Pesky Editing and Contracts


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So the usual pattern for me and short stories is that I see a submissions call from (usually) an indie publisher, I read the particulars, look at the submissions deadline, and say to myself something like, “I can do that.”

Then as the deadline approaches, and I’ve met all (or most) of the other submissions deadlines I’ve set for myself, I try to come up with an idea for a story that fits the bill.

I prepare a Shunn formatted document, since that’s, more or less, the industry standard, for use as my manuscript pages. Then I copy the submissions requirements into a plain text document, and using other plain text files, create a plot sheet, a character sheet, and any other resources (in a long or complicated story, usually a bunch of URLs leading to research pages) necessary to create the background for my tale. And then I start writing.

I’ll skip over a lot of angst, and let’s say I have finished the first draft, edited it within an inch of its proverbial life, and then finally submitted it, using the method required by the publisher.

And then I wait.

I wait until the deadline has passed, and then I wait some more.

In a few cases, I never hear back, even after multiple queries.

Most of the time, I get an email at some point.

The rejections are worded nicely, even though on a purely visceral level, I interpret them as “you suck.”

When I get an acceptance, you, my readers, experience it via this blog as “Hurrah! Hail the conquering hero.”

But then there’s all the mundane stuff.

It starts with the request for further edits. Oft times, the publisher will do a lot of the heavy lifting, then ask me to go over them to make sure I accept, plus add any of my own edits that I deem fitting.

The vast majority of the time, the publisher’s edits, and then my own, greatly improve the story, and reveal errors and problems that had slipped past me, even though I would have sworn that when I emailed the thing out, it was perfect.

After all that, I wait some more. Somewhere in there are the promotional materials, the graphics, sometimes videos, publication dates announced, and pre-ordering a digital copy.

What you don’t see is the contract (that was the motivation for this blog post, since I just received the contract for my story “Sorcery’s Preschool”…it looks like it’ll be in Volume 2 of the anthology, available sometime in August 2020, but that’s not carved in stone yet).

Most indie publishers are like most indie authors. We don’t make a lot of money. After all, I’m not Stephen King and they are not Scribner/Simon & Schuster, or Doubleday. Usually, there’s stuff that talks about a certain amount of money and/or x-number of copies of the book. Sometimes, there’s a percentage of the royalties after the publisher has gotten back their costs (if you’re contributing to an anthology that has ten or twenty other contributing writers, even if the book does reasonably well, a single author’s cut isn’t that much).

So, I print and sign, and then scan and email the attachments.

When I wrote textbooks for big book publishers, this was a big deal. You’re talking about tens of thousands up front, and then depending on how well the book does, royalty checks for years to come. For an indie anthology, it’s kind of the same, but on a much, much smaller scale. Fortunately, my textbook experience made dealing with contracts at any level feel pretty normal.

And then that’s that.

Yes, writing and publishing isn’t all glory and honor. It’s mostly business.

When the book becomes available and I get to put my name and picture on the book’s Amazon page, it’s a thrill. It’s also cool to see the book appear on my Amazon author’s page.


Actress Summer Glau as featured in the television series, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”

But then it’s time to move on to the next one.

I’ve finally gotten up the nerve to return to my novella. I got a lot done on it today (the benefit of working at home is that I can toggle tasks, especially now that the grandchildren are back with their Dad after nearly two weeks). I still have two major scenes and an aftermath to write. Then comes the ghastly job of editing something like 25,000 or more words to get it ready for submission.

And so it goes.

Still trying to figure out how to make my head write a novel. I’ve been trying for years, and so far, my brain pan’s writing wiring isn’t cooperating.

Maybe something about robots.

2 thoughts on “Pesky Editing and Contracts

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