Sunday, 20 February 2011

Ten Things the Small Press Can Do As Well (Or Better) Than the Professional Press: Introduction

This is something I've been thinking about for a while now, so bear with me here...

Around one in five of the stories I've submitted and / or had accepted over the last five years have been with professional or long-established semi-professional markets.  The rest I'd lump into what's generally known as the Small Press, or the Speciality Press as some prefer to call it.  Personally, I'm not sure if either name is entirely fair or helpful, since there are Small Press magazines with grander ambitions than many a professional publication and specialist publishers that are vastly more catholic and unadventurous than their mainstream counterparts - not to mention the fact that either term groups together markets that vary vastly in scope, quality and ambition.

There are many superb venues for fiction in the Small Press, and a number of magazines, anthologists and webzines I consider myself lucky to have been associated with.  But it's equally true that all the publications I've had particularly bad experiences with fell into that category, just as all the truly pleasant, hassle-free publications I've had came from my handful of sales to pro and established semi-pro markets.

It's this last fact that really set me thinking.  In theory, the crucial thing that separates the Small and Professional Press is cash.  But - in my experience anyway - the majority of things that Small Press markets tend to get wrong and the Professional Press gets right have little or nothing to do with money.  Time sure, effort definitely, but money not so much.  Not only that, I realised it was the same mistakes over and over again that were winding me up - enough so that a list started forming in my head.  And more and more over the last few years, that list has decided what markets I do or don't submit to.

So, I thought, why not write this stuff up?  Every market has its guidelines for writers, but how often do writers talk about what they'd like to see from publishers?  Not so much.  More than that though, there are so many good, potentially excellent, markets shooting themselves in the feet over dumb mistakes, most of which they could fix quite easily.

I've narrowed my gripes down to a top ten, and over the next few weeks, months, years, decades or whatever, I'll see if I can't explain why they're so frustrating, and just how straightforward they'd be to sort out.  It's a Herculean labour, I admit, but it should keep me off the streets for a while at least.  And obviously, having never edited or published anything, I don't really know what I'm talking about, so comments telling me what a dumbass I am will be gratefully received.  (If they explain why I'm wrong, that'll be even better.)

Just to be completely clear: there are some superb non-professional markets out there, and this is in no way intended as an attack on the Small Press, let alone on any particular publications, individuals, or anything or anyone else.  I won't be naming any editors or magazines, good, bad or indifferent.  This is just me drawing some conclusions from whatever insight I've gained over the last few years, and making suggestions based on those conclusions that maybe, possibly, will be useful to someone somewhere.

Next post: Thing 1.

Unless something more interesting happens in the meantime.

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