest to people that they actually pick up a Writers Market every year. Among other things, it will keep them from assuming that six to nine cents a word is somehow the norm.

  226. The last time I had the Writer’s Market was probably six years ago, I used to scan that book looking for markets that I thought were a good bet, and most of them didn’t say anything about pay. Am I incorrect there?

    I had been buying the Writer’s Market every year for a few years and I was subscribed to the website for a while too, but at some point I got the impression that there wasn’t much value to it and stopped buying it. It seemed that I could find better listings at places like

    But I’ll take your word for it and I’ll check out the website now. I’m pretty sure the site is the same as the book.

  227. Rob Darnell:

    “Am I incorrect there?”

    Yes. Nearly every listing lists pay, and the heading of nearly every listing features an icon indication of what the market pays, signified by how many dollar signs are next to the name.

    “But I’ll take your word for it and I’ll check out the website now. I’m pretty sure the site is the same as the book.”

    The Writers Market website has its listings behind a pay wall. FYI.

  228. I stand corrected. The first random market I looked at pays a flat rate of $400.00 for works up to 1,800 words.

    The second random market pays between $150.00 to $300.00 for works up to 1,200 words.

    The third random market pays $800 and $2,000 for works up to 5,000 words.

    And yes, there are hundreds of $$ markets and up. It’s also worth noting that is much easier to use than it was last time I used it, and hence easier to find such markets.

    I don’t remember so many markets stating their pay rates those years ago. Is this a change?

    In any case, I see your point now. markets paying 6 to 9 cents a word are paying very low and there are plenty of other markets that pay better than that.

    And my faith in the Writer’s Market has been restored.

  229. Uh-huh, 2010 Writer’s Market list price about $30 for hard copy, $7 a month for online subscription, free seven-day trial period. I guess it’s okay to buy hard copy if the interested buyer saves money and finds the medium more convenient. Heck and all, even R.R. Bowker’s _Books in Print_ is available online anymore, for a price.

  230. The exchange above – person has opinion, person is pointed towards source, person reads source and changes opinion based on new data – made me very happy.

  231. $30 for a hard copy? Looks like the yearly hard copies are $19.99, at least that’s what the site shows, if you wanted to subscribe.

    Monthly subscriptions to the site $5.99 and I think that’s decent. :)

  232. Alastair@182: OpenOffice does not support RTF, that’s a fallacy. They just pretend that they do.

    I got a (generally positive) reply from an editor who remarked that the ms was difficult to read because there were no line breaks or paragraph indents (let alone headers or page numbers). I’d formatted it in SMF, made sure that it looked spiffy in Oo and sent it off in good faith.

    Imagine my dismay when I subsequently re-opened the thing in M$ Word!

    If you’re using Oo, you’re better off with doc format. Actually, I’m happiest submitting hardcopy since I won’t have to worry about what the thing ends up looking like at the editor’s end. Go figure!

    I won’t install Word on my computer though.

  233. I could not find in 15 minutes of Googling the current SFWA Membership Committee list of official “Major Markets.”

    I have a literal stack of manuscripts rejected by all of The Big Three, with Envelopes stuffed with SASEs, needing only editorial addresses. It’s my way of stimulating the economy. If I get another rejection letter for my collection (which fills a big part of my garage and overflows into a shed) then I’ve stimulated via the Postal Service. If I get a check in the mail (as has happened to me several hundred times), then I’ll stimulate by buying bigger ticket items than stamps.

    Clarkesworld is at or near the top of Beyond the Big 3, because they do take online submissions, and do pay 10 cents/word.

    This is a good thread. Don’t want to get into the swamp of agented versus unagented, which is also (seems to me) far from efficient. Good Agents are wonderful. But many readers of this thread may be in the catch-22: How do I get an agent? Easy, once an editor has made an offer. How do I get an editor to make an offer? Easy. Have your agent make the submission.

  234. For the 2009 Hugo voting, “A total of 1074 valid
    ballots were received, 34 by mail.” I wonder how many of those 34 were staff from the Big Three… ;)

  235. I think the situation in which these 3 magazines find themselves is such a contradiction in itself that the point is beyond any justification. I mean, the fact that they are SCIENCE FICTION magazines and that they choose to use anything else that the state-of-the-art-science is simply impossible to justify. like the expression states clear enouth, the state-of-the-art means the more advance method in several (if not all) aspects. What I, and others, really need is the adresses of the top 10 Sci-fi magazines that do accept electronic submissions, because sending to these, and not to them, is the only way of making the truth clear to some people. in other words, using “force”.

  236. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is needed to get set up? I’m assuming having
    a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet smart so I’m not 100% certain. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Appreciate it

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