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I am a person who hates to tell people what they don't want to hear. That sometimes makes being an editor a little bit difficult and uncomfortable for me. Very early on I had to separate the need for pleasing people from the slushing process. I've been slushing for over 5 years now so I'm well practiced at it. When I started up Twelfth Planet Press, I wanted to have an acceptance rate similar to F&SF magazine which I believe is somewhere near 3%. That meant that I would be saying no a lot. And I really firmly believe that it is better to not do a project at all, or not pad up a project, than to compromise on what I personally think is good quality fiction. But when sitting down and slushing a number of stories in one go, you get into the swing of sending out rejections because you do them in bulk.

Related to yesterday's post, as Twelfth Planet Press has grown, the cold pitches to me for projects has steadily increased. And related to what I was saying yesterday about always being expected to be further along than I actually am, I get a lot of pitches for novels. Additionally, I get a few pitches for single author collections. And often I get writers who have been asked for one thing, trying to bulk it up to something else - for example, writers seem to think that the novella series is about publishing word count and not form and I get a few requests to submit several short stories, linked or not, to make up the 20k to 40 k wordcount. As though I won't notice they are trying to hoodwink me into a short story collection from the novella series. Every anthology reading period, I get random writers asking me if they can submit outside the submission guidelines. Mostly this is at the shorter end of the spectrum since the novella/novelette reading period is always open to submissions. The other common pitch is related to Horn - that I published noir detective so can they submit this other noir detective novel (usually) or that I published this graphic, grotesque horror piece so can they submit x, y or z.

And I really hate saying no. But I also really hate people wasting my time or trying to talk themselves into special treatment or consideration outside the guidelines that everyone else is adhering to. In terms of requests to submit outside the submission guidelines, because mostly writers are asking to submit flash fiction, which clearly shows they are completely unfamiliar with me, my tastes and anything I have published, I am now very comfortable with refusing to consider the submission at all. Surely the first lesson in writing to task is about learning to write within the specified guidelines?

But all the other kinds of cold pitches have really challenged me. Mostly because, in truth, a brilliant piece of work transcends any guidelines or plans that I have for the press. Ultimately you want to publish the story or work that everyone is going to be talking about and that can be any form or any length or any genre. And you need to read the work to assess it for that potential.

But my time is limited. I have a lot of projects already in progress. And I have a very clear vision for Twelfth Planet Press and where it is going and the kind of titles I want to publish. I choose my single author collections very carefully. I am carefully selecting the range and variety of titles that I put out both in a year and over time to fit what we do to the brand of the press I am creating. And I have bought projects to fill the next 18 months of publishing. I am in neither a hurry to acquire new works nor wish to feel bullied into spending money and time on works that I don't believe in or don't fit the vision for the press. And often, it must be said, the cold pitches, followed up by queries and sometimes needling, can feel a little like bullying. Ultimately, there is a lot of hustling in publishing and learning to survive is as much about learning how to be immune to the hustle as it is to learning how to hustle yourself.

What does all this mean? As a writer, you have to learn to send cold pitches, to query and to try to get your work seen by editors and publishers. For me, as a publisher, I have had to learn to keep my vision of what my press is, and what I want it to be, very firmly in the front of my mind when I read these. And to feel confident when turning down projects which don't fit this vision.




For more information on Twelfth Planet Press, visit our website at: www.twelfthplanetpress.com